Monthly Archives: July 2010

Things that make you proud as a coach

Tonight was one of those nights where I couldn’t have been prouder of the team I’m helping coach.

You see, I had invited a couple of my 12U students to come out and help our 14U team prepare for nationals by being baserunners for us. The 12Us have finished their season and were itching for a bit of softball action so it seemed like a mutually beneficial opportunity. The only question was how the older girls would react to a couple of younger players coming in.

That’s what made me so proud. From the moment I introduced them, our girls were extremely welcoming and went out of their way to make them feel good. A couple of times they gave the 12Us some cheers. Our girls also went out of their way to help the 12U players learn some baserunning tricks that will help them in the future.

Toward the end, we worked on rundowns. The 12U girls not only were runners but were given the opportunity to participate as fielders. They had a blast, and again our girls explained to them what they could do in order to execute them better.

It was really an awesome display. Later in the evening I received texts from the mothers of both girls thanking me for the opportunity for their daughters. They too were most impressed with the class and friendliness our girls showed. It made the night of the 12U — and their participation definitely helped us work on our defense. Everyone won.

To see the way our girls treated these 12U girls was a great moment. No matter what happens at nationals, I feel like a winner because I’m associated with so many great, classy players.

Illegal pitches at the World Cup

I haven’t had much chance to watch the World Cup of Softball on TV this weekend, but I know some folks who have. It’s been interesting to see and hear the discussion about illegal pitches, though. And to see a bit of it myself.

It started Thursday night when I received a text message from my friend Rich, who commented about Monica Abbott. He said she was stepping off the pitching rubber with her drive foot before pitching. That’s something I’ve certainly seen before, and that she has been called for. But apparently the umpires were told not to bother her about it. Then later today I got an email from another coach commenting on the same phenomenon.

Today I was watching Team USA versus the USA Futures and saw something else interesting. Jordan Taylor was pitching, and after a big windup, she was literally hopping all over the place. I saw her her hop up off the pitching rubber before she started moving forward, and hop again as she delivered the ball. Again, not a single call against her.

This is interesting, because earlier in the year an article on AnnArbor.com talked about how she had been called for illegal pitches during a collegiate tournament and had to relearn how to pitch. Guess it was only temporary.

I don’t know. It seems like the people who make the rules need to decide what’s allowable and what’s not, and stick to it. It’s hard to get young pitchers to focus on following the pitching rules when they see pitchers at a showcase tournament like this obviously not doing it.

I don’t really care which way they go, but they need to decide one way or the other. As I’ve said before, either change the pitching rules if you don’t want to enforce them, or start enforcing them — even on the game’s stars. Make that ESPECIALLY on the game’s stars. It really does matter.

Creating remarkable performances

Saw an excellent article the other day in Jeff Janssen’s Championship Coach’s Network newsletter and thought I’d pass it along. You can read it here.
 
The article is actually a book review written by Greg A. Shelley and Colleen Sager about the book The Encore Effect by Mark Sanborn. The book covers how to create remarkable performances. The Encore Effect

In the review, they highlight three areas Sanborn says are essential to becoming the type of performer who really stands out. Those elements are Commitment, Professionalism and Skills. Commitment and skills are pretty much self-explanatory. But professionalism takes a little explanation.

According to Sanborn, it’s being “other-minded,” i.e. putting the team and your teammates ahead of yourself. This is an area many young athletes struggle with. They are far more focused on their own personal performance than the performance of the team. Yet that mentality often holds them back from being, as the Army says, all they can be. Until they can move beyond themselves they may perform well. But they won’t be considered extraordinary, or a premier player.

This is a topic I’ve written about before as well. No matter how well you play, you’re not really an elite player until you can raise the level of play around you.

The end of the article includes an awesome quote from the late John Wooden, the former head basketball coach at UCLA. The quote is this: “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

I love that concept. So many players are content to be good, or even very good, that they never make the effort to become great – or remarkable. That’s a shame, because it means they’ve wasted their potential. It’s like another favorite quote says — “Good is the enemy of great.”

I haven’t read the book yet, but it is going on my future reading list. If you want to find out what it takes to be remarkable, I suggest you pick it up too.

What happens when old men demonstrate slidebys

Just had to share this photo. One week ago today I was explaining to our 14U Glory team about not sliding or running into a tag, especially at home. Instead, I said, if the ball beats you there use a slideby. Softball sliding strawberry

Knowing, however, that many people learn better by seeing than hearing, I positioned a catcher at home with the ball, strolled up the third base line, and then took a run at the plate. (I was wearing shorts at the time, incidentally.) As I approached the catcher I got out wide, beyond her reach, executed the slideby and touched the plate with one finger. Safe!

When I stood up to review what I’d just done, one of the girls pointed out that I was bleeding. I didn’t think much of it, but we took a break while I cleaned it off.

Turned out to be worse than I thought at first. In fact, the photo you see here is after a week of “healing.” It’s made for a great war story though, and it definitely demonstrated that I won’t ask my players to do anything I wouldn’t do.

Still, you’d think I’d know better. Old men, especially fat ones, and sliding are not a good combination. I have to think that the added weight didn’t do me much good as I tried to “glide” across the infield dirt.

In any case, while it looks bad I am fine. I’ve been wearing two 3″ x 4″ gauze pads over the area for the last week, changing them each morning before I head to work. It’s not as bad as it was, but I have a feeling I’ll be showing this particular scrape in some form for a few more weeks. Oh well, all for a good cause.

Game to make batting practice more interesting

Batting practice can get boring sometimes. Ok, a lot of the time, especially when you’re working on a specific skill. But the other day I came up with an idea to make it a bit more interesting.

I was working with a hitter on generating a sacrifice fly with a runner on third. The idea was she had to hit an outfield fly ball no matter where the ball was pitched. We did it for a while, then we got serious.

Every time she hit a fly ball as required, she received a plus one. Every time she produced a popup or a weak ground ball, she received a minus one. A line drive or hard grounder was a “push” — neither plus nor minus. I could’ve made them minuses, but since they’d probably accomplish the goal of scoring the runner I decided to make them neutral.

You can set the game to any number you want. I selected five to keep things moving, and so the game was on. The object was to get to plus five before the hitter reached minus five.

Another variation would be to name two teams, such as the hitter’s first name v. her last name. The first name gets the pluses and the last name gets the minuses.

It’s fun, and it definitely puts some pressure on to perform. Next time you’re working on a specific hitting skill, give this game a try.

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