Monthly Archives: August 2012

Taking a break is a legit way to spend time now

These days fastpitch softball (like so many other sports) has become a year-round commitment. And because of it there is a tendency to want to keep pushing, pushing, pushing all the time.

While it’s important to be dedicated, there is also some value in shutting down for a little while after the season.

The season is long, whether you’re a younger player who’s been playing games and tournaments since January in the South, or April in the North, or an older player who has done a school team followed by a summer season.

During that time even the toughest get injuries, get tired, lose their enthusiasm, etc. Shutting down for a few weeks is a great way to recover, both physically and mentally.

Some may be afraid to shut down because they’re worried about losing ground on the competition. Don’t be. Two, three, even four weeks between seasons isn’t enough time to lose everything. There might be a bit of rust at first, but it will fall away quickly.

The physical aspect of taking some time off is important. But it’s the mental part that’s likely to do the most. Walking away from something you spend so much time on, even something you love, for a little while will help recharge the ol’ batteries and help your player see the game with fresh eyes. It’ll also help put a little separation between seasons so this one isn’t just a continuation of the last one, but a fresh, new opportunity.

It’s tempting to go, go, go. But take a little time for R&R. You’ll find it makes a huge difference in the long run.

At tryouts, there’s always someone watching

We’re smack dab in the middle of the fastpitch softball travel ball tryout season right now. For the next couple of weeks, players will be heading to tryouts to show their stuff, and coaches will be trying to determine which players will give them the best chance of achieving their goals next season.

I’ve provided some hints to successful tryouts in the past, both here and in my Softball Magazine articles. But there’s one I haven’t covered before (at least that I remember) that players trying out should keep in mind: at a tryout, there’s always someone watching.

What I’ve noticed over the years is that when you’re running players through a drill, most will give 100%. Let’s take fielding fly balls in the outfield. Coaches hit the ball, or fire one out of a pitching machine, and players run after it. Normally what you’ll see is what you’d expect — good hustle, a sprint to it, and maybe now and then even a slide or a dive.

Really, though, those are table stakes. What I want to see is what players do when they aren’t being given a specific test. Like when they’re sent out to shag balls during batting practice.

I don’t know about other coaches, but when a ball is hit well, I usually want to give the fielders time to catch it before bringing the next pitch. So what do I do? I turn around and watch the fielders.

It’s amazing how many of them laze after the ball, sort of trotting to it and letting it drop in front of them instead of bringing that great effort they showed a few minutes before in the outfield portion of the tryout.

That tells me a lot about their attitude and makeup as a player. You know what I’d love to see? The kid who sprints full out to try to get to the ball, and maybe slides in or dives to get one that might seem out of reach. I see that and it’s going to catch my attention. I now know that player is serious about her game, and will play hard all the time. Because if she’ll go for it while “just” shagging BP, imagine what she’ll do when the game is on the line.

One of the big keys to tryouts is to do something memorable. You want to find a way to separate yourself from the pack. Especially at the older ages, everyone has skills. Or at least nearly everyone does. The way to stand out is to show you have something extra, a fire inside you that inspires you to always do your best, not just when you think someone is watching.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Let’s hear from some other coaches. Do you watch what happens away from the main action? How much does this sort of thing influence your decision, especially when you’re coming down to the last couple of roster spots?

10U team looking for players

Just got a note this morning from a guy I know who is looking for 10U players in the far Northwest suburbs of Chicago. He is dropping down to coach his younger daughter after several years coaching his older one, who has decided not to play her last year of travel ball.

The team is part of the Crystal Lake Tidal Waves organization, and the coach’s name is Steve Kram. He’s a good coach with plenty of experience, and someone I know will do right by the girls. If anyone is looking for a team, or knows a 10U player looking for one, tryouts are Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 5-6:30pm and next Saturday the 11th at 8am-10am. Tryouts are held at Prairie Ridge High School.

If you’d like more information, you can contact Steve directly at s_m_kram@yahoo.com.

Fastpitch ability is also in the eye of the beholder

Regular readers know how much I love a good fastpitch softball success story. With the tryout season upon us I have a great one to share.

This one involves one of my pitching students, a girl who was 10U eligible but played up on an 11U or 12U  team. (I’m old school, so I don’t really buy into the odd-numbered levels, but they seem important to others.)

Anyway, she isn’t the biggest kid in the world, so pitching at 40 feet instead of 35 and throwing a 12 inch ball instead of an 11 inch one was a bit challenging. She probably could’ve dominated hitters in 10U ball. She worked hard in lessons throughout the off-season, though, and got herself prepared.

Unfortunately, the season didn’t go quite as expected. Although the coach recruited her hard during tryouts, convincing her parents to have her play up and not even try out for the 10U team, when the season rolled around he just didn’t seem to have much use for her. I saw her pitch a game and she actually did her job. But her team had trouble making basic fielding plays, and struggled more than they should have. They won, as I recall, but it was tough.

After that she had a tough time getting playing time, either in the circle or on the field. Weekend after weekend she’d come to the games only to watch most of them from the bench. She was very discouraged, and her mom told me she was in tears on a regular basis. She even thought about giving up.

The last two weekends she’s been trying out with some new teams, and it’s been a completely different story. In fact, both teams she’s worked out for so far made offers right away, and are very interested in having her pitch for them next year. She’s gone from unappreciated and discouraged to having her choice of teams for which to play.

There’s a lesson in there for other players, and for all of us, really. While you always want to be working on your game, sometimes it isn’t you. It’s just someone else’s perception of you. Keep working hard, keep battling, and you’ll come out ahead in the end.

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