THE Purpose

Hello again…

I know I took longer than normal to write again, but life happens!!

Team USA finished up the 2019 season in Japan, where we captured the Japan Cup. It was a fun trip. Even though we had gold on our minds, we had a lot of time to hang out as a team. We spoke at an American High School one afternoon since our practice was rained out. It was fun to have them ask so many questions and hear all my teammates’ answers. The summer flew by, and I still am learning new things about my teammates each day!

The month between coming home from Japan and tryouts, I went back to work at Texas State. It was exciting to see my girls’ faces again and share a little bit about my summer. Some of the best moments, when not on the road, are sharing the experience with my athletes. There are so many things, on and off the field, I dealt with this summer, that I can share. Off the top of my head, nothing is REALLY like riding a bike. I won’t use that analogy anymore, lol. Your mind is really your most powerful tool, and when in doubt, you have to believe in yourself before you can believe in anything else.

In the month home, I kept busy. I was in the weight room 3 times a week and running 2 days a week. I met Danielle Lawrie’s challenge to do 7-straight days of the Peleton. It was a great challenge. Seriously, I am glad she and I share things because it’s a comfort to know that what we experience is similar. She obviously has her hands fuller than mine with two children, but let me add 8U softball to my calendar! My step-daughter began playing softball this fall, and I volunteered to assist the team. It’s a new challenge, but it’s so fun to see how excited they get just to make a good throw or make contact with the ball. One mom asked me at one of the first practices, “did you ever think you’d be doing this… pitching to 8-year-olds?” I chuckled because no, I don’t think I ever predicted that in my life, but boy am I glad it’s happening. It’s also fun to watch Bracken (my step-daughter) pitch. She’s pretty good for 8 and having practiced maybe 10 times. Everything she does, she learned from watching, which is another great reminder that kids are ALWAYS watching. She was even licking her fingers between pitches. Lol.

I’m the biggest Astros fan there is... I grew up watching Biggio & Bagwell take the field.... tonight, my childhood dream came true!! Appreciative of the time for a quick photo. This is going up on a wall.

I’m the biggest Astros fan there is... I grew up watching Biggio & Bagwell take the field.... tonight, my childhood dream came true!! Appreciative of the time for a quick photo. This is going up on a wall.

I also got to check off a Bucket List item before I left for OKC. I was fortunate to be invited to the Nolan Ryan Foundation dinner and met my two childhood heroes, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. I actually met Biggio once before, when he caught a first pitch I threw out, but to see them both (and get a picture with them) was a dream come true!! Yes, I still fangirl over people!

Tryouts were the first week of October, and the week was so emotion-packed. Pitchers only threw 2 days, and I was the last one on our list. So, after drills on Wednesday, I got a lift in and watched everyone play… then Thursday I watched everyone play, then got to pitch that night. Friday was a repeat of Wednesday (minus the drills) and Saturday I brought it home, throwing the last game of the tryout. I felt good mentally and physically at tryouts. Not sure I threw my best, but it was good in my opinion. Then we were left to wait until Sunday morning.

Sunday was nerve-wracking. My roommate left the hotel, to be by herself to process the news when we got it. I totally understood, but I was sitting in the room with no idea what to do. I ended up going through my morning routine of reading the Bible, my devotional and journaling. A little before 8:30 I sent out a few texts to teammates letting them know my thoughts were with them, and then I waited! 8:30 came, and first I saw my roommate’s, Ally Carda, name on the list. I shouted, even though I was alone in my room. Then I went back to the email to see my name.

 As has been reported, I opted for the Family Group text to share the news. I then called my husband, but he was still asleep!! Seriously, how are you sleeping when you know your wife is getting big news?? I thought my dad would be golfing, so I called my mom and talked with her until I saw the email that said we needed to go downstairs to a meeting.

It was absolutely awesome to be there together and share the emotions of finding out who made the team. We have never done that before, and I think watching all of us rush to hug and congratulate everyone as they came down was just the coolest thing.

This group is special, and my heart is so full as we go our own ways for a bit. To say this journey will be exciting is an understatement. I really can’t wait to write this chapter of USA Softball with these 17 women.

This group is special, and my heart is so full as we go our own ways for a bit. To say this journey will be exciting is an understatement. I really can’t wait to write this chapter of USA Softball with these 17 women.

We spent two days meeting and getting photos and media spots done. We had team dinner where we got to kick back and enjoy each other’s company. It’s really is fun to learn everyone’s stories and start to gel as a team.

Before heading home, I had brunch with Lauren Chamberlain. She and I were roommates in January, for 2019 USA tryouts. Even though we were teammates with the Pride, we weren’t that close. Since January, this woman has inspired me but also become a great friend. We caught up on life over great food, and it just made me realize that it’s totally worth it to take the time to see people who bring the good stuff to your life.

I got back on the grind today, working out and throwing. It will be a fun transition into training for THE purpose now. But, I also look forward to the 8U practices and games, a few appearances I have lined up, and being able to be HOME. After all, home is what makes all of this possible.

#38

How to Practice Catching Softball by Yourself -7 Drills that Actually Works!

how to practice catching softball by yourself

how to practice catching softball by yourself

“How to practice catching softball by yourself” – This is one of the more frequently asked questions for catchers who want to improve themselves when official team training is not on.

Why practice catching softball alone?

There are many situations where maybe your coach or your team won’t be available to help with practice. Maybe it’s a holiday season and there is no team training available? Maybe you can’t practice for some reason and want to get in shape? Perhaps you just want to improve your catching through some softball catching drills? Or maybe the weather conditions such as a thunderstorm or even winter is stopping your usual practice? Or you are bored alone at home and have nothing to do.

Anyway, whatever the reason is, there is no shame in striving to improve yourself and be better, it’s even commendable. However, lacking somebody to guide you like a coach, or proper teammates to practice is a big minus. Don’t worry though, we got you covered.

Importance of practicing catching by yourself

To be successful in anything, not just softball, you must practice, practice and then practice some more. Many young players fail to grasp the importance of practice time, not just with the team but by themselves also.

Sometimes, instead of relying on coaches to give you a proper training plan, you as a player should create your practice habit to coincide with games and team workouts. Activities may be just as simple as repetitively throwing that ball at the wall.

Here are some softball drills for catching you can do while you are alone:

Softball catching drills you can do it by yourself

softball catching drills

Wall bounce

  • Grab a tape
  • Find a suitable brick wall
  • Mark a wall with a tape
  • Throw the ball at the wall and catch it with your softball glove

It’s one of the easiest softball catching drills around. You don’t need anyone for it and it will improve your catching quite a bit. Just toss gently the ball to the large wall and use the opportunity to practice your fielding when it bounces back to you.

You can throw directly at the wall to practice ground balls, throw it to the ground so the ball can deflect up, hit the wall and bounces up so you could practice fielding pop flies.

The tape is there for you to practice accuracy. If you want different angles of rebound then ignore it and throw the ball so it can bounce that way. You can even try to hit it so it would travel far so you could practice feet movement and speed.

Potential training locations: Anywhere, even your home. Just make sure there are no fragile objects in your training area.

Pop-ups using a tennis racket

  • For this, you will need a tennis racket(check out a cheap but good racket if you can’t borrow one), a tennis ball(s), a softball faceguard and one softball glove
  • Put on your softball faceguard
  • Take the tennis racket and hit the ball vertically up the air with your softball glove on
  • Let go of the racket on soft ground, natural or man-made, immediately
  • As the ball falls, try to catch it with your glove hand
  • Repeat the drill

Even though it sounds silly, this softball drill will do wonders for catching pop-ups. Just use a tennis racket, hit the ball up in the air and catch it. This is a great way of consistently hitting pop-ups and the ball in the air will be influenced by the wind so it will make a good challenge to catch it.

Potential training locations: Anywhere that has a high ceiling or open area.

Hand-eye coordination drills

  • catcher gear setThis drill only requires you, softball and a small baton
  • Toss a softball from one hand to the other
  • Moving on to the next level, find a small baton and try to flip it one-handed, catching it clean each time.
  • Toss the ball short distance in the air and catch it
  • All 3 drills to be practiced at least one hundred repetitions a day
  • Repeat drill
  • One round of this drill should only take about 15 mins

Softball relies on flawless execution, especially when playing defense. Catching a ball with your softball glove, then transfer it to your throwing hand, then completing the throw, requires big hand-eye coordination skill.

But don’t worry, you can even practice it at home using this very simple softball drill. Just take a softball and toss it back and forth from one hand to the other. Or just throw it in the air and catch it. Or find a small baton or a stick, try flipping it and catch it cleanly. All will do great for your hand-eye coordination.

Long and short throwing

  • Set up a small target, around 1-2 feet wide
  • Put lots of softball balls in the bucket
  • Stand 25 feet away from the target and throw balls at it
  • After 10-15 throws, move another 25 feet and start throwing again

Maybe you can’t play catch alone as you can do it in softball practice with your team, but you sure can work on your throwing motion and accuracy. This is also a pretty simple drill, you just need to set up a target and have lots of softball ball that you can throw to it.

25 feet mark is for short throwing, every time you move away you will need to throw longer and longer which will improve your long throwing skills. This is one of the softball throwing drills that will help you maintain accuracy while developing muscle memory for all ranges you need to throw that ball.

Agility footwork drill

  • softball drillsDraw a straight line to work for
  • Wear a full youth softball catcher gear sets but without a catcher’s mask
  • Cross your legs alternating one leg in front of other
  • Similar to a skier, your two feet should be side to side
  • Two feet go from front to back
  • Hop with both of them over the straight line you draw
  • Do 3 sets, 20 repetitions a piece

There is nothing better than agility drills to help you build strength and agility. Back press drill and weight shift drill are one of them. Catchers need to be able to shift positions from a squat quickly when a runner tries to steal a base. Faster reflexes would help you to do that.

Catcher position throwing

  • Wear a catchers mitt
  • Squat in a position
  • Throw a tennis ball at the wall so it bounces on the ground on the way back
  • Try to catch it
  • Repeat drill

This is a variation of wall bounce drill we mentioned before. Over time, you can throw a tennis ball harder at the wall so it would bounce back faster. This drill is graduate one so in time it will become easier for you to field balls which would take difficult bounces.

This drill can also be practiced before the game to improve reflexes. It will also improve your hand-eye coordination and make it easier for you to field ground balls.

Stance drill

softball throwing drillsSign-giving stance. Be relaxed and rest on your toes, with knees tight and close together because widening the knees can give away the signs given to the pitcher.

Primary stance. Spread your legs wider than the shoulders with your softball glove at the knee level. You will use this stance at the beginning of each inning when there are no runners on base.

Secondary stance.  Squat deeper and protect your throwing arm by holding it behind your back. This you will use when there are runners to the base. Your chest should be angled to the base for blocking balls pitched in the dirt and when throwing to bases when a runner tries to steal or advance.

These are three basic stances which you will assume at different times of the game. Most of your drills should be performed in one of these stances. Just remember not to squat on the balls of your feet when you are in one of them.

Right-left then throw

  • Take a right-left step
  • Tap your softball glove to the ground between your legs
  • Keep the other hand over your glove and pretend that you caught the ball off the ground
  • Bring the ball into your body, and step through with your right leg moving across your body, followed by your left on a sideway
  • As you do right-left stride, bring your arm with the “invisible ball“ in the throwing position

This softball drill is nice for your leg work as a catcher. You are not only practicing fielding the ground ball but also getting into the throwing position immediately after.

Now that you know how to practice catching softball by yourself…

softball game

As you could see, practicing catching alone is not that hard. Most of the drills we recommended for you to do are simple to execute, and yet it will benefit you in the long run.

Through practice, no matter how simple they look, it will create you a habit that will reflect when you are in practice with your team or in the softball game itself. Repetition is great and will make you so adept in movements you need that you will be amazed how easy you can perform them when it matters.

If you are really dedicated to improving your catching skills, why wouldn’t you practice if your time allows it? Heck, even if your time doesn’t, softball drills such as “hand-eye coordination“ can be done while you are doing something else like watching TV. Try it, and see the difference when it comes naturally later on.

If you wish to learn more softball drills, click here to read more.

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“Wow, you Throw Pretty good, For a Girl,” He said!

“Wow, you throw pretty good for a girl,” he said after she tossed him back his baseball when it landed in foul territory.

It was almost too familiar of a comment made innocently by a 12-year-old boy to our daughter when she threw back the baseball they had been playing with when it was hit foul. 

It was reminiscent of something that happened years ago while my older daughter was practicing pitching on an empty field when a group of boys from a local High School baseball team came to get a little practice in. 

They watched her hurl balls to her dad on a bucket, and I wasn’t sure of their interest was in her blond hair and long legs, or her pitching. She was at the peak of her pitching career, with a changeup that would leave you laughing at yourself, a rise ball that was impossible to lay off and a fast ball that would keep you honest. 

So they stood at the fence, and one finally asked if he could try and hit. So husband put on a helmet and some gear, and one by one, they stepped into the box. And one by one they stuck out. Little sister decided to videotape, and they couldn’t believe A GIRL could throw like that. 

It wasn’t long before the video made it’s way back to their High School, and their coach being a good sport showed it to the entire team. “Struck out by a GIRL!” And they ran a few laps at the next practice. 

That was 8 years ago, and yet the thinking hasn’t changed. If a girl is a good athlete, there is always that “for a girl comment thrown in. Or the shock factor that a girl can do that. 

We believe wholeheartedly that GIRLS ARE ATHLETES TOO. And their success or badassery has nothing to do with their gender.

We believe that there is NO REASON to expect less from a female athlete than a male. Sure, there are some differences – but the passion, hardwork, time put in to practice, intensity, level of competition and commitment, ability and talent should not be diminished simply because SHE IS A GIRL! 

It also shouldn’t be celebrated more loudly because she is a girl. Because GIRLS ARE ATHLETES, too!

And some of the best athletes we have ever had the pleasure to play happen to be girls. 

And that our friends, is the powerful but subtle, but MEANINGFUL message behind this months shirt of the month.

The post “Wow, you Throw Pretty good, For a Girl,” He said! appeared first on Softball is for Girls.

7 Ways to Spot A Softball Player You Want on YOUR TEAM | Softball Is For Girls

How fast does she throw? How many homers has she hit? Is she fast? Does she have a strong arm? Followed by a rattling of stats and comments like “SHe has hit 25 homers with her last team,” but failing to mention they were just outfield hits with lots of errors and extra bases….Or – she has 11 pitches and throws mid 60’s and she’s 11….

Today, we offer helpful ways to spot a softball player you WILL WANT on your team!

Recruiting for your team is tough. It’s hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. You hold tryouts and girls show up and you have a micro minute to figure out who will fit your team best. Not to mention that their performance on the field has nothing to do with team chemistry, and in case you haven’t figured it out yet – TEAM CHEMISTRY IS IMPORTANT.

So you sit there with your assistant coaches and run through drills and try to make the most of the 2 hours you have to spot the best players that you want to join your team. You’re trying to get a feel for their talent and skill level. You eyeball the parents and keep one ear out for how they are behaving on the sidelines. You’re assessing their bat speed, their foot speed, their throwing ability etc….

The. Struggle. Is. Real!

Problem is, with over 10 years of experience, we can say for sure there is a lot more to finding an excellent player than just stats, and skill sets…. We have found these ‘little things’ to be highly indicative of girls that YOU will WANT on your team.

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We also believe in this thing that coaches are out there to coach. So even that girl with the ugly swing who seems a little bit raw, is worth a shot – and you shouldn’t be afraid to take on a “project” – especially if she exhibits any of these following characteristics. Some of our projects have turned out to be the best players we have ever had on our team.

  1. SHE HUSTLES. She runs off the field, and she runs on the field. She has an at bat, and regardless of how it went she doesn’t sulk back to the dugout, she hustles and gives her on deck partner knuckles before heading into the dugout. She needs a bathroom break, and you see her hustling back to the field. You ask the kids to shag balls or pick up the outfield balls and she is hustling. If she’s on the bases, even if there is no game at stake, she is hustling. Seriously. Hustling and hurrying and showing eagerness and not being lazy – even when they aren’t specifically being watched or it isn’t their turn, is a huge sign that they are passionate an motivated and hard workers. AND THESE ARE THE KIDS YOU WANT AT PRACTICE and at GAMES!
  2. Look, tryouts are socially challenging for these kids. There is pressure and they are nervous and there are new girls as well as girls from the team already who may have been together a while, and fitting in and feeling comfortable is hard. But look for the girls who try and make conversation with the others. Is she sitting on the far edge of the bench? Is she giving off a vibe that she is too good for the team? Look for her who cheers on a perfect ‘stranger to them’ softball sister who makes a good play or hit. Obviously, some kids are just super shy at first, but the way they interact with the other kids is important because team chemistry is important. AND KNOW YOUR TEAM CHEMISTRY and try and find kids that will fit in with your team culture and atmosphere.
  3. How does she react after a mistake? Strikeouts are part of the game. Do her shoulders hang low, does she tear up or pout? Do she seem to shut down or get OVERLY angry? Or does she ask for another ground ball until she gets it right? It doesn’t take someone with a masters in Psychology to figure out which personality will work out better come game days. Errors and strikeouts are part of the game, what is important is what they do next?
  4. Are they constantly watching over their shoulders for their parent’s reaction? We ALWAYS watch how kids interact with their parents? Are they barking at them to bring them another water, or smart mouthing and rolling their eyes at their parents? Are the parents overly critical, are the girls continuously or nervously looking for approval or disapproval from the bleachers? Paying attention to these details can be a great indicator of what the family dynamic is, which WILL have a huge impact on your team long-term.
  5. Is she coachable? We have seen 10-year-olds come to a tryout who think they know it all. Coach says, “hey backhand that next time” and they don’t even try. We have seen kids come to practice who throw like maybe they are throwing with the wrong hand, but yet they direction well and are open to it. Coachability is important.
  6. Athleticism. Lots of kids don’t like to run. Many kids don’t workout- and that’s totally ok, but athleticism is an important aspect of a successful softballer. AND THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SIZE either, as athletes come in all shapes and sizes. So don’t be too quick to judge a kid based on their body shape or size. But recognizing all-around athletic ability is important.
  7. Does she smile? We don’t mean clownlike freaky smiling all the time. But you know she’s nervous and trying hard to impress you, and likely a little uncomfortable. But does she smile? Is she enjoying herself? Some kids show up at the field and are stoic, and act as if they would rather be anywhere else. Smiling is a very subconscious reaction to happiness, and if you see her smiling – then she is having fun and kids that have fun and love the game are great teammates.

Another piece of advice is this. Yes, the softball world is small and people talk. (Boy, do they talk) Be brave enough to make your own opinion. Try not to listen to what you hear from other people. The worst parent/player combo for one team, may not be that way for you. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt.

For all the dads who threw with her first! AVAILABLE for MOMS TOO!

And lastly, if you are holding tryouts then BE HONEST with the parents about what to expect. Don’t say you are an A-team if you’re not. Don’t promise parents’ positions, or playing time. Don’t try to sandbag players just to have them sit. In other words, don’t be an asshole. And whether they make or don’t make the team – let the family know. That kind of courtesy will take you far in the softball world.

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Softball Pitchers: Leave the Ice in the Cooler (Mostly)

Leave the ice in the cooler

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s always interesting (at least to me) when you discovered something you thought you “knew” is actually incorrect. I’ve had several of those moments along the years.

I used to have pitchers start their warm-ups by performing wrist flips. Not anymore – they’re useless at best, and at worst counter-productive to what you’re trying to get to happen.

I used to have players do static stretches – the ones where you stand and pull on a muscle to stretch it, like that one everyone loves where you place one arm across your chest, place the other just above the elbow, and pull. Or where you bend down and try to touch your toes without moving. Then I found out dynamic stretching is far more effective at preparing players to play and prevent injury, because it turns the nervous system on instead of turning it off like static stretches.

Now the latest revelation is that automatically icing after pitching (or any sports activity where there is normal wear-and-tear) may not be such a hot idea (pardon the pun) after all.

This article from Stack, a company focused on training and conditioning, talks about baseball pitchers, but the principle is the same.

The conventional wisdom has always been to ice arms, elbows and shoulders after pitching to help them heal faster and get ready for the next game. But it turns out ice may actually have the opposite effect, slowing the healing process and making a pitcher more prone to ongoing soreness and injury.

The reason is that ice constricts the flow of blood to the affected area, yet blood flow is what is needed to bring healing nutrients to the site, and carry away waste products that get in the way of healing. Again, the article goes into much more detail into the science behind it.

What’s interesting is that most of us have probably heard the acronym R.I.C.E. for treating an injury. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Yet now even the physician who coined the acronym, Dr. Gabe Mirkin, has retracted his support for using ice to treat injuries after seeing the research. He’s also retracted his recommendation for rest, preferring movement instead.

It’s the same for “preventive” icing as many pitchers still do after a game, or a day at a tournament in the case of youth sports players. While ice may temporarily relieve pain, it will also slow down recovery. So just automatically icing an arm, shoulder, elbow or other body part for that matter should be removed from a player’s routine.

This makes sense to me because I remember one time when I was in high school and went to the weight room (something I didn’t take advantage of nearly enough when it was free!). One day I overdid it on curls, and a couple of hours later I couldn’t move my arms. Literally.

I thought they were going to be stuck that way forever. What finally helped was taking a very light pole and going through the curling motion. It hurt at first, but it helped break down whatever was happening in my biceps and forearms and I was finally able to move my arms again – mostly pain-free.

So what should you do instead to help arms heal properly? It ain’t rocket science.

Basically, according to the Stack article, the three keys are light activity/exercise, proper nutrition and getting enough sleep. So when your daughter falls asleep in the car on the ride home she’s not being lazy or tuning out your expert post-game evaluation. She’s healing.

You may also want to speak with a physician, trainer or other professional who is up on the latest information and can give you more specific advice. They’ll know a lot more about it than I will, or Dr. Internet for that matter.

But based on the research, the one solid recommendation I will give is that going forward, leave the ice in the cooler. It’ll be better for everyone.

I’m Sorry You Heard Me Say Your Daughter Sucks

It’s pretty much a guarantee that this post will bring out ALL THE TROLLS who want to judge from behind a computer screen. If not because of the subject matter, because of the fact that we used the word “Sucks” in the title.

And because of the….”OH THE HORROR of someone saying something bad about another child on their own team, those poor kids being raised by a horrible mother who does something like that. She should be ashamed of herself blah blah blah blah” This parent should be kicked right off the team, what kind of example is he/she setting by saying something so offensive!?!?!?!

We get it. This isn’t the finest moment for any of us, when we accidentally get caught saying something aloud that we normally only say in our heads, or letting out one of those “OHG MY GAWD WHAT THE HECK” sighs and slapping our thighs in disgust when the right fielder misses her 5th can of corn of the day and you realize right after that her parents are sitting within earshot.

And truth be told, before you get all judgy and finger pointy -there is probably NOT ONE OF YOU out there who has not at one point or another thought or accidentally had a momentarily lapse of maturity and was taken over by the emotions of the game, and sick and tired of watching a player or two continue to play at a position that they quite frankly aren’t very good at (yet) who seems to continually cost the team games.

So this apology needs to be written.

I AM SORRY !

So to you, my fellow team mom, I am sorry that I said your kid sucked where you could hear me. I suck for doing that. Because I really really love your kid as a human, and a friend to my daughter and teammate. I even really really love you as a fellow team parent. And I respect both of you. I was frustrated and exasperated and let emotions get the best of me. And for that I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings – but if my reaction did, I am sorry. Truly sorry.

As hard as I try to not offend anyone or violate any rules of political correctness in the softball arena, I failed miserably. Usually, I keep these thoughts to myself, but a big game was on the line, and my emotions got the best of me. Nope, that’s not an excuse – but the reality is that it wasn’t personal at all. Because if it was my kid, I would have been saying the exact same thing.

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I also want you to know that when my kid sucks, I know it, and more importantly, SHE knows it an I am not the least bit afraid to let her know that she did less than stellar. I don’t coddle the situation. I am not offended when someone else (a coach, fellow parent, teammate) expects more from her. I am not angry that the people sitting on the same bleachers as I am would rather see her hit then get yet another pop-up. When the bad hop plays her instead of her playing it, and someone yells “COME ON KID!!!!” I am not taking it personally and looking to be offended. I agree. I am a big enough person to see that my child is far from perfect. And I am happy to see that others have high expectations of her as well.

I want my daughter to know that expectations for her are high because she has set her own bar high.

Of course, she knows I am proud of her regardless of her performance, of course, she knows I love her, of course, she knows that I love to watch her play more than anything in the world. And of course, SHE KNOWS when SHE SUCKED it up at a game, too. We usually laugh about her errors or silly mistakes later and move on.

And, I also want you to hear this.

When your daughter – or anyone’s daughter plays and plays well, I am just as proud of them as you are and instead of keeping my thoughts to myself, I am one of the first people standing there waiting to give her a HIGH 5, and tell her she is a rock star, and cheering for her! And I, like most softball parents I know, make no effort to be quiet, hold our tongues or filter our words when we are excited for the success of one of our softball girls.

I think for ALL of us, it is important to remember that when it comes to sports and our kids, there are a lot of emotions running amuck. BUT deep down we all want the same things for our children, and we would do ourselves and others a favor if we stopped taking everything personally, and reminded ourselves that we are all humans, on the same side and for the most part WISH ALL THE KIDS SUCCESS.

YEP…..We have a SHIRT for this! https://store.softballisforgirls.com/

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What the Heck is a SOFTBALLA BOX?

One of the perks to being an influencer in the softball world is that you get to see tons of super cool softball things. We can test out bats, and training devices and if we love them, we can share them with you. Well today, we are going to review the SOFTBALLA BOX.

In the decade since we have been around, we have seen some pretty cool things. But being honest, we have to say that the Softball Box to date, has been our favorite product. Here’s Why.

For one thing, the box is packed full of stuff. But not just stuff. Good stuff. High quality stuff that you would find at real sporting stores. And, in case you are new to the sport, included with the ‘stuff’ is extremely articulate, well written (with pictures) instructions on how to use everything inside.

So what’s inside?

Softball box is a subscription service, which means they send you a new box periodically, so each box is different.

But the box that we received had a amazing quality short training bat, practice balls, a reaction ball, workout resistance bands, a drawstring bag, super cute stickers, a reusable tumbler, chapstick, a bar of soap (that we are genuinely hoping will get rid of foot stink), a bow, a pop socket, softball bracelets, and extremely well laid out training packets that will help your softball player improve her game.

The how-to instructions include a plethora of drills and skill challenges that are not only FUN for your player (which we promise keeps her excited about playing) but also fundamentally SOUND. Meaning, her game will improve.

Of course, with 12 and 13-year-old players of our own, we put the box to the test. It’s easy for adults to say “Wow this is great” and then our kids take a look at it and start playing with the box.

Here is a peak at our softball players opening the box!

They were genuinely excited. Once the box was opened, we let them have at it. Next thing we knew they were out in the yard figuring it all out. Of course, they didn’t read the directions or the how-to’s, at least not at first – but they did play for hours with the contents of the box. And when coach dad got home they learned how to do some real work to improve their skill set.

They also had a blast playing with the reaction ball, and the foam balls and mini bat ended up becoming part of a game that took over the living room.

And then they fought a little bit over who got the stickers, bracelet and pop socket. 🙂

We also went to an Un-Named BIG sports store to price out the equipment from inside the box. We could not find a comparable bracelet at the store (because you know those “BIG STORES” do not focus on softball) but the total cost for all the training equipment and fun stuff was over $200.

And the Softballa Box was only $99. (There is a $20 Off coupon on their website currently.

Click Here to CHECK OUT the Softballa BOX on line!

The Softballa Box motto is:

WHAT IS SOFTBALLABOX?

“A subscription box that provides industry leading training tools, drills and of course gear! Delivered to your door 4X for every season! 

SoftballaBox Is your one stop shop to take your softball swag & game to the next level!  

Achieve these 3 goals in every box: 

EDUCATE EQUIP EXECUTE 

And honestly, it does exactly those things. We are pretty sure that you will love it as much as we did. It’s difficult to transfer how impressed we were with the quality of the products as well as how immaculate and clear the training guides inside were. We see a lot of junk out there, an this is definitely NOT JUNK!

We are fairly certain that no family (parent or player) will be disappointed with the Softball Box!

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An Open Letter to My Daughters Softball Recruiter

Navigating the world of softball recruiting is hard. There are so many things and so much information that we simply do not know. Having been through the recruiting process, today we share our open letter to our daughter’s softball recruiter.

Dear Cheri; (Yes. we are calling out Cheri Naudin today!)

Today, I wanted to let you know first and foremost that I appreciate all the help that you have given us in regard to getting our daughter to play softball at the next level. Dreams really do come true, and despite the fact that I thought I could do without your help, the reality is that I likely could not have.

Secondly, I would like to apologize.

Because truth be told, you drove me a little nuts.

My daughter is a BALLER…. and I told you at the very beginning of the journey where I wanted her to attend college. And even though you had connections at those schools, and knew the behind the scenes situations with the coaches and teams at these schools – you immediately shut me down on a few of them.

I did not like that one bit. My daughter is a baller, and I felt pretty confident that she could play at those schools, and for the life of me could not understand why you kept telling me to stop pursuing these specific schools.

I ignored you when you told me that the rosters were full and that those coaches were not looking for a middle infielder.

When you suggested other schools, I wasted my money and signed her up for those camps where I WANTED her to go anyways. You warned me that those camps were fundraisers. You told me that the rosters were already full beyond my daughter’s graduation year. You gave me all the information I neeed, and yet I was still working from the narrative that “my daughter was a good enough ball player that once they watched her play, they would drop anything and everything to find her a roster spot”

Let me repeat that for those in the back

I felt certain that my daughter was a good enough ball player that once these coaches watched her play, they would drop anything and everything to find her a roster spot”

I am sorry that I did not listen. We did walk away with a pretty cool t-shirt, that cost us over $100. And actually, we walked away with a few too many over $100 dollar shirts

The thing was, I didn’t get that there is more to recruiting and team placement than just finding the best players. As you told me all along, college coaches have a plethora of kids to choose from, but they also have to abide by rules and roster sizes set by their schools. And these coaches start early finding the talent they want and need because like you told me, they are responsible for not just fielding a team, but for fielding future teams as well.

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I will admit that when you texted my player a time or two and asked her to remove a social media post, I thought you were overstepping boundaries. I am a good mom, and I keep an eye on their social media. When you got on to her for not following up, or following through or not doing exactly what you asked her to do, I wanted to ‘protect’ her and make excuses.

What I see now is that you were just making HER accountable. After all, she is nearly an adult.

What I see now is that you were just trying to protect my player, and regardless of how innocent that beach bikini picture was, she was knee deep in the recruiting process and social media has made it super easy for coaches and recruiting teams at colleges to find ways to cross people off their lists. And with lists as long as theirs, they are actively looking for ways to weed out players, parents and families that give off the wrong vibe.

YOU know this because you have the experience that us regular peeps do not. YOU talk to the coaches every day, they talk to you, you have seen it happen over and over again – kids who get a little to froggy with social media and coaches stop communicating with them.

Just like you knew what colleges were in need of, and looking for a daughter with my skill set. SO maybe my feelings were a little hurt that you didn’t agree that my daughter was good enough to play for Tim Walton. When you started seeking out leads for D2, and D3 schools – I was a little like “WHAT….my daughter is better than that!”

See, all along you were just trying to protect what my daughter had worked so hard to build since she was a little girl, and ensure that her path to playing after college would be successful.

Maybe, just maybe this is why you call your company Collegiate Sports ADVOCATE because all along you were advocating for my daughter.

While it would have been easier for me to sit behind a computer and do everything FOR my daughter, because she was busy you made me realize that coaches see right through this and that if these kids cannot handle communication and responsibility NOW because they are busy, they certainly would not be able to handle being a BUSY COLLEGE PLAYER.

When I finally let go, followed your lead, went to the camps that you told us would be beneficial for my kid – things started working out. Suddenly every camp she went to, a coach followed up and invited her back. Suddenly, she had more opportunities to play collegiately than I thought possible. Suddenly, she was finding the right fit. She was getting offers. She had choices. She was finding her niche at the collegiate level. You were right all along.

Why? Because all along you knew. You knew what college coaches around the country needed. You knew which colleges were booked solid through 2024 verbals, and which were still in need of players. You did the legwork, talking to and emailing coaches so that I could stop wasting my money on frivolous camps.

SO many of us, I know I did believe that if a college is holding a prospect camp it means they are looking. You told me over and over again that is not, never, ever the case – that these are fundraisers and that the mass emails with camp invites were just marketing ploys. You helped me to see the difference between a real college prospect camp with a real invite and one that is just intended to bring some cash flow into the program.

So I guess today what I want to say is that I am sorry. For being hard-headed and for thinking I knew more than you, and for being stubborn because I didn’t always LIKE what you told me. Maybe this is why you promote your organization as “TRUTH RECRUITING.”

But Mostly, I want to thank you. Through your guidance and hard work and patience with my family, we have blessed to find a great fit for my daughter once she graduates high school. Not only a great fit, but one that before your guidance we would have never explored. Had it not been for you, this opportunity would have not been possible. So thank you for supporting our entire family, and for not giving up on us.

When it comes to recruiting, we want everyone to know – there is much more to it than meets the eye. It seems simple. But the reality is that there are a ton of behind the scenes situations and scenarios that the average person is not privy to that can make navigating it alone not only a massive waste of money but extremely difficult and frustrating as well.

If you are anything like us, we urge you to reach out to Cheri Naudin. She is truly the best. You can find her online, or at https://www.collegesportsadvocate.com/

Check out SOFTBALL IS FOR GIRLS ONLINE STOREhttp://www.store.softballisforgirls.com

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Creating Intelligent Players, Not Robots

wall e toy on beige pad

Photo by Lenin Estrada on Pexels.com

I once worked with a woman, an older lady we’ll call Katherine, who was hired to be a sort of all-around office assistant. The idea was if you needed a package FedExed, or some repetitive data entered into a spreadsheet, or other time-consuming but not exactly brain-taxing help, you could hand it off to her and she would take care of it.

The problem was Katherine was so timid and afraid of making a mistake, she would ask whoever gave her the assignment to sit with her while she did it to make sure she did it correctly. While you can appreciate her desire to get it right, you can probably also see the flaw in this approach.

If not, it’s this: the whole purpose of her job was for Katherine to take the burden of tedious work off of me and others so we could move on to other, more higher-value assignments. If we were going to sit there while she did it then there was no point in giving it to her because, quite frankly, we could do it better and faster than she could. It’s just not what the company wanted us spending our time on.

So what does all this have to do with fastpitch softball? A lot of times players are like Katherine. They become so reliant on coaches telling them what to do that they quit thinking and learning.

In other words, rather than becoming independent and intelligent, they become more like robots, dutifully doing whatever they’re told to do in practice without understanding the reasoning or strategy behind it. This goes double, by the way, if they have a coach who is constantly in their faces screaming any time they make a mistake, but it’s not exclusive to that scenario.

Then when game time comes and they need to make a quick decision (which is pretty much any time the ball is in play) or correct a problem in their mechanics they’re unprepared to do so. Instead, they get more of the deer in headlights look.

Remember the old computer axiom garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). If you program players like robots they will respond like robots.

Which means they will continue to do the same thing over and over, whether it works or not, because that’s what they’ve been told to do. Anyone who has a watched a Roomba frantically moving back and forth for 10 minutes when it gets stuck under a chair or in a corner knows what I’m talking about.

It isn’t enough to tell players what to do. You also need to give them some context and reasoning behind why they’re doing it so if what they’re doing isn’t working they can think their way out of the situation.

This can be as simple as asking questions. For example, when I’m in a pitching lesson and a pitcher throws three fastballs in the dirt in the right-handed batter’s box, unless she’s new I often won’t tell her how to fix it. Instead I will ask, “What usually causes your pitch to go low and in the dirt?” and she will answer “I’m releasing behind my hip.”

I will then suggest she try fixing that. She does, and she’s back to throwing strikes. Miracle of miracles!

Or one of my favorite questions to ask players who are struggling mechanically, especially the older ones I’ve worked with for a while, is “What would I tell you if I were here right now?” They stop and think, give me an answer (almost always the correct one) and I say ok, try that.

When it works I point out that she didn’t need me to fix the problem. She did all of that on her own – I didn’t give her a single clue. All I did was ask her to tap into the knowledge she already had – in other words, think! – instead of mindlessly going through the motions.

(As a side note, I had a high school-age pitcher this week tell me that “What would Coach Ken tell me if he was here?” is exactly what she thinks about when her mechanics break down. How cool is that?)

This is relatively easy to do for mechanical issues, especially for pitchers and hitters. They have some time to reflect and make corrections, and they know they’re going to have to throw another pitch or swing the bat again.

It’s a little tougher for defensive players and base runners because their skills are largely reactive. If they make a physical or mental mistake that may be the only play like that they have all game. Or even all week or all tournament.

In this case, what’s important is that they learn to think and understand so they don’t continue making the same mistake every time the situation arises, such as a runner on third who continually stands 10 feet off the base on a fly ball to medium left with less than two outs instead of tagging up automatically. Or a fielder who doesn’t set her feet before she throws and sails the ball into the parking lot.

The player who learns to think will understand she did something wrong and make a mental note to avoid having it happen again. The player who always waits for a coach to tell her what she did wrong will likely never really internalize the information – which means there’s a high probability she’s going to do it again.

Don’t just tell your players what to do. Instead, insist they learn what to do and why. Help them gain a better understanding of their skills, and the game, and both you and they will be far more successful.

 

When Your Kid Couldn’t Hit Water if She Fell out of a Boat – AKA “The Hitting SLUMP”

Hitting slumps. They suck. It’s hard to tell from where I sit whether they suck more for the parents or for the player.

Because although it must really stink going up to the plate and deciding it may be better to just close your eyes and swing and pray than actually try, its equally as hard for the parents watching. ((Seriously, it’s hard))

And it’s really hard to just keep saying “No worries kid, you’ll get it next time” while murmuring curse words under your breath.

Because FOR REAL IF SHE WOULD JUST LISTEN TO WHAT YOU ARE SAYING SHE WOULD BE HITTING DINGERS….. AND OMG SHE WILL NOT LISTEN!

Part of the problem is that we say wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too much.

We start recanting everything that anyone has ever said in the history of softball in regard to hitting. And we have our hitting coach

“It’s your front foot! Keep your head on the ball! See the ball hit the ball! Load up. Your weight is out on your front foot. Choke up. Loosen your grip. Tighten your grip. See it out of the pitcher’s hand. Move up in the box. Move back in the box. Take a breath! Throw your hands at the ball! Stand tall! Stop Reaching!

And the best one yet. STOP THINKING about IT (as we hurl tons of things TO THINK about at her)

And on, and on and on, we go.

We mean well. We really do. We just want our kids to succeed and be happy and HIT THE DANG BALL. Because LAWD knows and we know, they can. And we want this slump to end before she starts picking splinters out of her butt from the bench.

Here’s the thing. The best thing that WE can do, and our kids can do is

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Simple Girl and SIMPLE Mom shirts are up! Super cute design on a t shirt of hoodie!

I remember a while ago having a ton of weird medical stuff going on that had me going to tons of doctors and seriously diagnosing myself with some illness that is fatal within a year and only happens to every 1 out 5.6 million people. I was sure I was that 1.

Then I went to a dentist and was trying to explain everything to him and he said

With most things in life, it is always the simplest thing that is wrong. We complicate things too much for ourselves.

And you know what….he was SPOT ON. All this suffering I was enduring was because of a stupid infected tooth. It really was the simplest thing. The CT scans and MRI’s and blood work and weird tests never solved the problem but sure did cause a boatload of more stress. But that man pulled a bum tooth and I was singing Hallelujah praises in no time.

The same is true with softball and hitting slumps. It’s just the simplest thing.

The trick is to keep things simple when our kids are struggling. ON or off the field. To not overwhelm them with the likeness of GOOGLE MD, and not diagnose their problem as something 600 million times bigger than it is.

So when they are in that slump, you keep it simple.

You say nothing unless asked. And when asked, you just go back to the very basics of hitting and make the tiniest simple adjustment without throwing them 400 million things to think about when they step in the box.

And that our softball peeps, is how you fix a hitting slump.

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