If you’re thinking too much you’re not practicing enough

There’s an old saying in softball (and baseball) that goes “Quite thinking, you’re hurting the ballclub.” While it’s usually said in good humor there is some truth to it. Especially when it comes to executing skills.

When you first learn a new skill there’s a lot of thinking involved. You’re trying to get the movements right and overcome old habits in the process. It takes a lot of thinking, checking and rechecking. As you become more successful with the skill you get to the point of conscious competence — the ability to do what you want to do as you think it through.

That’s not the goal, though. At the point of conscious competence you’re not able to give your maximum effort. There’s still a point of being careful involved when you’re thinking. The point you want to get to instead is unconscious competence — the point where you no longer have to think about what you’re doing, but instead just do it (as the billboards say). At that point you can give 100 percent effort — throw yourself into it entirely without any worries.

There’s only one way to get there — through repetition. How many reps varies by the skill and by the person. But it’s more than a few no matter who you are. You’ll know when it’s enough — because you no longer have to think about what you’re doing, You’re simply going out there and giving it your all. On the other hand, if you’re thinking too much, you’re not practicing enough. Time to get to work!

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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 September 7, 2009, in Coaching, General Thoughts, Mental game. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Michael Sitterud

    Ken,When my granddaughter and I started on her pitching we used a guide post I ran across calling for number of practice pitches that a new pitcher needed to throw to achieve muscle memory. It was 35,000 pitches. We were pretty religious in keeping track of our numbers and while we got there with less it still was close to when we saw her accuracy honed-down to being able to pick her spots with her fast ball. We are working on moving balls now and wonder if each mover will call for a similar amount of practice. What has been your experience?Thanks,Mike

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  2. Mike, I doubt it will take as many reps. When you were first working on it you were establishing the foundation. That can take a long time to get right. But it’s worth it because everything else keys off of it. Hopefully you’re working on a changeup if your granddaughter doesn’t already have one. A good change is a must-have. From there I’d recommend a drop. But work on learning one pitch at a time, and don’t move on until the one you’re working on is pretty well learned. Trying to do too much at once will definitely lengthen the learning time.

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  3. Ken, I think you you coulnd’t be any more on the mark – reps. One of the questions I get all the time is “how do I know which …to do”. I have taken to using the pitchers as an example – if a pitcher has to throw 500 pitches a week to maintain, why wouldn’t a batter need to swing that many times, or an infielder handle a grounder, etc. The final part of the anwer is that once they have practiced it that many times, intinctively they will play it as they have practiced.

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  4. Rick, you’re right on both counts. Pitchers are constantly working at their craft. Hitters have to do the same. The more you work on things, the more instincts take over. Same with fielding or any other part of the game. That’s when it gets fun!

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