As a pitcher, you know that you will be playing on several different teams at any given time. There’s your travel team, school ball, and little league. Sometimes you might even play on two little league teams. I have actually had many of my young pitchers experience discrimination because of their talent: they are “too good” to pitch in little league, and are therefore not allowed to throw in games. This leads them to play on yet another team so that they can actually get in some throwing time.
Each team will have a unique dynamic. There will be some players that you get along with and others that you merely tolerate. You might even have a few girls on your team whom you can hardly stand to be around. You might have some coaches you learn from and adore and others who are relatively new to the game and are therefore prone to making some mistakes. Either way, the players on your teams (and sometimes even the coaching staffs) will change a little from year to year due to graduation, incoming underclassman, girls quitting and so many other factors.
That’s why I suggest that, regardless of your age, you work on developing your own team.
Don’t stop reading. I’m not crazy. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that you create yet another travel team.
But with so much constantly changing, much of which you will have little to no control over, you want to create a constant team that surrounds you and helps you through your pitching career. Here are some people whom you might want to be a part of your “team.”
Health Care Professionals: All pitchers should have a good relationship with a physical therapist. Hopefully, you never need that physical therapist, but even if you don’t, you should see that PT for “prehab” at least once. A good “prehab” program would consist of the physical therapist doing several strength and flexibility tests, and creating a program SPECIFIC TO YOU based on the results of those tests. Some places offer general “prehab” programs (often called something like “arm care” or similar) and while those programs are not bad, they can’t compare to something that a professional created just for you. I also strongly recommend that you find someone who does ART (active release technique), since that will help sore muscles and certain injuries heal exponentially faster. I’m a fan of chiropractic and acupuncture, but you might not want to try that. That’s okay. Those disciplines are wonderful for pain relief but you might prefer to develop a good relationship with an orthopedist. It’s all about what you’re comfortable with, but make sure that you have some medical professionals ready to help you when you need it.
Your Pitching Coach: For most people, this is just common sense. A pitcher should have a good relationship with her pitching coach. I don’t mean that you guys are going out for ice cream together on weekends, but she should be someone whom you are comfortable with for years. What I see sometimes is people who have been to 3 or 4 different pitching coaches, finding fault with every one or always looking for the next best thing. While it’s true that you should not stay with a coach who isn’t producing consistent results, if you are constantly “coach hopping,” you never develop the kind of relationships that help you to get on the right travel teams, get recruited, and build your confidence. You should also be the type of person who sees your coach relatively regularly (once a week or biweekly) because if you are the person who comes for three lessons right before the season, your coach could be the best one out there and your progress will still be stunted. I would suggest trying to get that same great relationship with your hitting coach as well. In my case, I refer a lot of students to the girls who have worked with me for years and years. That’s because we have a good relationship and I trust them to teach others.
A Nutritionist: As an elite athlete, you don’t know enough about nutrition. Trust me, you don’t I have been a personal trainer for over 14 years, and it took me a long time to gather all of the information I now know about nutrient density, nutrient timing, and so much more. Make sure that the person whom your seeing works specifically with athletes, because a geriatric nutritionist will not suit your needs.
Someone to Work Your Mental Game: I am never shy about the fact that I sometimes go to this awesome social worker to get my head right. When I knew my dog was passing my husband and I scheduled a session because death is always hard to deal with. Sometimes the game can be pretty hard to deal with if you don’t have the right tools. So create a good relationship with a sports psychologist, a social worker, a hypnotist, a Havening practitioner, or someone else, and start working through issues as they arise instead of waiting until you break out in a cold sweat every time you go to throw the ball.
College Consulting: There are a lot of college recruiting scams out there. It’s borderline insane. I want you to find some reputable people to work with you and help you on your collegiate journey. This might include your guidance counselor, your travel coach, an A-Game consultant or others, but make sure that whoever it is knows you AS A PLAYER AND a person. Your college journey won’t be all about softball or all about academics. It’s going to be a bit of both. So make sure that the person who is helping you is not putting THEIR values onto you. It’s definitely okay to pay for college recruiting advice, but it needs to be from a trusted professional who has helped other pitchers like you.
Parents/Guardians: This is probably the most important part of your team. They are the ones driving you to practices, setting up lessons, helping you with your college journey and so on. In many cases, your siblings will be a tremendous help too. Value everything your family does for you because it can be hard work! Nurture your relationships in this area and be grateful for every thing they do.
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