Casey Stangel: Stay committed

Casey Stangel is a senior-to-be pitcher at Lake City High School (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) who also plays for the SoCal Explosion. She was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Idaho in 2012 and has committed to play college softball at the University of Missouri. She will blog for ESPNHS throughout the 2012 season.

Softball players are committing earlier and earlier these days. By the time we’re 15 or 16, we are deciding our path for the future, and that is a lot to put in the hands of a freshman or sophomore in high school. Some players commit for the right reasons, and others for the wrong reasons.

In one of my previous blogs I talked about choosing the right school for you. There are a lot hard decisions to make, and when you finally make your choice, it’s a great feeling.

But sometimes when girls commit, they take on the mindset that they are done. Committing early gives us about two years to either excel in our play, or sit in cruise control because there is no worry -- you’re not playing with your future on the line, you have your scholarship, all the worry from a recruiting aspect is gone. The question now is, what are you going to do with the time between your commitment and the fall that you step through the doors of your university?

Develop your skills

Players often catch coaches’ eyes because of the potential they have. Potential is a great thing that a lot of young athletes have, but potential is nothing if you don’t develop it. When I committed to Missouri, the thing I really needed to work on was my rise ball. I did not have one at all, but I had the potential to develop it. Over my 2 ½-year period between the time I gave my verbal commitment and the time I had left in high school, I had the choice to learn a new pitch, and I took it. A lot of the time players think that they are good enough, and once they verbal they don’t need to get better. The fact is that you now have bigger expectations to get better, and it is time to get going.

Keep your foot on the gas

You often see players go into a relaxation mode; they are committed to their school of choice, and now they think it is time to relax. I could name 5-10 girls who I know personally who had the potential to be All-Americans at a young age. Once they committed, though, they relaxed on their training, cut back on tournaments, and basically let go of their work ethic. Once you commit, you need to be working harder. You are not at the end of your path. In fact, the only thing you have done is decided which path you are on, and now it’s time to start on your journey down it. Make sure you always remember how badly you wanted to beat out every other girl to get to the school you are going to. Remember the “look at me” attitude you played with for coaches to see, and the extra sprints you did at the end of practice to be one step ahead of everyone else.

It is a job

Kids my age always try to give me a hard time because I don’t have a job, but then I explain to them that I do. When I go to work, I have shorts, a T-shirt, tennis shoes, and my ball bag. My job has a lot of different activities such as pitching, hitting, infield/outfield work, yoga, speed training, strength training and Pilates. I work every day of the week for varied amounts of time. My paycheck? A college education. Keep in mind that your coaches are paying you to go to school and perform. You better be working hard every single day to keep your job, because you can get fired real quickly if you slack off. The best part of it, though, is with all the work we put in, we have the best job in the world. Playing the sport you love and representing your school is something that not many people get to do, so don’t take advantage of that.

Making the decision of which college path you are going to take is so incredible and exciting. Never take your accomplishment for granted. Always remember that once you make that choice, it is time to start working harder because you are now accountable to yourself, your team, your coaches and your university.

Read the previous installment of Casey's blog -- on softball sacrifices -- here.