Sadie Armstrong is a 5-foot-10 pitcher/infielder from Portland, Maine who plays for the Firecrackers - Bordeau travel team and is one of the top prospects in the 2023 class.
She’s written over 10 blogs for Extra Inning Softball and in her latest Inside Pitch she explains that, no matter your talents and abilities, you’re probably going to get contrasting opinions and instructions and will very likely not be the perfect fit for every program… or them for you!
Sadie has been named as a two-time All-American by USA Softball, a member of USSSA Elite Select Futures and chosen as a Pre-Season Rookie by Under Armour Softball Factory thanks to a solid array of pitches including a screwball, drop, change and rise. Offensively, she has consistent ball exit velocity speeds in the high 60s to low 70s.
In a family of eight, I am always being told that there are too many cooks in the kitchen and to clear out while my mom is making dinner.
If I ask to help, she tells me that too many spoons spoil the broth (but she doesn’t seem to mind when my brothers, sisters and I are loitering in the kitchen when the dishes need to be done)!
Her point is obviously that it is difficult to manage a lot of opinions about a task and that the result will be better without an abundance of collaboration by people who cannot even agree on what to cook in the first place.
I compare this analogy to when I play violin in the orchestra. Without a conductor, we would all be playing the way we individually think the music would sound best!
Sometimes, when I attend a college camp and receive informed instruction from professionals who are among the best of the best at what they do, their opinions are in stark contrast to that of my travel coach, school ball coach, pitching coach, hitting instructor, other college coaches and experts that I have consulted or who have offered their assistance to me over the years.
For instance, how can it be that my esteemed hitting instructor teaches a downward bat path to elevate a ball, and then I attend a college camp and one of the game’s legends can give me the advice to swing upward to lift the ball?
I can’t do both things at once!
Likewise, my pitching coach teaches to “snap” the ball downward on release and then if I attend a camp, I am typically told that I should “whip” the ball and release in front of me with my hand crossing to the other hip. Again, I have to choose one method over the other because I cannot make my hand do two different things at the same time!
Who is right?
Sometimes, playing at tournaments and showcases present another set of contradictions. Plenty of pitchers have told me that like me, they have received mixed messages about throwing hard.
Their coaches would like their team to win, of course, (and God knows that I really love winning).
But, coaches also have the competing interest of wanting their players to be “seen” and over the years I have been told that it is more important to hit my spots and spin the ball and I have also been told that I should just throw as hard as I can without regard for the consequences because if a college coach walks by with a radar gun, they aren’t stopping unless you happen to be hitting big speeds regardless of where the ball lands.
Both pieces of advice are intended to make the team and me, personally, look good, but what’s a girl to do?
Well, I could pick one option and turn off half the people, pick the other and alienate the other half, or I could make the mistake that I will share with you: I picked the compromise approach and tried to do a little of what everyone told me and you know what? There were too many cooks in the kitchen and all those spoons did indeed spoil my soup.
I had great intentions when I listened to all the advice at different college camps. I wanted to demonstrate that I was responsive and coachable, and I also wanted to see who can bring out the best in me, too.
So, when a coach told me to change my batting stance, I would do just that. I know that being adaptable is an important quality because wherever I land for college, the coach will certainly want to make improvements to my game and I need to be open to those and embrace the process (two steps back, one step forward!).
These most well-intentioned and informed professionals had the best of intentions, too. All of them showed me such kindness and consideration in taking an interest in my success while at the same time, having appropriately high expectations.
I felt on top of the world when some softball greats generously offered sound tips, feedback and instruction on aspects of my game. After all, how can you go wrong when the best in our sport give you a recipe that explains how they succeeded?
Crazy as this sounds, I felt so inspired and excited each time that someone would pick apart something I would do, because this might be the missing ingredient in my recipe for being the best pitcher, hitter, first baseman and teammate I can be.
I was proud that I could take their constructive criticism in the spirit in which it was given and that gave me confidence that I could handle the toughest of coaches, too.
But, I actually suffered for the advice. My mechanics became a mashup of trying to please each person who offered critique. I could feel my form deteriorate as the late fall and early winter seasons progressed.
Why was I slipping backwards after taking all the great advice I received? It just did not make sense to me. But at the same time, it made perfect sense that I could not do two things at once that don’t work together!
The best way I can describe what happened is to tell you about the time my 90-year-old grandmother wanted to make lunch for me. My favorite sandwich was tuna fish and my mother would never make it because she found the smell repulsive.
Nana lived with us in a little suite we built on to our house that had its own kitchen and my brothers, sisters and I would pop over and visit her constantly throughout the day. Nana loved to feed us and to do little things that would be special to us.
So she decided to treat me to a tuna fish sandwich. Well, her eyesight was failing, and instead of grabbing the jar of mayonnaise, she added marshmallow fluff. Gross, right? I totally ate it, by the way.
Well, my mechanics became a marshmallow fluff and tuna fish sandwich instead of a gourmet meal. The individual ingredients were great but put them together and EWWW!
In an effort to avoid making a tuna fish and marshmallow fluff sandwich of my pitching and hitting, I decided to try each suggestion that was offered when I would attend a camp, I write them down in a notebook for reference and I also share those insights with the coaches I see regularly because they are humble enough to be constantly learning and evolving, too.
As my pitching and hitting mechanics change from my increases in strength, height, agility, and experience, I can try those tips again because what doesn’t work right now, might be just what I need later and I might need to abandon something I believed in all along that no longer fits.
While looking at random internet Kermit the Frog memes about spilling tea, it hit me: No matter how hard you try, you simply won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
And, of all the advice that was offered to me about my pitching mechanics and hitting and honestly for literally every aspect of my game, I realized that I had to pick an approach and drink the Kool Aid.
I am not going to be the right fit for everyone and that is okay! Shout out to Kermit!
Of all the life lessons I have learned and continue to learn as I experience the highs and lows of my personal recruiting journey, I know that this realization empowers me to be myself, and if a coach sees something special in me, and I see something special in them, then their trusted advice is the recipe I will follow to be a success.
The thing is, I will be someone’s cup of tea, and I can’t wait to see where I can add just the right spice to someone’s roster someday.