Repetition in softball doesn’t always equal improvement
One of the most common ways of practicing fastpitch softball is to perform lots and lots of repetitions of the same skill. The idea is that if a little bit is good, more is better.
Yet the truth is that’s not always so. Yes, building skills does require repetition. But that doesn’t mean you have to do one hundred reps of the same skill in a row. In fact, that approach can work against you depending on how engaged the player is.
You see, as the saying goes, practice doesn’t make perfect; it just makes permanent. Say you decide you’re going to hit 100 balls to a player to field. On the first 25-50 her brain is engaged, her motor is running, and she’s all enthused. Then for the next 50, her brain shuts down and her technique starts getting a little sloppy.
Which half of the drill do you think is going to stick with her? There’s a good chance it’s the second half because it’s the last thing she did.
Honestly, it’s better to do 50, or even 25, great repetitions than some good and some bad. What you want to be doing is building an automatic approach – building up the myelin that tells the muscles what to do faster than you can consciously think it. When that occurs, the player has a much better chance of executing the skill during a game. When you do some good and some bad, the myelin never has the chance to build properly and the brain can get mixed messages.
One other good reason to do fewer reps of one skill is it allows you to work in additional skills. And as we all know, there never seems to be enough time for everything you want to do.
How many is the right number? It varies by player. Some can only handle a small number before losing focus. Others can seemingly go all day. You need to judge that by the individual players.
If you’re working with one player (perhaps your own daughter), it’s pretty easy to adjust to her focus level. If you’re working with a team, it gets a little tougher. In those cases, try grouping players by focus level rather than raw skill level. It may mean a bit of an unbalanced practice – some players working on more things than others – but it will also mean a more productive practice.
The key is to remember that your team really will play like you practice. Keep it sharp and you’ll like the results on the field much better.