Be sure you’re not drinking the sand
Ok, you’re probably wondering what drinking sand has to do with softball. The phrase comes from the movie The American President, and was written by one of my all-time favorite screenwriters – Aaron Sorkin.
At one point the President (played by Michael Douglas) is speaking with his speech writer, who is encouraging the President to speak out about accusations from his opponent because the opponent is the only one talking. The writer (played by Michael J Fox) tells him people are so thirsty for leadership they’ll crawl through the desert to a mirage, and when they find there’s no water they’ll drink the sand.
To which the President replies, “People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”
Brilliant, and I find it happens a lot in the softball world. There are a lot of antiquated or just plain poor techniques being taught by coaches and instructors. But parents willingly pay good money for their kids to learn them because they don’t know the difference.
As a player, or the parent of one, it’s important to do your research. Don’t assume because this person presents themselves as an instructor, or even a former player, that they actually know how to teach your daughter to succeed. Some of the most convincing people out there are the ones who know the least. And the ones who claim the most impact on their students are often the ones who contributed the least.
Learn as much as you can, and compare what you hear to what you see the best players in the world doing. Not what they say they do, but what they actually do in a game. If it doesn’t match up, run.
The other one you’ll want to be careful with are the people who insist if you play in their program you should take lessons from them. While there are some advantages if, say, your pitching coach is also a coach with your team, it’s not an absolute. Anyone who forces you to go to a particular instructor doesn’t have your best interest at heart – they have their own.
Ultimately, you want to get the best instruction you can find. Don’t drink the sand. Make sure you can tell the difference between good and poor instruction and you’ll find your investment pays off a lot better.