Monthly Archives: August 2010

VizualEdge launches new website, online sessions

A few weeks ago I jumped the gun a bit in promoting the new website for VizualEdge  vision training. I’ve now been notified that the new site and product offering is live. For real, this time!

If you’re not familiar with it, VizualEdge is computer-based training to help athletes see better — see the ball, see the field, see plays develop, etc. Their positioning line is “weight training for the eyes.” If you perform the exercises regularly (they say three times a week for six weeks is the norm to see results) you will find you have improved your ability to track the ball coming toward you and going away, pick it up quicker, and generally see better.

I think it’s pretty obvious how that will help. Tracking a ball coming toward you, for example, comes in handy in fielding, and especially in hitting. Picking things up quicker is definitely helpful in fielding, whether it’s a hard shot in the infield or a fly ball in the outfield.

As I’ve mentioned before, the season we introduced it we found that the two hitters who were most diligent in using VizualEdge were also the two that led our team in every offensive category. Neither was viewed as your classic “standout athlete” where you would say they would’ve done that well with or without it. The training definitely made a difference for them, and for the team.

The website includes some flash animation that gives you a better idea of how the software works. You get a little sampling of what you’ll see, along with explanation of how each part works. There’s lots of detail to help you make a decision.

The most significant change, though, is the training is now web-based. When we originally used it, it was CD-based, tied to a particular computer. That meant for a team to use it they either had to come to your house, or you had to put the software on a laptop and carry it with you. If your laptop crapped out, as they all do eventually (and mine once did) you had to contact VizualEdge to get any remaining sessions transferred.

Now, it’s all on the web. You can login from any computer, so if you want to use your giant 24″ LCD monitor instead of the screen on your 14.5 inch laptop you can. As long as you have enough of the 3D glasses your entire team can do it at their leisure, making it a lot more likely that more players will use it. As a coach, you can login to check the progress of each of your players; as a parent, you can check if the sessions are being used and improvement is being realized. And there’s no worrying about losing sessions due to a computer giving up the ghost. It’s all online now so the sessions are always available as long as you have an Internet connection.

It’s not cheap, but think about it this way. The cost for 50 sessions that can be used between one or two athletes is $225. That’s about half the cost of a top-quality bat. Yet if you do the VizualEdge training, you’re far more likely to get your money’s worth out of that expensive bat.

I definitely find it to be a worthwhile investment. They are also a good company to work with — their customer support is outstanding. To learn more, check out http://vizualedge.com.

Advertisements

16U players looking for a home for 2011

Hi everyone. I don’t usually do this, but I happen to know of five 16U players who are looking for a team and wanted to put the word out any way I can. All played for me last year as 14U players, and I would take them again in a heartbeat if they didn’t age up to 16U.

In any case, if any 16U teams in the Northern or Northwest suburbs of Chicago, or even in southern Wisconsin, are looking for quality players with great attitudes, please let me know. You can email me at coachken@softballsuccess.com or use the Web call button on this site to call me.

By position, there are a right and left-handed pitcher/OF/1B, two 1B/OF and a catcher. All of these girls can hit, so you’d be helping out your team in more than one way. Thanks.

Technology doesn’t replace the human factor

Technology is a wonderful thing for tryouts. It certainly helps to be able to put numbers against certain things in performance, because it reduces the guesswork — especially when you’re trying to remember back after the fact.

Yet over-reliance on technology can work against you, too. As with many things in life, you have temper that technology with some common sense.

I saw this today when I was working at our program’s tryouts. When it became time to view the pitchers, out came the technology. In addition to my Jugs radar gun, another coach brought out the Rev-Fire, a device that measures ball spin in revolutions per second. The higher the number, the faster the spin and presumably the more the ball will move.

So there we were, standing behind (and a bit to the side) of the catcher as the pitchers were doing their thing. The coach with the Rev-Fire was dutifully calling out the numbers. It seemed like no one but me was really watching the pitches critically. At one point, a pitcher threw a screwball and the guy with the Rev-Fire whistled and said, “Wow, 21.3” or something in that range. I looked at him and said, “Doesn’t matter. The ball was spinning in the wrong direction.” Instead of a screwball spin, it was more of a curveball spin.

And that’s the issue. If all you do is run the technology and take down the numbers, you might think the pitch was impressive. Yet not only did it not move a bit, it wasn’t even spinning properly. It wasn’t physically possible for the ball to act like a screwball.

The Rev-Fire is probably a good device. But it doesn’t replace a coach using his/her eyes. No matter how fast the device says the ball is spinning, it doesn’t matter unless the pitch does what it’s supposed to do. Because the hitter could care less how fast the ball is spinning, or in what direction, if it comes in flat. She’s going to hit it a long way.

The same works in reverse, too. No matter how fast the bat measures on a device, if it doesn’t contact the ball it’ll just be a more impressive strikeout.

The measure of a good teammate

So how far would you (or your daughter) go to be a good and caring teammate? Not to mention a good friend? I found out something the other day that really struck me as an example of what being a teammate is all about.

We were in what turned out to be our last game at Northern Nationals. It was a 1-1 game at that point, so the head coach and I agreed we were going to stay with what was working. That meant three of our players were probably not going to get into that game unless something changed.

Along about the bottom of the fifth, our defense came in off the field. The second hitter due up was Kaitlin. When the first hitter went to bat, I was informed by someone else on the team that she had run to the bathroom, which was not far from the field. The first hitter went down quickly, and Kaitlin hadn’t returned yet. So I looked down the bench and called for a pinch hitter (Erin) to take her place. I felt bad about it, but we were under time pressure and needed to get a hitter up. The pinch hitter, by the way, was a girl who had broken her nose a couple of weeks before and was finally cleared to play for this tournament.

Kaitlin came back as Erin was walking to the plate. There was a question on whether we could put Kaitlin in after all, but the sub had already been reported so we decided to leave her there. Erin got her at bat and we re-entered Kaitlin.

A couple of days ago I was talking to Kaitlin’s father when he let me in on a little secret. Kaitlin didn’t have to go to the bathroom, he said. She chose to go there so Erin would get a chance to bat.

That impressed me — giving up her last at-bat in our final tournament so a friend could get into the game. Of course I wish she would’ve just come to one of the coaches and offered it rather than running off to the bathroom. Still, it demonstrated a lot of character to make that sacrifice.

So many kids today are self-focused. We have a very narcissitic society. But Kaitlin put the feelings and interests of someone else ahead of her own. She set an example that others can learn from, and showed what being a member of a team is really all about. My hat’s off to her!

It pays to know the rulebook

So there we were, at the ASA 14U Northern Nationals, engaged in a very tight game. We were in the top of the sixth with the score tied 1-1 and one out when our opponents managed to get runners on second and third. In such a tight game one run was very meaningful, so we decided to intentionally walk the next hitter (who had driven a ball into the gap her previous at bat) in order to load ’em up and create a force at home instead of a tag play. Pretty much baseball/softball 101.

On the first pitch of the intentional walk, the umpire throws his hands up, calls an illegal pitch and advances the two runners. That, of course, scored one of them, making the score now 2-1. Not exactly what we’d been hoping for in the exchange.

I started to go out to find out what was illegal, but then remembered I was not the head coach. So I went back into the dugout and told the head coach she would need to do it.

She went out, and came back to report the umpire said our catcher did not start in the catcher’s box when the pitch was thrown. I told her I would take it from here and went out to talk to the home plate umpire. It was what I suspected, by the way.

When I went to talk with him he repeated that the catcher did not start inside the catcher’s box. I said yes she did, and explained that the catcher’s box extends from the outside of one batter’s box to the outside of the other. It’s not like baseball, where the catcher must start behind the plate due to the size of the box there. I knew it from the rulebook, and also from one of the NFCA classes I took where they covered this topic and warned that many umpires don’t know this particular rule very well.

After a brief discussion the home plate umpire said, “Let me check with my partner.” He went out to the field ump and they conferred for a few minutes. Then he came back and said the ruling stands — illegal pitch. At that point I said I wanted the umpire in chief brought in. Surprisingly he agreed to it quickly. But instead of the UIC another Blue brought over a rulebook. The three of them looked at it for a few minutes, and then it sort of turned into My Cousin Vinnie. They knew what they had to do, all they had to do was say it out loud. The runners were returned to their previous bases and play resumed.

As I walked back to the dugout our parents cheered. Loudly. When I got back I said to the head coach, “That’s the last call we’ll get today.” We finished the intentional walk with the catcher behind the left-hand batter’s box and it was game on.

I would love to report that the strategy worked and we got out of the inning. But that’s not what happened. The next hitter managed to dink a ball in front of second base, just out of reach of a diving second baseman, and the run scored — legitimately this time. That broke open the game and we went on to lose, knocking us out of the tournament.

Bummer. But at least knowing the rules kept us from losing due to an umpire’s erroneous call. At the beginning of every season I make a point of reading the rulebook cover to cover. It definitely paid off this year.

Greetings from ASA Northern Nationals

Hello everyone! I don’t have a lot to say, but I figured I ought to check in anyway since I’m currently in Mankato, Minnesota for ASA Northern Nationals. I’m here with the Lake County Glory 14U team, so if you’re here too stop by and say hello.

I was actually surprised by the small number of teams in the tournament. There are only 14 teams at the 14U A level. Normally you expect 30 to 60 teams at a tournament like this. Not sure where everyone is.

Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s the location, being so far North. Maybe it’s the large number of post-season tournaments these days that are drawing teams away that would normally come here. Whatever it is, the numbers seem to be down.

Oh well. It should make for a fun week and some good competition nonetheless. Wish us luck!

%d bloggers like this: