Monthly Archives: July 2013

Putting on the game face while coaching

As a general rule, I strive to keep myself out on the front end of the softball world. I’m constantly looking for new information and new ways of doing things.

There is one area, however, where I am pretty much “old school” – how I view opponents when we’re playing. Normally I’m a pretty friendly person. But when I’m coaching I tend to be rather, shall we say, focused and intense.

I am a competitor. I always have been. As the Billy Beane character says in the movie Moneyball, I hate losing more than I like winning. So when my team is playing, I’m not particularly interested in meeting new people and making new friends.

In fact, I can’t really understand those who are. I’ve seen plenty of coaches who like to come up and chat as though we’re just hanging out at a bar somewhere watching a game neither of us has a stake in. I’ll respond politely, usually. But I still don’t get it.

When we’re playing I’m not interested in being your friend or chatting about the weather. I’m interested in figuring out how to beat your team and not a whole lot else.

I dunno. Maybe it’s a character flaw. But at this point in my life, and my coaching career, I don’t see it changing.

So what about you coaches? Do you like chatting with the opponents? Or are you more like me and view them as an obstacle to be overcome and dispatched without prejudice?

Reversing the baseball/fastpitch swing connection

As you can no doubt tell from the title of this blog, and the posts, I am a fastpitch softball coach. I coached some baseball back when my sons were playing, but haven’t really done anything with baseball or boys in probably 10 years. Time flies!

But, of course, those who teach what I teach always say that there is no substantial difference between the baseball and softball swing. There’s just hitting. I got a chance to test that this spring, when I worked with my first baseball player in a long time.

Jack came to me as a result of my working with his older sister Emma, a high school freshman who the previous summer season had had some trouble getting the ball out of the infield. After working for a few months, she had quite a turnaround, eventually jacking “seven or eight” over the fence home runs and just hitting the heck out of the ball in her high school season. She did so well, in fact that her dad once mentioned how “a couple” of her home runs went too high and just barely cleared the fence. Wouldn’t you love to have that be your biggest worry?

In any case, Jack’s mom gave me the lowdown. Jack loves baseball, she said. In fact, he wears something with the Cubs logo on it every day. (I told her that could be his problem right there, wrong role models.) He was playing ball in the spring but really struggling at the plate. He is also under-sized, so was not going to be able to rely on strength to overcome his issues.

“I would just love for him to hit his way on base once before the season is over.” she said. So that became the goal: Quickly rework Jack’s swing and approach to the plate so he could hit the ball out of the infield and get on base. Adding to the challenge, of course, was Jack usually only got to bat once each game.

We first got together on a chilly, rainy May evening. I looked at how he was swinging, then proceeded to teach him the same mechanics I’d taught his sister. He was a quick and enthusiastic learner. He worked diligently at learning to drive his hips first, followed by the shoulders and then the bat instead of arm swinging the bat into the zone. Your basic sequence.

I ended up working with him for three or four more lessons in a short period of time, again on all the things I teach my fastpitch students. In his first game after we started working he hit the ball hard but still got out. His mom said it was an improvement, though, over what he’d been doing.

A couple of weeks later Emma came out for a lesson and shared some great news. Jack had gotten three hits in his last three games! So we not only hit the goal, we exceeded it by 3X. I told her “I guess that means the next goal is extra base hits.”

So there you have it – a little more anecdotal evidence that what works in baseball works in softball, and vice versa. For my part, I’m glad Jack was able to hit his way on base. It gives him a nice foundation and some happy thoughts moving forward. As they say in Cubland, wait until next year!

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