By David Kolin
Since she was just nine years old, Lauren Li ’12 has been playing softball. Although she did not immediately start on a club team, by the time she was 10 years old she was playing on competitive club teams in Los Angeles.
Before she started playing club softball, Li played recreationally and did not have a very strict practice schedule. Once she joined a competitive club team, Li began playing every other day of the week.
“If I didn’t play every other day of the week, it would show because I was playing on very competitive teams against other competitive teams,” Li said.
Li sees her pitching coach, John Sarno, once every three weeks in order to fine tune her pitching mechanics. Sarno coaches Li so infrequently because he lives far away from her and because he has many other clients, including some Olympic athletes.
“I work with my pitching coach, because he knows what’s wrong,” Li said. “He is like my mirror. I can’t always see myself when I’m pitching.”
Li also has a lot of experience pitching since she started practicing at such an early age.
“I’ve been pitching since I was really young, and I’ve never really been good enough to be the starting pitcher on my club teams because we were playing on such a competitive level,” Li said. “I was beaten out by other girls for the pitching spots, but I practiced with my dad all the time, and I finally got to that level in club where I could be the starting pitcher.”
By 12 years old, Li had won a national tournament with her team, Victory USA. Although she didn’t pitch for her team at the time, she was the starting right fielder.
Li has not had any injuries during her softball career because she hasn’t worn out her arm over the years.
“Maybe not starting all the time pitching helped me in the end because I haven’t thrown that many pitches,” Li said. “My mechanics are pretty sound, so I don’t have any problems with my arm. I ice after I pitch, and I’m taking Advil around the clock.”
Now, Li has reached the point in her career where she is both starting pitcher for her club team and her school team. When Li steps out on the mound before each pitch, she does not try to recall everything her coach taught her all at once.
“I try to think positive thoughts,” Li said. “Thinking, ‘I’m gonna get this batter out.’ That is better than thinking about mechanics. I think about mechanics when I’m practicing. That’s when I can think more about if I’m doing the pitch right, but during the game, it kind of just comes naturally.”