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.
One of the most well-known pieces of advice from the late, great Bruce Lee was a simple three-word statement: be as water. For those interested in more of what he meant, or who are just wondering who the heck Bruce Lee was, here’s a video:
While Lee’s advice was ostensibly meant to encourage martial artists to give up their old, rigid approach to movement in favor of one that was more free-flowing, I find it’s also great advice for fastpitch softball players. Here are a few examples.
When pitchers want to throw harder, they tend to tighten up their muscles and become very stiff. They also do it when they’re trying to guide the ball to a location (even if it’s just the general strike zone). Yet that’s the worst possible thing to do in each situation.
If you’re trying to gain speed, remember tight muscles are slow muscles. You can swing your arm around much faster if you relax and let it go versus trying to force it around.
Being stiff when trying to gain better control also works against you, and actually makes it more difficult. If you are tight and off-line somewhere in your circle, you will stay there and the ball will go somewhere you don’t want it to.
But if you are loose, a gentle nudge is all it takes to get back on-line. Plus, you have momentum working for you, because if you are loose and using good mechanics (i.e., those that follow the natural way the body moves) it’s a lot easier to follow the natural line.
To improve as a pitcher, be as water.
The same things about tight versus loose apply to hitters. If you try to muscle up on the ball you’ll lose the whipping action of the bat into the hitting zone, costing you valuable bat speed.
Being tight also makes it difficult to react and adjust to pitch speeds, spins and locations. A rigid swing will tend to continue going wherever it started to go; a relaxed swing allows you to make adjustments without losing bat speed.
Then there’s the mental aspect. If you are uptight generally (aka in your own head) you are going to be worried about far too many outside factors, such as your last at bat or the fight you had with your mother before the game, to bring your swing thought down to “see ball, hit ball.”
There will be no flow to your swing, just a sort of panicked flail as the ball comes in. You may even start seeing things that aren’t there, or lose your perspective on exactly where the strike zone is. Much can happen.
To improve as a hitter, be as water.
As a fielder, you want to be able to move smoothly to the ball. You want your throws to be easy and sure.
That’s going to be tough if you are tight and rigid. The word “flow” is frequently used to describe a great fielder. And what water does.
Being rigid or mechanical in your movements is a sure ticket to many more errors than you should be making. And if you are that way because you are AFRAID of making errors and being pulled out of the game, it only gets worse. Forget about all that.
To improve as a fielder, be as water.
Approach to the Game
Perhaps the area Bruce Lee’s advice applied to most is your general approach to the game. In the video, he says that if you pour water into a cup it becomes the cup. If you pour it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Fastpitch softball players need that type of flexibility as well. You may be asked to play a position that isn’t your usual one. You can either resist or go with it.
Yes, playing outfield rather than catcher or shortstop may not be your preference. But if you go with it and prove yourself in the role you were asked to play you are far more likely to get the opportunity to show what you can do in the position you want to play. I’ve seen it happen.
You may not like your coach’s coaching style. Understood – there are some bad coaches out there. But often it’s not a matter of good or bad, it’s just different than you prefer.
Rather than bracing yourself against it like a rock, be as water. Adjust your expectations and get as much as you can out of the experience. Everyone has something to teach – even if it’s just not to be like they are in the future.
You may not be getting the playing time you want or feel you deserve. That may be true. But before you just blame the coach and jump ship, ask yourself if you’re doing all you can do to earn the spot you want.
Are you diving for balls in practice? Are you displaying a positive attitude? Do you go to the weight room, take extra batting practice or bullpen work, ask for one more ground ball if you pooch one in practice, help clean up team equipment at the end of practice or a game, etc.?
Maybe the answer is yes and you’re just not getting a fair shot. It happens. But before you decide that, determine whether you have been trying to shape yourself to the program the way water shapes itself to the cup or wishing the program would shape itself to you.
So after all of this, if I were to ask you which is stronger, the rock or the water, what would you answer?
Many would say the rock. Not a bad answer on the surface, because if you place a rock in a stream or river, the water will be forced to go around it.
Over time, however, the water will wear away the rock and any other obstacle in its path until it can once again flow smoothly.
So I ask you again: which is stronger, the rock or the water?
Be as water, my friend.
Being a sports parent is not for the faint of heart. The combination of supporting your children whom you love more than anything in the entire world, competition and being let loose in the wild kingdom of youth athletics is not always an easy task. Sometimes, it brings out the worst in us. Sometimes, we get caught up and lose sight of the big picture. It’s ok. Luckily our kids forgive us quickly, and we can live and learn IF(and this is a big IF) we are willing to recognize when we are acting like a$$holes and take steps to make a change. 🙂
So today, a short and sweet recount of just a few of the common threads of bad sport parenting that we can strive to change!
You might be an A$$hole sports parent if………………………….
So as Spring season approaches, maybe as parents, we can remind ourselves to not be THOSE ^^^^^^ parents. Keep a level head, and always realize that youth athletics are FOR THE KIDS, not the parents. This is their game and their childhood. Let them have it.
Since the beginning at Softball Is For Girls, we have made it a goal to introduce our fastpitch families to small businesses and companies that truly embody the passion and love of the girls and the game. Early, on we met Cheri Naudin with Collegiate Sports Advocate. So today, we present you with a small business spotlight On Collegiate Sports Advocate and Cheri Naudin, who we feel is the epitome of Recruiting Done Right!
First, a little background on Cheri.
Cheri Naudin has an extensive background with 28 years in the telecommunications industry. She owned a Recruiting company where she was a headhunter for high end executives. She has a BS in Business Administration, minor in Management. She has been a leader in Corporate America and in her community since 1985. She has coached and trained athletes for over 25 years taking teams to Nationals with 3rd and 4th place finishes. She was a recipient of a United Way Award for her work with young athletes. Cheri was the owner of Softball Academy of Texas for 4 years where she trained catchers, provided clinics, and provided training for hitting and slapping. She has been involved with over 450 athletes being recruited and has personally coached over 50 NCAA athletes. Her recruits have played in (or are currently playing in) all Conferences in NCAA and NAIA. She is highly networked in the College Coaches Arena. Cheri was on the founding committee for USA Elite Select.
What her bio leaves out is that Cheri is extremely well connected and RESPECTED in the softball community and has a lot of close peers in the softball community, including a large variety of college coaches. Her bio also leaves out the fact that she is highly passionate about the success of athletes. (Collegiate sports advocate helps in all sports, not just softball). She holds her student athletes accountable and she clearly knows where they fit in at the college level.
When you talk with Cheri, you realize immediately that she is not afraid of TRUTH TELLING. She is not going to sell you a song and dance and then put minimal effort into your athlete. She is going to expect that they meet deadlines, and take responsibility for their own recruiting journey. CSA is not another gimmick recruiting agency. She, along with the other advocates that she trains, are going to work HARD for your athlete – and she expects that same hard work in return. If she meets a family or athlete not willing to put in the work, she has not problem turning them down or terminating her relationship with them.
Having children of her own that have went through the recruiting process, she is a wealth of information and pillar of light in what can be a very dark tunnel for many families. Recruiting is HARD, but with a clear road map, and someone to lead the way, it can be a fruitful and worthwhile endeavor.
With so many competing organizations looking to only take on your wallet, Collegiate Sports Advocate is a breath of fresh air. While the service is not free (because really what value comes from free), it will end up saving you a lot of money in the long run. Just knowing where your athlete should go, and what steps they should take helps families avoid a lot of money pits and false guidance.
If you are a family interested in the recruiting process, Cheri is happy to speak with you at no cost to let you know how her proven system works. You can reach her anytime through Facebook Messenger or at 949-633-9944. Her email address is CheriMasonNaudin@gmail.com. We assure you that you will not regret your decision to partner with Collegiate Sports Advocate!
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This is the type of post I always love to write because it means someone has fulfilled a goal. So today I want to take the opportunity to congratulate Allison Musgrove, who plays for Harvard High School and the McHenry County Heatwave, for officially signing to play softball next year at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
Allison is a terrific pitcher and hitter. Although she isn’t very big, her pitches and bat pack a wallop!
Unlike many of my students who start with me young, Allison was already in high school when we started working together. Her former pitching coach (whose daughter I also taught back in the day) had left the area and she and her parents Vern and Crystal were looking for a replacement. Fortunately they were given my name.
One of the fun things is Allison and I hit it off instantly. We bonded on our love of Star Wars, comic book characters (she is a huge Marvel fan) and other nerdy pop culture.
I love the fact that when I made one of those references, either to illustrate an instruction point or just in general conversation, she actually got it without explanation. Still need to get her watching the DC TV shows on the CW, but all in good time.
Allison has always had a tremendous work ethic to go with her talent, which makes lessons fun. She pays close attention and works hard at the things I assign her.
She is also a perfectionist, which can work against her at times, leaving her frustrated when something doesn’t come right away. But she pushes through it, largely because she has such a great attitude. Even when she is having a little trouble it doesn’t take much to get her to smile again.
Of course, a lot of that is due to tremendous parenting. Both Crystal and Vern are always there with words of encouragement and support. They raised a polite, respectful, yet fun daughter who can take some ribbing and give it right back.
One of my favorite success stories is about her hitting. Originally I only worked with her on pitching. But one day she asked if we could work on hitting too since she’d been struggling.
We worked on her hitting and it started to come around. First with some hard outs, then singles here and there, and finally consistent hits with extra base hits, including a few home runs.
Allison has come a long way since we first met. Marian University has definitely made a smart decision in signing her.
I wish her luck, and am letting her know publicly that Fond du Lac isn’t that far from home for me. I plan on coming out to see her play in 2021 – but probably not until toward the end of the season when the weather is hopefully a little warmer.
Congratulations, Allison! You earned it!
As anyone who has gone through the process knows, selecting a pitching coach is a bit like entering the Wild West. There are all these conflicting ideas out there, covered in articles, social media posts, YouTube videos and the like.
Some are good, some are great, and some, quite frankly, are downright dangerous to the pitcher’s health. But how does a parent who wants to do right by his/her daughter, or a coach who wants to give his team’s pitchers their best chance of succeeding, sift through all the muck to find the diamonds in teaching?
A new online education program called High Performance Pitching was introduced over the holidays to address this glaring need. It offers detailed instruction from Rick Pauly of Paulygirl Fastpitch, along with demonstrations of certain drills by his daughter and 8-time NPF All-Pro Sarah Pauly, that explains the mechanics used by every elite pitcher in the game today and how to achieve them, step-by-step.
High Performance Pitching is structured to serve several needs. For those who know little or nothing but want to learn the best way to pitch a softball in fastpitch, there is the Beginner level program. It offers three courses (one free, plus two others for $29.95 each) that cover the basic mechanics and key checkpoints to look for.
All courses are video-based so you can see each piece in action. It’s ideal for the parent whose daughter thinks she may want to pitch, a team coach who wants to help his/her pitchers get started, or anyone who is interested in finding a pitching coach and wants to know what to look for in what the coach teaches.
There is also an Intermediate program that gets far more in-depth into the mechanics of pitching. It consists of 12 courses, each roughly an hour long, that break down various aspects of basic mechanics and offer drills. It is designed both for pitching coaches who are interested in learning the mechanics of high-level pitching as well as anyone who is looking for help in a specific area.
To participate in the certification program you must first complete a background check and pass an online course about preventing sexual abuse. You must then sign and return the Standards of Instruction Affirmation and Code of Ethics for Coaches documents.
One of the best parts is there are also videos that show Rick Pauly working on these principles with different students. You get to be the proverbial fly on the wall as Rick works with a pitcher. That means you can see the individual repetition failures as well as the successes and how Rick approaches corrections.
In fact, for many pitching coaches these “live” sessions may be the best part as it enables you to see how a very successful pitching coach works. All too often we are stuck in our bubbles, with just our own approach to go by. These videos provide a unique and valuable perspective.
At the end of each course there is also a quiz to test your knowledge. If you are going for High Performance Pitching certification you must take and pass these tests. If you are not, or you are just cherry-picking certain videos, the quiz is optional.
You must also complete a personal interview with Rick or Sarah, either in-person or online, before you can be certified.
Finally, there is the Elite program which focuses more on advanced movement pitches, increasing speed, changing speeds, improving location of pitching and other topics. You must first take and pass the Intermediate certification program as a prerequisite to taking the Elite certification program.
(Full disclosure: I have completed both and am now Elite-level certified.)
The Elite program includes 10 courses, again each of them running roughly an hour. To achieve certification you must again take all the courses and pass all the quizzes. I believe you also have the ability to cherry-pick certain courses if you don’t want to follow the entire program.
In all, to become Elite level certified you will complete 22 courses, 150 lessons and 22 quizzes. It is all self-paced so you can do it when you have time.
For the Intermediate and Elite levels there is a $200 registration fee. You must then pay $29.95 for each of the individual courses. It is definitely an investment of money as well as time.
But is it worth that level of investment? Absolutely. I’ve been teaching pitchers for 20 years using the same approach yet I learned some nuances and concepts that will affect the way I teach going forward.
For someone who was brought up in the “hello elbow, paint your way through the release zone, slam the door” school (including former pitchers) it will be even more valuable because you will learn a way of teaching that produces better results for your students while keeping their shoulders, arms, knees and other body parts safer.
The goal of High Performance Pitching is to revolutionize the way fastpitch pitching is taught. In speaking with Rick, his main concern is all the harm that is being done to pitchers through poor instruction.
He wants to inform and educate parents and coaches, and offer an accessible, definitive resource that makes it easier to develop high quality, healthy fastpitch pitchers.
If you are involved in pitching in any way, at any level, it’s worth checking out.
And if you are a parent seeking a certified coach who follows the High Performance Pitching principles, be sure to check out the Certified Coach Locator. It lets you know who in your area you can turn to for high-level instruction.
2019... I’m sad to see you go. You started with the most emotions I’ve ever experienced. Anxiety and nerves of January tryouts to relief and excitement of seeing my name on the 2019 roster.
You allowed me to see my best friend TWICE!
I’ve seen important people say ‘I do’ and ‘Yes!’ I’ve watched my little sass-a-frass grow, dance and even take to pitching.
We saw Macchu Picchu, and Joey turned 40 in style with best friends.
You’ve given me life... I’ve experienced so much in the last 12 months.
Along the way, you’ve taken my heart and mind on a crazy ride. From doubt and frustration of getting back into the groove at age 36, to elation of big strikeouts and wins, you gave me everything I could dream of.
2019, you made me love again... you made me smile... you brought me people who I have fun with. I am excited about what 2020 will bring myself and my family (in all facets), but 2019, you were special, very special!!
I know just about everyone is still in holiday mode so I’ll keep this one quick today. I just want to thank everyone who has come out to Life in the Fastpitch Lane to read the posts, as well as those who have shared them and commented on them throughout the year.
Thanks to you, for the first time ever Life in the Fastpitch Lane surpassed 100,000 views in a single year. It also had more than 80,000 visitors, which is tremendous.
When I started this blog back in December of 2006, I was hopeful that a few folks might be interested in giving it a look, and that I might be able to help some players, coaches and parents with their softball journey.
Now here we are, 13 years later, and it’s reaching a very wide audience of fastpitch softball enthusiasts around the world.
None of that happens without all of you. So thank you, thank you, thank you. I look forward to continuing to share more with the softball community in 2020.
As fastpitch softball hitters begin to experience some success with making contact, their next natural evolution is to want to hit the ball harder. Often what that amounts to is trying to swing the bat harder with their arms.
It makes sense in a way. You’re holding the bat in your hands, which are attached to the arms. The faster the bat moves the harder the ball will be hit (theoretically). So…
The natural tendency is to try to make the bat move faster with the arms and shoulders. There’s just one problem: once you try to maximize batspeed with your arms you lose all ability to adjust the bat to the flight of the ball.
That’s because the arms can only do one job. They can either supply power or they can lag a bit behind the body and then deliver the bat accurately and properly in the path of the ball.
So where does the power come from? The strong rotation of the lower half of the body, which most people refer to as driving the hips.
That’s where the biggest muscles of the body are located, so that’s where you can generate the most power. If you’re trying to push a car out of the snow or mud, you either use your legs or it doesn’t go anywhere.
The problem is, if you don’t develop the power from your lower half it has to come from somewhere. So the body will instinctively try to get it out of the part of the body that’s holding the bat.
And now we’re back to the original issue. With no (or little) hip rotation, the bat has to travel a longer distance to get to the contact zone. That means you have to start developing the power and applying it before you really know where the ball will be.
It’s like trying to throw a dart without knowing where the dartboard is until you’re about ready to release it. Sure, you might get lucky and hit the bullseye. But you’re far more likely to wind up on the edge, or miss the target entirely.
Starting with the lower body gives you a little more time (not much, but every hundredth of a second helps) to see the path of the pitch. It also helps carry the bat closer to the contact point before you actually release it into the ball, creating a shorter path to the ball (as in “short to, long through”).
Just as important, though, when it comes time to launch the bat you are able to control it much more effectively so you can take it right to where it needs to go.
The arms (and shoulders) can only do one job – supply the power or guide the bat in a way that’s adjustable. If they try to supply the power, that will override bat control.
Let the power come from the lower body so the arms and shoulders can do their proper job. It’ll make for a much more successful 2020 at the plate.
And speaking of 2020, happy holidays to everyone, no matter which holiday(s) you celebrate, and best wishes for the New Year. I appreciate you reading Life in the Fastpitch Lane and look forward to sharing more about the fastpitch journey next year.
The debate over whether young athletes should play multiple sports or focus on one to develop their skills – often framed around the best way to earn a college scholarship – has been going on for quite a while now.
Up until a few years ago it wasn’t much of a debate. Nearly all kids played multiple sports, and each sport had a season. These days, with nearly all club/travel sports becoming year-round commitments, it gets tougher and tougher to be a multi-sport athlete.
Some new research published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS), a scientific, peer-reviewed publication, weighs in on the topic. Since reading the actual article would require you to purchase it, here’s a press release that provides a pretty good summary.
The article defines early sports specialization (ESS) as “the intensive training or competition in organized sport by prepubescent children (under the age of 12) for more than eight months per year, with a focus on a single sport to the exclusion of other sport and free play.” Does that sound like anyone you know?
The article goes on to point out that the “lack of diversified activity in youth leads to increased risk of injury and burnout.” No surprise there. Young bodies are still developing, and the constant repetition and wear-and-tear in the same ways can certainly take a toll.
As I like to explain, any sort of repetitive motion, done enough, can cause issues. Just look at carpal tunnel syndrome.
Clicking a mouse is hardly intense activity, yet 3-6% of adults in the U.S. acquire it at some point, often leading to surgery that costs thousands of dollars. Now imagine a much more robust series of activities repeated over and over on a body that hasn’t fully developed.
But what about the pursuit of excellence (and more specifically college scholarship opportunities)? The authors of the study state that ESS “may not be necessary for elite athletic achievement, but rather early diversification of sports leads to superior results.” They also say those who diversify show more enjoyment of sports in general, have a lower frequency of dropout, and have “fewer signs of chronic stress, higher levels of motivation and a gradual independence.”
I know I’ve seen the value of diversification in the athletes I’ve worked with over the years. For example, I love working with gymnasts, tumblers and cheerleaders. They have tremendous strength, especially in their core, as well as excellent body awareness that enables them to learn new athletic skills quickly. Skaters also tend to fall into this category.
Basketball, soccer, volleyball and lacrosse players are usually in great shape and very quick. No need to do a lot of conditioning or speed and agility work with them – someone else is already doing that heavy lifting for you. They tend to make excellent middle infielders and pitchers.
Those are just a few examples of how the skills and athleticism gained in other sports translate to fastpitch softball. Feel free to add more in the comments.
Of course, at some point athletes do have to start specializing to some degree if they’re going to pursue higher level play. By the time they reach high school age the time demands for club/travel players make maintaining a competitive level in one sport tough, much less two or three. Although it can still be done if the adults are adults about it and willing to accept that a multi-sport athlete may not make it to every practice and team activity.
By that age, players may also self-select out of multiple sports. They may recognize that they’re better at one than another and decided to focus on it, or may lose interest in some sports they liked in the past. Of course, a few will want to continue playing more than one, at which point they will likely have to choose which to do at a high level and which to do at more of a recreational level.
At the younger ages, however, participating in different sports should not only be allowed but encouraged. Parents and coaches should work together to build a schedule that’s best for the young athlete as well as the team – including total time off from everything now and then so the kid can be a kid.
Coaches can also take heart from the fact that many of the basic skills from other sports will transfer to softball, helping players become better than they would have been otherwise.
Now, if your child isn’t interested in other sports it doesn’t make sense to force him or her into them just for the sake of cross-training. But most kids aren’t that narrowly focused.
As a society we need to dial back our obsession with youth sports (and college scholarships for 10 year olds) and instead focus on helping our kids establish a solid foundation and love for athletics that will carry them through their lives. The evidence increasingly shows it’s best for them in both the short and long terms.
The holidays and New Year are a time for new beginnings. And new seasons. And hey, maybe we can all do a little better in the New year. So today……
(We promise, these will make your life better!!!!)
So we want to know! What would you add to the list. What are some things you’d like to see parents stop doing in 2020!
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