Daily Archives: June 3, 2008

Identifying elite pitchers

A while back a friend put up a list on his blog. Unfortunately, it is no longer active, but in it he identified the characteristics he would use to determine whether an 11 or 12 year old has the potential to be an elite pitcher. It’s based on his experience in training, as a grad student, and coaching.

I looked at the list and I would agree with everything he says. It does seems like those are the characteristics for an elite pitcher. The thing that might discourage many people about the list, though, is if they see their daughter doesn’t have some or all of those characteristics. Does that mean she shouldn’t pitch?

Not necessarily, in my opinion. First of all, most of those attributes are true regardless of position. Becoming an elite player takes more than hard work or wanting to play at UCLA ASU. There’s a certain amount of good fortune involved. As I told my own daughter last night, certain people in the college game did a better job of picking their parents than she did.

The point is, she doesn’t have any particular desire to be an elite player, but she does love to play and does love to pitch. The attributes she does have lend themselves to being successful at the level to which she aspires to play. You don’t have to be everything on the list to pitch. You mostly have to want to, and be willing to work at it. Those things are required regardless of the level.

People fanatical enough to hang out on softball boards and read softball blogs often hope their daughters will be the next Cat Osterman. But those players are rare. Fastpitch softball is a huge sport, though, with a great many levels to it. There’s a place for everyone who wants to play.

If your daughter wants to be an elite player, definitely check out the list and see how she measures up. It’s a great level set. But if she doesn’t, don’t sweat it. Just make sure she does the things to be successful at the level she can compete at. That’s the single best thing you can do for her.

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Focusing on fundamentals

Heard about an interesting conversation the other day. If I understand it correctly, one of the participants was saying that by the age of 16 it’s a waste of time to work on fundamentals. Either they have it by then or they will never get it.

That’s certainly an interesting perspective. I know a lot of college coaches would be shocked by that thought. Fundamentals are the foundation of the game, by definition, and they always need work. Problems with fundamentals are where errors come from.

Anyone who has read anything from legendary basketball coach John Wooden knows how he felt about fundamentals. When new players came to UCLA he would teach them how to put on their socks. Part of it was to instill a sense of discipline and control — this is how we do things around here. But part of it was also to help them minimize blisters.

Wooden took the same care with basketball fundamentals. He felt if his teams could pass, shoot, rebound and whatever else they do in basketball better than their opponents, they would win.

Softball is a complex game in a lot of ways, that’s for sure. But it’s also fairly simple. As the manager in Bull Durham says, you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. The better you can execute these skills under pressure, the more chance you give your team of winning.

Spectacular plays are spectacular because they’re unusual. It’s great if you can make them. But they’re the exception. If you make those but don’t make the plays you ought to make, you will probably lose, because there are a lot more of the straightforward plays in the game.

Major League Baseball players start with fundamentals every spring, and continue to work on them throughout the year. When teams hit losing streaks, managers will decry the lack of fundamentals and place extra focus on them. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for youth players.

Knowing where to go with the ball is important. But you also have to be able to get it there. Without a continuous focus on fundamentals, it becomes a crapshoot.

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