Announcing a New Softball Success Service

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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:

  • Saying she is perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing – $100/half hour
  • Saying she is an incredible talent and one of the best I have ever seen – $200/half hour
  • Saying she is without a doubt the best I have ever seen in-person – $500/half hour
  • Saying she could possibly be the greatest player who ever played the game – $1,000/half hour

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…

The Up and Down Side of Modeling Elite Players

woman working girl sitting

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.

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Jefferson could call for a sac bunt with just a twitch of his eyebrow.

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.

Main photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com
Photo of Thomas Jefferson via Good Free Photos

What If? | Softball is For Girls

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?

So, today. What if?

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 just Laughingly reminded our kids “Don’t SUCK out there” and truly left it at that?
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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?

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Bully Baller Moms (And dads) | Softball Is For Girls

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.

Know an awesome #GIRLDAD
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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!

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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…

Softball Is For Girls has been online since 2011, offering great insights into the softball world, as well as super cute and relevant products you will love. Help them continue to support fastpitch by visiting their store today!

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Re-thinking How to Use a Radar Unit

Ally pitching

I am going to admit right up-front that I have always had a somewhat tenuous relationship with radar guns/units for pitchers.

At first it wasn’t too bad. I bought a Glove Radar and attached it to my catcher’s glove to check my own daughter’s speed. It was fine for that purpose, especially since we weren’t really caught up in the absolute number but rather just looking to see whether she was making progress.

Once I started teaching pitching lessons and was no longer catching, I purchased a series of other units, including an early Bushnell (which I ultimately gave away) a Jugs Gun (an earlier model than the one in the link, which I still own) and then all the iterations of the Pocket Radar.

I tended not to use the radar units much, however, because of one simple phenomenon. Whenever I would pull out the unit, no matter which one it was, the pitcher would tighten up and start throwing visibly slower than she had before.

Inevitably the readings were disappointing and what had started out as an energetic lesson would kind of fall into a sort of funk. Consequently, while I had all this technology at my disposal I didn’t really take advantage of it.

That changed after I took the High Performance Pitching certification courses from Paulygirl Fastpitch and had a chance to observe how Rick Pauly was doing it. He had a radar unit permanently set up in the cage he uses for lessons, with a big readout the pitcher could see after every pitch.

As you would watch him teach lessons in the course, the speed was always there in the background. As a result, it no longer became a “thing” to be trotted out. It was just part of the background, like the net or the posters he has hung up.

That brought me to my epiphany. If every pitch is measured, the pitcher just might learn to get over her fear of being measured.

Of course, one of the differences between my situation and Rick’s is that all his students come to him at a single location, sometimes from hundreds of miles away, while I work out of at least three different facilities on a regular basis, plus some other locations when I am working with several pitchers on a team. I am a softball gypsy.

So I started thinking how I could duplicate that experience when it hit me. I have a Pocket Radar Smart Coach unit. I could mount it to a tripod, place it behind the catcher, and pull up the readings on my iPhone.

Good idea in theory, except it became a problem when I wanted to video a student to point out something to work on. Luckily technology again came to the rescue and in a better way.

I still set up the Smart Coach on the tripod in Continuous mode. But then I connect it via Bluetooth to my iPad, which sits on the floor, off to the side, in front of the pitcher. Every pitch gets registered in big numbers that we both can see, and my phone remains free for video.

From a logistic standpoint, this setup has worked out well. I also quickly discovered that an evening’s worth of lessons will drain the batteries pretty quickly. But luckily the Smart Coach has a port that lets you connect a power block to it.

The power block I have lasts for several hours. When I get home I recharge it and it’s ready for the next evening’s lessons.

The big question, of course, would be the effect it had on the students. Would they tense up and freak out over having every pitch measured?

Not at all. In fact, the opposite has happened. I find that the big, red numbers inspire them to work harder to increase their speed.

There’s no slacking off in a lesson, because it becomes obvious. The numbers don’t lie. And they all want to do a little better than they did before, so they keep working at it.

But rather than tensing up they kind of find their own way to relaxing and throwing better.

Since I’ve started using it, I think every pitcher who has done it has achieved at least one person best if not more. By personal best I mean her highest reading on my set-up.

It also gives me a way to push them that’s fun for them. If a girl throws 51, I’ll ask her to throw 52. It’s just one mph more, but stack up enough of those and you get a nice speed increase.

The setup I use isn’t perfect. Pocket Radar says the unit works best when it’s a few feet away and directly behind the catcher/in line with the pitch. The cages I use don’t allow for that type of setup; I usually have to put it a foot or two to the side of the catcher, sometimes right behind him or her.

No matter, however. The objective isn’t to get an absolute speed measurement. It’s to track (and encourage) progress.

Having a pitcher improve speed during a drill, or work to get to a new high speed from the pitching plate, gets us where we want to go. We can always get the more accurate measurement when we can set it up properly.

So if your experience has been like mine, where bringing out the radar unit becomes a momentum killer, try making it “part of the furniture” instead. You will probably like what you discover.

 

How to GET our Ball-Playin’ Life CLEAN AF! | Your Ball-Player Laundry Problems

Every year, its the same. Sports parents from all walks of life looking for a solution for their laundry problems. You know white pants and cleats and uniforms that kids use for napkins that smell like the back end of a raccoon. Stained socks and catching equipment that picks up every ounce of dirt on the ballfield – that also lands on the upholestery in your car and on your carpets.

What if we told you, that we know the ultimate solution to your ball player laundry problems? Would you believe us? And what if we told you that this cleaner will change your life, and the way you clean everything from clothing to delicates, and carpet and upholestery?

Today, we introduce you to Rob Forgery AKA the “Clean-AF” dude that is popping up all over the internet.

Why? Because he singled-handedly developed a detergent that won’t make you gag and THAT WORKS like a CHARM! The best part is that Rob Forgey is an amazing guy, who is multi talented, passionate, hard working and an example of the American Dream in action.

Here is our Interview with Rob at Clean-Alkaline Formula, and we assure you, you will fall in love with him just as much as you will his cleaner.

What sparked the idea for Clean-AF?
Well we have 2 sons who play baseball. The oldest has now went in another direction, but my youngest still plays for his middle school. We just got tired of cleaning ball field dirt. We are like most of the other ball parents and tried everything. I got really fixated on it and just couldn’t find one that I really loved. We had a VW Passat that had suede inserts in the seats and they were covered in ballfield dirt. I needed something strong enough to take out the dirt, but didn’t want the interior destroyed. Again, I tried it all and couldn’t find anything. I had a buddy who is a chemical rep and he had a few suggestions. I was playing with concentrations and got it dialed in. We then started testing it on absolutely everything. At first it had some trouble with clay stains, so we modified it again. When we got that fixed, we started working on getting the fragrance dialed in. What we came up with is a product that we are very proud of and our customers love.

How did you get started?
I started by sampling to friends and family. The product was packaged in a milk jug and the first labels were printer paper taped on the jugs. It looked pretty sketchy. We also had a few cleaning ladies test our product. I knew we had something when they would all call and tell how much they loved it. They encouraged me to actively try marketing and selling the product. I posted some pics on Facebook and folks immediately wanted to know how they could get it. I built a website from my phone and just watched and waited for our first visitors. It took 3 incredibly long days before we got our first order, but once it started it caught fire. We started setting up at tournaments and talking laundry with anyone who would listen. Our customers have been the driving force of our sales.

Who helps you with your business?
It truly is a family business. My wife Lindsay and oldest son Will help the most, but when things get busy I get help from mom, cousins, sisters, and friends.
My uncle is a manufacturing chemist and he was instrumental in helping us adjust the chemistry to our needs.

What background prepares you to make the best cleaner around? I’ve been in sales my whole life. My mother knew I had a gift for gab at an early age and she helped me dominate every candy sale we ever had. That sounds crazy, but knocking on doors at such an early age helped conquer a bunch of social awkwardness.
The sales background definitely helps, but I eventually got into the industrial side of business. I was exposed to countless product lines. One of the product lines were chemicals. I learned safety procedures, documentation, and how to handle them. I use all of that knowledge daily now. As far as dealing with the customers, I developed those skills from coaching. I am still dealing with parents who have a common problem and I love helping them because they are all so very grateful.

When did you start clean af? We officially started selling the product in April of 2019. My son and wife were going on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and I was just try to raise money for that. It was a real blessing. They were able to experience some serious baseball and see how good we have over here. We were able to clean and donate a lot of equipment and that made us very happy.

What are your long term goals?
My long term goals are to continue to work for myself and build something that my kids can eventually take over. I try not to worry about selling to big box stores or any of that right now. I think that if we do right by our customers and continue to listen to them, they will guide us to success. I really want to get into some sort of mobile service as well. I think our customers will really dig that.

What did you do (or do now) along with clean af?
I was in management at McKee foods. That really taught me a lot about how folks wanted to be treated and really honed my listening skills.
I was in construct material sales, equipment sales and rentals, and power generation sales. My last job was helping manage a huge material contract worth about $90 million.
Now I am full time laundry guy. Haha. I love it!

Why are you so passionate about youth sports?
To be completely honest, I was tired of all the games us adults can play. When dealing with a child there were no motives, no angles, no filters, and no lying. I absolutely loved just hearing what they had to say because of that. It was very refreshing and exactly what I needed. I listened to them and they listened to me. We had some great teams and it was because we all loved each other.
My new love is fastpitch softball. I study the game and love the girls passion. When those dugouts get going it really gets me pumped up. One day soon I hope to coach again

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Helping Pitchers Cure Monkey Butt/Ninja Position

animal animal photography close up cute

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of the common flaws you will see even in otherwise strong pitchers is a tendency to stick their butts out toward first base (right handed pitcher) or third base (left handed pitcher) after they land. I call it monkey butt, since that’s how many primates “present,” while Rick Pauly calls it the “ninja” position.

No matter what you call it, what you end up with is a posture issue where the shoulders are not stacked up on top of the hips. Instead, the hips are cleared out of the way so the arm can come through the release zone unimpeded rather than making brush contact.

You can tell pitchers they need to stay stacked, hips under shoulders, but they can’t always feel what that means. In other words, they don’t realize they are sticking their butts back; that makes it pretty tough to correct.

One description I’ve heard of how to encourage them to keep the hips under the shoulder is to imagine cracking a walnut between the butt cheeks. If you do that, you will tend to bring the hips/butt in rather than sticking it out.

The problem with that is younger pitchers in particular may not have much experience cracking a walnut with their hands. So while they may nod and say ok, they may not quite be able to understand what you actually want them to do or how much pressure they need to apply.

The other night, however, I found a good cue that not only relates to a fairly common human experience; it also has the benefit of being one of those funny things you don’t ordinarily talk about, especially in a pitching lesson. It feels like you’re conspiring on a secret.

What I told a couple of pitchers with this issue was “Imagine you have a little gas getting ready to come out, but you don’t want to let it out. As you land, do what you need to do to hold it in.”

The pitchers immediately got the concept, and went from monkey butt to upright posture immediately.

I won’t say it’s a miracle cure. After a while they would get back into monkey butt position again. But by saying “hold the gas in” they’d immediately get back to better posture. I expect as they gain more experience they will learn to get the right position automatically – just like anything else.

If you have a pitcher who just can’t seem to avoid pushing her hips/butt back, give this cue a try. You may get some strange looks at first, but I’m pretty sure you’ll get the results you’re looking for quickly.

Shout out to All the #GIRLDADS | Softball is For Girls

Hashtag #girldad is trending in response to Kobe Bryant’s untimely passing.

And today, we want to give a huge shout-out to all the girldads out there who stand up, show up, support, encourage, coach, mentor, listen to, raise, empower, and love their daughters. And the beautiful thing is that these girldads don’t have to be ‘dads’ at all.

The softball community is proof of just how powerful a strong male presence can be in the life of a girl. So many of the coaches that we know, are not only invested in the raising of their own kids – but the kids of others as well.

Girldads can be coaches, parents, step parents, uncles, brothers, grandfathers, or friends. But essentially, what they do is SHOW up at the right time and support these young women, and show them firsthand just how impactful a GOOD man can be in their lives.

How do we say Thank you to the coaches who spend extra time with the girl who doesn’t have a father figure in her life? How do we thank the men who foster and raise with love the daughters that they have CHOSEN to call their own? How do we praise enough, the men who share their advice, their time, their smiles, their encouragement with the young women who cross their paths. How do we thank these men who give so much of themselves through sport just to make a difference in a girls life??

Not everyone has the picture perfect family life. We all know this.We know that hashtag #girldad probably stings for some who do not have the fatherly support they desire. We know that there are single moms out there who cringe at the thought of a Fathers Day Tournament. There are young girls out there feeling abandoned by their own fathers. There are young girls out there with stressed relationships with their dads. But thank GOD for all the GIRLDADS who ARE there! Thank GoD for all the girldads that choose to coach, and choose to take under their wing, the hearts of so many young women.

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Each and every week on the softball field, there are so many dads showing up. They coach. They cheer. They give high fives. They buy meals. They share hard lessons to make these young girls better. They support. They celebrate the great plays. They wipe the tears and offer hugs.

And often on the softball field, it is impossible to tell which dad is a girls actual dad…because these men choose to share themselves with so many. And THANK GOD for that!

Sometimes with just a few simple words, these men are impacting the lives of their own daughters, and others. Sometimes, by taking 15 minutes to throw batting practice, or by listening, or by including any of the ‘daughters’ from the team – they are influencing and making a difference in the lives of young women.

Sometimes, just by being there, by dancing to the music, by laughing, by participating, and supporting – they are showing an entire team of young girls what it means to be a stand up husband, father, and man….

Softball Dads can get a bad wrap. We are often quick to judge those who coach their own kids. We make fun of “Daddy ball!” But today, we want to express our genuine thanks, and love to all the ones that take the time to do it. Without these men, there would be a lot of girls missing out on great coaching and great leadership and great examples.

These #GIRLDADS ARE making a difference, and we feel that they need to be celebrated. These GIRLDADS, whether made fathers by blood or choice, or just out of commitment and love to the girls, are a testament to what is good in this world. And we want to say THANK YOU!

We thank you for showing up. We thank you for finding the right words to say at the right time. We thank you for putting in extra and stepping up for a girl who may not have a loving, present or supportive dad. We thank you for you loving these kids, and loving this sport, and loving these daughters of God (all of them)! We thank you for being there, for being the face of fatherhood, and for helping raise these girls into the amazing people they are destined to be!

So THANK YOU! Thank you to everyone who shows up for a young girl!

The post Shout out to All the #GIRLDADS | Softball is For Girls appeared first on Softball is for Girls.

Hitters: Never Get Stuck on Your Back Foot

Grace Bradley hitting

You see this all the time working with fastpitch hitters. They look great on the tee – good load and stride, good sequence of hips-shoulders-bat, and a powerful outcome.

Then you start front tossing to them, or having them hit off a pitching machine, and it’s as though some alien who has never swung a bat in its life has somehow possessed your hitters while you were setting up. They make short, jerky moves to stride and wildly swing their arms with barely any hip movement at all. You wonder what happened, and why they’ve lost everything you just spent so much time working on.

Actually, your hitters haven’t forgotten about all that hard work. They just don’t have time to execute that swing. Here’s what happens.

The “pitcher” gets ready to throw and the hitter loads. Then, since the pitch isn’t coming yet, she feels like she loaded too soon so she stops and stands on the back leg.

Then the ball comes and she starts to stride. But because the ball is coming from 20 feet away (on front toss) or at a high speed (since everyone cranks up the pitching machine to the max setting) it’s on her faster than she realized. So she just abandons all the body movement and just tries to get the bat to the ball any way she can, which usually produces some pretty poor results.

What really makes it tough is when the hitter realizes she was late getting to the ball so she starts even earlier! All that does is get her stuck on her back foot sooner, which only makes things worse.

Continuous motion

To truly be effective, hitters must remain in continuous motion. That means once the load happens, they must keep on going until that pitch reaches its conclusion with either a swing or take.

There is no hitting the pause button in the middle of the swing for everything to line up. Mostly because it won’t line up.

That pause on the back leg breaks the momentum that was being gathered with the load/negative move and essentially causes the hitter to have to break inertia all over again. That takes time, and when you’re dealing in hundredths of a second there is no time to waste trying to get the body going.

Hitting is about rhythm and timing. Putting in a pause in the middle of the swing throws that rhythm and timing out the window. You want to keep going in one smooth motion from beginning to end so you can reach that oh yeah moment.

Trust the swing

So, with that in mind, how do you break this vicious cycle of early-wait-late? It starts with getting the hitter to trust the swing, and the process of the swing.

I will usually tell a hitter that she needs to start her stride BEFORE I release the ball in front toss. (For machines it’s a little different, but I have some good tips on dealing with that in another blog post.)

Of course, just because I said it doesn’t mean it will happen. So I encourage her to trust the process, i.e., try to get that stride going early.

After a couple of attempts, she will usually start to get her front foot down on time, with enough time to fire the hips, bring the shoulders around and then launch the bat with confidence. She will find that anticipating the release, and trusting that it will happen, rather than waiting for visual confirmation that the ball is released enables her to execute the swing as we practiced it on the tee.

Verbal cue

While the above strategy works with most hitters it doesn’t necessarily work with everyone. Younger hitters especially may still have trouble figuring out when to start their positive move forward.

For them I have a simple solution: I just yell “Go!” as my arm comes down the back side of the circle. (I always use a full circle – because I can.)

They may be startled at first, but they’re usually obedient so they get started when I say. Again, after a couple of attempts they start gaining confidence in their approach, so when I say go they start attacking the ball.

Of course, I do like to point out to them that an actual pitcher isn’t going to tell them when to start their stride so they will have to learn to do it without the verbal cue. But if it helps them understand the concept and gain some experience with striding before the ball is released, I’m more than happy to do it for a little while.

Translating to an actual pitch

Right now there are probably some hitting fanatics who are saying “but high-level hitters don’t get their foot down before release.” That’s true.

But high-level hitters are also not hitting a pitch thrown from 20 feet away. Even with the new pitching rules.

When you’re throwing that short distance pitch to them, it’s the equivalent of the ball having traveled about 1/3 to 1/2 the distance from the pitching rubber to the plate. And that IS about the time high-level hitters get their front foot (feet?) down.

So once again, the idea of starting the stride before the pitch has been released is valid. You want to go calm-calm-explosion (aka load-stride-swing).

When exactly it happens depends on the pitcher, the hitter, and the hitter’s athletic ability. That last part is something to keep in mind too when you watch video of high-level hitters. The reason they’re high-level is they just might be able to do things, and get away with things, us ordinary mortals can’t do.

Keep it moving

Getting stuck on the back foot in the middle of the swing is just asking for trouble. It takes discipline and trust to break that habit but it can be done.

The more your hitters keep themselves in motion, from beginning to end, the more often -and the farther – they will hit the ball. Keep an eye out for the deadly pause and you’ll help your hitters succeed.

Be As Water

abstract background beach color

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

Pitchers

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.

Hitters

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.

Fielders

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.

Final Question

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.