The importance of evidence-based softball training
Over the last couple of months I have become immersed in the health care field for my day job. (Yes, Virginia, I have a day job that isn’t softball-related. I actually work for a PR agency that specializes in health care and health care IT.)
One of the big things in health care these days is the idea of evidence-based medicine. You can look up the details with the link, but basically it’s the idea that instead of relying on the individual knowledge of physicians, those doctors should be referring to research and studies that draw conclusions from looking at large populations with similar conditions. In other words, instead of every doctor doing his/her own thing they’re trying to establish some standards based on looking at what large groups with that condition have in common.
Why am I telling you this? Because the same idea should apply to teaching softball skills. There are all kinds of ideas and teachings out there. Some are good, and some are not so good. Some can help players immensely, and others will get in the way of their success.
What instructors should be doing – and parents and players should definitely be doing with what instructors are teaching – is looking at the evidence to see if it supports what’s being taught. In this case, the evidence is what the best players in the world do when they’re playing.
These days there is ample video evidence out there. Google a player’s name, the skill and the word “video” and there’s a good chance you’ll see a long list of results. If you’re not looking for one specific player you can Google the skill and the word video, or look at the Model Swings and Model Pitching threads at the Discuss Fastpitch Forum. While not every example there is ideal, you can certainly see a lot of commonalities there. Another good source is the RightView Pro app for the iPad – you can download all kinds of model videos of top college/professional softball players as well as Major League Baseball Players.
No matter how much you like an instructor, no matter what great “credentials” that instructor may have, it’s important to compare what he/she is saying to what the best players in the world actually do. Look at the evidence – and if the evidence doesn’t match the treatment – run, don’t walk away from it.
Just as with medicine, the state of softball instruction is constantly changing. With high-speed video, and some very smart coaches constantly testing the conventional wisdom and learning – it continues to evolve and get better. You wouldn’t want your doctor using information from 20 years ago to treat a disease when there’s better information available; you shouldn’t want your softball instruction coming from 20 years ago either.
If you’re an instructor, get out there and look at the evidence. If you’re a parent or player do the same and make sure you’re learning what the evidence says is the best way to hit, field, pitch, whatever. It will be time well-spent.