Blogs that Don’t Shout From the Stands
We’ve picked some favorites just for you. A nice mix of local and syndicated fun, perspective, tips and opinion.
We’ve picked some favorites just for you. A nice mix of local and syndicated fun, perspective, tips and opinion.
This guest post was written by Taylor Danielson, a junior at the University of Indianapolis. She offers a first-hand account of what it was like to lose the rest of her college season when it was canceled due to the Covid-19 virus.
Hours before the NCAA made the decision to cancel all remaining 2020 winter and spring seasons, my team and I were sitting at the airport in Orlando, Florida joking about everything that has, was, and is going on. As we got on the plane, it was business as usual.
We landed in Indianapolis, got off the plane, gathered our things and headed to the bus. While we were sitting and waiting for the bus and people got their electronics back up and running, social media sites were being overrun with news about business and school closures and sports seasons being cancelled all over the country.
It was at that moment when our hearts sank because we all knew we were next. At that point we didn’t realize the magnitude of this event. There weren’t a mass amount of cases in the United States, and it hadn’t started spreading like it is now.
The bus ride back to school was silent. We quietly sat and hoped we wouldn’t get the news that was almost inevitable. When we arrived back at school, we unloaded and put all the equipment away.
When everything was away we all sat in the locker room waiting to hear what our next move was from Coach. As the whole coaching staff came in, one look at their faces and we knew the news couldn’t be good.
We all sat in silence for a few minutes before Coach spoke up and informed us of what had happened, our season was over. Although we all realized these were necessary steps in order to keep everyone safe, it was a tough pill to swallow.
We were all heartbroken, crying in the locker room for at least 45 minutes. Personally, I was sad about the season, but knowing I had played my last game with my best friend
was the saddest part.
Taylor and I had been through a lot together. For her senior season to end the way it did breaks my heart. I would do anything to play one last home game with her, have one more laugh at practice, and one more squeal on the bus when we find out we are roommates.
This whole experience has taught me a lot. First, don’t take anything for granted. It may sound a bit cliché, but it doesn’t resonate until you experience it yourself. You truly never know when your last game is.
Second, always remember to have fun, even when you are struggling. This sudden end to the season has put a lot of things into perspective.
What I mean by that is don’t get caught up in things like your performance at the plate. I’ve been off to a slow start and am guilty of living and dying by each at bat.
Now that I am done for the season, I wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying about what my batting average was or what I hoped my next at bat would look like. I realize now that there are a lot worse things that could happen besides an a bat that didn’t go your way.
You’re never going to get this time back, so it’s important to make the most of every moment. Lastly, cherish every friendship.
I may never play another game of softball with my best friend, but I have our memories and more importantly I still have her. I am beyond thankful for the friendships this game has given me, especially the one I have with Taylor. Teammates for a moment, friends for life.
It’s been too long... way too long!
2020 came, and boy has it made its presence. Let’s recap January-March before we get to our current situation. January meant I scaled back to part time at Texas State, which took me off the field, and handling the logistics of their travel and meals. This was necessary for me to be able to train myself, as well as, give the program the ability to let Paige McDuffee (UCLA product) take over the pitching coach duties for the year. The end of January saw RBI host its annual banquet, and raise more funds than we ever have! It’s always a fun night to see so many University of Texas graduates, but it’s also exciting to see how much we raise and know more and more kids are going to get to experience all that RBI Austin offers and grow within our program.
After celebrating RBI, I was up and off to Florida the next morning. I met up with the team in Florida, and began training for what was our goal of the 2020 Olympics. We spent approximately 10 days practicing, sometimes twice a day, while lifting and conditioning. It was hard work, but from experience, I know these are the moments we remember and grow together.
Our first leg was 26 straight days on the road. We played 8 games in Florida, before heading to Arizona and then Palm Springs, CA. Each day we were getting better and better. Each game out someone was progressing with their game, and it was fun to see and be part of. Personally, I enjoyed playing against my Bobcats of Texas State! It was such a mental test, because they cheered for every foul ball, every ball they watched and contact made. By far, that is the best energy I have seen out of them, and I told them as much after the game. When you can compete with that energy consistently, big things are in store!
Leg number two of the Stand Behind Her tour was cut short. We played a double header in Irvine before being rained out in Santee. After that, we suspended tour due to COVID-19, which brings us to the current state of affairs.
I have been home since March 12th, and preparing for the news we got this week. A postponement of the Olympic Games was inevitable. We don’t know how safe it would be, even in 4 months. Also, so much training is being impacted by the closures and shelter in place procedures. You have to think about all the sports, all the countries… and this is the best solution. I’ve done quite a few interviews on this throughout this week, so you can find more information on my thoughts via the lovely internet.
These times we are in are unprecedented. It’s new, different, frustrating, boring and challenging… for all of us. No one is alone in what you are feeling. I have had to get used to a new normal too. I can only workout so much, therefore many hours of my day are left wondering what to do. I urge you to be active each day, even if it’s just a walk, pick up that book you’ve always wanted to read or give a go at that hobby that has always sounded fun to try. While we have the time, get that “honey do” list done. Personally, I am trying to finish the first Game of Thrones book, while starting to plan my Softball School lesson for April 23rd. We will finally hang movie posters and my many Wonder Woman pieces up in the media room tomorrow. Last night, we even enjoyed dinner outside on our patio for the first time. Why does it take us being quarantined (so to speak) to do enjoyable things? Because we get too busy, too consumed… now is a time to slow down, smell the roses, and remember the simpler things that make life great.
Tuesday I had the privilege to jump in a morning Bible study via Zoom and share a short version of my testimony and share how my faith and God are leading me right now through this time. It was the first time outside of an RBI event, that I have ever “talked Faith” with a group, and I loved every second of it. My energy and passion grew the more I spoke! It was such an incredibly fulfilling feeling to share His message with others.
I have used Zoom more in the last week than ever in my life!! It is an easy way to connect though. From my Team USA teammates to some of my Texas State players to my fellow coaches, I have gotten to see everyone’s faces, and that makes my heart happy.
The future is uncertain, but that is ok! It’s always uncertain if you think about it. Keep your head up. Keep working toward something. Most importantly keep perspective and help others if you can! Go grocery shopping for someone or donate to your local food bank if you can.
Until next time…. Keep the faith and keep perspective!
This topic came up a couple of weeks ago when I was participating in a conference call with top pitching coaches from all over the country. We had wandered into more team-oriented topics when my friend James Clark mentioned that he always insists his players learn more than one position – with one of those preferably being outfield.
Apparently in these days of helicopter parents that is a fairly radical idea. Those parents (or should I say “those parents”) believe their child should spend all their time on the field in one spot. Preferably a “high-value” spot such as pitcher, catcher or shortstop.
To me, that is doing those players as well as the team a disservice. There are plenty of reasons for players to learn more than one position.
Those are some of the benefits to the players. There are also benefits to the team, such as:
Of course, not everyone agrees with this philosophy. I once lost a player when I was recruiting a team because I refused to guarantee a father that his daughter would only play one position. But that was ok – I ended up with four other players who could play that position just as well – and who were happy to do whatever the team needed.
In the end, only being able to play one position is a self-made trap. It may seem like a good idea but always keep in mind that fastpitch softball is a competitive sport.
Your coach may love you there today. But if he/she can find someone better for that position tomorrow, that player is going to get your spot. If you can’t contribute anywhere else it could make for a long, unhappy season.
If you broaden your skills, however, there will always be someone who wants you on their team. And on their field.
Well, it’s official: the World Health Organization has declared the Covid-19 coronavirus a full-blown pandemic. The cascade effect has been postponement or outright cancellation of college and high school softball seasons, and could have a significant effect on the summer season as well.
(For those reading this post long after March 2020, it should be an interesting time capsule for how things were perceived while we were in the center of it. And much of what I’m going to say here applies to non-pandemic times too.)
At this point it would be easy to say “Aw, the heck with it” (or perhaps something a bit stronger), sit in the house and start power watching Stranger Things or Game of Thrones. Neither of which I have ever seen, by the way.
But you can also look at this extra, unexpected down time as a gift. There is plenty you can do without game or team activities.
And you’ll want to do them, because sooner or later this too shall pass and we will be back out in the sunshine, where we our biggest worry is whether we will knock those base runners in with a hit or get the out to win the game instead of whether we will fall deathly ill and infect a vulnerable family member.
So here are some suggestions on how to turn the currently bad situation to your advantage. Starting with…
Take some time off to heal
These days the softball season (like most other youth sports seasons) seems to run 12 months a year. That leaves little time to let your body rest and recuperate the way it needs to, because it seems like there is always some critically important game or tournament or camp or something coming up.
Well, now there isn’t, and we don’t know when there will be again. So take advantage of it. Take some time off and let your body do its healing thing. If you haven’t had your injury checked out and it’s causing sufficient pain, go visit your doctor. He/she may be thrilled to not have to look at another runny nose or listen to a wheezing cough.
Even if you’re not injured, think about taking a week off just to let your body get some much-needed rest. You’ll be amazed at what it can do for you.
Fix the little issues that make big differences. One thing I’ve always prided myself on is being able to work around injuries to keep players on track. For example, I once gave a few pitching lessons to a girl in an ankle-to-hip hard cast.
Obviously we didn’t work on leg drive. Instead we focused on spins and stability. She sat on a stool and worked on perfecting her change, drop and curve balls.
Once the cast came off, she ended up being ahead of where she had been rather than behind. Shows you the value of narrow concentration.
If you’re a pitcher who has been struggling with whip, this is the perfect time to work on it, because you don’t have to worry about how it will affect you in a game. And if you’re diligent about it, by the time you do have to pitching to hitters again the whip will be second nature.
Or maybe you’re a hitter who tends to dip her back shoulder toward the catcher during her stride, or lets her hands get ahead of her hips. Take the time to fix it now.
Figure out what your biggest single issue is and work on it. If you get it done and the season is still on lockdown, work on another one. Rinse and repeat until it’s time to go play again.
Re-set your mindset
This particularly applies to college players who had already started their seasons. If it wasn’t going the way you’d hoped this temporary shut-down could be the best thing that happened to you (unless you’re a senior, in which case my heart goes out to you).
The first rules of holes is that when you find yourself in one, stop digging. That can be tough to do, however, when you are playing so many games trying to win a conference championship so you can get invited into the post-season tournament.
Now you have the perfect opportunity. First, let go of whatever was bothering you. Leave the past in the past and start looking forward.
Second, and this is most important, use this time to gain some perspective. When you were struggling or even in a slump, it seemed earth-shattering. But it wasn’t. At the end of the day, it was still just softball.
Now you’ve had softball taken away from you as the result of a rapidly-spreading disease that could affect your health (although so far it doesn’t seem likely) or the health of someone you love, like a parent or grandparent. THAT is earth-shattering.
Remember there are worse things than striking out with runners on base, booting an easy ground or fly ball, or giving up a walk-off hit. Like not getting to play at all.
Find the joy again in just being on the field, so when you are you’re able to keep things in perspective – which will likely help you improve your performance.
Learn to think like a coach
Talk to any coach who is a former player and sooner or later you’ll hear him/her say “If only I knew what I know now when I was playing.”
It’s unfortunate, but most of us don’t really put in the effort to really learn our craft until we’re put in a position where we have to teach someone else. It’s then that we decide we’d better know what we’re doing, in which case a whole new world opens up to us.
Why wait until your career is done? Start talking to knowledgeable people, watch video analysis of what top-level players do, check out DVDs from the library (or your coaches) and find whatever other information is available to you.
Sure, some of it is going to be garbage. Maybe a lot of it, especially random clips on YouTube. But if you compare what you’re seeing to what high-level players do you can start gaining a better understanding of what you should be doing so you can apply it to your own game.
Share what you know with younger players
You don’t have to go into full-on coaching or instructing. But if you’re hanging around somewhere and you run across a younger person who wants to learn a skill you know, take some time to share it with them.
Remember, when one coaches two learn.
Clean your stuff
Don’t just wash your uniform. Take the time to really do all you can to get the dirt, blood, grass and other stains out of it. Especially the white stuff. Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar and Stain Remover, which is available at most hardware stores as well as online, is great for that.
Clean the dirt out of your cleats, and wipe down the top parts. Maybe even polish them so they look great. If you have broken shoelaces now is a good time to change them.
Clean your glove with leather soap or saddle soap and put some conditioner in it. (Not oil, because that will make it heavy, but more of a paste-like conditioner.) If necessary, this is a great time to get it re-strung.
Wipe down your bat with soap and water. Remember how proud you were when it was shiny and new? See if you can feel like that again.
Give your batting gloves the sniff test. If you can do it from across the room it’s time to either try soaking them in laundry detergent for a bit or get a new pair.
And for goodness’ sake, clean out your equipment bag! Take everything out of it, including the 300 empty or partially empty water bottles crushed at the bottom of it, dump out the dirt, take a clean cloth and wipe it out, inside and out. Then, when you go to pack it up again, KonMari that sucker and only put things in it that make you happy.
Things may look bleak right now, but they will get better. Best thing you can do is remain positive, because sooner or later (hopefully sooner) softball games will start to be played again and life will return to its hectic normal.
Pocket Radar devices have become pretty commonplace in the fastpitch softball world. You see them everywhere, at the ball park, in practice facilities, and in social media photos as grinning pitchers proudly display their latest speed achievements.
The handy devices are not only easy to carry around (and not as obtrusive to use as a standard radar gun since they can easily be mistaken for a mobile phone) but priced within reach of most programs, coaches and bucket parents.
The current top of the line is the Pocket Radar Smart Coach, which I reviewed back in 2018 when it first came out. One of the major benefits is that the free app that comes with it lets you set up your Smart Coach to capture each pitch (in Continuous mode) and then display the results on a phone or tablet via Bluetooth so the pitcher can get instant, accurate feedback on each pitch so she can measure her progress.
That works great indoors. But it might be a little dicier out on an actual field. The bright sunlight on a super hot day might make the display on an iPad or other tablet tough to read, and it could cause the tablet to overheat and shut down.
There is a solution, however: the Pocket Radar Smart Display. It delivers a large, very bright speed readout of up to three digits that the manufacturer says can be read from 100 feet away in bright sunlight. It looks very similar to the types of displays used on scoreboards.
I’ve been using one for about a month and so far it has been great. I haven’t had a chance to try it outdoors yet, but based on what I’ve seen indoors I expect it to be plenty readable once the weather breaks and we can move outside again.
The Smart Display is made of durable plastic, and its compact size (roughly 10.5 inches W x 9 inches H x 2.5 inches deep) is easy to carry, transport and store. In addition to the digital display, the front side has indicator lights showing whether speed is being measured in miles or kilometers per hour (user selectable).
There is a combination carry and mounting handle/kick back stand that locks in place to create a 45 degree tilt as well as sitting straight above the unit or folding out of the way underneath.
The left side recess includes (from top) a power button, a functions button, the power connection socket and a USB socket to connect the Smart Display to the Smart Coach.
The function button offers two menus – a basic and advanced – giving you more control over the Smart Display. For example, if you tap the black button once you can bring up the last recorded speed so you can capture a photo of it. The Smart Display stores the last 25 speeds recorded so you can wait a few pitches to see if the pitcher can go even higher (more on that later).
Holding the black button down for two seconds lets you check the life of the batteries if you are using alkaline C-cell batteries.
The advanced menu gives you even more options, such as setting the Smart Display to measure miles or kilometers per hour, setting the auto-off timer, adjusting the brightness and more. To access it you simply hold the red (power) and black (function) button in at the same time for more than two seconds.
Set-up instructions, and instructions on how to access the menus, are printed on the back of the unit for extra convenience. Good news for those who don’t want to carry the instruction manual with them.
(Incidentally, while I primarily use the Smart Coach and Smart Display to measure pitch speeds, you can also set it up to measure ball exit speed off the tee for hitters. So if you’re a team coach wondering if it’s worth it for two or three pitchers, that is something else to keep in mind when determining the value.)
The set-up for the Pocket Radar Smart Display is pretty simple. You connect the Smart Coach to the Smart Display using a cable with a USB connector on one side and a mini connector on the radar unit side.
The USB side connects to the Smart Display, and then you plug in the power source, which powers both the Smart Display and the Smart Coach. For power, you can either use a power block (the type you use to power a mobile phone or tablet when the battery is running low) or use the supplied cable and plug to plug directly into an AC power source.
You can also insert four C-cell batteries into the Smart Display but I don’t recommend that if you plan to use the radar to capture every pitch. You’ll end up spending a fortune on batteries if they’re not rechargeable. If you need portable power, use a power block – you can get several hours of performance out of it depending on the unit you use.
Once you have all the connections you have a couple of additional options. If you are outdoors and have the Smart Coach set up safely on a tripod behind a backstop, you can also mount the Smart Display to the fence using the two supplied carabiner clips, or hang it below the tripod.
If you can’t mount the Smart Display to or behind a protective backstop – for example, when you are indoors in a net batting cage – you can use an extension USB cable to run the display out to the side and set it on the ground where it is unlikely to take a direct hit. The built-in kick-back handle lets you tilt it up for easier reading as well as greater stability. Fortunately, Pocket Radar offers a 50 foot cable as a separately purchased accessory if you need it.
That’s actually what I have been using indoors and so far it has worked very well. It seems to be durable enough to handle the constant rolling and unrolling required if you have to set it up and take it down every day as I do.
It’s not quite as convenient as the Bluetooth connection with a mobile phone or tablet, but you also don’t have to worry about interference. It also frees your phone or tablet for other duties, such as taking video, measuring spin rates with a Bluetooth-enabled ball and app or playing music.
That said, I’m told the good folks at Pocket Radar are looking into the possibility of making it Bluetooth-enabled in the future. If it comes true, hopefully they will offer either a retrofit kit or a buyback option as they have with other products.
With everything in place, all that’s left is to turn it on using the red button on the side of the Smart Display, push the white button on the Smart Coach to wake it up and press and hold the Mode button on the Smart Coach to set it to continuous mode. That’s it – you’re all set to start capturing pitches.
Each time the pitcher throws a pitch, the speed is shown on the digital display in big, bright red numbers. The numbers remain visible for a few seconds, then turn off. At that point you’re ready to capture the next pitch.
One of the best features of the Smart Display is that if the pitcher hits a new speed high, you can use the recall function to bring that number back so you can take a photo as I did here. While showing the numbers on the Smart Coach itself is nice, there’s nothing like showing them in big, bright numbers to give the pitcher an extra sense of pride.
The display will hold for about a minute, I think, which should be ample time to get the photo. But if not, just go back and pull it up again.
Having this instant, continuous feedback, by the way, has had a positive effect on my students as I wrote in another blog post. Seeing where they are tends to make them push themselves to achieve higher speeds. Having the numbers in a big, bright display that anyone in the area can see adds a bit of accountability too. No one wants to be seen as slacking off or underachieving when others are watching.
Watch the (outside) nickle hardware
I will admit I was a bit concerned when I was first using the Smart Display because it seemed like it was prone to lose power and shut down any time I had a student pick it up to take a photo. What I discovered, however, that it wasn’t the Smart Display that was the problem.
It was actually the power connection cable from my power block to the unit. It apparently was cheap, and after not much use broke somewhere in the middle. If I set it just right it would work, but if I moved it even slightly it didn’t.
Once I started using a new cable the problem went away. I share that story so you don’t freak out if you have a similar issue. Check the nickle hardware first, especially the power block and cable you probably picked up for free at a trade show or as a gift for attending a presentation. You’ll save yourself a lot of embarrassment.
By now you’re probably wondering what all of this wonderfulness costs. It’s not cheap. The Smart Display retails for $499.99 on the Pocket Radar website, and a quick search showed that price holding across the Internet so it’s definitely not for the casual user.
(There was one exception, which showed the Pro Radar System and Smart Display for $69.99 but you probably want to steer clear of that. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.)
There is also a bundle that includes the Smart Coach and Smart Display for $799.99. That might be worthwhile if you don’t own the Smart Coach yet. But if you already own the radar unit itself, you’re better off purchasing the Smart Display separately.
As you can probably tell, I really like the Pocket Radar Smart Display. I can keep it and all the accessories in my car, which means I don’t have to remember to charge and bring my iPad to every lesson – an issue I had a couple of times, which was disappointing for both myself and my students.
I also don’t have the risk of my iPad falling out of bag or “walking away” in a crowded facility if someone sees me tucking it away after lessons. It’s also a less attractive target to be stolen since it basically has one function and you need a Smart Coach to operate it.
More importantly, the bright display and the mounting options will be a definite plus when I am giving lessons outside. I wasn’t relishing the idea of setting my iPad down in the dirt. Now I won’t have to.
The one big thing you give up is the ability to store the results permanently in the app so you can review the history. But you can always chart those separately so for me the trade-off is worth it. Especially since I will usually have several lessons at a time so the history all runs together anyway.
You also can’t use the app to record video with speed embedded – I tried but my phone couldn’t find the Smart Coach on Bluetooth. So if you’re looking to do that you’ll need to disconnect the Smart Display. Not a big deal if you plan ahead.
For facilities, pitching coaches, programs with multiple teams or even team coaches who are serious about measuring performance and holding players accountable, the Smart Display is a great addition to the Smart Coach. It’s also a smart investment in your players’ futures.
When I have a young student who is having difficulty making the transition from close-up drills to full-distance (or nearly full distance) pitching, I will often tell her to close her eyes and picture that she is still throwing into the screen, net, tarp, backstop or whatever else we were just using. By taking the distraction of how far away the plate is she is then able to focus on the only end she can control – the end she is on.
It is amazing how often that works. Which is why, by the way, I am always amused at coaches who yell at catchers to “give her a bigger target” when the pitcher is having control trouble. I want to yell back “the catcher isn’t the problem; right now your pitcher couldn’t hit an archery target.”
But there is another side to this story. A pitcher’s eyes can be an important contributor to improving her mechanics if she learns how to use them correctly. That doesn’t mean staring down the target with a laser-like focus, however.
To the contrary, it often means doing the opposite, i.e., looking away from where she’s throwing to help her see what she can’t feel right now. Many of us our visual learners, and being able to see what we’re trying to do can help us get there faster and more effectively.
Here’s a good example. Many pitchers are taught that they should turn the ball toward second base at the top of the circle and have the hand on top of the ball as they come down the back side of the circle. That’s just flat-out wrong as you will see if you watch videos of what elite-level pitchers do.
But after months or years of drilling from the “T” position (both arms outstretched completely from the shoulders) with their hands facing down it can be a tough habit to break. They may be trying to keep the hand under the ball at 3:00 and pull it down into release, but they are unaware that they are first turning it over to start the motion.
Here’s where the eyes come in. From the “W” position (arms again outstretched, but this time with the hands shoulder-high and the elbows bent below to form a sort of W) have her turn her head back and watch her hand as she begins the throw. That way she can see immediately whether her hand turns over so she can learn to stop doing it.
Placing the focus of her vision on her hand also places the focus of her mind on staying palm-up, which helps shorten that learning curve. Once she starts down that way she is likely to stay that way into release, or at least close to it. If necessary she can always watch her hand all the way down.
If you do it from a short distance into a net or fence (instead of throwing to a catcher) you take out any concerns about accuracy which again lets her concentrate on the movement. Of course, if she gets the movement right her accuracy will improve anyway so it’s a win-win.
Another way to use the eyes in a creative way is with pitchers who are having trouble going straight down the power line. They launch out and end up either way to the right or way to the left, neither of which is conducive to great pitching.
If you’re using a pitching mat that already has a line in it, or you’ve drawn a power line in the dirt outdoors, have your pitcher look at the line instead of at the catcher.
Remember that one of the big reasons for going down the power line is so the pitcher can throw the ball where she is supposed to instead of going all over the place. By using her eyes to go down the line you just might find that her accuracy improves even though she’s not looking at the target at all.
This is much the same principle you’re supposed to use in bowling, incidentally. Great bowlers don’t look at the pins. They look at those little arrows on the lanes and try to throw the ball there. (I can hear some of you already saying “Oh, THAT’S what those arrows are for.”)
They know if they get the ball in just the right place on the arrows, the far end (where the pins are) will take care of itself. So it is with pitchers and the power line.
Mirrors (or any reflective surface such as a window) can also be very helpful in correcting pitching issues. Do you have a pitcher who struggles to maintain good left-right posture at release (i.e., she leans out to her throwing-hand side)?
Put a vertical line on a mirror with masking or painter’s tape, have the pitcher line her center up with it, and then have her throw a rolled up pair of socks or a Nerf ball into the mirror. As she gets to release, she should see whether she is vertical or leaning out to the side. A few dozen repetitions should have her feeling when she has good posture and when she is leaning.
The mirror is also a great way to see if her hips are remaining stacked up under her shoulders or if she is clearing space to the side or making a “monkey butt” move. If the hips aren’t stacked up under the shoulders and turned in 45 degrees or so to the plate it’s difficult if not impossible to get a brush trigger.
By checking her hip position in the mirror, the pitcher can make sure she has the optimal posture to deliver the ball with the greatest velocity and accuracy.
These are just a few examples. The key takeaway is that the pitcher’s eyes don’t have to be locked on to the catcher’s glove or some other target to be effective.
If she is having trouble learning a move, apply visual learning principles and have her use her eyes to see what she needs to do and whether she’s actually doing it. It can make all the difference in the world.
And if you’ve had a pitcher use her eyes to watch a part of the pitch to make a correction please be sure to share what you did in the comments below so the rest of us can learn.
For the past 20+ years (can I really be that old?) I have been a private coach, primarily working with pitchers, hitters and catchers. During that time I have had an opportunity to teach many wonderful young women, helping them to achieve success and realize their dreams – whatever those dreams may be.
But through that time I have also come to recognize that there is an under-served constituency out there that is aching for someone to fill their needs. So today I am proud to announce a new service through Softball Success that I am calling “Parent and Player Validation,” or PPV for short.
The way it works is you bring your daughter to me, but rather than trying to teach her anything I just stand there for a half hour and tell you how awesome she is.
I will walk around and view her from different angles, put my hand on my chin, look serious, nod a few times, maybe whistle or say “whoa!” (although that costs extra) and even shoot a video or two and use it to show you why she’s so great. What I won’t do, however, is offer any of those bothersome suggestions or critiques because if you’re coming for this service I know you’re not interested in any of that claptrap. You just want to hear she’s perfect the way she is.
Now, I know this service won’t be of interest to any of my current students or their parents because they are all on-board with working hard and trying to improve themselves. I’m actually fortunate to work with an outstanding group of students.
Still, I realize there are people out there who can use this new service. I’ve run into them in the past.
I could tell because when I would tell a pitcher she needs to lock her shoulders in at release, or relax and whip her arm, or stay more upright instead of leaning forward the only reaction I would get is a stinkeye from both the parent and the student.
Or if I told a hitter she needed to lead with her hips, or keep her hands from dropping to her ribcage, or drive her back shoulder around the front instead of pulling the front shoulder out both parent and daughter look at me like I told them they smelled of elderberries.
Clearly, they weren’t interested in my honest opinion, or in changing anything. They simply wanted me, as a professional softball instructor, to validate what they already believed.
Of course, the core of great customer service is to give the people what they want (to paraphrase Marshall Field). So rather than fighting the tide, I’ve decided this could be a tremendous money-making opportunity.
With that in mind, I am thinking of a fee structure along the lines of:
I haven’t locked into the actual dollar amount, but I’m figuring with as desperate as some people are for this type of validation this is probably a good starting point. I may also offer a discount if you just want to come in and have me say it without actually having to watch the player do anything since I would be able to squeeze another actual lesson in during the rest of the time. Or if you want to send me a 30 second video and have me email my effusive praise back to you.
I can see where this could lead to other services as well. For example, I can set aside a radar gun with a series of impressively high readings and let you take a picture with your daughter showing whatever reading matches what you think she’s throwing. I’m thinking $50 for that, at least to start. The possibilities are endless.
So let me know. If you’re looking for someone to tell you how awesome your daughter is without all the inconvenience of being told she needs to work on this or that, this new service should fit the bill.
Just remember that being told what you want to hear doesn’t mean she’ll perform well on the field, especially when she faces competition of equal or better ability. That actually takes work.
But if you just want to have your ego, and your daughter’s ego, stroked I am prepared to accommodate. All lines are now open…
One of the first (and most important) pieces of advice I give to parents who are trying to decide on a path for instruction for their daughters is to look at what elite-level players do. If you’re not being taught that, you should re-think what you’re doing.
Take pitchers for example. If you want to know whether you should turn the ball toward second base at the top of the circle and push it down the back side of the circle or turn it toward home and then pull it down with your palm face-up, video of elite players will give you the answer.
(SPOILER ALERT: The correct answer is pull it down. Ten points for Gryffindor if you got it right.)
Then there are hitters. Some people will tell you to swing with your bat and/or shoulders level at contact. But again, a quick Internet search of great hitters in both Major League Baseball and Power 25 fastpitch softball will show you that just ain’t so.
So does that mean you should just pick an elite-level player and model yourself after her (or him)? Not necessarily.
The thing you have to keep in mind is that elite-level players get to that level by virtue of more than their mechanics alone. There are a whole lot of other factors, beginning with their DNA, that go into making an elite player.
The hard reality is some players succeed despite their mechanics. Their athletic ability, focus, dedication, etc. is such that they can overcome even significant mechanical flaws.
Some pitchers will be hunched over and will throw their shoulders forward as they throw, even though biomechanics says they would be better off keeping their shoulder locked in around 45 degrees. But when they’re throwing 70+ mph doing what they’re doing, and racking up the Ks and Ws, most coaches aren’t going to worry it until it becomes a problem.
Does that mean you should follow their example? In a word, no. That player is succeeding in spite of her mechanics, not because of them. Us ordinary mortals can’t count on getting the same results.
The same goes for hitters who primarily rely on their upper body strength to hit for power. Somehow they have managed to make it work for them.
Most of us, however, will find if we are upper-body dominant we won’t be able to adjust to pitch speeds/location/movement. We’ll hit the ball a mile if it’s pitched where we’re swinging. But if it’s not – and the whole strategy behind pitching is to NOT pitch to a hitter’s strengths – we will likely swing and miss. A lot.
So what’s the answer? Should we try to understand and follow the mechanics of elite-level players or not?
For an answer, I would look to the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson. Yes, he died long before the first fastpitch softball game was played, but he had a pretty practical view of the world.
One of my favorite quotes from good ol’ Tom was “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” In other words, know what’s important and what’s not.
When looking at mechanics, don’t just look at what one or two elite level players does. Look for the common threads between all of them, and see what the majority tend to do.
Also, look at what other factors may affect the success certain players are having. If your daughter is a 78 lb. stick, modeling the mechanics of a preternaturally strong, thick-bodied beast of a player probably won’t deliver the same level of success.
Your daughter is going to need incredibly clean, efficient mechanics because she needs to get every bit of her body generating energy to transfer into the ball.
If your daughter isn’t an amazing athlete – that’s ok, you can admit it – she’s probably not going to be able to get by with too many standard deviations from what is biomechanically optimal. Again, you’ll want to stick with the things elite players do that are alike rather than excusing non-standard mechanics because so-and-so does the same thing.
Seeing what elite players do and following their example is a good thing – until it’s not.
Use video of elite players to see generally what all (or at least most) tend to do so you have a path to follow. But avoid techniques or mechanics in those players that appears to be outliers.
It’s your fastest path to success.
At the end of the journey, parents of athletes end up with a lot of memories, a lot of regrets, a lot of thoughts. One minute you are teaching a kid who cannot even pour a glass of milk how to hit a ball off a tee, and the next you are packing up trophies and watching them fly off into something that resembles adult-hood.
What if, instead of waiting until it’s over, we asked ourselves – or gave some thought to the hard questions now. Would it change your journey? Would it help? Would it change anything you do now? Would it change the outcome? Would it change the relationships in your family?
What if we didn’t yell things (meant to be encouraging, but clearly annoying) from the stands like “Hit the top half of the ball, weight back, keep your eye on it, WHY did you swing at that, look for the change-up, MAKE CONTACT, blah blah? Would they hit the ball anyways, know what to do in the box, be successful? If we just for a few moments, while our kids were up to bat, let go of the false feeling that we have some control over the situation when our child is battling for their life – would they succeed anyways? Would they know what to do? Because at the end of the day, that’s what parenting is all about – letting them go with the comfort that they know WHAT TO DO…..
What if instead of making excuses FOR them, or allowing them to make excuses we just listened and reminded them that they ALWAYS upon ALWAYS have the opportunity to WORK HARDER than everyone else to get what they want?
What if instead of blaming coaches, or teachers, or teammates, or other parents for their shortcomings – we truly ALLOWED them to own their mistakes and imperfections SO THEY COULD ALSO OWN improving them?
What if instead of feeling intimidated, threatened, hurt or angry that someone is BETTER than our child, we taught them to surround themselves with people that ARE BETTER and who can teach and push our children to be the best version of themselves?
What if, we simply said, “I love to watch you play” after each and every game, and LISTENED to what THEY had to say instead of trying to TELL THEM what they need to do better.
What if, we always kept in mind that this is a G A M E, being played by K I D S. A GAME. Yes, its an expensive game. Yes, we invest a lot in this game, time and money. But at the end of the day it is STILL JUST A GAME, meant to be enjoyed and PLAYED, and with every game when it’s over there will one winner and one loser, and ONE GAME doesn’t define our player or the team….
What if, we made sure our kids ALWAYS knew first and foremost that the outcome of a game, or the results of their performance NEVER EVER affects our love for them or how proud of them we are.
What if, we always abide by the 24 Hour Rule when we are angry about an outcome? Would our approach or words change? Would we have less to feel guilty about later? Would less relationships be harmed?
What if we always remembered that COACHES are human, too?
What if we NEVER reminded our kids how much money we are spending, making them feel guilty?
What if, instead of spending our time in the FUTURE when our kids are young, we spent time in the NOW and allowed them the room to truly choose their path as they go, rather than push them toward the roads we think they should take?
What if, we made a conscious effort to ALWAYS sit back and just ENJOY this season, these people, these kids, invested in their joy, progress, growth, and success rather becoming so heavily invested in THEIR GAME?
If we had a quarter for every time we heard a softball parent say that they joined a team, only to find out that the other parents didn’t welcome them – we would be wealthy, indeed. This bully baller mom (and dad) thing is apparently a thing….
A sad reality in youth sports is that despite their being plenty of room for every kid on the field to shine, parents are intimidated by other kids, especially new kids – who join their team and perhaps ‘challenge’ their child for a position or playing time. And boy can things get ugly and downright mean.
One of the reasons there is so much team jumping, and why it is so hard to keep a team together is because teams are infiltrated with “Bully Baller Moms (and dads) who can’t see through their own insecurities and jealousies to genuinely welcome new people on the team with open arms.
Instead of seeing what this new player can offer the team, the parents often get shunned to sit under tents alone away from the team, and to hear the echoes of the other parents talking about them. And sadly, it is mostly the softball moms who seem to form together in cliques and tear apart the new talent – long before they even get a chance to get to know them.
We ‘get’ it. Sort of. You get comfortable with your little group, and you don’t want anything to change. So when someone leaves and your team has an opening – or maybe when it comes down to it and your team needs a new position player in a key position to continue improving – parents get their backs up and feel offended and threatened and have their feelings hurt.
So in secretive, mean girl style the parents will band together and pick out reasons and find ways to dislike the ‘newbie’ making things as uncomfortable as possible in the hopes that they will just go away.
Coaches hear it all the time. A player joins and then leaves quickly because they don’t feel like they ‘fit; in. Which is simply code for; the other parents obviously do not want me there and we spend too much damn time together for me to sit there and listen to my child being talked about while I am collectively shunned from the group.
Look, its hard enough to find new players that fit in personality and talent wise, and now coaches have to worry about butt hurt parents who see a new teammate as a threat to their own child’s playing time and status??
And we wonder what is wrong with youth team sports? Hint…it’s not the kids – its the parents!
Even worse, parents will criticize the ‘new’ kid on the block in front of their kids, which trickles into the dugout.
“Well, they just didn’t fit in!” “Why is the coach playing her at 1st when my daughter always plays there?” “Her mom and dad aren’t interested in talking to any of us!” “That kid and her parents are going to bring drama to the team!” “I am not going to pay to have my kid sit, while the new girl plays every inning!!”
These are the types of comments you hear from the gallery, as parents try to justify and circumvent their feelings of obvious insecurity.
For God’s sake folks – give the new people a chance. Don’t be so quick to judge. So freaking what if your kid has to work harder, see it as a blessing that they are being pushed by someone ON THEIR TEAM! Tell your kid to get off their rump and WORK HARDER and EARN what they get. Allow time for relationships to work, and treat people like they are a guest in your house. Get to know these people. Stop being so intimidated by talent, and for the LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY – realize THIS:
Blowing out someone else’s candle, doesn’t make yours shine any brighter!
Our advice! If you have a new family joining your team this year, then WELCOME them. Be grateful that they saw enough in your team to join and to want to spend their time with y’all. Invest in them and break open your tight knit cligue and let them in. Give them a chance. If their kid happens to play the same position as your daughter, so be it. Remember that in this game and in life, there is plenty of room on the field for everyone. At the end of the day, the vast majority of us are all here for the same reasons. To empower these girls through a game they love, and to enjoy our time watching them be children; because Lord knows its fleeting…
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