No magic bullets in fastpitch softball instruction

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.

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:

  • Come regularly for lessons — usually once a week

  • Put in two or more practice sessions between lessons

  • Make time to practice, even if they have homework, school projects or other activities on their plates

  • Work diligently at whatever it is we’re trying to improve

  • Give themselves the opportunity to fail now in order to succeed later

It’s as simple — and as difficult — as that.

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.

And while you’re at it, be sure to subscribe to Life in the Fastpitch Lane so you’re always on top of new posts as they come out. The easiest way is to leave a comment and check the box. Otherwise, choose the RSS feed you like and it to your reader!


About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on May 19, 2012, in Coaching, General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I enjoy your articles and usually agree with them


  2. Hello KenI agree that nothing takes the place of hard work and dedication, but the real frustration comes when a player/DD is really putting in the effort, but fails to see that play out in game situations. For my DD, it is hitting. She hits well and strong in practice, but typically hits weakly in the game situation. Clearly, the most difficult situation is game day hitting when all of her peers are watching, and for the young teen girl, that is huge. So she diverts to the ‘just hit it’ mentality vs that strong, aggressive swing she uses when the pressure is off.So what we have been trying is game-type situations during practice. In other words, step in the box, call balls and strikes and monitor the hit (base hit, ground out, etc.). Then step away and start over just like in a game. This seems to be helping some.So much of hitting is about confidence and aggressiveness to the ball and that is what we are focusing on. But the season is short and we are focusing on the mental approach vs dissecting the swing.Any further comments or suggestions welcomed.


  3. Mark, that is always one of the toughest things — making the transition from practice to the game. A lot of it has to do with confidence and remaining focused on the task at hand. In practice there are no consequences. If you mis-hit the ball on this swing you just take another one. In a game if you mess up your turn is over. One thing you can try to do is get her to focus on the process instead of the result. In other words, don’t think about what will happen if you don’t hit the ball, or how important it is to get on base or advance the runners. Focus on seeing the ball well, and hitting it hard. Whatever happens after that happens. Even a strikeout can be a good at bat if you are approaching it the right way. I’ve done a couple of other posts that may help as well. Here’s one on going from the batting cage to the field. http://fastpitchlane.softballsuccesscom/search.aspx?q=going from the cage&sc=tcon&dt=a&al= This one is about a game I created to help simulate game pressure in practice. It’s fun and challenging, and really seems to help players make the transition to the right mindset. http://fastpitchlane.softballsuccesscom/2012/02/13/fastpitch-softball-hitting-game—-high-fives.aspx Give all this a try and let me know if it helps. Hopefully your daughter will be ripping the ball soon.


  4. A good day for her yesterday. Middle school game with two pitchers battling. DD had a solid double in the gap driving in 2 runs. First time at bat, struck out looking, next at bat, the double. She told me after the game that striking out made her mad and was determined to pound the ball next time. She’s on the right track, just needs consistency.thanks for the help


  5. Hi Mark,Glad to hear she did well! Hopefully she’ll build more confidence and continue to pound the ball.


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