Casey Stangel: Playing by the book

Casey Stangel is a junior pitcher at Lake City High School (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) who also plays for the SoCal Explosion. Her high school team won the Class 5A state softball championship last season and she has committed to play college softball at the University of Missouri. She will blog for ESPNHS throughout the 2012 season.

I take pride in not only being a player of the game, but also a student of the game. I love to learn from players and coaches everywhere. I believe you can take away bits of information from any experience and apply it to your game.

My favorite source of information is University of Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido. Coach Garrido is a highly respected coach, and has extreme passion and knowledge for the game. He is the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history, and is one of my favorite coaches of all time. He wrote a book called “Life is Yours to Win,” and I highly encourage players and coaches of any sport, at any level, to sit down and read it. Though this book has a considerable amount of insightful points, there are a couple that mean a lot to me.

“When you are driven by fear, you may win but you have no peace. When you pursue your passions, you find fulfillment in every moment, every day, every swing of the bat, every pitch thrown.

I have found myself in places where I have been playing out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of letting down my team, fear of not being the best. Like Coach Garrido says, you must find fulfillment in every moment. I play softball for a reason, and that is because I love it; I get a rush every time I get on the field. I can’t focus on trying not to fail and fear not succeeding, because then I’m not enjoying playing and am in a state of worry. Remember why you do what you love, because in the end you will find success, and you will enjoy every second leading up to that.

“The problem is that as long as you buy into the expectations of others and base your performance on rewards, you are dealing with things you can’t control. You can’t control things around you but you can control your response to them.”

My high school softball team went 26-0 last year and won the 5A state championship. Going into this year, there was a feeling throughout the team that we had expectations to repeat an undefeated season. People put a lot of external pressure on us to be perfect, and we have to work really hard to shield all of their expectations. Realize that you cannot control the outcome of a game. You can control your attitude, and your effort, but that is all. Don’t buy into the hype of all the things outsiders will say, because you can’t play with that on your mind. Play to win, stay hungry, humble and hard-working because that is what you can control and that is what will lead you to success.

“Focusing on solutions rather than problems is critical. When all you do is obsess over what went wrong, you’re like a guy trying to drive a car forward by looking in the rearview mirror.”

Keep a short-term memory when you play. If you miss a ground ball or strike out looking, forget it; learn from it so you know how to succeed the next time, but forget everything else. When you dwell on mistakes, it takes away from the rest of the game and you ruin your chance to make up for it. When you take the information and then apply it, you will make that next play and hit that next pitch.

“The players who succeed are those who feel they truly belong at the top, whether it’s in the major leagues, the business world, or their community. It’s all about confidence. Once again, self-perception determines who you are and where you go.”

When you play, bring some swag! Get in the box and own that thing, same goes for when you’re on the field. It should not matter who you are playing, you have to believe in your preparation and in your skills and go at your opponent full-speed. When you believe you are a great player, and you play every inning that way, you have the best chance to be successful.

I could go on and on about my respect level for Coach Garrido, and how much I value learning from his words. He is such an amazing teacher of the game, and on every page of his book there is something to be learned. These are just four points among so many that Coach Garrido addresses that have truly inspired me when I play. I encourage everyone to take a look at Coach Garrido’s book, “Life is Yours to Win,” because I truly connected with it, and I hope you will, too.

Read the previous installment of Casey's blog – on getting mentally prepared – here.