We all were was speechless at our end of season banquet this week. Our alumni coordinated a new welcoming ceremony for the graduating seniors to celebrate their transition from Extreme players to Extreme alumni and it was incredible!
Here were the two speeches that not only welcomed our senior softball players to the alumni, but also encouraged our soon-to-be alumni baseball players!
Speaker 1 – Hannah Wessels, Extreme Alum 2010
When I was a senior in High school, I committed to Lake Land community college and then not too long after I decided to play soccer to stay in shape for softball.
About 6 games into season, I completely blew out my left ACL. My family and I were devastated and at first I was mad and thought I had done something wrong that maybe this was karma coming to get me or something. I called my coach to let him know what happened and that I was going to have surgery immediately. Fortunately, he did not take away my scholarship. 5 months later I played in my first game when I was originally told it would be a 6-8 month recovery.
So I got through my freshman year I played first base and eventually got beaten out of the position by a sophomore. I came back my sophomore season feeling like the best shape of my life. 3 weeks into fall practice we were practicing rundowns and I was heading to home and turned to go back to third base and my left knee gave out on me and I instantly knew it was my ACL again. Sure enough I tore my left ACL again but this time it was only a partial tear. Well at the time, I was a sophomore and did not have a scholarship for next year so I convinced my doctor to let me play the rest of the season on one condition. That I had to wear my knee brace and there was a good chance I was going to do more damage to my knee. But it was a risk I was willing to take. So I played the whole season with my knee brace knowing that pretty much as soon as I go home I was going to have to have surgery all over again and go through rehab for even longer this time.
About a week before surgery I got a phone call from Coach Brett and he asked if I wanted to play in anexhibition game against the Chicago Bandits professional team and it turned out the game was the night before my surgery. There was not a doubt in my mind that I was going to play in that game.
The Extreme organization has constantly opened doors for me. I would have never gotten the opportunity to play at UMSL if it was not for Coach Brett. My coach at UMSL went solely on Coach Brett’s word, because at the time I was injured and he had never seen me play for that I am so thankful.
One of my favorite memory’s playing for the Extreme was the first time I played Alexa Becker. At the time she was playing for the Attack and we were playing in the Collinsville tournament. Every time she would hit a double I would walk by and say “Hey nice hit man” and then we would hit and I would get a double and she would walk by and say “Hey nice hit man”. I can’t tell you who won the game or what I went for the day, but what I do remember was the sportsmanship that we both displayed. Next thing I know couple weeks later she is trying out for the Extreme. But on that day, I think we both showed great Extreme Pride even if she didn’t know the saying at the time.
So we all say Extreme Pride and it has its different meanings for everyone, but what Extreme Pride truly means to me is FAMILY and it started when I first joined the Extreme. During my fall high school season Tom Matysik would travel all the way to Hillsboro Missouri to watch some of my high school games. Even up to my senior year of college and Mark Popov coming to countless games at UMSL. My freshman year of college one of my fellow extreme teammates came to a visit at my school. At the time I was completely miserable and very homesick, but when they left her stepdad gave me a high five and said Extreme Pride and wow did that hit me so hard and so close to home and it really reminded me of all the support I had back home.
My advice to the seniors is to wake up! You guys need to be prepared for the realization that you are most likely not going to be the best player on the team anymore. Once you get to college no one cares what you batted or pitched in high school or if you were all state or not, because guess what everyone there was the best player on the team and everyone is there for a reason.
I know that may sound harsh and some of you may not believe me, I know because I was the same way. But when I got to school I was in for a rude awakening. So my advice is get ready to find a role on that team. Even if it is second string or a pinch hitter or runner, but you find something and you be the best at that role no matter what it is. My freshman and sophomore years I was not the main starter and it fueled my fire. When I got to UMSL I told myself I was going to do whatever it takes to get into that lineup no matter what position it was. I knew I had a long road ahead of me, because my family and I decided it was best for me to red shirt my first year at UMSL to get completely healed this time. When my junior season started I was not a starter and yeah I was mad, but my parents told me to be patient and that I would get my opportunity and I would have to take advantage of it. Well I got my opportunity and I ended the season as the starting 3rd baseman.
Even up to my senior year I had to continue to fight. I went in thinking I was going to be the veteran starting 3rdbaseman until the first day of practice and we had a stud freshman 3rd baseman come in and I knew from the first practice she was going to take my spot. So I had a choice I could give-up or I could go out swinging. I continued to put the work in and I warned my parents that when season starts I was not going to be in the starting lineup. I never once bashed this teammate not even to my parents because honestly I couldn’t. I had to be honest with myself and tip my hat; this girl was a better 3rd baseman than I was. But I knew I could still make the lineup as the DP and again when I got my opportunity I took advantage of it and I stayed in that role the whole season, did not see the infield once. And I ended up having my career best season. When I went into college I was a 2nd baseman.
At my junior college I was a first baseman and at UMSL I was a 3rd baseman and ended as the DP. Prior to college I had never played those positions before, but I had to be a team player and play where my coach needed me, I played with Extreme pride, because that is something the Extreme has taught me.
At the beginning of my senior season one of my favorite people in the world told me to “Enjoy the ride”, so my advice to you seniors is to enjoy the ride because honestly it does go by so fast, at some point you are probably going to be miserable but you just have to push through it and never give up because eventually you will get to look back on it and tell your children and grandchildren about it.
To the parents, it going to be very hard for you to watch your child to go through tough times just be prepared for them, stay positive, encouraging, and always on their side.And remember it is not all about the stats or playing time, because honestly known of us can control that. I have to thank my parents who have been at almost every game I have ever played in, even nowadays when I just play women’s ball. They even traveled with the team when Ired-shirted and couldn’t play now that is true extreme pride.
I think I can speak on behalf of the Extreme alumni when I say you girls will always have a family to come home to here at Extreme. I wish you all the best of luck and to remember to always play with Extreme Pride.
Speaker 2 – Lauren Popov-Muniz, Extreme Alum 2008, 18U Gold Coach
Hannah has always exemplified Extreme Pride and I’m thankful I was able to play alongside her. Hannah was an amazing teammate, one of the best, and she is a true Extreme alum. So are many others that are with us tonight and at this time I would like all of our alumni present to stand. We are missing several tonight who are still coaching.
We have countless other alumni who have positively impacted our organization this season–whether coaching, teaching, throwing BP, organizing events such as tonight, securing fields for practice space, running tryouts, or simply lending a helping hand and sending words of support and encouragement. Our alumni live the Extreme Way day in and day out and wear Extreme Pride on their sleeve.
Right now, I would like you to think about our alumni–have they impacted, left an impression, or helped you or your child in any way? No way is too big or too small. If the answer is yes, please stand.
As you can see there are many more of you standing than there are alumni. Our alumni are important and invaluable.
Our alumni are the heartbeat of our organization, they are our past, our present, and our future. Without them, we cannot be the Extreme Family we know and love. And, I am so happy and proud to know that in a few short years we will be welcoming our first class of men into our alumni club. Only then, when baseball and softball is represented in our alumni, will we be able to have the ultimate impact on our sports.
But, tonight is about the present, it’s about this moment right now. When our graduating seniors bridge the gap between an Extreme player to an Extreme alum. These women are tenacious, full of life and love, and will no doubt take the world by storm and will turn heads everywhere they go. I am so proud and honored to welcome these women into our alumni club. Always know that your Extreme family is beyond proud of you and that we will always support you and welcome you with open arms.
Our alumni have a gift for you this evening, a gift to remind you of your roots, and that once an Extremer, always an Extremer.
Congratulations class of 2015.
Part of the 3D Experience in youth sports is making sure that the expectations are set and the priorities are in place for players, coaches, and parents. One of the priorities within our Extreme Skills program is to implement our program’s philosophies to all teams in the Extreme organization. We know that if program philosophies are implemented then the outcomes take care of themselves. It’s the focus of process over outcomes that have the best impact on athletes. Many of our Program teams over our first 16 years as an organization have been focused on this team approach, but without program philosophies documented and transparent, the implementation has been inconsistent thus far.
We know that if you focus on the program philosophies at the age of 7 that may not mean a victory right then and there, we know that it may lead to an error or a mistake or blundered play, but the coaches, players, and families must have the priority set that implementing the philosophy is most important because the effort was there to execute a successful strategy or skill of the game. That effort has to be rewarded through appreciation and excitement for the kids! If we try and implement a bunt defense at the age of 10 and we see the kids working through that philosophy and implementing it and trying to achieve it, as players, parents and coaches we have to celebrate that because we know it is going to lead to great success, outcomes, and consistency throughout their playing career.
As a multi-team program, where graduation from year to year is expected we have to have a system and curriculum in place for team and athlete success. That system has been developed and prioritized by the veteran knowledge within the Extreme Network. Our system includes philosophies on pitching vertically, aggressive hitting counts, how to handle an inside pitch, short game skills, bunt defenses, etc. Part of our evolution as a program was spent researching and meeting the top programs in the nation that we compete against within our Elite teams to confirm and improve our program’s philosophies and the implementation plan within the program.
Through those meetings we developed our team development model along with our best practices & strategies that make them successful throughout our program. One meeting really stuck out to us was with an organization out of Texas. An example of their success lies in a philosophy around when they have a runner on first or a runner on first and second and there are no outs, they sacrifice bunt and move the runner over every time, regardless of score or who is up to bat. This philosophy is implemented all the way down the club into their 8, 9, & 10 year old players. By the time they reach the high school level and are competing on a national scale, there is no signal, no conversation, no timeout to discuss, the player is engrained to implement that program philosophy. We see players on teams in our region including many of our teams that have a very inconsistent approach about how to handle that same scenario – the best hitter never bunts, we only try to bunt the first pitch, we never bunt, etc. An inconsistent philosophy leads to inconsistent success.
Instead of leaving individual instructor philosophies to drive the successes or failures for our teams, we believe in the team development model that was used long before private instruction was such a big focus. We will be putting the Extreme Network to work to combat against the below examples within our teams.
- Pitching – we have kids who are inside of private instruction and their sequence on the mound in a game may be fastball, then to a curve ball or screw ball, and then to a change up. If our experience and philosophy is to go fastball, off speed, drop ball, secondary off speed, rise ball, and then start working into your horizontal breaks of curve and screw balls we have a hu
ge inconsistency throughout our system. We are working to have complete transparency for our coaches, players, and parents. By putting these program philosophies down on paper, implementing them through the Extreme Network, teaching them to our kids, coaches, and also giving that transparency to our families, there is more consistency in the program and a better experience.
- Throughout baseball nationwide, we have serious concern over arm health. As a program, we have to implement arm health check points and a development plan to decrease our risk of injuries in our youth. What pitches do they learn, how many pitches do they throw, at what point do I start throwing a breaking ball, when do I move from the stretch to the windup, when do I do a FLUSH after a start to help my arm recover, what is my arm health routine before a game? All these questions are out there and we have experience within our Network that has developed these answers.
Members of the Extreme Network have the experience and knowledge of how these concepts have been executed well and poorly. We can use that experience to roll it out to our youth through our playbook to bring consistency in development from our youth teams up through our high school system. We see teams in our region that do not have these philosophies in place and they are coached with the short term in mind. We have to be very careful and stay out of that danger zone and stay true to our long term philosophies that if a player does the process of a, b, and c that we will start to see the outcomes of x, y, z take shape. That is what a 3-dimensional experience is in the skill side of youth sports. It is being built on true experienced, seasoned, philosophies that have been around since the test of time and provide a very consistent experience in sports.
As we plan and execute our program philosophies inside our club, we will make those priorities public so that our families know what we are developing within our coaches and players. With that transparency, the physical side of the 3D experience becomes easier to understand and support your athlete and their team as they grow.
We are changing the model for athletes and coaches going into this year. Instead of putting the pressure on the individual development we are rolling out a team development philosophy. It’s time our network is leveraged for the benefit of every team and athlete in our club. The knowledge and experience of veteran coaches will be put to work around getting better outcomes in a team’s hitting and defense, pitching and catching, athleticism around velocity relative to our sport. Our team fees reflect your athlete’s development – an example is your child academic system.
Schools have support systems that help their students in need. Examples of that support system are an ACT prep classes or an academic tutor. An athletic program needs to have a support system for each team as well. The lifeblood of the athletic program has to be the curriculum & philosophies that will transfer as an athlete grows in their sport. Students have class time to learn the curriculum and then are tested through exams. In the athletic world the classroom is team practices and the exams are team games. By using veteran coaches to run skill development with your athlete’s team we are developing a plan to allow consistent coaching throughout the organization. Similar to school, if a student is struggling they reach out for individual attention or take a special class. Same applies to an athlete struggling with a specific skill. Private instructors or camps should be used with an athlete when they are falling behind on their development inside our programs curriculum.
Team sports require team philosophies around the skills of the game. The success of the team should not solely be dependent on an individuals training plan. It should be supported more by team implementation of the curriculum. We use team practices to bring in our veterans and develop your athlete’s team and individual skills. By joining the Extreme you assure your athletes are being mentored with the end in mind – outcomes of the game! If we want to defend against a great bunt then as an organization we need to be teaching a unified bunt defense that has clear expectations and execution points to ensure success as our athletes grow in the organization. We are going to provide you the complete athletic curriculum to ensure your athlete achieves their athletic goals.
So as you gather information on how to provide the 3D experience for your athletes, remember your team fees include your athlete’s skill development. We will provide you the classroom, the book, and all the exams and if your athlete falls behind we will be there with recommendations for private tutoring around their struggles.
For the first time in program history, high school athletes will have the opportunity to tryout for two different programs in the Extreme with the Competitive and Elite Programs. Our goal is to help families match their expectations with the right environment. Both programs are built to support athletes who are pursuing higher competition levels in the game. Each family will have more support in making the decision for which environment is right for them. Our coaches are better equipped to support all high school athletes by helping the families place their athlete in the environment that is ideal for them.
- Regional tournaments
- High level high school ball
- Collegiate bound athletes with local and regional goals
The competitive athlete has high goal aspirations. The athletes who join the competitive teams are transitioning into developing structure and a plan to accomplish their goals. Most of the competitive athletes strive to play past high school but haven’t spent extensive time in a weight room or a skill training session utilizing professional coaches. The competitive program helps athletes and families stair step towards the extra work needed to expand their game and playing experience. Most competitive athletes are focused on making their high school teams and gaining Varsity playing time while competing at a strong high school level. Competitive athletes are looking for opportunities to go on and play college ball, in a regional setting. The competitive program gives players an opportunity to transition into further development and into a regional competition level.
Elite – National Program:
- National competition playing against the top 100 programs in the country
- All-inclusive development for the team to close the gap and chase out inconsistencies found between the mid-west and the rest of the country
- College bound and beyond – goals to play at the highest levels
The Elite brand has been around since 2010. It was the first time the program went outside the region and competed on the national level. Running into long-standing programs with traditions of top-flight scholarship athletes showed us that we had gaps to fill in our Midwest talent. Through our evaluation of the previous Elite program, we began to see what held us back from achieving our mission. The program was inconsistent in the development plan of athletes, the approach of coaching, and the expectations of parents. The new Elite – National Program is designed to close the gap on these inconsistencies. To have the right experience your athlete needs right environment and development.
Which environment is right for your athlete? For families making the decision we encourage them to consider the distinction between the environments, commitment, and competition level. Our coaches, support staff, and executive directors are here to help you through the decision process. Both programs will be 3D experiences and have success – the key is matching the right environment with the right expectations. Fundraising support will be extensive for families in all our programs, especially those participating in the Competitive and Elite – National Programs.