The 5 Greatest Things I Learned in 2015

4 lessons snow teamwork persistence fun strength numbers toughness

Everybody has their own End-of-the-Year List and I’m no different. Discover the 5 Greatest Things I Learned in 2015!

I’m an obsessive learner so imagine my challenge at arriving at a list of ONLY 5 things I learned all year! But, it’s my best 5 and it seems fitting to end 2015 with this list. I hope you enjoy it!

Learning for me isn’t an occasional habit, or nightly glance through the paper – it’s literally an obsession. I’m often distracted from something I NEED to do by something I want to learn.  It can be random things like learning the most remote lighthouse in the world is probably the Aniva lighthouse on a small rock off the coast of Sakhalin, to more useful information like finding out that Stephanie VanBrakle has each of her Alabama pitchers keep a detailed journal during practice and games.

I’m fortunate to speak at lots of clinics throughout the year which gives me the super cool pleasure of hearing other coaches speak, and learning from them! If you ever attend a clinic where I’m speaking, look for me in the back of the room feverishly taking notes – not only do I simply love hearing new perspectives and learning new things, but I also feel it’s my obligation as a coach to continue learning as much as I can to help every single player I come in contact with!


So let’s get started. Here’s my list of the 5 Greatest Things I Learned in 2015:

  1. Players Want It – Team culture was a bit of a theme this year. I read a tremendous book detailing how the world’s most successful team – the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks – rebooted their team culture following their 2004 World Cup loss. They realized they had talented players but needed to have a healthier culture so they started from scratch with the premise that “Better People Make Better All Blacks”. That’s a great statement and it’s just one of the nuggets I got from that book. For those of you readers out there, the book is titled: Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life – James Kerr.

    I also had the pleasure of doing a Team Culture clinic for a softball organization we work with and this was eye-opening for me! I separated Players, Parents and Coaches in all 5 age groups within their program and asked each to answer these 4 simple questions:

    • What does your team look like? NOT look like?
    • What Behaviors will you allow? NOT allow?


    The answers were incredible!! Players WANT IT! From world class pro athletes to 10 & under softball players – they want a healthy culture, they want to connect with adults, they want us to lead them and make the hard decisions, and they want to be good players and good people. Players Want It!

    I’ve become so motivated by this Team Culture topic that I am finalizing a brand new eClinic on Team Culture that I’ll be releasing next year. This eClinic will walk you and your program through what it takes to identify and create a healthy Team Culture that will allow everyone within your program to thrive! Look for it.

    In the meantime – check out our book – A Coach’s Guide to Creating Team Chemistry: Tips on Coaching Female Athletes


  3. We All Need Help – This year I really leaned on some people that helped me through life’s challenges. Too often we think we can handle things by ourselves or that we don’t really need help – and that’s not the case at all. We all need help!
  4. This year taught me that I need help from others just as much as the players I work with need help from me. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather a signal of motivation!

    Use your help resources this coming year, from your friends or teammates, your family or co-workers.  We’re here to help you at Softball Excellence so please call us anytime!! 1-800-995-1014

  5. We All Want to Learn – Sometimes I don’t take the time to realize that I’m not the only one who wants to learn stuff. This year there were three events in particular that REALLY made it clear to me that we all want to learn. We started off the year with a brand new website and the whole point was to try and make it easier for our customers to find what they need from us to learn what they need to learn.

    Next up was our partnership with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) that targets Travel Ball, Youth Ball and High School coaches by providing practice plans and drills to help make your lives easier. This program required a lot of my creativity and planning skills and was centered on the fact that coaches all want to learn better ways to hold practices and make their team better.

    And finally we held the first-ever Pitching Summit! This sold-out event was 3 days of extensive training by college pitching coaches for college pitching coaches. I’ve wanted to hold this event for years and just never got the courage to do it – and through the forceful nudging of a dear friend – I finally pulled the trigger and was amazed!! The energy, enthusiasm and dedication of the 100 coaches that attended was truly inspiring! We not only have the dates set for our 2nd Annual Pitching Summit (August 8-10, 2016 in Tampa), but we’re in talks to hold a Pitching Summit in December 2016 at the NFCA Convention in New Orleans, open to ALL Pitching Coaches!

  7. I Can Do More – This one is the shortest lesson I learned this year, but a VERY powerful and ongoing one. I CAN do more! Sure, in one sense I could donate more time or volunteer for a charity – but I’m not really talking about “more” in that sense. I’m talking about my own internal awareness of “more”.

    I accomplished things this year that I went into telling myself, “I can’t”. I’m like that sometimes. I throw up roadblocks if I feel I either don’t understand something or can’t really picture how I’d do it. Either way, I needed help and nudging to get past my self-made blockade.  I found out I could do more, and I was soooo much better off for that discovery!

    I go to the gym a couple times a week and work with a trainer I’ve had for years. He always challenges the crap out of me by having me do workouts that at first, I don’t think I can do. Earlier this week we (which means me) did the 100 workout. Basically that means you do 100 of each exercise. Sounds easy, and since the weights are pretty light, at first it even seemed easy. That is until long about 60…then easy isn’t a word I’d consider using at all! At first I think “I can’t”. But then I learn to quiet that voice, take a short break if I have to, just make the next 5, and then before I know it I’ve knocked out 100.

    You CAN Do More – and it’s our greatest gift as coaches to help our players realize that on a daily basis!

    If you’re looking for more coaching knowledge then consider our Vault or Vault Plus membership!!

    2010 Australia Player Clinic - Lismore
    2010 Australia Player Clinic – Lismore
  9. JOY Makes Everything Better – I’ve saved the greatest thing I’ve learned this year for last. I’m blessed this year to be working with more 6 to 8 year olds than ever before! I’m not training them for college, but simply helping them enjoy softball. But believe me; they have helped me confront JOY on a daily basis! I don’t think you can be 6 without having Joy seeping out of your pores – and it’s fantastic!!

    We take breaks to watch birds fly by and wonder what we look like to them. We name large bald eagles “Fluffy”.  And we throw balls at water bottles left in the fence as a form of awesome target practice. Part of passion is Joy, and nobody excels at anything without some passion.

    We can all use more Joy in our lives – so my Holiday wish to you is Live Life with More Joy!!

    From all of us at Softball Excellence to all of you – have a very joyful holiday season and Thank You for a wonderful 2015!

Comments 9
  1. Hi Cindy:

    I enjoyed reading your article, very good! I was in the course you taught AFTER the NFCA Convention. I also won the gift basket at the silent auction, which included a subscription to the VAULT PLUS, which I had used 2 years ago–great product! It was a pleasure having you as a teacher in class!

  2. Cindy:
    I always enjoy your insight, energy, and passion. Thanks for this Top 5 list. I too have been re-charged by getting back to basics with developing 6-8 year old players. I have found joy in their efforts to grow and learn and fall in love with the game. Yes, I still love and engage the older competitive age groups too (gets my tactical side charged)… but am finding joy in those smiles at the younger levels. Thanks for all you do Cindy.
    Happy and Healthy New Year,
    Frank Ehrenfeld, Pennsbury Softball
    PS I was so happy to make the two day 406 NFCC course on Dynamic Practices at NFCA. You guys rock!!

  3. What a thoughtful article! Very inspirational! Thanks again for all you do to help us coaches out! Merry Christmas!

  4. Hi Cindy, Hope you had a wonderful Christmas! I know you will have an amazing 2016! Thank you for sharing your 2015 List of the Greatest Things You Have Learned! Keep making a difference and loving every minute. Also, thank you for all you do for the sport and for sharing what you have learned with passion! God bless You Always!

  5. Thanks Dot! And always great hearing from you!! Passion is the key, isn’t it?! Doing everything you do on a daily basis with passion can make all the difference. Here’s to a fantastic 2016 for all of us!

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