Monthly Archives: April 2012

Rolling bats no substitute for hard work

Got an interesting text today from the mom of one of my fastpitch softball hitting and pitching students. She was out at a game, and her daughter was apparently putting on quite a hitting display. Someone else there was impressed and thought that she had a doctored bat. He was talking about getting his daughter’s bat “rolled” to help her out.

The mom had no idea what it was, and asked if she should get her daughter’s bat rolled too.

Of course I immediately answered no and explained it is illegal. (That’s right, it is against the rules for those of you considering it.) That was enough for her, and she was glad she checked. But as she explained why she was asking it brought up an interesting point.

There are no shortcuts on the road to success, but people still continue to look for one. Rolling the bat is one of them. I’m sorry, but there’s no substitute for quality teaching coupled with hard work.

That’s what the girl whose mom contacted me has done. We’ve worked together for three years, ever since she was 10, and during that time she has made amazing strides — a little bit at a time. The display she put on today was the result of all that time and effort she put in, not a bat that had been doctored.

Yes, it can be tempting to try to get that quick edge. But rather than paying someone to treat a bat, instead invest that time, money and effort in actually learning how to hit. The results will be a lot more satisfying.

As for the mom, if you knew her you’d know how horrified she was to find out she’d even considered doing anything illegal. As she said, she and daughter want no part of cheating. Glad she asked before she did it!

A big win for Kristi Gandy and Grayslake North

Just had to share this fastpitch softball story today. Tonight I received a very excited text from John Gandy, father of Grayslake North HS pitcher Kristi Gandy. He said Kristi’s team had beaten rival Cary-Grove HS 4-1.

What made this so remarkable is that A) C-G also has an outstanding pitcher, one who receives a lot of publicity in the area and C-G is known as a very strong hitting team. They’re very well coached and always a tough opponent. They’ve won a lot of games, but not tonight.

John told me all of Kristi’s pitches were working, and she racked up a lot of strikeouts. She received a lot of defensive support too, and some timely hits (including a couple of her own).

I sometimes feel that Kristi doesn’t get the recognition she’s due. She’s been an outstanding high school pitcher ever since her freshman year, and has received some visibility. But because her high school has been in a “building” phase since it opened a few years ago it doesn’t have the established reputation some other schools may have. She’s now a senior, so it’s great to see all her hard work paying off. Next year she’ll be pitching at Lake Forest College so it will be fun to see her move to the next level.

This was the first time Grayslake North has defeated Cary-Grove in fastpitch softball so it’s a big deal for that reason too. They also recently defeated Crystal Lake South for the first time in school history, so they seem to be on a roll. I just hope they don’t peak too early!

One other reason I thought this was worth noting is that Kristi is not only one of the hardest-working softball players you’ll ever find, she is also incredibly kind and humble. She will always stop to talk and encourage a younger pitcher, and if you compliment her she’ll smile and say thank you, but you’ll never see that attitude so many high performers seem to adopt.

So congratulations Kristi (and Grayslake North), and keep up the great work. This is a win worth savoring. Just remember what you did today has no bearing on your next game, so you have to keep working hard!

A little long-distance correction

One thing you can say about being a fastpitch softball coach is life is never dull.

Take today. There I was with my wife at the grocery store when the call came in. One of my pitching students was mid-tournament, and suddenly she was having control trouble. Her pitches were going high and wide, and she needed a quick correction before her next game.

I know my students pretty well, at least the long-term ones, so I thought for a minute and made a couple of suggestions as to what the cause could be. I was fairly certain she was pulling her front shoulder out early instead of leaving it in place and driving around it. So I gave her some advice and she said thanks.

Later that day she did pitch in the next game. She did what I said and control problems were solved. That’s the report I received, anyway.

It’s not ideal. But it is nice to know I can make the long-distance correction when needed!

Perfect storm of stupid

The title of today’s blog post was an inspiration. In fact, I like it so much I’m thinking of trademarking it. 

What I’d like to do is get descriptions from readers of this blog of situations in your fastpitch softball world that fit that description. Now, to be a perfect storm of stupid whatever happened can’t just be one bad idea. I’m not looking for “my daughter should be playing varsity” or “the coach is dumb because she lets so-and-so pitch instead of me” or “the coach has an all-conference player on the bench while he plays two girls who babysit for his kids.” While all of those may be stupid, they’re not a perfect storm of stupid.

To qualify as a perfect storm of stupid there have to be several factors that converge at once in a momentary explosion of stupidity far above the norm. It’s several bad ideas at once, all rolled up into one. I’ll provide an example.

A high school team is playing on a cold day, clinging to a late lead. Coach decides to pull her #2 pitcher to put in #1 to hold the lead and bring home the win. Ok so far. But she doesn’t give the new pitcher time to warm up (again remember it’s about 50 degrees outside and falling), sticks her in the game, then calls nothing but fastballs despite the fact that the opposing team is a good hitting team, and her #1 pitcher (like any smart pitcher) relies more on movement and speed changes than trying to overpower hitters. It’s a perfect storm of stupid that winds up with her team losing.

So how about you? What’s your perfect storm of stupid story?

Contact points as easy as tic-tac-toe

Yesterday during a fastpitch softball hitting lesson I was trying to explain the different contact points for pitches depending on their location, i.e. inside, down the middle or outside. The player, a girl name Sydney, is a 10U player so I tried to be aware of the terminology I used.

At first I said the usual – the contact point goes on a diagonal, from out in front on the inside to a little behind the front foot on the outside. I then asked if she understood the term “diagonal.” She nodded a weak yes, which I took to mean “not really but I don’t want to admit it.”

That’s when it hit me – a way to explain it using something familiVisualizing contact points for a right handed fastpitch softball hitterar. I asked if she’d ever played tic-tac-toe. Of course she had. I drew an imaginary board, and showed how if you put an O in the upper left hand, center, and lower right hand boxes you get a diagonal, which corresponds with the contact points for a right-handed hitter. THAT she understood.

This was indoors, so we couldn’t actually draw the boxes. Outdoors you can draw the game board in the dirt if it helps. Either way, you have a winner!

Keeping players in the dark

I know, I know, I talk about subscribing and then don’t post anything for a while. But I’m back now.

One thing I will never get is why some fastpitch softball coaches (or coaches in general I suppose) like to play everything close to the vest. In other words they randomly bench kids, or cut their playing time, or move their positions around without ever telling them why.

Not sure if they think it’s a way of motivating players, but in my experience all it does is de-motivate players. Especially teenage girls who have enough worries and self-esteem issues already without adding why the coach doesn’t like them anymore to the mix.

It may be unpleasant as a coach to have to tell a player you want to put someone else in her spot, but it’s a conversation you need to have. It also helps to tell her what she needs to do to win her spot back.

Competition is a good thing. If players feel like they have to compete for a spot they will try hard. But only if they feel like the competition is fair, and they know on what basis they’re competing.

The easy thing to do is just make the change and say nothing. But it’s not the right thing. Take care of your players and in the long run they will take care of you. It should be Coaching 101 — but apparently it’s not.

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