Fastpitch competitors know how to deal with adversity
Tonight I had the opportunity to watch one of my fastpitch pitching students, Tayler Janda, and her Grayslake Central High School team demonstrate what it means to be a competitor.
It's rained a lot in the past 24 hours, so I texted Tayler's mom to make sure the game I'd planned on going to was still happening. It was, she said, and then a few minutes later she texted that it started out ugly.
From all reports (not just Tayler's mom Jennie) the umpire had a strike zone the size of a loaf of bread. Tayler isn't a big girl, so she relies a lot on movement and finesse to get hitters out. But the umpire was having none of that, forcing her to leave the ball on the plate when the hitters didn't swing. By the time I got there, she had given up five runs in the first and three in the second, and her team was down 8-1.
But in the top of the third, she didn't give up any runs, and from then on started to cruise. She only gave up one more run for the rest of the five innings (which meant the game I saw was pretty awesome). Instead she was inducing easy outs from the hitters, along with a few strikeouts.
What I liked about what I saw was watching a competitor in action. Rather than complaining about the umpire or continuing to throw the same pitches that weren't working for her, Tayler adjusted. She figured out how to adapt her pitches to get the results she wanted. Yes, she had to leave the ball on the plate more than usual, but she did it in a way that didn't allow for the big hits the opponents had gotten earlier.
Now, she may have been stoked by the comeback efforts of her team at the plate. They chipped away at the lead, and went on to win it in the bottom of the seventh on a short sacrifice fly to right and some heads-up baserunning. But I think a lot of it was her own inner fire.
When I work with pitchers we talk about the mental game, and what you can control versus what you can't control. Tayler was the epitome of that tonight.
She couldn't control the umpire's miniscule strike zone, so instead she controlled her own frustration and instead decided to work with it. That's what a competitor does. And knowing how these things go, I'll bet she inspired her team to go out and snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
I know Tayler doesn't plan to play softball in college. But a competitive spirit like that is sure to serve her well no matter what she does in life. Kudos to her, her teammates and her coaches. It was a fun game to watch!