BC103: Victoria Hayward | Team Canada National Softball Team & UMass Coach

Victoria Hayward was born in Toronto before her family moved to Mountain View, California.  She went on to star as a member of the Mountain View High School softball team from 2007 to 2010, earning Most Valuable Player honors in her final season. She was also a member of the Sorcerers club team that won the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) 18-and-under Gold National Championship in 2009.  In 2009 she became the youngest player to join the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team at the age of 16.

Hayward completed her senior season at the University of Washington in 2014, capping a four-year NCAA Division 1 career by being named to the Pac-12 All-Conference Team.  She finished the 2014 season among the Pac-12 league leaders with a .414 batting average (5th), a .513 on-base percentage (5th) and 28 stolen bases (1st), while also maintaining a 1.000 fielding percentage as an outfielder.  Following her senior season, she was drafted by the Pennsylvania Rebellion in the fifth round (19th overall) at the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) draft.

After joining the Senior Women’s National Team in 2009, Hayward won a bronze medal as a member of Team Canada at the 2010 ISF Women’s World Championship in Caracas, and went on to compete as a member of both the Junior and Senior Women’s National Teams in 2010 and 2011.  As a member of the Junior Women’s National Team, she won silver medals at the 2010 Pan American Qualifier in Bogota and the 2011 Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship, and finished fifth at the 2011 ISF Junior Women’s World Championship in Cape Town.  She also competed as a member of the Senior Women’s National Team at the 2009 and 2013 Pan American Softball Championships, as well as the 2011 Pan American Games – winning silver at all three of those events – and also competed at the 2012 and 2014 ISF Women’s World Championships.

Victoria talks about competing at the highest level of softball, playing one pitch at a time, and what she does to work on her mental game.

You can connect with Victoria on Twitter @VictoriaHayward

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

Cain: Hey how are you doing? Brian Cain your Peak Performance Coach here with the Brian Cain Peak Performance Podcast. Today our guest is Victoria Hayward. She is a Team Canada National Softball Player. She played at the University of Washington and is now a softball coach at U Mass Amherst.

Victoria, if you would, would you get our listeners caught up to speed on your career, where you grew up and how you ended up at Washington, and now how you ended up at U Mass. Kind of your career snapshot in about 90 seconds.

Hayward: I was born in Canada. I never played softball in Canada. My family moved to California in 2000 when I was eight which is where I joined my first team. I played pretty locally most of my life. In 2009, the year after the Olympics, we had the opportunity to go try out for the Canadian Junior Team. I didn’t make it. I made the Senior Team instead, which I thought was a little bit crazy. So for the last eight years I have been on the National Team working with some of the best players in the country which is how I got to Washington.

I was really late in the recruiting process. I was a junior, uncommitted. I had other schools on my radar, more academic schools. Playing with Danielle Lawrie and Jenn Salling on the National Team they were like “you need to come to Washington, it’s awesome, you’ll love it.” They had just won a national championship so I was like “that’s probably a good option for me.”

Cain: Yeah no doubt. No pressure.

Hayward: So my senior year was still uncommitted. I went on a visit there and fell in love with it. The rest is history. I loved my time at Washington. Amazing teammates, amazing staff. They opened a lot of doors for me. I had the opportunity to play in NPF for a little bit and now I’m enjoying the coaching world. I was with LSU last year. We went to the World Series which was awesome. Now I’m kind of on my own with U Mass trying to start something special.

Cain: So with LSU go to the 2015 College World Series under Beth Torina and the great staff and players down there in Baton Rouge and now you’re at U Mass. Victoria, if you would, let’s start with going back to you as a player. Talk about how you used the mental game at Washington, how you used it with the Canadian National Team. I think you worked with Ken Ravizza at one point right?

Hayward: Yeah.

Cain: Talk a little bit about kind of what you learned from Ken and then what the mental game is for you.

Hayward: Obviously the mental game is huge. I was a 16 year old playing with almost 30 year olds on the National Team my first couple of years so I was often treated as the younger person. I was immature compared to everybody else so I kind of had to try it on, wake up, get to the level that all of them are on. So they helped me a lot mentally. I hadn’t been exposed to anything like that. Constant failure playing against the best in the world. I think that helped be a lot going into college, having played against Wayne Owen, Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman, and then all of a sudden you’re playing college ball and you’re like “okay this isn’t as hard.” So that was definitely a good experience for me.

Ken Ravizza was huge in my development mentally, opening doors. Obviously as a high school athlete you’re the best on your team. You’re the best in your area. So failure is definitely something new. But I think the National Team experience kind of opened a new door of more failure than I saw in college. But starting processes it was really until probably my middle of sophomore year where I was really able to buy in and kind of start to implement some of the things he was talking about.

It really did change my game, change my confidence. Just playing softball literally year round it was just I was constantly in it which I think definitely helped my development

Cain: When you say it took you a while to kind of buy in – you said maybe your sophomore year you started to buy in – how come it wasn’t right out of the chute? Was there some hesitation or was there some “I don’t need this, I have never failed, I am a National Team player?” What was kind of the hesitants up front because I think a lot of players – it takes a while to buy in and I guess my question is why was that for you?

Hayward: I think everything had just come easily to me so I figured the more times I was in these kinds of situations I would just eventually figure it out. When I started hitting more I was a slapper until about my sophomore year too so I always knew I never had trouble putting the ball in play, never really struck out.

It was when I tried to elevate my game and incorporate more strategies rather than just put the ball in and try to run as fast as I can that I really needed to elevate my game, have a plan, have an approach, be willing to swing and miss and not be upset about it, using information from every pitch. I think when I tried to up my game as a player, add another facet to my game, that was when it really became evident that I needed to do it.

Cain: When you were working with Ken – obviously Ken Ravizza, the guy that she worked with at Washington, he was my mentor for two years at Cal State Fullerton – did you buy into the concept of the routine and the breath? If so how did you use that?

Hayward: I loved it. Just something consistent that you always have no matter where you are. In international ball we play in some fields where there are no lights, there are no fences, there is really no consistency except for you and your presence in the box. So I love the focal point and use of a release. I actually had a physical release. I would take my bat and I would hit it on my calf just to be like “you’re present, you’re here, release it and get to the next pitch.”

It extended into far more: dealing with umpires who didn’t speak your language, that didn’t know the rules properly, trying to communicate with other people. Even outside of softball just being able to stay within yourself and just kind of focus on the now and so much stuff is going on that you have no control over.

Cain: Speaking of that extending beyond softball how do you use the mental game in your life now or when you were a player outside of softball? Routines outside of softball or focusing on what you can control or things like that.

Hayward: Well this summer I actually tore my ACL so that has been something where I feel like I use a lot of the mental game. It’s easy to get really frustrated. It’s hard to know whether I’m being successful in my rehab, whether I’m actually progressing, whether everything I’m doing has purpose. So just breaking everything down, trying to stay positive.

If you have a bad day it’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day. There are good days. There are bad days. There is fluctuation. Just trying to stay as positive all the time and know that one little step back or one little instance isn’t going to make or break. So I’ve used it a lot in the last couple months. But just in everyday life.

Coaching: if I ever get frustrated with the girls, if things just don’t seem to be going in the direction we want them to go in, just being able to separate your emotion from the situation, kind of think about it with a clear mind and reevaluate, reprocess everything that is happening to make something productive.

Cain: Awesome. Separating the emotion. One of the things Ken used to always say was “emotion clouds reality.”

Hayward: Yeah and I was a very emotional player. Still am. But being able to separate that emotion and control the emotion and have big moments that are exciting but be able to stay level in the bad situations.

Cain: It’s funny. I remember clear as day. It was back in 2002 when I was a grad assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton. The baseball and softball fields are right next to each other (I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Fullerton). We got done with a game and I was walking over to watch the softball tournament, the Kia Classic that a lot of good teams go down there to.

Ken Ravizza was talking with Mike Candrea, the legendary coach in Arizona. I’m sitting there and I’m eavesdropping and listening in to the conversation – as he’d always encourage me to do anytime he was having a conversation. He’d say “B-Cai you’ve got to make sure you come and listen because you’re going to learn something.” He said “do you want to ask Coach Candrea a question?”

As I heard him talk I didn’t realize that Mike had won a National Championship in Junior College Baseball as well. So he won a National Championship in Junior College Baseball, won multiple National Championships as an Arizona softball coach. I said “Coach what is the difference between coaching men and women at the highest level?”

He said “the difference between coaching men and women at the highest level is that men are about ego, women are about emotion.” He goes “they both want to be treated as athletes but guys have to play good to feel good and women have to feel good to play good, it’s just how they are wired.” He goes “but what the mental game has done and what he has done (he pointed to Ken Ravizza) is he has helped our athletes minimize the importance of how you feel because how you feel is not controllable but how you act is controllable.” He says “so we have gotten them to focus more on (this is where action over feeling comes from) is focus more on how you act and act confident rather than having to feel confident.” Just like Maddie O’Brien earlier in a podcast was talking about “fake it till you make it” it’s kind of that same strategy.

Victoria, let’s talk a little bit now you mentioned the coaching the mental game side. We are going to come back here with some questions. There we go. Let’s jump on it right now. What is your number one tip to help emotional players not be so emotional?

Keep the questions coming. I’ll write them down as she is answering that one. Keep them coming.

Hayward: Well as a player I had a mantra. It was just to be the face the team needs in any sort of situation. So in the highs you need someone to ground you. In the lows you need someone to look to. I just always wanted to be that person so I try to instill some of that. You can’t be the player that is constantly up and down up and down. That’s just unreliable. So just seeing someone and trying to teach them, trying to show them what it looks like so that they have something to emulate.

We have coaches that get very emotional in games. I just think the more level you can be as a coach it’s definitely easier for them to buy in if they know what it looks like. I think that is the issue is that coaches often get really excited and really mad. So sometimes it’s easy as a player, you see everyone around you, they get really excited, they get really pissed.

Cain: Ride the rollercoaster.

Hayward: Ride the rollercoaster. So I think just having some sort of level ground to kind of center you and ground you is important for them.

Cain: Awesome. And then the next question that came in is how do you make the mental game exciting and attractive to get younger players invested? I’ll throw that question at you here, Vic, but I’m going to jump on it for a second.

There are four stages to buy in. The four stages to buy in – it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get somebody to buy into one of your ideas, into a system, into a philosophy, someone to buy into you as a coach or a relationship or whatever, there are four stage to buy in. One is it’s met with opposition and they say “that’s not for me.” Two is they say “well that might be okay for others.” Three is they say “well I’ll try it.” Four is they say “I can’t believe I did it any other way, watch this.”

Vic, when you first met Ken Ravizza as a freshman where do you think you were at? “Not for me, okay for others, I’ll try it, can’t believe it did it any other way,” where were you at probably?

Hayward: I was in the “I’ll try it.” I knew other people did it and I was like “why not.” I was open to it.

Cain: Okay. And now looking back as a former college athlete and Team Canada player you probably you “can’t believe” what?

Hayward: 100%. Can’t do it.

Cain: “Can’t believe I did it any other way” because now once you know it – I think the reason why people don’t buy into or get excited about the mental game is they just don’t know what it is. What is the number one way that you teach it to try to get players (now as a coach) invested in the mental game?

Hayward: I think you just have to make it as game like as possible. I think when often you start in a classroom setting and it’s easy to say “yeah that is a great idea, yeah I like that, yeah that sounds great,” but until the girls actually see it implemented in a game or in a challenge or in some sort of softball-like atmosphere it’s all nice pretty words and whatnot. So whether that’s making a fun competitive game where we challenge the heck out of them and they need to be able to take a breath, be able to release whatever they are doing, be able to clear their mind and really focus and will actually see some sort of positive result out of it – otherwise it is tough to get them to buy in. But I think just trying to make it fun and exciting and actually have them see some sort of immediate result to where then they can start to piece it together and start to buy in.

Cain: I think one of the best things you can do as a coach to get younger players to buy in to the mental game is show them a model that is at the next level. For example if you like any of these strategies and you like what Vic is putting out there go ahead and hit the screen please and send some love our way. Let’s see some hearts come flying out there. There we go. Very nice.

I think one of the best things you can do is show an example of players at a higher level. That is why we’ve had a podcast with Cat Osterman, we’ve had a podcast with Maddie O’Brien, we have a podcast with Victoria, we are going to try to get Lacey Waldrop (who is a National Player of the Year Pitcher) here to give another perspective of the pitching side of things. When you’re a younger softball player or you’re a coach you can show – I mean for your players to hear from you (which they do all the time) but if they hear from Maddie or if they hear from Vic or if they hear from Cat about the importance of the mental game I think they’re more likely to say “I’ll get to stage three, I’ll try it.” Then once they try it they’ll say “well I can’t believe I did it any other way.”

If you’re trying to find out what to actually try (if you’re watching this) I encourage you to go to www.BrianCain.com, check out the mental game of softball program that will walk you through exactly what we do with the top programs in the country, and then also join the Inner Circle where you’ll work with other A-list coaches like yourself to learn more about the mental game. It’s www.BrianCain.com/InnerCircle.

Last question here if I could, Vic. If you could speak to the younger you, go back and speak to you at that time between maybe your junior/senior year of high school/freshman year of college, knowing what you know now as a National Team player for nine years (you must have been playing when you were 14 right?) what can you say to that younger Victoria Hayward that you wish you knew then? So I guess the question is what do you know now you wish you knew then?

Hayward: That I don’t know everything and that I need to keep learning. I wish at a young age I think I was so bewildered with the opportunity and just trying to take everything in that I didn’t really take advantage of the people that I played with.

 

I played with some of the best in the game. It wasn’t until maybe 3-4 years in that I became really good friends with Jennie, who was an amazing header at Georgia Tech, and Kaleigh Rafter, who is one of the best headers I know, and just picking their brains and really trying to take as much as I could from the people around me. Coaches as well. I mean they do it in a more direct way whereas with teammates you’ve kind of got to sit them down. You’ve got to break down hitting. “Hey what do you think here, what do you like to do.” Mental game strategies as well from that.

 

Then now as I get older, passing that information down, taking people under my wing and kind of paying it forward that way because I know I learned so much from the teammates that I had as a freshman in college learning from the seniors. They’ve been there done that, the strategies that they have, just really taking advantage of those relationships.

Cain: Last question, you’ve made a purchase under $100 that’s had a great impact on your life. What was that purchase? The best purchase you’ve ever made under $100 that’s had the most impact on your life? Out of left field on that one.

Hayward: This is out of left field. I would say – this is going to sound weird – my FitBit.

Cain: Interesting. FitBit. What have you got?

Hayward: It changed the way I sleep because I get really excited about the little things now when I wake up. It’s like “you got eight hours of sleep” and I’m like “yeah I did! I did and it was a quality eight hours! I love it!”

Cain: “I got some REMs baby!”

Hayward: If I’m active it tells me I’m doing a good job. It’s really the sleep though. I think that revolutionized the way. I pat myself on the back when I know I had a good sleep. It changes the way I wake up in the morning and kind of the way I think about my day.

Cain: How about that. Under $100 purchase. Ask yourself this question if you are listening to this on the podcast or you’re following us now on Periscope: the number one purchase in your life that you’ve made under $100 that has had the most impact. For me hands down, no questions asked, the book Heads-Up Baseball. It totally changed my life and my perspective.

Hayward: That’s a good one.

Cain: By Ken Ravizza. I think it’s awesome you talked about sleep. One of the guests we’re going to have here on Periscope – and again all these Periscope videos only last for 24 hours on Twitter. They are going to be in the Inner Circle. They are going to come out on the podcast. We’re a couple weeks ahead so it might not come out maybe till around the College World Series for women’s softball. One of our guests we’re going to have is Dr. James Maas. Have you ever heard of Dr. Maas?

Hayward: [No].

Cain: Dr. James Maas, 42 year professor at Cornell about sleep. He wrote three books, Sleep To Win, Power Sleep, and I unfortunately can’t think of the name of the third one [Sleep For Success]. Dr. Maas writes about sleep and the science behind sleep and what goes on hormonally and chemically and why it’s so important. It’s really easy reading and it’s really informative. I would encourage you to pick up Sleep To Win and Power Sleep. They are fantastic reads.

 

He’ll be a guest on the podcast. I contacted him – this is amazing – I contacted him to do a podcast and he is like “oh I’m not at Cornell anymore, I am retired and I like in Keller, Texas.” Well I live in Southlake, Texas, and Keller and Southlake are neighbors. He is within 10 minutes from me now. So we’re going to get together and do it live and in person I hope. It should be fun. So, Vic, when we get off the air here I’m going to give you a copy of Power Sleep just so you have it so you can crush it on your plane back to U Mass.

Hayward: Oh nice.

Cain: Thanks for checking it out. Victoria, you’ve got your contact info so people can follow up and follow you on Twitter. You’ve already got a great fan base. We’re going to add to that. What is your Twitter handle?

Hayward: @VictoriaHayward.

Cain: That’s @VictoriaHayward. I know I get confused is it o-r-d like “word” or a-r-d like “ward” but it’s Hayward. Victoria Hayward on Twitter. Check it out. Thanks for joining. Vic, you dominated the day.