Monthly Archives: May 2012
Just had to comment on this one. Today I watched Carmel Catholic High School v Mundelein High School in a Regional championship game here in Illinois. For those who don’t know, both schools are in Mundelein so it was a true cross-town rivalry.
The play on both sides was impressive. Lots of great defensive plays supporting strong pitching. Carmel was able to put a few more legitimate hits together, though, and ultimately won 2-0.
One of the great plays I saw was Mundelein pitcher Molly Ellett (one of my pitching studnets) fielding a suicide squeeze and getting the out at home. She also took on another bunt and got the out at first. Those were big outs.
On Carmel’s side, one of the memorable plays was shortstop Kathleen Felicelli fielding a ground ball that had first hit pitcher Nicole Bitter’s glove, grabbing it on the run and throwing for the out.
Have to admit I was proud of my hitting student Amy Abel as well. She hit a timely single for Carmel, and later laid down a perfect sac bunt (although I would’ve rather seen her swing away as she has had a hot bat lately).
Baserunning was good on both sides as well. I saw a couple of runners take advantage of balls in the dirt, aggressively taking the base even though the ball didn’t get far from the respective catchers. Each team was looking for every edge it could get.
The only shame was the way the game ended. Molly was rung up looking on a pitch that was clearly mid-shin high. I hate when that happens, but such is life.
Both teams are to be commended on a great game. I’ve seen a lot of badly played HS games this year, so it was fun to see such a good one. Congrats to both sides.
It often seems like fastpitch softball players (and their parents) come to lessons seeking a magic bullet — a tip or hint that will turn them from average to awesome. I wish that was a possibility, because if it was my teams would win a lot more games. It’s as simple — and as difficult — as that.
But the truth is that the only real “magic bullet” in fastpitch softball is hard work. And that isn’t very magical, because it takes a long time and many correct repetitions to make the leap players are looking to make. It is possible in time, however.
This is a theme that’s explored to great length in The Talent Code, an incredible book that every coach, parent and player should read. As I’ve written previously, it explores the myth of being born with “talent” and shows how the people we perceive as talented were actually just more single-minded in their pursuit of excellence. When others would normally quit to do other things, they’d continue on with borderline (or sometimes over the border) obsession.
Of course, those are the ones who are driven to the highest level of whatever they do. Not every fastpitch softball player aspires to play on a National Team or at a top D1 college. Many just want to play and be successful at whatever level they’re at now. But you can’t get there by showing up for a lesson once a week, or once every weeks, and then practicing either not at all or very little in-between.
The most successful players I’ve worked with do the same things:
The other thing they do is give themselves time. They realize that while they can make small improvements over a short period of time, more long-lasting and better-impacting changes take time to sink in during game situations.
With the pressure on it’s all too easy to fall back on old habits, no matter how hard you try not to. But given sufficient time you can replace old habits with better ones, so that’s what you go to when the heat is on. And that’s when real softball success occurs.
In my experience it takes about a year of dedicated effort for real, permanent improvement of a particular skill to set in. What about you? Do you agree? Do you think that’s too long, or too short? Share your thoughts.
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It’s as simple — and as difficult — as that.
Not really fastpitch softball-related, but I got an email today that led me to an interesting infographic on moms and the sacrifices they make for their kids. You softball parents no doubt know all about this, but it’s interesting to see it in hard financial figures. And this doesn’t even count all the time that goes into driving to games, lessons, practices and all the other stuff.
In any case, enjoy! And happy Mother’s Day.
The other night I was doing a fastpitch softball hitting lesson with a high schooler named Becky. She has developed a nice swing overall, but I wasn’t quite seeing the pop I was looking for. She was trying, but it just seemed a little off.
Then all of a sudden it happened. Her timing was right, and she just turned like heck on the ball, and the ball really jumped off her bat! Like Lucy instructing Schroeder on how to play the piano I got all excited and said “That’s it! Keep doing what you did there.” And she did.
And that’s the thing sometimes with fastpitch hitters (and their instructors). We all get so caught up in trying to perfect the mechanics that sometimes we don’t put enough emphasis on just plain being aggressive. So what you wind up with is a swing that looks awesome when played back at 60 or 120 frames per second on video, but that doesn’t deliver a particularly well-struck ball.
That whole idea of being aggressive, or swinging with enthusiasm as I like to put it, is very important. As I’ve said many times there are no style points when you’re hitting in a game. On a tee, or in a drill, we’re going to work on getting the mechanics as close to what we think is perfect as possible. But when you’re in a game, or facing live toss or a machine, you need to forget about all that, go with what you have, and hit with the intent of driving the ball.
It’s an awesome sight when it comes together. With Becky I could just see the magic happening. She’d gone through her load, had gotten to toe touch at just the right time, and at that point she was able to let go and just finish the swing with a determination to hit the ball hard. If you’re not trained to it you may not know exactly what you’re seeing, but you just know it’s right. And it’s a beautiful thing.
What has your experience been? Have you seen a “magic moment” like that from a hitter, where it all just comes together?
In talking to some of my fastpitch softball students and former players in the past few weeks it seems like there is a lot of confusion among coaches as to how to score a game. In particular, I’m hearing some very interesting interpretations as to what is a hit versus what is an error. I think that covers it. But may not. Anyone have any more situations like this to add to the list?
So, as a public service to those who don’t seem to quite get it (or who are making up their own rules as they go along), I offer the following guide. This ought to clarify things, and make it easier for them to keep an honest book that tells them how their players are actually doing — good and bad. You’re welcome.
In talking to some of my fastpitch softball students and former players in the past few weeks it seems like there is a lot of confusion among coaches as to how to score a game. In particular, I’m hearing some very interesting interpretations as to what is a hit versus what is an error.
I think that covers it. But may not. Anyone have any more situations like this to add to the list?
Tonight I had the opportunity to watch one of my fastpitch pitching students, Tayler Janda, and her Grayslake Central High School team demonstrate what it means to be a competitor.
It’s rained a lot in the past 24 hours, so I texted Tayler’s mom to make sure the game I’d planned on going to was still happening. It was, she said, and then a few minutes later she texted that it started out ugly.
From all reports (not just Tayler’s mom Jennie) the umpire had a strike zone the size of a loaf of bread. Tayler isn’t a big girl, so she relies a lot on movement and finesse to get hitters out. But the umpire was having none of that, forcing her to leave the ball on the plate when the hitters didn’t swing. By the time I got there, she had given up five runs in the first and three in the second, and her team was down 8-1.
But in the top of the third, she didn’t give up any runs, and from then on started to cruise. She only gave up one more run for the rest of the five innings (which meant the game I saw was pretty awesome). Instead she was inducing easy outs from the hitters, along with a few strikeouts.
What I liked about what I saw was watching a competitor in action. Rather than complaining about the umpire or continuing to throw the same pitches that weren’t working for her, Tayler adjusted. She figured out how to adapt her pitches to get the results she wanted. Yes, she had to leave the ball on the plate more than usual, but she did it in a way that didn’t allow for the big hits the opponents had gotten earlier.
Now, she may have been stoked by the comeback efforts of her team at the plate. They chipped away at the lead, and went on to win it in the bottom of the seventh on a short sacrifice fly to right and some heads-up baserunning. But I think a lot of it was her own inner fire.
When I work with pitchers we talk about the mental game, and what you can control versus what you can’t control. Tayler was the epitome of that tonight.
She couldn’t control the umpire’s miniscule strike zone, so instead she controlled her own frustration and instead decided to work with it. That’s what a competitor does. And knowing how these things go, I’ll bet she inspired her team to go out and snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
I know Tayler doesn’t plan to play softball in college. But a competitive spirit like that is sure to serve her well no matter what she does in life. Kudos to her, her teammates and her coaches. It was a fun game to watch!