The Train Doesn’t Wait for the Passenger

black train on rail and showing smoke

One of the most common issues among young, developing pitchers (and even a few older ones) is waiting too long to get their momentum moving forward. When they do that, their timing gets all messed up and they are unable to transfer as much energy as they could from their bodies into the ball.

For example, what you will often see in a pitcher with a backswing is that she will stand on her back foot as her arm swings back and wait for it to reach its farthest point. Then she will start her body moving forward as her arm begins to swing forward.

The problem here is that the arm can move forward a lot faster and more easily than the body, so it gets ahead.

A key checkpoint in the pitch is that the drive foot should begin detaching from the pitching rubber when the arms reach the 3 o’clock position, i.e., straight out in front. That’s not going to happen, however, if the arm is racing ahead of the body.

Speed or accuracy in fastpitch pitching? The answer is mechanics.

The pitcher has reached the 3 o’clock position and her arm is already pulling away from the pitching rubber.

Instead, the arm will either have to slow down so the body can catch up or it will continue on ahead with the result the ball is thrown before energy transfer fully commences. No matter which way it happens, the result is a loss of speed.

The challenge here, of course, is explaining it to a pitcher in a way that makes sense. One way I do that is to tell her that the train (her body) doesn’t wait for the passenger (her arm or the ball), so she needs to get the train moving as her arm swings back and the passenger then has to make sure it jumps on the moving train. Like this:

What about a pitcher who doesn’t use a backswing? The concept still works.

If she comes out of the glove on her side, she’ll need to get her body moving forward before her hands start moving. If she drops out of the glove she’ll again need to do it after she’s started moving forward.

No matter which method she uses the key is to get her drive and momentum developing – her center of gravity moving forward, out ahead of the pitching rubber – before she starts into the arm circle. That way the whole body is moving together, in harmony, giving her the ability to deliver the pitch with maximum force.

If you have a pitcher who is struggling with the timing of her arm relative to her body, give this explanation a try. Train whistle sounds optional.

Train photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My Last at Bat | Softball is For Girls

It was a breezy and cool Thursday – March 12th to be exact, playing on my high school field during our second region game (meaning it counts), and it, my last at bat was UGLY.

6th inning, down by one run, two outs with two of my teammates on 2nd and 3rd and me at the plate. It started out as a decent at bat, and I held a 2-2 count fouling off several balls against one of our region rivals when I swung out of my shoes at BALL high in the zone, probably close to my forehead for strike three. I smiled that smile that comes with years of playing softball when you know you were just ‘handled’ by a pitcher.

UGGLY!!! “I’ll get it next time,” I thought.

I am 18 years old, and have been working on being disciplined to lay off those high balls forever (just ask my dad). Man, they look so good. I was thinking home-run with hopefully a walk off hit. Not that time. I shrugged it off, got my glove and took my place back on the field…

That was my last at bat. My very last at bat. Possibly ever.

I just didn’t know it at the time.

But I do now.

We all know the story from here. Schools closing, seasons cancelled, virtual graduations, all in the blink of an eye – my entire lifetime of hard work on and off the field wiped away. My cap and gown were mailed to me, we had a drive through drop off to return our uniforms, the #45 uniform I had worn for 4 years and would never ever wear again. There is a small red stain on the back from a region championship game during my junior year where my teammates and I dyed our hair and it stained my jersey. Man, my mom was mad.

Just when I thought there was hope of finishing out over a decade of travel ball, week by week that too has drifted out of sight. I started playing at 6 with a group of my friends, my dad coached us and 6 of us have stayed together the entire time. The others that have come and gone have become lifelong friends, some still playing some not. I was never some stud – I could hold my own, but basically I have been just a girl who loved softball, who spent 12 years growing up on that field with my softball sisters.

And now…it is over, and what I am left with is my last at bat. And to be honest, I am pissed about that. And I am tired of being told I am being selfish for being angry.

I know it doesn’t erase everything that came before. I know it doesn’t take away all the good years, my friends, everything I have gained or lost along the way.

I know that people think I am spoiled, or being selfish for being angry that I am left with my crappy last at bat. I know my pouting won’t change anything. I understand what is happening. But it is not fair. It is not okay with me.

I hear so many people saying, it’s just softball. It’s just baseball. It’s just a sport… They write us kids off as if our ‘work’ isn’t important and that what we do is just about being entitled. I hear people saying “it’s just the parents that want to play, the kids have their lifetime ahead of them to play.”

Well, you know what, I don’t. I am a senior, I age out August 1st, and there is no softball in sight in my state. It’s just over. No apologies, no goodbyes, no more chances, no redemption for my shitty last at bat…

And let me tell you a little something about my softball “hobby”

When my parents got divorced, the softball field was my therapy. My softball sisters were there for me. I could take my stress out on that field during practice. No talking or one person in the world could have helped me OVERCOME the way softball did.

When my grandpa died when I was 15, a man that always, and I mean always sat in centerfield to watch the game – playing ball made me feel close to him again. Every game since then, I felt like I had an angel in the outfield.

When my thighs were too thick and my body too big to look cute in the dress at my 8th grade dance and I felt ‘less than,’ I knew those same thighs made me long strong on the softball field. And when I had on softball pants, my body size never mattered.

When I struggled with friends in middle school and was trying to find my place, I always knew and felt like I belonged when I was with my softball team. I have made my truest friends in that dirt…

The first place I ever drove myself to, alone, after I got my license was softball practice.

Standing on my school field has always given me the same feeling I get when I walk in the front door at my house. Home.

My family goes to church. I pray. I prayed before.We say Grace. But last year my best friend who is a pitcher took a line drive to the face. Luckily, it skimmed her in the chin, but in those moments when I knelt on the field and she was laying there, I felt what it means to truly be brought to your knees, and to truly see the hand of God working in real time.

When I started getting too big for my britches and having an attitude, it was my coaches and teammates that reeled me in and held me accountable. The first and last time I rolled my eyes at an umpire, I was benched for the remainder of a tournament. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, out there on that field.

When one of my friends became a better short stop than me and played OVER me (yes, my dad was the coach) I learned that it is on ME to work harder for what I want and that nothing worth having comes free, no matter who you are.

In 9th grade, I started slacking off in school, my grades slipped – and my parents showed me real quick what softball meant to me, by sitting me out fall travel ball season until I raised my grades and improved my work ethic. Sure did learn how to prioritize and do what I am supposed to do, to get what I wanted in life.

One day after my mom and I had a big argument, huge… we didnt talk for several days. I said some really horrible things. I had a tournament that weekend and I figured she wouldnt show. But there she was sitting on the bleachers cheering for me like nothing had ever happened. Softball showed my what it means to show up, and what family is all about.

I walked dogs in my neighborhood and cleaned up peoples yards to earn enough money to buy my first composite bat. My parents told me I had to come up with half of the money. Man, I took care of that bat. I even cleaned it after practice and games. I learned what it meant to earn something, and when it broke a month out of warranty, I learned what what that felt like too. We are not rich, and I have always had to work for the extra things. I assure you that my level of appreciation and gratitude has certainly been improved.

My sophomore year I was invited to a party. I had a tournament the next day so my parents would not let me go. I was pissed. That night two of my friends drank beer and got in a car accident. I would have been with me. I wonder now how many times “having softball” has saved me from a negative alternative.

I learned how to win and how to lose. Both with grace and humility. I learned that I had to hate losing more than I loved winning – a mindset that reaches far beyond the softball field and will stick with me throughout life.

The softball fields taught me that not everyone is going to like me, and I am not going to like everyone – but sometimes we are on the same team, which means we have to work together.

It was on the softball field that I began to know what CONFIDENCE FELT like…People can speak confidence all they want, they can tell you how to be confident, they can tell you what it means but UNTIL YOU FEEL it for yourself, no matter how many people believe in you, you will never believe in yourself.

During my first job interview, I realized if I could stand in a batters box in front of tons of people watching me, then talking to one person face to face really wouldn’t be that hard.

My last at bat taught me about resilience. The kind of resilience that gets you to the winners circle when you are 6 runs behind late in a game.

This could go on forever. The thing is to me, and to my friends, and to my team, and in my life – Softball means a whole heck of a lot, and not being able to play feels like punishment.

But maybe, just maybe the most important lesson I have learned to date – is to never take any moment for granted. To stay PRESENT in all moments. To never assume you will get a do-over, and will have a chance to redeem yourself. Nothing is ever guaranteed. So my last at bat, sucked eggs – and maybe by the Grace of God I will get to step into the batters box a few more times before it’s all over. But if I don’t, and if that is how I am going out of this game – I know I am stepping forward with a knowing that today, this minute, this sunset, this silly drive to the thrift store with my best friend grabbing coffee at Dunkin’, this post, it all matters…and it is totally up to me live in these moments, fully aware that at anytime – life can change.

For all the dads who threw with her first!

The post My Last at Bat | Softball is For Girls appeared first on Softball is for Girls.

10 Items That Should Always Be In Your Coach’s Bag

Coach's bag

Ask most fastpitch softball coaches what they carry in their bags or backpacks and you’ll likely get the usual answers.

They have their glove, of course, and probably a ball or two. They have stopwatches, whistles, lineup cards, pencils/pens, the chart for arm band signals (if they’re using those systems), a clipboard, maybe a Pocket Radar and a few other assorted items they expect to need.

But effective coaching is really about being ready to deal with the unexpected. Any number of little emergencies can crop up during a game or practice that may seem minor but can have a big impact – especially for their players. It doesn’t take much to throw someone off their game, and you know once they are off the ball is going to find them in the field, or they are going to come up to bat at a crucial moment.

So, the better your ability to solve all those little issues, the better of a chance you have to win.

With that in mind, here are 10-problem solving items you should be sure to have in your bag at all times.

  1. Duct tape. My Southern friends can tell you that duct tape can fix just about anything. Your pitcher has a hole in her shoe from dragging her toe? Duct tape it. The strap on a backpack broke? Duct tape it. The grip on a bat is coming off? Duct tape it. Your only hitting tee is falling apart or won’t stay extended? Duct tape it. Your clipboard with the lineup card is banging all over the dugout because of the wind? Duct tape it to the wall. A water bottle is leaking? Duct tape it. You get the idea. If you get nothing else out of this article, understand that duct tape is your friend that can repair just about anything. I suggest you grab a roll right now and throw it in your bag. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
  2. Glove repair kit. This is why I said duct tape could fix “just about” anything. While you can try it on a glove it probably won’t be very successful. For those issues you’re better off having a little kit that includes tools and spare lacing, preferably with black and brown laces. If it hasn’t happened already, some player is going to come to you show that either the lacing on their glove broke entirely, or it pulled out. Either way, the glove is now flapping in the breeze and you’ll need to be able to fix it quickly. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to hold together. Having the tools will save you a whole lot of heartache – especially if it’s your shortstop or catcher with the broken glove.
  3. Spare set of sunglasses. At some point one of your outfielders is going to be staring directly into the sun. Of course she didn’t bring sunglasses, and yelling at her that she should have thought of it before isn’t going to help right now. Keep a spare pair on-hand in a little bag so when that big fly ball heads her way she has a chance of catching it.
  4. Batting gloves, assorted sizes. Again, something players should already have, but most only have one pair at most. If a player loses one or both, or a glove develops a giant hole, or the gloves get soaked with Gatorade, or any of a dozen other things happen to them the player may have her mental game thrown off. Having a spare handy (no pun intended) takes care of that. It’s also good for the player who never wears batting gloves but suddenly needs them due to blisters or other injuries.
  5. Towel. A good towel can serve a couple of purposes. The most obvious is to wipe off a wet ball so it becomes playable again. In 2020 that becomes more important than ever because there’s a lot of pent-up demand to get games in. Unless the lightning detector goes off, or someone spots a tornado, they’re going to be trying to get games in. Having a towel in your bag will help keep the ball from slipping out of your pitcher’s hand. But a towel is also good for absorbing blood from a bloody nose, a large cut or scrape or other injuries. It can also be used as a tourniquet if it comes to that, but hopefully you’ll never find that out.
  6. Poncho or fold-up waterproof jacket with hood. I personally recommend the jacket because it can also help if you if the temperature takes a sudden dive, but either way you’ll want something available to keep the rain off of you. Especially if you’re sitting around between games. Whichever you choose, throw it in your bag and just leave it there until it’s needed. You’ll thank me one day.
  7. 100 foot measuring tape. Best-case scenario you need the measuring tape to mark off the distance so your pitcher(s) can warm up properly. Worse-case scenario, you’ll need it to prove to the umpires that when Bubba and Billy Bob set up the field they used the wrong base markers, and the baselines are currently 50 feet or 75 feet long, or the nail-down pitching rubber is not set at the proper distance for your level of play. If you’re really feeling lucky you can also use it to point out that the chalk lines for the batter’s box are not the proper dimensions (especially if you have slappers), but that might be pushing it a bit. If you don’t want to carry a full measuring tape you can also cut a length of mason string to size and mark off all the key dimensions.
  8. Hair ties. I’ll admit I was kind of late to the party on this one. But I can guarantee there will come a time when you have a player whose hair is bothering her and who doesn’t have any hair ties of her own. They only cost a couple of bucks for a whole bunch of them. Pick some up and throw them in your bag. It’s worth it.
  9. Travel sewing kit. Sliding in particular can be rough on uniforms. While a small hole here or there isn’t a problem, a larger tear could become an issue. Especially if it’s in an inopportune place. A small travel sewing kit can help make quick repairs until the situation can be dealt with more permanently. Do yourself a favor – find a parent on the team who can help with these sorts of uniform malfunctions, especially if the player’s parents aren’t there.
  10. Throw-down home plate. Whether you’re warming up pitchers, having hitters take a few swings off the tee before heading into the batter’s box, working with catchers on blocking, etc. it always helps to have a visual available. A throw-down home plate can turn any available space into an instant practice area. It can also substitute for a different base – or cover a small puddle in the dugout in a pinch.

So, did any of those surprise you? Did I miss anything? Add your suggestions in the comments below.

And if you have a topic you’d like to see me cover you put that in the comments as well.

6 Tips for Easing Back Into Softball Mode

Diamonds warmup

Yesterday I had the opportunity to join in on an NFCAonline mentoring session. While several of the topics that came up were more oriented toward college programs, there was one in particular that was pretty universal: how to get players back into softball mode.

For many, these past three months may have been the longest layoff they’ve had from a formal practice/workout routine since they were pre-teens. That’s especially true for players above the Mason-Dixon line (not to be confused with the Mendoza line, which is a whole different issue), where the weather has been spotty at best, and sometimes downright uncooperative.

With not just indoor facilities but many parks closed, it’s likely many players have spent far more time than they would have otherwise making Tik Tok videos, streaming movies and TV shows, sleeping, eating junk food and doing whatever else is popular among young people these days.

I get that, too. It’s tough to get motivated when you don’t know whether your next game will be next month, next fall, or next year.

Sure, teams have been doing Zoom meetings to try to hang together, and various activities such as the Facebook videos where it looks like they’re throwing the ball from one player to the next. But none of that requires a whole lot of physical exertion or delivers much preparation to get out and play.

Now that summer leagues and travel ball is beginning to open up again, however, it’s important to ensure players who have been idle for the last few months are given the opportunity to ease their way back into playing. Otherwise there is a risk of even more time off due to injuries.

Here are six tips to help ensure players stay healthy as they start working to shake off the rust.

  • Limit overhand throwing for the first few weeks. Arm and shoulder injuries due to improper throwing mechanics were already a problem, even before the Great Layoff. It’s unlikely the underlying issues have magically gotten better. While the time off was good for healing old injuries, it also means players can be highly prone to new ones. That’s why it’s important to ease them back into throwing overhand. Pay even closer attention to throwing mechanics during warmups, and spend a little more time than normal on shorter, lighter throws. (If you don’t know what to look for in terms of mechanics, check out Austin Wasserman’s excellent High Level Throwing programs.) During fielding drills, save arms by having players toss the ball to the side or drop it in a bucket at times rather than throwing the ball to a base. When you do start having players throw full-out, set a limit and stick to it. This is especially true for catchers practicing throwdowns. Remember it’s been a while. Do maybe 10-12 at most to start, and work your way up from there.
  • Put more emphasis on stretching. I shouldn’t have to say this but I’m going to anyway. Players who have been largely inactive for the last couple of months likely have tight muscles. Even those who have been putting in some practice time on their own are probably not as limber as they were when they were more active with school, other sports and activities or anything that required more effort than shifting positions on the couch. They need to get those muscles, tendons and ligaments working properly again. For the first few practices be sure you plan extra time for dynamic stretches to begin practice, and watch to make sure they’re doing those stretches properly. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched teams slop their way through various stretches and then expect they’re ready to play.) When you’re approaching the end of practice, be sure to leave a little time for cool-down stretches too. This is important at any time, but especially right now. Get those muscles, tendons and ligaments loosened up properly now and you’ll face far fewer injury issues down the road.
  • Condition intelligently. There’s a good kind of sore, where you know you fatigued the muscles well so they can strengthen and improve, and there is a bad kind of sore where you over-worked the muscles and now it’s going to take some time to recover. Unless you are a certified strength and conditioning coach you probably aren’t sure of the where that line is. It’s going to be tempting to try to get your team into peak game shape in one or two practices. Don’t succumb to that temptation. Remember that young people can have all kinds of stuff going on beneath the surface – Osgood-Schlatter Disease, growth plates, chronic tendonitis, etc. – that can affect their performance and cause pain. Overconditioning early on can exacerbate these conditions. While there may be a desire to get them into mid-season shape right now, resist it. Ease them in and build to it, just as you would in any other season. It will pay off in the long term.
  • Limit repetitions. One of the keys to all of the above is to limit repetitions in the early rounds. Overuse injuries are essentially caused by performing more repetitions than the body is capable of safely handling. After a period of inactivity that number may be a lot lower than you’re used to in a practice setting. Deal with it. There are actually two benefits to it. First, variety in activities helps work different muscle groups. That’s why so many college coaches say they like multi-sport athletes. The kids they get are in better shape and less likely to be damaged. The second benefit is that you have a lot of ground to make up. Focusing too much in any one area means other areas are being ignored, and you know those other areas will come back to bite you. Fewer reps means less time spent, which means you have time for other areas.
  • Hydrate early and often. If your players have mostly been laying around doing nothing they probably aren’t going to be used to the physical exertion of stretches, much less a full-fledged practice. As a result they can dehydrate quickly. Be sure to take frequent water breaks, especially for the first couple of weeks, and keep an eye out for signs of dehydration. Better yet, let them bring their water with them from station to station or area to area. After all, it’s unlikely that 12 or 14 or whatever number of players on a team will all need the same amount of water at the same time(s).
  • Remember the mental side. While the most obvious challenges will be physical, the mental side of the game will also need to be worked on if your players are going to be game-ready when it’s time to go. You may be all softball all the time, but most (if not all) of your players are not. That means they may have forgotten things you expect them to know (especially in the younger age groups), so be sure to go through those mental aspects as well. Walking through coverages, backups, special plays, rules and rule changes, etc. helps get their minds back in softball mode while saving their bodies. If players aren’t performing at the level they remember themselves being at before, they may experience stress or anxiety on top of what they’re already experiencing. Pay attention to those aspects as well, because they may not be able to compartmentalize their worries and concerns as well as you wish they would. Keep them focused, keep them positive and keep them engaged and they will bounce back to where they should be much faster.

Once you get back on the field it’s going to be tempting to just jam down the accelerator and take off right away. Resist that temptation.

If you ease into it instead, with an intelligent plan that builds on itself, you’re far more likely to find success in both the short and long term. Good luck!

My Hope for Once Fastpitch Softball Resumes

KR huddle

Today’s post is inspired partially by this blog post from February at Softball Is for Girls, partially by some of the discussions I’ve seen on Facebook and the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, and maybe a little bit by this song from hair metal band Cinderella.

There’s no doubt it’s been unfortunate that we’ve had to hit the “pause” button on fastpitch softball over the last couple of months. It probably seems like longer because a lot of teams haven’t played outdoors since the fall, but in reality it’s really only been March through the beginning of May so far.

Still, if anything good can come out of it, I hope it’s that more people have a greater appreciation for the sport and what it means to them. Perhaps things that seemed more life-and-death before all of this aren’t taken quite as seriously. (Parents getting into fistfights on the sidelines, I’m looking at you.)

As the Cinderella song says, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. We’ve had it taken away from us, and in some areas it’s still not back yet. Although hopefully that will change soon.

Even where it is back, it’s not really back like it was before. Social distancing and additional rules are going to make it a very different experience, at least for a while.

Whenever you get to watch your next game, here are some of the things I hope for you:

  • At your first game or tournament, you take a few moments before or after just to soak up the atmosphere. We always seem to be in a rush to run from one thing to the next, and over a long season all the games and tournaments tend to blur together. So just take a moment to appreciate that you have the opportunity to do this again. Take in the sights, the sounds, the sun and the breeze on your skin, even the smells (as long as you’re not standing next to the Port-o-let. Remember that none of it is guaranteed, as we have just learned. Appreciate it.
  • Be a little kinder to the umpires. They have been through what you have been through, and yet they’re back on the field even though they don’t have any kids of their own to watch. They are here so your kids have an opportunity to play the sport we all love. Maybe stop and thank them – from a safe distance, of course.
  • Throw a little appreciation the coaches’ way as well. They now have all kinds of new challenges to deal with that weren’t there back in October. It’s not as easy as it looks. And yes, the coaches are going to make some poor decisions from time to time. Try not to take it so seriously. A bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day just about anywhere else.
  • Coaches, cut your parents a little slack too. At least most of them. Remember that they have been chomping at the bit to see their kids play again. They may be a bit overly enthusiastic at times. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with rude jerks – no one should – but try to recognize that the demand has been pent-up for a while and make take a bit before it levels out again.
  • Players, try not to take it all so seriously. You just got a taste of what life is like without softball, and what a real crisis looks like. Hopefully going 0-for-4 or giving up the game-winning hit doesn’t look quite so devastating anymore. Not that you want to settle for a poor performance, but you can’t let it define you either. Now that you’re back on the ballfield, try to enjoy every minute of it.
  • Perhaps most of all, parents please, please, please lighten up on your kids. You just got a taste of what life is like without softball. And so did your kids. If you turn it into a miserable experience for them they’re going to end up hating softball and probably quitting. THEN what will you do? Keep in mind that the shelter-in-place orders have made up a MUCH larger percentage of their lives, especially for 7-10 year olds, than they have for yours. For many, this was the first major world event that directly affected them. It may take them a while to fully adjust to being back on the field, or to get their skills back up to where they were. Deal with it. Enjoy seeing your kid(s) play, because one day it will all be taken away for good. Try to put that day off as long as you can, because I can tell you from first-hand experience you will miss it deeply.

For all the teams starting up again, good luck. For those who are still waiting on the go-ahead, I hope it comes quickly for you.

Whenever you get back there, however, I hope you have a little more appreciation for the opportunities you have and that you take advantage of them fully. For tomorrow is promised to no one.

Our Diamonds Will Shine Again | Softball is For Girls

Some days, it doesn’t seem like it…but we promise Our Diamonds will SHINE again, and when they do – ohhhh what a celebration we will have. This one is FOR all of you, patiently waiting for your days at the ballpark.

The fresh cut grass, the morning dew
The yawning coaches, and even the BLU
The packed up car -the trek down to the park
Our FAVORITE team awaits, the uniforms still stark. 
The first few throws, fly balls and grounders
The sun rises up and things liven up around her. 

Before too long, the line up is made
The greatest game on is Earth is about to be played. 

The park echoes so LOUDLY with roars and cheers
laughter and excitement and even some tears. 
Oh, the plays that are made, the balls that are hit
The team work, the effort, the hard work and the grit.
The sun burns hot, the girls are on FIRE
To the championship game they all do aspire. 

For months they've trained, while at night they dream
Of spending the weekend on the field with their team.
Memories are made, unbreakable bonds are formed 
With every game their lives are transformed. 

The excitement builds, the games get intense 
And then there is ball hit deep over the fence. 
The fans on their feet, the girls rush the field 
The coaches are jumping hoping the win is sealed. 


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The dugout booms with music and chants
Each girl cannot wait to get her chance
They play as one, this amazing team of eleven
The ballpark MUST be the next closest place to Heaven. 

And then one really sad day -right of the clear blue 
They said we cannot play, and we hoped it was not true. 
The ball-fields were locked down, pitch black at night 
Empty, and silent - what a heartbreaking sight. 
Teams who had practiced and worked hard for so long
Were unable to play, fearful their season was gone. 

And there are some girls who got their very last at bat
Without so much as a warning, no tip of the hat.
For those who may never again put their cleats on the dirt
Our hearts do break, we can feel their hurt. 

And each day since the ballparks went black
The players and their families have been praying it comes back. 
We wait for the news that the gates will reopen 
The girls work out at home, miss their team and are moping.
At night, the players dream of double plays and home-runs
They miss their families, their team, the competition the fun. 

It just doesn't seem right, for us all to be apart. 
The softball life runs deep within our souls and our heart. 
The only thing we can do now is just wait and pray for the sign
That one day very soon, OUR DIAMONDS WILL AGAIN SHINE! 



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Guide to the New Rules of Post-Pandemic Softball

Emma hitting virus

It looks like softball is back on for 2020! That’s great news for everyone who has been itching to get out and see some ball played. And their kids.

But of course, we’re not out of the woods yet. Testing is still woefully lacking, and there is no vaccine or cure yet. According to healthcare nursing leaders, hospitals are really still just treating symptoms, not necessarily providing any cures.

So with that in mind, various organizations have started issuing some new rules to address the ongoing need to continue social distancing while being in a team setting.

The thing is, any new rule set can be confusing at first. It’s hard to know exactly what all should apply. So to help out with that I’m going to look at some of the rules – and the issues around the rules – and give you my interpretation of what needs to, or will, happen.

No need to thank me. All part of the service.

Rule #1 – no more than three players in the dugout. Ok, that should work in most dugouts. They’re wide enough to allow at least six feet between players. But who gets to be in the dugout?

That’s easy. One will be the hitter in the hole, so she is ready to go into the on-deck circle. The other two are the head coach’s kid and her best friend on the team. Extra incentive to becomes BFFs with the head coach’s kid.

What about when the head coach’s kid or her BFF is hitting and/or in the on-deck circle? Who goes in then?

That’s easy. No one. Because it wouldn’t be fair.

Rule #1A – players not in the dugout must congregate in a socially distant way in the area behind the backstop near the dugout. This is actually one of the more popular rule changes among the parents. Now they can have unfettered access to their daughters so they can critique their defense, coach up their hitting and tell them what idiots the coaches are in real time.

This new rule also gives helicopter parents an opportunity to check if their daughters need water, sunflower seeds, a cool rag, sun lotion, antibacterial wipes, ice cream from the snack bar or anything else during the game. Players in the 16U and 18U levels will particularly appreciate their parents being able to check on them throughout the 75 minutes they normally would have been away from them.

Rule #2 – Parents may not sit behind the backstop or within six feet of the dugout. They are required to sit in a line, a minimum of six feet per family unit, along the sidelines past the dugout or behind the outfield fence. Or even better in the parking lot or the seating area at the local Subway until the game is over.

The ruling bodies understand this rule will make it more difficult for them to coach their kid while she is at bat, and thus recommend establishing a series of large pantomime gestures so their daughters don’t miss out on this valuable, timely information. Wearing white makeup is optional but encouraged.

This rule will be strictly enforced, incidentally. Local biker gangs have been hired to take care of any disputes. We’ve seen how belligerent you parents can get.

Rule #3 – Direct contact should be avoided whenever possible. Of course, that’s already in the rules, which some teams ignore because hey, if you can give the best player on the other team a concussion and you don’t take advantage of it you’re not trying.

But there are other types of contact as well, so we must look at use cases.

  • Use case #1 – tag plays. You’ve heard of the phantom tag of second base in a double play. Now all tags will be phantom tags. If the defensive player catches the ball and makes a motion toward the runner before the runner crosses a line directly in front of and six feet to the side of a base, the runner is out.
  • Use case #2 – safety base. Orange safety bases will still be in use. But they will now be placed in foul territory a minimum of six feet away from the white base. The first base coach’s box will now be moved to the other side of the fence (or a line extending from the fence) which is okay because the first base coach is mostly useless on a play at first anyway. If the ball gets away from the fielders, from six feet away the batter runner should know, but if not all the parents sitting along the sidelines are welcome to advise the player on what she should do next by screaming at her like her hair is on fire.
  • Use case #3 – runner on first base. The first baseman must stay a minimum of six feet away from first base when there is a runner on that base. Like maybe up the line where she should be anyway.
  • Use case #4 – short blooping fly balls into the shallow outfield. No real rule change here. All three players going for the ball should pull up and let it fall between them. Like they always do.

Rule #4 – Social distancing behind the plate. Catchers are required to position themselves a minimum of six feet behind the back foot of the hitter, which will not be a huge change for some. Umpires should then position themselves six feet behind the catcher.

As a result of the distance between the plate and the umpire, balls and strikes will now be decided by a flip of a coin after every pitch. Again, not a big change for some.

Rule #5 – No gathering at the circle between each out. There is no need for the entire team to gather up to congratulate itself for every routine out. This is just a giant waste of time, especially when there are time limits anyway.

If you still must huddle up, all field players must remain outside the circle, which provides eight feet of distance from the pitcher (which is good because her health is far more important than the health of the rest of you put together). You must also maintain at least six feet from the player on either side. If you set up in a square pattern you should meet the minimum, although don’t ask us to do the geometry on that to prove it.

Rule #6 – No outside coolers or snacks of any kind will be allowed in the facility. This is not really a social distancing thing. It’s just we are not hosting these tournaments for our health, or because we like spending our entire weekend raking dirt and lining fields (if you’re lucky).

We are here to make money, and we’re already behind with the season starting in May (or June). So buy your food and drinks at the snack bar and help us give our organization’s treasurer an account worth embezzling.

Rule #7 – Personal protective equipment. All players should carry a large supply of antibacterial wipes (if you can find them, good luck with that!) in their bat bags at all times, and should use a new wipe each time they touch another person (accidentally or on purpose) or anything another person has touched (including the ground) or well, hell, anything. They should also wipe themselves off if they get dirty. A clean player is a happy player.

Latex gloves (or similar) are recommended, even though the minute you touch anything that might be infected those gloves are now useless to you. Hand sanitizer is also highly recommended, especially if you use the washroom facilities. Which is good advice even after there is a vaccine.

Masks are not required but are encouraged. We mean the cloth or surgical masks, not the hard protective face masks, because only players with weak skills need those, right? Nothing will make players feel better than wearing a cloth or paper mask over their mouth and nose in 90+ degree heat and 90% humidity from 8:00 am until 8:00 pm.

Rule #8 – Check-in. In addition to the usual documents (signed roster, proof of insurance, birth certificates, etc.) all coaches must now produce a waiver signed by each player (or their legal guardian) stating that if they end up catching COVID-19 or any other horrific disease after playing they will not hold the organization or the facility responsible.

Of course, this is America so you can still sue whoever you want whenever you want for whatever you want. But we’re hoping it at least discourages a few people.

Rule #9 – Post-game celebrations. There will be absolutely NO high-fiving, handshakes, or other direct contacts between two teams after a game. A friendly wave is allowed if performed from a safe distance.

Better still, use the old cheer, “2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate?” as seen in the Bad News Bears (original version) and millions of tee-ball games across the country.

Rule #10 – Gathering under canopies between games. Only one person per corner is allowed in each 10′ canopy, so plan accordingly to ensure you have enough canopies for the entire team, plus parents and siblings. Maybe every family unit should bring its own canopy so it looks like a Renaissance Faire has broken out. You work it out.

If these strict guidelines are not followed, see Rule #2 for enforcement procedures.

Rule #11 – Awarding of trophies/medals, t-shirts or other prizes. Trophies, awards and other prizes will be scattered six feet apart on the outfield grass, where teams can pick them up as-appropriate. The tournament directors are not taking any chances on coming into contact with your little petri dishes.

Rule #12 – Come, play, get the hell out. Do not loiter after games. When your team is out, no half-hour long speeches by the coaches, no hanging around the field soaking up the atmosphere, no parents going over the game play-by-play to discuss what an idiot the coach is.

Just pack your crap and leave. We have your money, you got to play. We don’t love you anymore. Go home where it’s (presumably) safe.

Hope that helps everyone! Have fun playing this season!

Is Softball ‘Essential?” | Softball is For Girls

The big question for many of us, and one we see being asked, debated, and argued over all over social media and beyond, is…. Is Softball Essential?

Of course you could replace the word ‘softball’ with just about anything right now. Such as work, baseball, graduation, SCHOOL, haircuts, actual visits to the doctors, grocery shopping, vacation, going to the bank, lacrosse, track, mulching the yard, the playground…You get the point.

It’s been about 6’ish weeks since we have all adjusted best we can, to sheltering in place, or quarantine as many like to call it. In these weeks, there has been LOTS to worry about for families, children included. They were ripped from the lives they know and loved, and lots of endings happened quickly without any form of preparedness. One day they were practicing with their teammates, given new uniforms and the next they were faced with a sea of uncertainties and “I don’t Knows.” And still today, the “I don’t knows” continue. Because truth is, we still don’t know what is going on or what is going to happen. These are truly historic times.

If you ask our kids whether softball is essential or not, the answer will likely be yes. They miss their sports, and their friends, and their social life. They miss the competition. They miss working hard for something and putting on a jersey and having something that makes coming home from school and rushing down dinner worth it. For so many of our girls, softball is very likely on their essential list.

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As adults, we try to explain and rationale the differences between life and death and how in the large scope of things softball is not, definitely NOT the most important thing. But maybe that is not the right thing to do. Maybe we shouldn’t be teaching our kids to lay down what they love, to label it as non-essential, to make it seem or feel ‘less than’ important so easily. Maybe we should want them to fight for what THEY feel is essential to THEIR LIVES.

We seem to forget that for our kids, they aren’t supposed to be thinking about life or death. They aren’t supposed to be worried about dirty hands or hugging their friends or thinking that kissing their grandpa on the cheek will be the reason that he dies, or that if mom goes to the grocery store she may die of some virus.

They are kids after all, who should be ENTITLED to that very limited time on Earth where you feel blissfully invincible from everything bad (except for maybe a deadly changeup). Why did we we feel like it was okay, to put huge monsters under their bed and then turn the lights off and tell them to go to sleep.

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Why is it, was it ever okay – to tell them that the things in their lives are not important or essential? Especially after many of us have spent years instilling work ethic to match their passion.

To our girls, who have went through tryouts, and practiced during the off season, and tried on uniforms, and spent time at lessons or practice, who have set goals, who have laid in bed at night excited about their next game – dreaming of hitting a dinger or scoring a wining run, or who are maybe about to participate in their very last season – ending a childhood of playing ball on Saturdays, SOFTBALL IS ESSENTIAL.

Sports and exercise, interests and hobbies are essential to a life well lived.

It is OKAY, to want that back, and we should not be guilting anyone by telling them that wanting to play softball equates to them wanting someone to die, or being uncaring unempathetic selfish people.

It, softball, is essential to their health, and well-being. It is essential to their growth as humans, and their feelings of self worth. Their sports are essential to who they are, and who they want to become. To their dreams. Softball is essential to their friendship groups, and their deepest emotional needs to be socialized and accepted by their peers and have a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. It is essential to their feeling good about their accomplishments. It is essential to their lessons of working hard for results, perseverance and personal accountability.

For our children, their routines in life make them feel safe and secure. The things they know and love, that are part of childhood, that they look forward to, that they are excited about- are in fact, in this OPINION, ESSENTIAL!

So – yes to essential.

OBVIOUSLY, softball can take a temporary back seat to the overall health of the citizens of our country. If school is cancelled,and people aren’t going to work and are losing their jobs, if people are losing their lives and we cannot even carry on with our routine behaviors – then softball, along with all extra curricular activities, are and should be halted as well. No one is debating that.

But we should not call them non-essential. In fact their sheer essential-ness should be what motivates ALL OF US to work together to reopen America.

It in fact, should stregnthen our gratitude for our FREEDOM, so that we may continue to call things in our lives that we love – whether softball or a quilting club ESSENTIAL.

For those of that want to play, for the kids of ours that feel sorrow or sadness over the loss of something they love, who miss their teams and coaches and who are grieving because of uncertainty – it is ok. In fact, it is normal. If we aren’t grieving for and longing for and striving for the lives we had before this pandemic hit – what kind of life did we have then?

Isn’t it okay to want our lives full of freedom and liberty and ballparks and work and packed coolers and homeruns and strikeouts and uniforms back? Doesn’t that mean, that we were living well? That our kids were happy?

The word essential, by definition means = extremely important, absolutely necessary!

Don’t we want our kids to feel this sort of passion, this desire and want for the things they love and work hard for in life? To feel that they are ESSENTIAL….

Maybe you agree. Maybe you feel differently. But for us, and many of our friends life well lived includes softball – and for so many of the kids we know, the sports they love are essential. Sure, they can live without them, especially for a spell – but why would they want to?

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Fastpitch Pitchers: Make Your Arm Like Feel Like a Piece of Rope

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I have talked for years about how the pitching arm on a fastpitch pitcher should be loose at it goes through the circle. But lately, for whatever reason, I have had a lot of success with one very simple instruction: your arm should feel like it’s a piece of rope.

I usually then tell the pitcher to imagine holding onto a piece of rope and twirling it around with their hand. Now picture their hand is their shoulder and the rope is their arm.

So far it has worked like magic on every pitcher I’ve said this to. Before that instruction you could see that the pitcher was trying to throw hard – and tensing up as a result.

Afterwards, you could see the arm go loose – like a piece of rope – and the ball fly out of her hand. It’s very visible when you’re doing an online lesson, by the way!

Several parents have commented that they could see the difference in the arm immediately. But my favorite comment was from Beth, the mom of a pitcher named Katie.

She was catching during an online lesson and heard me say something but couldn’t make out what it was. Then Katie threw the next pitch and it stung Beth’s hand. At which point Beth said, “I don’t know what you just told Katie but it sure worked.”

I have tried lots of different ways to explain this concept in the past. I’ve said the standard “stay loose,” “make it like a piece of cooked spaghetti instead of uncooked spaghetti like it is now,” and “it should feel like Harry Potter’s arm after Professor Lockhart tries to fix it.” Those phrases would work sometimes and not others.

I’ve also tried different physical approaches, such as having the pitcher swing her arm around in circles multiple times or pitching without a ball or with a light ball. There would be some progress, but it would often be lost once we went back to regular pitching.

But “your arm should be like a piece of rope” seems to work pretty consistently and pretty well.

So if you have a pitcher who is having trouble letting her arm be loose give that a try. Maybe even have a piece of rope handy to try if you and the pitcher are in the same place.

It just might be the key to unlocking both speed and accuracy. And if you do try it, let me know how it works in the comments below!

And as they say on YouTube, if you found this post helpful be sure to leave a like, share it with others and use the box in the upper left to subscribe so every time there’s a new post you’re notified instantly.

Thanks, hang in there, and keep washing your hands!

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The Stockdale Paradox the Key to Making It Through the COVID-19 Lockdown

Mask

Today’s topic isn’t necessarily a softball-specific topic. But because so many of us are looking longingly at empty fields, especially on beautiful sunny days when the temperature gets up to shirtsleeve temperatures, I thought it was worth sharing.

I first came across the Stockdale Paradox in the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. It is named after Admiral James Stockdale, who was the highest-ranking prisoner of war in the so-called “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War.

If you want to read the full explanation you can do that here. I’m going to do my best to give you the abridged version.

The “Hanoi Hilton” was a horrible POW camp. Conditions were poor and the prisoners (American soldiers, sailors and marines) were beaten, tortured, starved and otherwise mistreated. All in all it was a miserable experience.

Adm. Stockdale was in it for seven years, from 1968 to the end of the war in 1974. Collins asked him why some of the prisoners (including him) were able to make it through with their spirits unbroken while others fell into deep sadness and depression.

He said the ones who struggled were the optimists. They would say, “We’ll be out of here by Christmas” or “We’ll be out of here by July 4.” But then Christmas or July 4 would come and go and they were still there. The continuous disappointment broke them.

The ones who came through it ok adopted what has come to be known as the Stockdale Paradox. Their attitude was basically, “We know we will make it out of here alive one day. We just don’t know when.”

The ones who handled it best were the ones who faced the brutal reality of a situation they couldn’t control and accepted it for what it was. They focused on doing what they needed to do to get through each day until they were finally release, believing all the time that the day would come.

That’s where a lot of us are right now – although to be honest we have nothing to complain about compared to the residents of the “Hanoi Hilton.” There’s a huge difference between being locked up in a cage, sleeping in the dirt and never knowing if you’re going to be dragged out and beaten and being stuck watching Neflix or videos of old softball games on your living room couch.

What we have to realize right now is we don’t know when it will be safe, not just for us but for our families, our neighbors and the most vulnerable among us, to begin going out to restaurants, movie theaters, concerts, worship services and yes, softball games, again. But we also have to believe that the day will come.

What we don’t know is when that day will come. If you pin all your hopes on May 1, or May 15, or July 1, or any specific date and it doesn’t happen, you will feel worse than you did before.

You may even fall into despair, or decide to do something stupid (like defy shelter-in-place orders) that only extend the situation even further – and perhaps increase the death toll needlessly.

Instead, know that one day this will all be over, or at least the worst of it will, and we’ll be able to get back to the rest of our lives again. Embrace the Stockdale Paradox and one day you too will be sporting an “I Survived the COVID-19 Pandemic” t-shirt at the local ballfield.

In the meantime, stay safe and wash your hands! And be sure to hit the Like and Share buttons so this message gets out to others who need it, and subscribe to get new posts delivered directly to your email as soon as they go live.