A little downtime is in order

When I first started coaching, around 15 years ago, it was not unusual for softball players to take several months off between the end of one season and the beginning of another. Many of the teams, at least in the Chicago area, wouldn’t hold tryouts until the spring before the upcoming season. The reasoning was you’d get a better look at where the player really was, rather than what you speculated they’d be come.

Obviously, that’s not the case anymore. These days there may only be a week or two between the last game at Nationals and tryouts for the next season.

That’s probably unavoidable. Everyone is competing for players. But once tryouts are done, consider shutting down for a little while. No practicing. No lessons. No coaching for coaches.

Zillions of articles have been written about the importance of taking vacations from work, to clear the head and recharge the batteries. But in softball, there is often an obsession with getting right to it and getting a head start on the fall, or next year.

Don’t do it. If you’re a player, take some time off. Let your bodies, minds and spirits recover. Recharge your batteries and let the absence of softball make the heart grow fonder.

If you’re a coach, you may need it even more. Let your mind relax. Shake off the old season, and do all the stuff you’ve been ignoring all summer — pull some weeds (which is what I did today), take the dogs for a walk, work on that project you’ve been putting off, take your significant other out to dinner for two instead 42, play some golf, or do whatever you find relaxing. You can check in places like this and other blogs, the www.discussfastpitch.com discussion board, and Web sites with good information (see the links on the right side). But don’t obsess.

Take a little time off and you’ll find your game is better and your mind is much more ready for the long haul when it is time to start up again.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on August 4, 2008, in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Great article! Briant Gumble did a story on young baseball players that were getting tommy john surgery at age 13 and 14 because they played so much.Tom Glavine said that they actually pitch more than he does. He said he needs the winter to recover and only works on conditioning during it.I can’t image that softball players don’t need some downtime as well to rest their bodies. I know one girl in our league plays on 3 teams and it seems her shoulder is always hurting.I know that everyone says pitching in softball is a more natural motion, but aren’t the shoulders in jeopardy at all? I have often wondered this.

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  2. Thanks, Coach. I don’t care how “safe” a motion is supposed to be or how well-conditioned the athlete is, a repetitive motion will tend to cause breakdowns over time. Isn’t that what Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome is all about? My friend Rich loves to talk about the “natural motion.” When, other than in softball, have you ever seen anyone throw anything that way? Maybe a towel into a hamper, but that’s about it. There’s nothing “natural” about it. Properly performed it’s easier on the shoulder than overhand throwing, perhaps, but not natural. Ask Marc Dagenais, a softball performance expert. Recovery is a huge part of a successful workout, but one that’s largely ignored or set aside. At the end of a season, when you’ve really been pushing yourself to (or beyond) your limits, it’s good to spend some time just recovering. My opinion anyway.

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  3. Thank you for pointing this out. I will definitely be using it. Here in FL there is virtually no downtime for any athlete. I worry about this and keep a very close eye on those I coach because of this.

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  4. This is so true. Not only athletes needs to recover but coaches should as well. Most people who are passionate about what they do tend to sometimes over do it. I think we are all guilty of this. For coaches interested in the topic, i have included a link above to softball recovery tips to help your athletes recover and regenerate.You should have at least 4 weeks off.Marc DagenaisSoftball Peak Performance Coach

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  5. Thanks, this is much needed advice. I have been fretting over my 12 year old daughter not wanting to play middle school ball. She just finished with her spring/summer travel season, with rec. ball and all-stars thrown in the middle. She is tired and she knows the middle school scene where we live will be very much like rec. ball, if not worse. She wants a break and she wants to spend some time on her own working on some weak areas. This post made me feel better about her decision. Now we just have to not let the pressure of others get to us. We will enjoy the break and I think it will make us enjoy our fall travel season all the more.

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  6. Sammi, it’s probably even more important at the younger ages. Not so much physically but mentally. The #1 reason kids quit playing a sport is because it’s not fun anymore. You definitely can get too much of a good thing. Sounds like you’re making the right decision. A little time off will probably have your daughter aching to play again. And that’s a really good thing.Ken

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  7. Coach,Those of us in the north often envy you guys in Florida with your ability to play year-round. Yet it certainly has its down side too. We have a forced off-season, although a phenomenon called “dome ball” is threatening to take that away. It’s good to recharge the ol’ batteries now and then. Be sure you do it for yourself too! And definitely check out Marc’s podcast on it. Ken

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