Daily Archives: March 1, 2016

Why it’s easier to destroy softball skills than build them

Sooner or later in your fastpitch softball coaching career you’re likely to run into this phenomenon: You spend months working with a player, helping her build her skills little by little, working through the kinks until it seems like the skills are locked in come easily to the player.

Then you hand her off to some other coach and in no time she’s struggling. All that hard work seemingly undone in just a few sessions. You wonder how could that possibly happen?

Actually, it’s easy to understand if you take it out of the coaching context and think about building something (a chair, a shed, a house, some crazy contraption to carry all the team equipment at tournaments) in the physical world.

Let’s take a chair. Not one of those slap-it-together Ikea chairs but one you build from raw wood. You carefully cut and/or carve the wood. You sand it, stain it, polish it. You put it together piece by piece, taking care that all the legs are level and every joint fits together tightly. It takes weeks, or even months, to get it all just so.

Then some knucklehead comes along, picks it up and smashes it against the wall because his favorite pro sports team choked in a big game and got eliminated from the playoffs. All that hard work destroyed in seconds.

The same thing happens to players. Complex skills such as pitching and hitting have a lot of moving parts, and they all need to work together in the proper sequence. Throw off just one part of – say insisting a hitter swing down on the ball and then standing there in an intimidating way until she does it – and the whole skill unravels. The player gets confused, loses confidence, and then she doesn’t perform at nearly the level she’s capable of.

Of course, once she’s not performing she gets benched so everyone loses. Especially the team that could’ve used the skills she walked in the door with.

This is something to keep in mind before messing with a player. Someone who has worked hard to get where she is right now is probably best off being left alone, especially if she is performing when it counts. It takes a long time to build those skills. But it just takes a few misguided ideas and a short amount of time to destroy them.

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