Club Profile: Extreme Elite 16U Gold
When did the team/program start and how/why did it come to be?
In 1999, the Collinsville Extreme was created out of a need for local athletes to play more than high school softball. The Extreme burst onto the local scene that year, the 'Extreme Pride' rallying cry was created and the organization began traveling to 'out of town' tournaments.
In 2009, the Extreme Elite program was established as an option for elite high-school athletes to begin playing softball against national competition. This also served as a chance for local players to be recruited by college programs outside of our local market. The legacy built up since the 2009 team has been impressive, including 18u national USSSA champions (2012), competing internationally in the Canada Cup, receiving invites to the inaugural ASA/USA 16u Gold nationals, Colorado Fireworks Power Pools, and playing against the best competition in numerous national invites and showcases.
For 2016-2017, Extreme Elite 16u Gold (Team #9) looks to continue and further the legacy that has begun by previous athletes and teams.
Where are you based? Where do your athletes come from (all locally, some out of state?)
We are based out of Collinsville, IL (~15 minutes from downtown St. Louis). Our athletes are primarily from a 2 hour radius around Collinsville, typically from Illinois or Missouri. However, this year, we have broadened our reach and have 3 players on our roster from Kentucky. We have daily inquiries from across the country about our program, spanning from Virginia to California. Many are looking for the model that the Extreme Elite has been able to create.
What was the purpose of creating the team (showcase players, win titles, develop skills, etc.)?
Our Extreme Elite program is built to provide a foundation for 'like minded' athletes and families to learn and grow in culture-based program, similar to that of a national collegiate program. The Extreme Elite program is for those highly committed to compete on a national softball level.
What have been some of your successes in terms of winning or placing at events?
- 2012 - 18u USSSA National Championship
- 2012 -- Competed internationally in the Canada Cup
- 2014 -- Finished 13th in TCS Colorado Fireworks 16u Power Pool
- 2014 -- Finished 17th in inaugural ASA/USA 16u Gold National
- 2014 -- Extreme Elite 16u Gold team finished ranked 49th in the country
What makes the organization unique?
I believe there are 4 things that make us unique:
1) Our Mission | The Extreme Elite is a nationally recognized, invite-only, program committed to competing at the highest level while developing high-caliber, student-athletes. We provide a complete '3 Dimensional Experience' that includes physical development, emotional encouragement, and faith support to athletes looking to compete on the 'big stage'. Current college coaches love recruiting our program athletes, as they are prepared for the demands of what the next level actually entails. To be precise, our athletes are prepared to contribute and compete at the collegiate level, not just get there and realize it is not for them.
2) Our Physical Training | Training for athletes is provided by the Extreme Network trainers who bring knowledge, love, and passion to their craft in the following key areas:
- Hitting -- Improve overall technique to increase ball exit speed and create a strategy to be 'great' offensive weapon
- Defense -- Improve softball IQ, increase defensive strategy and communication, and develop enhanced skill work, such as glove work, rhythm, etc. (includes pitching and catching)
- Overhand Throwing Development (OTD) -- Increase throwing velocity and overall arm health
- Velocity and Strength -- Training to increase functional movement capability, increase speed and build
3) Our Mental Training Program | As an athlete elevates to higher levels of competition, success becomes less about the physical skills and more about the mental skills needed. An athlete MUST be in control of themselves before they can control their performance on the field. We stress the following:
- Present Moment Focus -- Learning to be where you are supposed to be when you should be there.
- Process Over Outcome -- Control the things that you can control (attitude, presence, etc.) and positive outcomes follow.
- Failure Recovery Routines -- Teaching routines provides structure to go to during times of adversity or failure.
- Mental Imagery -- Use of visualizing images helps the mind and body relax and draw upon positive images to help with outcomes.
What's your softball background and how did you get to the point of leading the team?
Softball has been deeply rooted within my extended family for a long time. I can remember back 20+ years ago, catching my niece during her pitching lessons. That may have been my 'start' into fastpitch softball. I've had many relatives play collegiate softball at various levels.
My daughter, Paige, is a college sophomore and plays for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. She's just coming off an ankle injury; really looking forward to seeing her career be fulfilled. She is one of the assistant coaches on our team and it is rewarding to see her grow as a coach and a person.
As a coach, I've been doing this for about 7 years. It's become a big part of me and my family. Many, including my wife, have called me a bit of a softball junkie. I just can't seem to get enough of it. Whether it's taking the time to reach out to another club or college coach to try to gain more knowledge or just talking with an athlete trying to find what motivates and inspires them, I just love all of it. I really want each of our athletes to achieve their goals and break down some of their limiting beliefs along the way -- that's not always easy for some. Then they have an opportunity to reach higher and gain things they thought impossible. For me, it's teaching them that it's about following the process and not worrying about the results (they are outside of your control).
I came to lead this team when I was asked by our founder and my close friend, Brett Swip. I think he thought he was taking a big chance on me, but I knew that I could make a huge impact for this program by doing things a bit differently, taking some bold action, and creating a 'championship culture'. We have so much to offer committed athletes and families, from skill development to recruiting to the overall experience they should enjoy as part of our program. It really is a phenomenal model for athletics and Brett's overall vision.
My regular job is as a Senior Program Manager for Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis, MO. I'm usually mired in problem solving and setting direction for multi-year, multi-million dollar efforts on a daily basis. I am grateful that my job allows me the flexibility to pursue my softball coaching passion.
How many teams are there in the organization overall?
The Extreme Baseball & Softball Club currently has 30 overall teams. On the softball side, there are 12 total teams. There are 4 teams that bear the Extreme Elite name:
- Extreme Elite 14u, comprised of athletes in 8th grade
- Extreme Elite 16u Freshman, comprised of HS Freshman athletes
- Extreme Elite 16u Gold, comprised mainly of HS Sophomores and Juniors, and
- Extreme Elite 18u Gold, comprised of HS Juniors and Seniors.
Has there been a key moment or defining experience in the team's history?
I can think of two from my experience:
- In 2014, our Extreme Elite 16u Gold team (of which my daughter was a part), finished in the top 50 in the country by 1) finishing 13th in the Colorado Fireworks Power Pool and 2) ending 17th in the inaugural ASA/USA 16u Gold Championship in Broken Arrow, OK.
- In 2015, the organization embarked on a new mission -- the 3 Dimensional Experience outlined earlier. In my opinion, this is doing things the 'right way'.
What is your primary focus or goal with this team?
I have many things that I would like to accomplish with this team. First and foremost, I want our athletes to buy into our 'Championship Culture' values. This is core for us getting our program back to national prominence in short order. The athletes and families, I believe, have really bought in. We have 5 core values that the athletes have been evaluating their training and competitive performances against: selflessness, trust, accountability, toughness, and enthusiasm. We've also used the 'Row the Boat' analogy that PJ Fleck has used at Western Michigan, which they have fully embraced.
Secondly, I want them to find a way to leave their legacy on this program. I don't think that many of them understood the 'baton' that they were carrying until we had a long talk about it. To help them visualize and understand the meaning, I went out and bought a purple relay baton and had the team name and logo inscribed on it. It is now used at the end of team practice to be 'passed' to the athlete that most closely represented one or more of our values. At the end of the year, the team will pass the baton off to Team #10.
Through this process, I had them identify 3 exceptional changes that they were going to do as a team during the year. Here is the team's list:
- Sacrifice more for each other / 'Go The Extra Mile'
- Stay Connected and Engaged with Each Other (Team = Family)
- Live our Extreme Culture
What do you think are the strengths of the team?
These athletes have an overall commitment to excellence, compete at a very high-level, are highly recruit able, play as a cohesive unit, represent the game with respect, and are fun to watch and be around! They really are great young ladies.
I really like the focus that the athletes have had in our mental training sessions. They have really bought into having mental routines and learning the process to 'play one pitch at a time'.
I would be remiss to not mention our coaching staff as strength. My assistant coach, Abbie Bates, brings a lot of passion, knowledge, and coaching experience to the table. She played the game through college and does a great job of relating that perspective to the athletes and game situations. Coach Bates is in charge of our infield and is the first base coach. When my daughter, Paige, returns during the summer, she will have responsibility for our outfield and slappers. We also have another college athlete coming back this summer that will likely have responsibility for our catchers
If there is one thing you would say that separates you from other club programs, what would it be?
I would say there are two things top-of-mind that differentiate Extreme Softball from other clubs:
- Whole player development (mental, recruiting, physical, emotional, etc.) -- our 3D model really separates us from other club programs.
- The collaborative support system that our organization has. Our executive board is very engaged and always looking to help. Moreover, our coach collaboration is very impressive. How many other clubs have monthly coaches meetings that last 3 hours and bring in guest speakers on topics ranging bio-mechanical movements to pitching to recruiting and on down the line? It truly is awesome to be a key part of the organization at this point in time.
We have done a lot this year in getting our Extreme Elite brand outside of our local market. You can find a ton of information on our team, including
MEET THE TEAM
Tami Wong (2019, 3B/SS, uncommitted)
Tami is an excellent student -- she carries a 4.6 (4.0) GPA and is #2 in her class. She is also a D1 caliber player. Tami is a 'secret weapon'. She can play any position on the field aside from pitch (and does them all well) -- although her primary positions for our team will be 3B/SS. She has great glove work and an above average arm (60+ mph). She is a very consistent and smart hitter, with some pop, that knows how to execute a game plan. Tami will likely hit in the middle of the lineup. She was also voted a team leader by her teammates early in the year.
Taylor Downen (2019, C/UT, uncommitted)
Taylor has really grown over the past 2 years into a #1-caliber catcher. She has blossomed in a great game caller and receiver; her overhand throwing velocity is currently at 62mph and continues to grow weekly. Taylor has also begun to 'live our culture' and is not afraid to hold her teammates accountable. She is a right-handed hitter with some pop that will unexpectedly drop down a bunt as well; she will likely hit anywhere in our lineup. Known for her sarcasm, Taylor has a lot of the attributes that we look for in selecting our athletes such as independence, leadership and very competitive.
Jayle Jennings (2019, P/MIF, uncommitted)
Jayle is a 4.0 student-athlete with a high softball IQ. She is a solid pitcher with a mean drop ball. Jayle will also play middle infield when she is not in the circle. Jayle is a solid hitter with a good deal of pop; don't let her lean physique fool you. Jayle is also a multi-sport athlete; in addition to softball, she plays basketball and is a middle distance runner for her high school. She is a humble, hard-working athlete that is selfless and holds herself to a high standard.
Phoebe Booher (2018, P/1B, uncommitted)
Phoebe is a power athlete with great leadership potential. She is a right-handed power hitter, with D1 potential, that is a threat to hit a 'bomb' in every at bat; balls jump off her barrel. From a pitching standpoint, Phoebe is developing into a good power pitcher. She is working hard to get better every day and has committed herself to competing well in the circle this summer. I'm excited to see her hard work and dedication pay off. When not pitching, Phoebe will be spending time at 1B or in a DP role. She cares deeply about her teammates.
Joella Castillo (2020, C/3B, uncommitted)
Joella is built for power and it translates to her game -- she projects to be a high D1 athlete. Joella came to us in December and we are looking for her to add value right away. She has a fundamentally sound swing with pop; gets to and through contact with a high exit velocity. In additional to catching and playing corner infield for us, Joella will find some time in the outfield as well. She is a hard-nosed, tough and resilient athlete. She is very competitive with great work ethic and drive; also does Cross Fit to stay fit. Joella is also a 4.0 student.
Jordyn Henricks (2018, P/OF, uncommitted)
Jordyn a high-energy, left-handed pitcher with a physical build meant for speed. She has a good arsenal of pitches and isn't afraid to throw any of them. When not pitching, she plays the outfield, primarily center. Jordyn is also a triple-threat, lefty slapper with great speed. She will have an impact for us offensively moving throughout the lineup. Her leadership qualities continue to grow daily.
Alex Grubbs (2019, MIF/OF, uncommitted)
Alex is a physically talented softball athlete with a great athletic build -- D1 prospect. She will play both middle infield and outfield for our team this year. Alex has a very strong throwing arm with velocity readings above 64mph; she has already shown a propensity to make ESPN 'web gem' type plays. From an offensive standpoint, Alex can hit anywhere in our lineup, including as a leadoff hitter; she puts the ball in play and has a high slugging percentage. This is Alex's 1st year in our Elite program; as she continues to learn and embrace our culture, her softball career will move to another level.
Abi Stahlhut (2019, CIF/OF, uncommitted)
Abi is our tallest athlete at 5'11"; she has great potential as a D1 power player. Abi understands the game at a high-level. She is a right-handed power hitter that possesses the ability to be a game changer. This summer, Abi will likely see action at both the corner infield and corner outfield positions. She is also our hardest overhand thrower, hitting 71mph in January. All the work that Abi has put in the weight room during the fall and winter is a tribute to her work ethic. Her leadership and verbal communication are assets for our team. She also carries a 4.0 GPA and plays volleyball for her high school.
Kylee Myers (2019, OF/IF, uncommitted)
Kylee is another of our 4.0 student-athlete. Nicknamed the 'sniper', Kylee has the most accurate throwing arm on the team. She can change the landscape of a game when playing right field. Kylee can play all outfield positions, as well as 2B and 3B. Kylee does a great job of putting the ball in play to move runners; solid contact hitter that forces defenses to make plays. Kylee is also an excellent baserunner and can create offensive opportunities for us. Outside of softball, Kylee has a passion for short track racing.
Jordyn Cygan (2019, MIF/OF, uncommitted)
Jordyn is an athletic, defensive playmaker. No matter where she ends up on the field, the ball always seems to find her usually with a positive outcome. Jordyn will likely see action this summer at a variety of positions, including both middle infield spots and all outfield positions. This showcases her defensive versatility. Jordyn is a contact hitter with very good speed. She puts pressure on defenses by putting the ball in plays; very reliable in bunting situations. Jordyn is a 4.0 student. We look for Jordyn to continue to grow in the areas of verbal communication and leadership this year to improve her game and recruiting stock.
Cassie Reed (2018, C/UT, uncommitted)
Cassie is an excellent student that carries a 4.1 (4.0 scale) GPA. Cassie is a solid, line drive hitter that has shown a propensity to come through in clutch situations. When she is locked in, she finds a way to get the job done, whether that is a hard hit or laying down an unexpected bunt. Defensively, Cassie should see time as a catcher and corner outfielder. From the catching position, Cassie has established good relationships with the pitching staff; she is working hard as a receiver and we are looking to see her play more in that position as her game continues to grow. She is one of the nicest young people you would ever meet. Cassie has been working hard in the gym during the fall and winter. Outside of softball, she is an accomplished musician and also plays tennis.
Lexy Gilliam (2019, OF, uncommitted)
Lexy is an athlete that creates a lot of positive energy around her. She is a verbal leader that at times reaches high decibel levels. Lexy will play all of the outfield positions for us this summer. She has great speed, reads fly balls very well, and has a very strong throwing arm. Lexy is a contact hitter that puts the ball in ball, forcing defenses to make a play. She typically finds creative ways to get on base. Lexy is also a threat to steal at any time; her aggressive mindset on the bases is a great asset for our team. Lexy is also a phenomenal student, sporting a 5.0 GPA. She also runs cross country for her high school.
Brooke Brown (2020, MIF/OF, uncommitted)
Brooke just came out to us in January; she is a gifted triple-threat, lefty slapper with elite speed. Brooke puts the ball in play and should be a great spark for us offensively. She flies under the radar due to her height (only 5'2"), but in just a couple of weekends has shown the ability to make a HUGE impact both offensively and defensively. She will be a solid player for us at SS, 2B or CF with a strong throwing arm. There are great things to come from this hard working athlete.