Monthly Archives: February 2013

Not fastpitch softball, but evidence that things are improving for women in sports

This morning I was reading the newspaper (yes, an actual paper newspaper) when I came across a very interesting article. Now, I will admit I am not really a NASCAR or auto racing fan, but something caught my eye about this story.  And not just the picture that went with it.

The story was about how several well-known drives and champions on the NASCAR circuit were bringing their young daughters to meet driver Danica Patrick in the pits. Patrick, of course, is know both as being the first woman to drive Indy cars and for the commercials she does for GoDaddy.

All I could think of was how times have changed for women in sports since Title IX came into being. Back then, mostly male-run academic institutions has to be forced by law into offering athletic and other opportunities to women. Many men either thought that women were too delicate to play competitive sports or that they were taking away money that ought to go to men.

Now fast forward to today, and not only is Danica Patrick allowed to race, but the good ol’ boys of NASCAR are bringing their daughters to her as a role model. How cool is that?

There may be hope for us as a society yet.

Every pitch is a new day

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One of the challenges with fastpitch softball is how difficult the game can be from a mental standpoint. A little failure here, a little failure there and things can start to get overwhelming.

Last night something occurred to me to help change that thinking. I held a ball up high and asked the students to imagine it without any seams. I then asked them what else is yellow and sits in the sky? A few seemed to think it was a trick question, but they eventually got that I meant the sun.

I then started moving the ball at arm’s length from hip high to overhead, and asked “What does the sun do each morning?” They replied various versions of “rise.” Then I kept moving the ball down and asked, “what does it do each evening?” Most said “fall” instead of set, but they got the idea.

Then came the point. I asked if they’d ever had a tough day, where they couldn’t wait to go to bed. They’re teenage girls, so of course they have. I asked, “But then after a good night’s sleep you felt better the next day, right? The world looked a little brighter.” They agreed.

I told them each pitch is like a brand new day, full of possibilities. Whatever happened the day/pitch before doesn’t limit the possibilities of today. They understood.

Tonight I told a girl named Hannah that story. Later we played the “High Fives” hitting game, and she got in the hole with -4. One more bad hit and she’d owe me five pushups. But she kept battling back, and eventually got back to -1 when we had to stop.

I complimented her on her mental toughness, because I really was trying to sink her. She told me she remembered what I said about the sun, and didn’t focus on what would happen if she missed. Instead, she focused on that pitch and that pitch alone, independent of everything else, and said it it worked for her.

If you’re looking for a way to explain playing one pitch at a time, give this one a try. And if you have your own way of explaining it, please share!

Contemporary way of explaining explosion to a pitcher

One of the biggest challenges of working with young fastpitch players is they continue to be young while I continue to get older. What that often means is that my frame of reference to explain things isn’t necessarily the same as theirs. Not to mention male v female — anyPhotobomb references to Star WarsThe Lord of the Rings and similar fare usually meets with blank stares. But I digress.

Tonight I was working with a high school pitcher named Maty. Getting the hang of leg drive has been a challenge for her because she didn’t use any for most of her pitching career. She’s improved quite a bit, but I know there’s still more leg drive (and speed) left in her.

I was trying to think of a way to explain the idea of being explosive when an idea popped into my head I thought she could relate to. I told her she needs to come off the rubber like she’s doing a photobomb. She laughed, but she got it.

So there you have it. A good photobomb usually requires a quick move to get in right as the photo is shot.

Never stop thinking!

Softball hitting: The Oh Yeah v the Oh No Moment

In my never-ending quest to help fastpitch hitters be more successful I’ve come across an interesting way of explaining how to get to that moment right before launch. It seems to be resonating with the hitters on my IOMT Castaways team, and with my students as well.

Essentially I tell them that when the front foot lands (toe touch), there can be two possibilities: you’ll either think oh yeah, or oh no. (This is the cleaned-up version; with my high school age students I use a more PG word.)

What does that statement mean? You’ve done your load, made your positive move into toe touch, and now it’s time to rotate and swing. If you’re in “oh yeah” mode, you realize you’re just ahead/right on time, and you’re feeling like “oh yeah, just bring the ball because I’m ready to hit it.”

If you’re in “oh no” mode, however, you realize that you’re late, and instead of taking your best mechanics to the ball you’re in survival mode. The ball will probably get too deep too fast and you’ll be doing anything you can to get the bat on it. Which more than likely will result in an out.

As a hitter you want to set your mind to work for that “oh yeah” moment. Learn the pitcher’s motion. See the speed she’s throwing. Figure out if she favors a particular location. Then use all that information to get to your oh yeah moment. It makes hitting a lot more fun.

More about seeing and anticipating the ball

A few weeks ago I wrote about an interesting video on YouTube showing soccer player Cristiano Reynaldo scoring goals in the dark. In that post I suggested a way to apply it to hitting by closing your eyes just after the pitch is thrown.

I have to admit, though, it was just theoretical when I wrote it. Being the adventurous type, however, I decided to take my own advice and give it a try with a few hitting students. Here’s what I found out.

It actually does work — with an older, more experienced hitter. Generally speaking, hitters with good mechanics who are 16 or older are capable of recognizing the path of the ball off front toss and making adjustments after closing their eyes right after the pitch is thrown. I did it throwing to different locations, and the ones who were successful were able to hit most of them. And not just tip it, but hit through the ball.

Younger players, however, had much more difficulty. They tended not to recognize where the ball was headed and would just guess.

That makes sense. I heard John Tschida talk about the stack of mental index cards players have that allow them to recognize situations and patterns more readily. The longer they play, the bigger that stack gets.

Seems like that was at work here. More experienced players have a better feel for where the ball is headed with minimal information because they’ve seen more pitches. They can tell by the arm circle, or the way the hand is pointed, or the first split second of travel where the ball is headed.

It was also a lesson for those older players, however. I told them if they were capable of doing that, imagine what they could do if they put that much effort into seeing the ball out of the hand and then still being able to see it as it comes in. That made sense to them.

So give it a try – and let us know if you get the same results.

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