Queen Creek softball playing motivated under new coach

Mar. 18—Veteran, author and motivational speaker David Goggins' 40% rule has been made famous by his countless speeches and books that have helped change the lives of many.

The rule itself is simple. When you think you've exhorted yourself at 100% effort in anything you do, you're really only at 40%. That means you have 60% left to give.

The rule has been adopted by many to tackle a variety of things in their lives. It's also been adopted by the Queen Creek softball program this season under new coach Ann Pierson.

The meaning is the same. But it also has allowed each girl to dissect it in their own way and apply it on the diamond. It's safe to say they've all embraced it.

"Whenever you feel like you're too tired or too exhausted you can push yourself past your limits," Queen Creek senior pitcher Jenae Berry said. "It allows me to push my expectations and be better. It just pushed me in every aspect of my life."

Berry said she didn't know who Goggins was when Pierson brought up his 40% rule. She also wasn't familiar with Jocko Willink's "good" mantra.

Just like Goggins', Willink's is simple, too. If someone presents you with bad news, you respond with "good."

Both terms have been placed on the back of Queen Creek softball shirts this season. It's a constant reminder that they are only playing for each other, not as individuals and not for any other team.

Pierson said the girls have all bought in to the new mindset with the program. And so far, it's shown with Queen Creek's 8-3 record.

"Explaining the 40% rule, they were excited and bought in," Pierson said. "They laugh at me a little bit because when I show it to them, they ask, 'You're getting fired up, aren't you?' And I am."

Pierson spent well over two decades as a head coach at the collegiate softball level. She spent several years at Arizona State before starting the Grand Canyon University program, where she remained for 19 years.

She moved down to the high school ranks and coached at Queen Creek as an assistant under former coach Keith Householder. She took a brief hiatus from the Bulldogs last season to become a counselor at another school.

She returned this year under the same position and was also given the opportunity to interview for the newly opened head coaching spot.

"I knew I needed to come back to Queen Creek to work under this administration and with this staff," Pierson said. "To get an opportunity to work with these girls is a blessing."

Pierson is forced to look at the game from a different perspective at the high school level.

There are no long road trips. There are no recruiting trips all over the country scouring for players she feels best fit her program. Instead, she has a short drive to the school and field everyday where she coaches kids who genuinely want to be at Queen Creek.

Their talent level ranges. But that gives Pierson the opportunity to help develop players for the next level rather than getting them while they're ready to take the next step.

Of course, there are some who are already at that point in their careers, including Berry, who is signed to play next season at the University of Indiana. There's also Corie Shull, who plans to sign with ASU in April. The two pitchers — who also run track — can do it all for the Bulldogs. But perhaps their most important asset is their ability to lead. They've taken younger girls under their wings and have shown them what it takes to win at Queen Creek.

That's allowed the team to become closer than ever this season.

"We have a really young team this year, but I think that's good," Shull said. "We had good chemistry last year, but I feel like we're truly sisters on this team. We have the opportunity to make an impact on them."

Shull said staying close to home was key for her in her decision to sign with ASU. Berry, on the other hand, will be spread out from her family.

Her older brother, Jacob Berry, played collegiately at LSU and is no with the Miami Marlins. Her older sister, Jade Berry, graduated last spring from Queen Creek and is now at Stanford playing softball.

For her, Indiana felt like the right fit. It allows her to not only challenge herself on the field but surround herself with likeminded coaches and players who are in tune with their faith.

Both Berry and Shull have a "what do we have to lose" mindset this season. As seniors, they've seen the rise of the Queen Creek softball program the last few seasons. They've also been through the heartbreak of losing in the semifinals.

The loss last year to Basha motivated them throughout the off-season. The loss to the Bears earlier this season only added more fuel to their internal fire.

"I think the loss to Basha was good," Shull said. "Get it out of the way. I think it's good to lose during the season. It all matters at the end."

Berry said it's all about consistency.

"I think with the right coaching and hard work during practices we can stay consistent throughout the year," she said. "It's about who is hot at the end of the year. If we can find a way to peak at the right time, I think that'll help us."

A long season still awaits the Bulldogs. But Pierson said she likes what she's seen so far from her girls. She surrounded them with four top assistant coaches that assist her with developing players.

The girls have all bought in to her philosophy on the diamond and it's paid off thus far.

Now, it's all about executing it throughout the grind of the back-half of the season. If they do that, Pierson is confident the Bulldogs will be right back in the mix for a 6A title in May.

"Every game is a challenge. We can go through all the cliches everybody talks about," Pierson said. "But really, it is all about trusting the process. Just getting better a little bit every single day. We continue to do the little things to keep us consistent and solid."

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira.