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#AnythingButSoft: How Katie Burkhart Became a "Shark"

The checklist for Katie Burkhart’s playing career might read a little something this:
  • - Play NCAA Division I softball (check)
  • - Win a national championship (check)
  • - Play for Team USA (check)
  • - Play professionally (check)
  • - Have college number retired (check)
  • - Be Named to the Pac-12 All-Century Team (check)

Burkhart led Arizona State to its first national championship in 2008 and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Women’s College World Series. She was a two-time All-American in 2007 and 2008, a two-time Pac-12 First-Team selection and Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year. In April, she became the first player placed on the Sun Devil Softball Wall of Honor.

Yes, Burkhart worked extremely hard to be in the best physical shape, but it’s the mental part of the game that she credits the most. Her mottos are “Be a shark” and “Swarm and destroy.”

The sayings came from a friend who always described her as a shark and said it was because, “When one shark leads, the rest will follow.”

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It didn’t matter if Burkhart was facing a team that hadn’t won all season or a team that was ranked higher than hers. She always put everything she had into every pitch.

“Whenever I would shag balls, I would run to the foul pole because in my mind I had to have stamina,” Burkhart said. “The only way to create stamina is to keep pushing yourself past your comfort zone so that when you get into those pressure situations you are confident and prepared for it.”

Every team and every hitter is different, so what a pitcher does to prepare for each game is different. Burkhart said visualization is key when it comes to this. “I would spend about half an hour when I got home and look at the recruiting sheet on the hitters,” she said. “I would visualize how I would pitch these hitters and what I was going to do every single pitch.”

Now, as a pitching coach in Nashville, Burkhart is not only teaching pitching but she focuses heavily on the mental game. One resource she likes is the book “Mental Toughness: Baseball’s Winning Edge.”

“I make them read it, and I give them worksheets,” she said of her students. “I also give every pitcher I work with a binder that we call their pitching bible, and we go over all of the pressure situations that might come up.”

According to Burkhart, pitchers have to be strong mentally to back up the physical power. “I think it’s hard sometimes for female athletes to break the mold in a lot of areas, but once you can push past that and gain confidence in yourself you can see the foundation,” she said.

Burkhart is not only an instructor but she is also a motivational speaker, efforts she undertakes under her brand “Pitch Responsibly.” Her camp, she said, is, “Three full days of pitching, catching, hitting, infield, outfield, and the mental toughness you need to execute.”

For more information about opportunities to work with Burkhart visit www.weplayresponsibly.com. You can follow her on Twitter @Katie_Burkhart, Instagram @pitchresponsibly and Facebook www.facebook.com/pitchresponsibly.

From GameChanger and Maren Angus. 

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