Casey Stangel is a junior 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 2012and has committed to play college softball at the University of Missouri. She will blog for ESPNHS throughout the 2012 season.
Notre Dame football has “Play like a Champion Today,” and Oregon has “Win the Day.” Within big sports programs, it is common to find a team motto or saying that the athletes keep in their minds to remind them of what they are working for. It keeps them focused and drives them to be champions.
Although I am not a part of my college program yet, I have a motto that I look at every day when I play, and it reminds me to give it 100 percent and go all-out. “Burn the Ships” is written on the thumb of my left batting glove, and before every swing, I take a deep breath and read those words.
There are many versions of the story, but here’s the one I was told that inspired my motto:
The English and the Romans had been at battle with each other for many, many years, but each time the Romans would dominate. The English would sail in to shore and climb up a hill to the battlefield, but each time the Romans would see them coming and slaughter them, so the English would go back to the ships and retreat. The English continued to sail in, climb up the hill and fight, get defeated quickly, and retreat.
Over time, the English got a new leader who had different tactics. They sailed into the Roman shores prepared to fight, just as they always had. This time before they climbed up the hill, their leader burned all of their ships. The soldiers were outraged and confused. As they sat and watched the ships in flames, their leader said, “We will go and fight all-out, there is no turning back now. We will either conquer the Romans or die, but no matter what, we will not retreat.” They went at the Romans harder than ever, and for the very first time they won.
When I am playing the game, I want to always have a do-or-die attitude. Playing 100 percent will leave you knowing that win or lose you gave it your all. Don’t make excuses or give up when it gets hard -- don’t retreat when your opponent starts to beat you. You have to keep battling through the hard times, and stay at the top of your game.
For example, my team is playing in the Boulder Independence Day tournament this week. On Wednesday, I had a bad game; my pitches were off and I hit very poorly. I never stopped trying, and never broke focus, but I just didn’t have my best stuff. Going into Thursday, I could have remembered that Wednesday was bad and I could make excuses about my pitching if my opponent began to beat me.
I took a different approach.
I wanted to redeem myself, and give everything I didn’t have the day before. I came into the game and threw a no-hitter and I went 2 for 3 with a single and a home run. What I learned is not that I was better on Thursday, but that I never gave up and I made my adjustments.
When you give it your all through the good times and the bad times, you will make the adjustments needed to be successful. Some days are bad and some games don’t go your way. Throughout the game I am always reminded to “Burn the Ships” and go all-out, never looking back.
Read the previous installment of Casey's blog – lessons from a MLB draftee– here.