Quote Tour through Cowgirl Softball Complex
SOME READING REQUIRED
Coach Rich Wieligman doesn’t only lead the team through games and practices – he leads the team in book talks.
To be on the Cowgirl softball team, every player had to read the Brian Cain book “Toilets, Bricks, Fish Hooks and PRIDE.” Cain filled his book with quotes the team has put up on the walls throughout Cowgirl Stadium. Every turn through the softball complex leads to a new quote.
The team takes every one to heart.
“We had seen some stadiums with all these quotes,” Wieligman said. “You can say quotes to them … but if they read it every day?
“For me, a lot of times it goes in one ear and out the other, so if they see it every day, maybe it’ll eventually hit home.”
The coaches decided to redecorate the offices last season and the quotes worked perfectly. They wanted to bring the team closer together. For Wieligman, the quotes aren’t only about softball. He said the quotes help prepare the players for the future.
“It should (prepare them for classwork),” Wieligman said. “It just gets them ready for life. Unfortunately, there’s not millions of dollars being made in softball for these players, so they do have to get ready for life after softball and hopefully all the things they’re learning off the field they’ll be able to take with them off the field in their job.”
TEAM FIRST. TEAM LAST.
Team first, team last is so important to Wieligman, it is in the offices twice. It is on the wall adjacent to the collage wall in the team room and written above the door to the dugout so the players see it right before heading out to the field.
This season is the first full season the quotes have been in the locker room, but the coaches have seen changes in the team.
“They’re together,” Wieligman said. “I think they committed to each other and they’ve stayed committed to each other. They’re really a tight group and I like that.”
Senior pitcher Simone Freeman said team first, team last helps each player understand her position within the team. Junior shortstop Gessenia DeLaCruz said it helps the players not worry as much.
“Basically, it’s don’t worry about you, like what you’re doing,” DeLaCruz said. “Everything is for the team. It’s not individual based. It’s for whatever we have to do to win.”
Inside the team room, one wall screams Oklahoma State softball. Pictures fill the wall spanning decades of softball history. Pictures of former OSU pitchers and Olympians Melanie Roache and Michele Smith adorn the edges. The entire wall is tinted orange. OSU could have it no other way.
The idea for the wall came from Wieligman. He wanted to show the history of the softball team but have elements of the players today.
“The coaching staff and Kaylan (Lowrie), our director of operations, were sitting in a meeting last fall and we were just talking about all the different things we needed to focus on,” assistant coach Kelsi Dunne said. “We kinda just basically came up with the idea of having the girls coming up with what their identity was in 21 different words.”
Twenty-one is an important number for the softball team. There are 21 weeks from the start of practice in January to the World Series in May. There are 21 ideas written on the wall. Putting them up was no simple task.
“The issue was we didn’t know the right way to approach getting all 21 things on the same board,” Lowrie said. “We didn’t want them to be numbered like one being the most important and 21 being the least important.”
Extending the idea of team first, team last, the coaches didn’t want to have any identity seem more important than any other. The coaches want the players to see how each of them is an integral part of the team and how each identity makes the team stronger.
Throughout the season, the team focuses on one identity a week. However, the players work on putting every identity together to improve their game.
Players and coaches have their favorite part of the wall. Freeman likes seeing one of her mentors on the wall.
“Definitely seeing (Melanie) Roache there back in the day with her hair that was kinda interesting,” Freeman said. “It’s just a reminder, puts things back into perspective that other people have been here before you and you have shoes to fill.”
Even with all of the history and insights put on the wall, Dunne enjoys it being there.
“I think it’s just really important, it’s really neat that we actually put the collage together,” Dunne said. “I think I like how it focuses on us as a team and how pretty it is.”
One of the favorite quotes of the team involves toilets and bricks.
“Flush it!” spans the wall in the dugout above the water coolers. It reminds the players to get rid of everything.
Throw a wild pitch? Flush it. Strike out? Flush it. Make an error? Flush it. Move on. Every brick that tries to add on to a wall needs to get flushed. Wieligman said it is important for the players to stay in the moment and get rid of their bricks.
Freshman pitcher Whitney Whitehorn said flush it is her favorite saying in the complex.
“We always say flush our bricks,” Whitehorn said. “It means you just have to let it go. I think that’s really a big part of our game.”
Posted on the dugout door, the players see it every time they enter. When they come back after playing defense, after they score a run, after a strike out. Every time.
Wieligman said process over outcome is one of the most important concepts he tries to instill in the players. Wieligman focuses on the mental part of the game more than the physical.
“Physically, we’re talented physically and a lot of this game is mental,” Wieligman said. “You can have four really good at-bats and have good processes in all four at-bats and maybe not get a hit.”
During games, seeing the words on the dugout door are enough. During practices, Dunne said the coaches work with the players on perfecting their processes and keep repeating it over and over.
The players take it to heart. The coaches only started putting the quotes up starting in 2013, but the players have made strides in their processes.
Whitehorn said process over outcome has changed her pitching during games.
“It just makes it a little more relaxing because you’re going through the process,” Whitehorn said. “Instead of going through it during the game, you’re doing it before the game so you can relax about it.”
Wieligman said process over outcome applies to all areas of life, not only softball. He said he wants the players to extend the lessons they learn from softball to their everyday lives.
“If you’re a car salesman, and you’re worried about the outcome, you better take care of the process of how you sell that car, not just worried about the outcome because then you’re never gonna get it,” Wieligman said. “There’s gotta be a process of getting the person in the right car, what fits their needs, all that stuff. There’s gotta be a process to anything you do in life.”
During the meeting in Fall 2013, the coaches didn’t intend to put up all of the quotes. They wanted to make the offices look better, but didn’t know what that looked like. The quotes have added more than just words on a wall.
“It was more so of like redecorating,” Dunne said. “It was really pinpointing our identity so that we look at the points every single day and really focus on those different points and remind ourselves who we are.”