Monthly Archives: December 2010

So, what did Softball Santa put under your tree?

Now that we’re a few days past Christmas/Channukah/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice, I’m wondering what Softball Santa brought you. Would love to get a little dialog going on this topic. I’ll start.

I received a dozen Jugs Lite Flite balls and a dozen TCB balls . The Lite Flites are actually for vision training, not hitting. I will be marking them with the numbers 1-4 in black and red Sharpie and adding them to the ones I already have. That way the girls won’t be able to cheat by remembering which balls have already gone by and guessing by process of elimination. 

The way we’ll use them is to shoot them through a Jugs pitching machine and have the girls try to identify the color and the number on the ball as it whizzes by. Sounds impossible, but actually it’s not.With a bit of practice and effort you can actually see the number as well as the color. It’s a nice, cheap imitation of the expensive Vision Trak training that uses tennis balls and a specially designed machine.

The TCB balls are for hitting, obviously. I’ve heard a lot of good things about them. If you hit them square they fly well. If you’re off a bit, they deform momentarily and you know you need to improve your bat path. I’m anxious to try them out at the next practice.

The other thing I received is a copy of the book The Talent Code . It’s about how top performers are made, not born with innate ability — and how you can create them too. Watch this space for a more detailed review.

So that’s me. What did you get? And what are you still looking to get?

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Difference between coaching boys and girls – part two

We’ll skip the intro here. If you want that explanation, see this post . Let’s get right to it.

Yesterday I was using a blackboard to create a list of factors that can affect a play. I didn’t have chalk at first so I’d written the list on a piece of paper as the team called out different answers. Then when the chalk got there (thank you Pat Foley for finding it) I tried to quickly transfer the answers to the board.

As you might expect, most of the handwriting was pretty sloppy and hasty. But then, I continued to write, one of the girls said, “Look at that. It’s a perfect U.” I looked up and sure enough it was. Several of them commented on the high quality of the U, a brief discussion ensued, and all I could do was smile and shake my head.

Only girls would notice something like that.

Incidentally, they also could not get over how much my hastily scribbled “g”s looked like “s”s. Oh well. At least they liked the U.

Difference between coaching girls and boys

As pretty much any experienced fastpitch softball coach will tell you, there is a definite difference between coaching girls and boys. In fact, I’d bet anyone who has done both will agree with that.

Last night I saw another amusing example of one of those differences. I was in the middle of a lesson with a pitcher when I looked up and saw one of my hitting students (Kaylee) getting ready for her lesson, which would start in about 10 minutes.

She put up her hair, which is to be expected. But then she pulled out a small mirror to check it before putting on her helmet. That is definitely a girl thing.

I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I mentioned it to her when the lesson started. She just smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

With boys you’re lucky if they’ve showered in the last couple of days. But girls have a whole different mindset.

So what’s your favorite “coaching girls” story?

Fun drill for softball hitting vision training

Got this softball hitting vision training drill when I was the NFCA Coaches College in Minneapolis back in November. We tried it today and it was a lot of fun, both for the girls and the parents who participated.

The only equipment you need is a bucket of wiffle balls. You need at least two colors, although the balls should be predominently one color. It’s really easy to do this in batting cage because you can go from side to side. Here’s how it works.

Have a player stand with her back to one side of the cage. Set the wiffle balls on the ground on the other side of the cage, with one or two people kneeling. I used two parents today, which allowed them to be involved while freeing me to work with other players.

The tossers begin tossing a barrage of balls at the player. She knocks away all but one color of ball. Those she catches, and tosses back into the mix. The faster the barrage of balls goes, the more difficult (and fun it is). Having two tossers makes the barrage come faster, and from more directions, adding to the challenge.

For ours today, I had white, blue, purple and yellow balls. The girls had to catch the four yellow balls out of the two dozen coming at them.

It really forces hitters to ignore distractions and focus on the ball — exactly what you want to have happen at the plate. It also helps them work on their hand-eye coordination, as catching the ball under those conditions isn’t easy.

It’s definitely a way to energize your practices too. Give it a try!

Good service project/team building activity

Just got back from a very cool service project that doubled as a team building event. It was with an organization called Feed My Starving Children. Essentially, you pack dried food into bags, seal them, then pack the bags into a box that could be shipped to hungry children pretty much anywhere in the world.


 


I was looking for a service project for our players, a way for them to give back to the community (or in this case the world). One of our parents suggested it, as she has participated before. This one was extra meaningful because it was to benefit kids like them. It’s amazing that one of those packets, which is a little larger than a packet of brown sugar, can feed six children or four adults for a day. Glory at Feed My Starving Children


 


The other nice thing about this project is its team building effects, both for the players and any parents who participate. It’s essentially a mini production line, so everyone has to work together to keep things flowing. Once you get into a rhythm it’s amazing how quickly you can get things going. Our girls were having a good time, talking and working together. So were the parents, friends and sibilings who also participated.


 


The shift we participated in packed 257 boxes, which accounted for 55,512 daily meals — enough to feed 152 children for an entire year. That’s a pretty good feeling.


 


If you’re looking for something non-softball for your team to do in order to understand how fortunate they are, and to help them grow into good citizens as well as good softball players, I highly recommend this one. Several of our parents walked out at the end of our two-hour shift saying they plan to do it with their neighborhood, church or some other group. Looks like it will be an annual event for us! Lake County Glory fastpitch team members


 

Helping slappers learn to stay in on the plate

Converting a right-handed hitter into a lefty slapper has any number of challenges — not the least of which is it’s awkward as all get-out. To get some small measure of just how tough it is to make that move, take one day and do everything with your opposite hand — eat, write, deal cards, whatever.

Now picture that in addition to those things you’re doing them while moving, and while whatever it is you’re trying to do is moving too. Hey, hitting is tough enough. But doing it opposite-handed while running toward the pitcher? That’s just nuts.

Yet it can be worth all the effort, because a girl who can put the ball in play and get up the line fast enough to put pressure on the defense is highly valuable. After all, as Coach Candrea says, speed never has a slump.

So yes, there are lots of good reasons to do it. But it takes a lot more than just moving the hitter across the plate and saying “watch how Natasha Watley does it.”

One of the toughest parts is learning to keep the shoulders closed toward the plate so the hitter can drive the ball toward the left side of the infield. That’s important, of course, to make the throw take longer and give the hitter the best chance of getting on base. But after taking the crossover step, especially for a righty that is being converted over, it’s very natural to turn the shoulders along with the hips as shown in the first video. When that happens, the hitter is far more likely to pull the ball to the right or hit it back at the pitcher than to drive it to the left.

You can tell her to keep her shoulders in, but that’s easier said than done. So here’s a more specific instruction. Tell her that as her left foot crosses over her right, she should pull her left shoulder back. When that occurs (as seen in the second video clip) the shoulders stay closed and she’s in a good position to slap.

It’s simple, but it works!

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