Shelby Pendley was drafted 2nd overall out of The University of Oklahoma in the 2015 NPF College Draft by the USSSA Pride. She was a 2x Big 12 Player of the Year, a 3x NCAA All-American and was the 2015 NPF Rookie of the Year. Pendley is 6th all-time in NCAA Softball career home runs. She is one of the best hitters in NCAA history and is currently an assistant softball coach at The University of New Mexico.
You can follow Shelby on Twitter @PendleyShelby
Cain: Hey, how are you doing? Brian Cain, your Peak Performance Coach here with another episode of the Brian Cain Peak Performance Podcast. Today our guest is Shelby Pendley. She was a 2013, 2014, and 2015 All-American. Three-time NCAA All-American. She was the Big 12 Softball Conference Player of the Year in 2015 and again in 2013. She is sixth in NCAA history in college softball home runs for a career. She was the second overall pick in the 2015 NPF Softball Draft as a member of the USSSA Pride. Shelby Pendley, one of the greatest college softball players of all time, thank you for sitting down and joining us on the Brian Cain Peak Performance Podcast.
Pendley: Thank you.
Cain: If you would, Shelby, could you give our listeners your background, where you grew up, how you got into softball, and then how your career has now taken you to be a player for the USSSA Pride and coaching softball at New Mexico?
Pendley: Yes. So I grew up in New Mexico in a town called Rio Rancho. There is nothing but dirt there and the wind blows like crazy.
I grew up playing for a guy named Paul Coleman, who is kind of one of the biggest reasons for where I am today. He is probably the only one in New Mexico that knows a lot about softball and knows what it takes to get to the next level. He would take us to the big-exposure tournaments. He would have practice that would extend 6-7 hours on the weekends. It paid off but it was tough at times practicing for that long, mentally tough as well as physically. I do relate a lot of my success to him because he did get me to that next level, which would be college, and from college I went pro. The whole college experience helped me grow as a person and really mature off the field a lot. Not only on the field but off the field.
Coach Gasso – one of the sayings she used a lot was “women amongst girls.” She wanted us to be women as opposed to a girl. She really wanted us to excel in the classroom and basically in everything we did.
Cain: What did she mean by that, do you think? Explain that a little more, “women amongst girls.”
Pendley: I think just being mature. Girls kind of make mistakes that are kind of related to immaturity, and I think she just wanted us to be mature and be able to handle ourselves and present ourselves in a good manner. We were required to go to class in jeans and a nice shirt. We were required to dress nice to class. We couldn’t just go in our workout clothes. In the airports we were dressed for success. We wore business attire, dresses, nice shoes. She just wanted us to present ourselves in ways that – I don’t even know the word for it.
Pendley: Professionally. Even now (even outside of Oklahoma Softball) I always feel like I need to present myself in a professional manner dress-wise. Those are just kind of skills that I took away from there.
Cain: Shelby, you’ve had a chance out of high school. You went to the University of Arizona with Mike Candrea, legend in softball. You went to Oklahoma and played for Patty Gasso, legend in college softball. Now you are coaching. What are some of the things that you have taken from playing in two of the top programs in the country in college softball that you are now using at New Mexico that you have made as a part of your coaching repertoire?
Pendley: The biggest thing is I got to get knowledge from great people, great coaches that know a lot. Even Coach McKay. I’d say he is a genius because he taught me so much about hitting, even the science and the physics behind it. But now that I am coaching it’s everything that I saw as a player that I didn’t like in the coaching world. I try not to be that coach.
Looking at Coach Gasso, I mean she is great. I don’t know. Just being a good role model for the girls. Always making sure I am doing the right thing (like a good role model) so they are doing the right thing. I’m still learning every day.
Cain: Let’s transition a little bit now back to you as the player. The mental game for Shelby Pendley. What was that? What was your mental game?
Pendley: The more I thought the worse I did. I was kind of one of those players that just go out there and play. If I went up to bat and I was thinking too much, I already knew instantly I was going to strike out because I was thinking. So I just tried to keep my mind free and clear.
Cain: Are there things that you did to do that, like breathing or any kind of routine or anything?
Pendley: Sometimes breathing, yeah. Sometimes just really focusing on being in that moment instead of thinking too far ahead or thinking about past things that have occurred, whether it was an error that I made in the inning before or the last set that I had. Just trying not to think about that till after the game. That helped me a lot. My biggest thing that got in my way was myself.
Cain: So you are one of the best college softball players of all time and your biggest thing was you got in the way of yourself. What do you mean by that?
Pendley: Getting mad at myself for making an error instead of just “hey, everyone makes errors.” I was so hard on myself that I expected perfection all the time and when I didn’t get it it was not okay in my mind. It was not okay to be imperfect. I learned over the years how to kind of just let it go and move on. Coach Gasso was the one that helped a lot with that because she wasn’t going to let me do it. She would not let me show emotion and she worked a lot with me on it. I did go see the pros (which is our sports psychologist) a little bit about it my senior year.
Cain: That’s at Oklahoma?
Cain: What does pros stand for? Is that an acronym, do you know? But that is like the sports psychology department at Oklahoma right? Nicki Moore and that crew?
Cain: Did they ever come in and work with your team in Oklahoma?
Pendley: They did.
Cain: What are some of the things that they did with you guys to help you guys get that mental edge?
Pendley: The stuff they would do with us was more like team stuff. You have to do everything as a team (basically) to win, to be good, to stay together. Those were kind of the things that we did with them. Mental stuff that we needed individually we’d go see on our own. I know a lot of us would go see them.
Coach Gasso wanted me to go see them once a week, so I was in my senior year. That really helped a lot. I was Captain my senior year so that was (I think) one of the biggest reasons she wanted me to go. That way my head was clear all the time. I worked with a guy named Cody Commander. He helped me quite a bit.
Cain: What are some of the strategies or things that maybe you used (from a mental game standpoint), for the young softball players listening to this or for the coaches listening to this that are maybe new to the mental game or looking at what are some of the things? Was it goal setting? Was it breathing exercises? Was it concentration grids? Is there anything that you could say, “This is something that I did that helped me grow mental toughness” or “Helped me grow better focus and if you are a huge softball player, try this?”
Pendley: One thing we did do was we would set goals. One thing that Cody had told me was, “Focus on the process.” We use that term a lot. Focus on the process. Rather than winning a national championship, our focus should be that process and what we need to do to get to the next step.
One goal for me that me and Coach McKay set was to cut down my strikeouts. That was my junior year. I think we cut them down quite a bit. All around I was just a better hitter. I think my batting average was up quite a bit. My home runs were up. My RBIs were up. That was my goal for my junior year, was cut down the strikeouts – as an individual goal.
Cain: If you had to look at maybe, Shelby, two or three characteristics that you have that have made you so successful, what would they be?
Pendley: I would say my work ethic. I actually like working hard. I like to do it. It’s not one of those things that I have to dread going to practice or dread going to working out. I like doing it. So work ethic is big. I think just my overall love for the game.
Cain: What about from a team standpoint? You talk about some of the great teammates that you’ve played with. Whether it was with USSSA Pride or at Oklahoma, you have been around some of the best players ever. What are some of the characteristics that maybe you see in a Lauren Chamberlain or in a Keilani Ricketts or in a Cat Osterman (some of the best players that have ever played)? What are some of the characteristics that you see that are common amongst those great players?
Pendley: Just taking care of each other. Take care of your teammates like you would your brother or your sister or your mom or your dad. I always enjoyed that part of always making sure my teammates were taken care of, whether it was on the field or even off the field. Whatever they were doing. Just making sure they were okay. Sometimes they would call me “mom” or whatever, but I enjoyed that.
Cain: The number one book you have ever read? Your favorite book? The book that has had the most impact on you, Shelby. What do you think it is?
Pendley: I don’t really read books.
Cain: Not a big fan of books. Okay. Let’s say maybe $100 purchases. You’ve made some $100-or-less purchases in your life. The number one under-$100 purchase you’ve ever made that has had the biggest impact on you.
Pendley: Under-$100 purchase.
Cain: We’re changing it around here. We are getting off the softball train.
Pendley: That is a tough one. Under-$100 purchase. I don’t know.
Cain: We’ll come back to it. We’ll get back to it in a couple years once you start reading books. We’ll come back to that and get you going.
Pendley: I did start reading books right after Convention.
Cain: Where are you going to right now? What have you got? What are you reading right now?
Pendley: It is the Jon Gordon.
Cain: Yep. Energy Bus?
Pendley: No, I bought that one. I am reading in the Locker Room. What’s it called?
Cain: You Win in the Locker Room First.
Pendley: You Win in the Locker Room First, yeah.
Cain: Yeah. Tell me about that.
Pendley: I did start reading that one because I learned at Convention that I need to start reading books so…
Cain: Yeah. You know what we are going to get you going on, Shelby? We are going to get you on CliffsNotes.
I am going to give a little secret to the people that have stuck with us this far in the podcast. There is a thing called Philosopher’s Notes on YouTube. A guy named Brian Johnson. He goes through these books and he’ll do like a CliffsNotes, so six-page summaries of some of the best books that have ever been written. Then he’ll do a 20-minute audio where he basically reads the six-page CliffsNotes so you can either listen to it when you are driving, listen to it when you’re flying, or (for someone who is active and likes to run) you’d listen to it when you run or when you are on a bike, or you can read the PDF.
So if you’re on the podcast listening to this, this has changed my life. Brian Johnson, Philosopher’s Notes. You can see his videos on YouTube. If you go to his website, you can get all the books. I’ll share one with you so that you can speed up the learning curve on the book reading process. Any time I start to read I fall asleep but if I know I have 20 minutes, I’ll crush it. You know how it is.
Pendley: That’s genius.
Cain: Awesome. Well, Shelby, last question for you. If you could go back and talk to (let’s say) the senior in high school Shelby Pendley or the freshman in college Shelby Pendley, knowing what you know now (having been through the battle, been a three-time All-American, a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year), what would you say to that senior in high school or that freshman in college?
Pendley: To let my guard down and be open to whether it’s something new in a swing or something new in your throwing or something new in the way to field the ball. It always took me a while to trust and let down my guard because I had done something for so long my whole life and all of a sudden this is something new and I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I have been doing this and I had success with it – now I’m going to try to change it?” That was my biggest thing. I wish I would have done it sooner instead of semi-junior year or senior year.
I think that is really when I peaked, was my junior year. That is really when I just surrendered and let my guard down. My sophomore year was alright, but I knew I was better than that and I knew I needed to do something different, and that was letting my guard down and listening to my coaches.
Cain: Talk a little bit more about letting your guard down. What do you think kept you from doing that until you were a junior or until you were in that sophomore year?
Pendley: Stubbornness, I guess. Growing up in New Mexico you don’t really have these great people to teach you all the stuff they know so you kind of teach yourself, and when you find something that works, you stick with it. You don’t keep trying to change.
Going to college you don’t realize how knowledgeable your coaches are. When you have grown up having to teach yourself and then they want to change stuff, you are just like, “Uh….” But I think the fact that I knew I was better than what I was actually performing at. And I quit being stubborn. I had to if I wanted to be better.
Cain: For the people that are listening to this, Shelby, if they want to get in touch with you or follow your career as a young coach who is still playing professionally, still playing for USSSA Pride, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you? Is it through your Twitter handle of @PendleyShelby? Is that the best way?
Pendley: Yeah, that would be great. You can Tweet me. You can send me a private message on Twitter. Whatever is best for you. I will do my best to respond to everyone that has questions or needs answers.
Cain: Awesome. Is there an e-mail through New Mexico that they can get you at if they are interested in coming to a camp or anything?
Pendley: Yes. SPendley@unm.edu.
Cain: Alright here we go. So you have got a Twitter handle of @PendleyShelby or an e-mail of SPendley@unm.edu. Shelby, thank you for taking the time to sit down and join us on the podcast. I appreciate you doing that.
Pendley: Thank you.