Today’s story is for every fastpitch softball player who may be a little undersized (for now), or perhaps struggles a bit to get all the body parts moving properly, or somehow doesn’t quite measure up to her teammates at the moment. It shows what you can do if you want it bad enough.
First though, I don’t want to bury the lede: earlier this week Jenna Kosnoff signed her national letter of intent to play for Maryville University in St. Louis. She will be pitching for them, yes, but when she’s not pitching she will likely play the field because she has a great glove and a powerful bat.
I’ve worked with Jenna since she was 10 years old. We started out with pitching, then added hitting later at her request.
Over the last few years she has racked up a lot of wins and a lot of strikeouts as a pitcher, and consistently delivered an amazingly high batting average, on base percentage, and on base plus slugging (OPS) in PGF tournaments. If you were to watch her play today it would be easy to say that she is clearly hugely talented so it’s no wonder she’s doing all that.
But the reality is it wasn’t that long ago that she was struggling great. When I first started working with her Jenna was a scrawny little thing with sticks for arms and legs. You would wonder if she would blow away if a stiff breeze came up.
Jenna never let her size define her, however. She was always determined to be a top player – to the point her dad Gary would tell me when they got home from a lesson she would often go down to their basement or in the garage to continue working on whatever we’d just gone over.
One of the things Jenna struggled with was turning the ball back toward second base and pushing it down the back side of the circle. For those who don’t know that is a weak position for the arm, and one that totally eliminates any chance of getting acceleration and whip into release.
I was convinced that if she could get that corrected she’d start throwing a lot harder, so I finally recommended we shut her down completely from pitching (in the middle of the season) so she could focus on that movement. At that time Jenna was the #4 pitcher on a team where at least two of the others are also going to play college ball so it wasn’t much of a loss for the team. Her coach may have even been relieved because he was nice enough to give her innings even when she was under-performing.
It took about four months as I recall to make the fix. A lot of our lessons at that time never got past the K position. But Jenna never gave up or complained. She just worked it and worked it until we could see she was getting great arm bend and lag.
And just as I had said at the beginning of the process, her speed started going up. Her movement pitches also started working better, and she climbed the ladder to become a #1 pitcher who now throws in the low 60s.
To be honest, it wasn’t just the mechanics change. Jenna grew quite a bit too and worked out like a fiend to develop muscle.
She’s still on the slim side but her arms and legs no longer look like sticks. Still, without the mechanics change, and her determination to make it, I don’t think she’d be where she is today.
The other thing she did was learn to put everything she has into every pitch and every swing. When I went out to watch her play in one of her early games I saw her pitching with an arc – something she didn’t do in lessons.
She had to overcome the mentality of being careful to “just throw strikes.” Now, though, she’s the poster child for giving it all you’ve got every time.
So congratulations to Jenna on this tremendous accomplishment. She has definitely earned it.
And for all of you out there right now who may be being told you’re not enough, keep working. Good things will happen.