Daily Archives: December 5, 2011

Flip a coin

No, this post isn’t about winning the coin flip at the beginning of a fastpitch softball game. It’s about helping players to understand the concept of playing the game one pitch at a time.

One of the famous trick questions often used in statistics classes is the question about flipping a coin. You start by asking what the odds are of flipping a “head” or “tail.” Most players, even young ones, know the odds are 50-50.

So then you follow up with this question: If I flip a coin 50 times and it comes up heads all 50 times, what are the odds the coin will come up tails the next time? Often times the player will say 100%. But the fact is the odds are still 50-50. Over a long period of time — say thousands of flips — you’ll probably see heads 50% of the time and tails 50% of the time. But on any given flip the odds are always 50-50. What has happened up until now has no effect on what will happen next.

And that’s the point you’re trying to make to a player — especially a hitter but it works for any position. No matter what happened on the last pitch, or the last at bat, or the last game, it has no effect or influence whatsoever on the upcoming pitch. So there’s no sense worrying about those. Instead, you just have to worry about what’s coming up next.

I see it a lot with hitters who tend to get behind in the count. Tell me if you’ve seen this pattern too. First pitch, the hitter doesn’t swing, doesn’t even plan on swinging, and the ball comes in for a perfect strike. She realizes she should’ve swung at it, so she makes up her mind to swing at the next pitch no matter what. That pitch is high, or in the dirt, and now she’s sitting at 0-2 and feeling bad about swinging at a bad pitch. So now she decides to be careful, she gets all uptight, and with the next pitch she’s taking that short walk back to the bench.

A lot of that comes from worrying about what happened on the previous pitches. It gets in her head and she loses the aggressive focus she needs to be successful.

By showing the coin toss you can make the point each pitch is a separate event, and the only way to approach the at bat is to keep looking forward and stay focused in that direction. It gives a little more context to the concept of “it only takes one to hit it.”

Hitters have enough to worry about without trying to hit more than one pitch at a time. Pitchers have enough to worry about without letting what happened the last time affect this time. And so on. Show your players the coin toss and help them understand that every pitch is an independent event — and an opportunity to be great.

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