Monthly Archives: June 2021

You Won the Genetic Lottery. Now What?

Most of the time my blog post are more oriented toward players (and their parents) who, shall we say, don’t have the greatest athletic gifts. Not to mention coaches who are trying to make their teams competitive through sheer hard work.

Today, though, I am going to turn that concept on its head. This one is for those players who won the genetic lottery.

You know the ones. They are naturally bigger, stronger, faster, with better eyesight, better hand-to-eye coordination, more fast twitch muscles and other attributes that most of us wish we (or our kids/players) had.

They are always a big fish, no matter what size pond they’re in.

Here’s my message to those players and their families: that genetic lottery has more than one winner. In fact, while the total number may be small compared to all the players who play the game, it’s still much larger than the number of spots on coveted teams.

Which means if you want one of those spots you need to keep working hard. Probably even harder than players with lesser natural ability because all your real competition is at least as able as you. Maybe even more gifted.

I know that may be hard to believe, especially if you don’t get to see a lot of ultra-talented players wherever you play. But believe me, they’re out there.

When you have more natural ability than everyone else it’s easy to fall into the trap of relying on it. After all, if your overhand throw is 60 mph and all your teammates’ (and opponents) are closer to 50 mph it’s easy to think you take it easy in practice or just rely on your ability in a game.

But in the end, you’re not competing against the players around you for those coveted spots. You’re competing against a small universe of players you may not see but who are definitely out there.

Which means you need to make sure your skill level and understanding of the game, not to mention your mental game, is on a par with them.

My suggestion, if you want to find a local role model, is to look at the player on your team, in your league or conference, etc. who doesn’t seem to have a lot of natural ability but is succeeding anyway. That player got there by working harder than everyone else and not getting discouraged when she failed.

Instead, when she failed she used it as fuel and a learning experience to help her get better.

That girl has to have better technique at whatever she does because if she doesn’t she’ll never see the field. Coaches aren’t falling all over themselves to get her on their team or put her in their lineup, so she has to prove herself every time she steps across the chalk line.

Study her. Learn from her. Do what she does.

If she boots a ground ball, she probably asks for another one. Do the same.

If she’s struggling to hit she doesn’t go into a funk. She pulls the tee out and works on whatever she knows her issues are. And believe me she knows what they are because she pays close attention when a coach is working with her.

Basically, instead of acting like a “super talent,” instead become a grinder. Work to gain the best technique not because you have to today, but because one day you will need it. Gain that mentality and you’ll find the road to the top is significantly easier than it would have been otherwise.

Talent, athleticism, whatever you want to call it, is definitely a good thing. If you won the genetic lottery be sure to thank your parents early and often. Genetics can’t be taught.

Don’t let that ability sucker you into complacency, however. Approach the game like you were the last one to make the roster instead of the first one invited and we just might see you on ESPN one day.

Photo by Lay Low on Pexels.com

To Improve Your Hitting Think Like a Predator

Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

One of the things that probably holds more hitters back than anything is having a tentative approach at the plate. They stand nervously in the batter’s box, shifting from foot to foot, death grip on the bat as they await the next pitch.

Then it comes and they wait until they can wait no longer, then finally flail at the ball as it goes whizzing by them.

It isn’t that they don’t know how to hit, or that they haven’t practiced the physical act of hitting. The problem is that they don’t have the right mindset.

They may be worried that they will strike out, looking bad in the process. Or that they will pop up, or hit a weak ground ball, particularly if they have been doing that a lot lately.

They may also be looking at how many runners are on base and thinking about the possibility of stranding them. They may be thinking if they screw up the coach will yell at them or take them out of the game.

Whatever it is, they’re thinking about the possibility of negative outcomes and therefore not focusing on the task at hand – which is to see the ball and hit it.

What they should be doing instead is adopting the mindset of a predator. A predator doesn’t worry about what might happen if it doesn’t catch the prey. It simply goes for the prize.

In fact, as my friend and fellow coach Heather Cole once told me, the predator loves the hunt more than it loves the kill.

In softball terms, that means the hitter shouldn’t be so focused on the outcome. Great hitters are all about the process of the at-bat.

They are not trying to defend themselves or the plate against the pitch. They are there to attack the pitch.

They are on the hunt, and every pitch is an opportunity to drive the ball into a gap or over the fence. They don’t worry about whether it will happen or not. They place all their focus on making it happen.

The funny thing is when you approach every plate appearance like a predator you start walking to the plate with a bit of a swagger. When you have that swagger you have more confidence in your abilities, which lets you get even more aggressive.

Before you know it all those outcomes you were worried about start taking care of themselves.

In this world there are two options. You can either be the prey or the predator.

If you want to be a great hitter, start thinking (and acting) like a predator.

Little Sisters Are Natural Choices for Catchers

While it’s the pitchers who tend to get all the glory and adulation, there’s no denying that behind (or technically in front of) every great pitcher is a great catcher on the receiving end.

Catching is a tough job. Unlike other players, who spend most of their time standing around, catchers spend a good portion of every game contorted into a squat that gives them mobility while still allowing the umpire to see the bottom of the strike zone.

Catchers also wear all that gear, which not only adds weight but heat – just what you want when the temperature and humidity are both in the 90s or above. If you think a fielding mask is uncomfortable, trying wearing a full-on helmet as well as a chest protector and shinguards. They’re not called the “tools of ignorance” for nothing.

There are other downsides to it as well, which means if you’re going to be a catcher you REALLY have to want to be a catcher. It’s not the sort of thing one dabbles in.

It also takes a certain type of personality to do it well. That’s why I believe there is no one better-suited to the position than a little sister. Here are a few reasons why.

Little sisters tend to be bossy.

A great catcher will tend to have a take-charge personality. She is essentially the coach on the field, putting players into position and, since she’s the only one who can see the whole field, directing throws in live plays (among other duties).

Most of the little sisters I have known tend to have that personality trait. Growing up with older siblings they learn they have to be aggressive if they’re going to be included in group decisions. They also love conveying directions from their moms or their coaches to the others.

They tend to be sharp and direct and are used to yelling/speaking loudly in order to be heard above the noise. They also tend to do it without worrying about consequences because they know as the baby of the family their parents always have their back. All traits most coaches desire in a catcher.

Little sisters relish being annoying. If there is a little sister manual, the first page surely explains that your primary job as a little sister is to annoy all of your siblings – whether that is one or many. Little sister know how to push buttons and don’t hesitate to do so, all for their own amusement.

That’s what catchers are often expected to do as well. As a catcher you should be working on living rent-free in the head of every hitter who comes to the plate.

You want to talk to them, distract them, feed their own doubts about their abilities, exploit their fears, etc. Who is better at that than a little sister?

I have personally witnessed a little sister who is a catcher reduce her older sister to near tears during a hitting lesson with casual comments and snotty remarks. “Oh, there’s a big miss there,” she says on a swing and miss. Or big sis will hit a ball down the line and little sis will say “Foul ball,” not because she thinks it’s foul but because big sis reacts to the comment.

Another little sister catcher I know doesn’t hesitate to point out problems during her sister’s pitching lessons. She will also just give her general grief, making also sorts of negative comments to her just to make her mad.

There’s no real agenda behind it. I think she just likes the turmoil and chaos that results.

Catchers who can get opposing players to lose concentration, especially when it comes naturally to them, can be a huge asset in winning a tight game. Nothing like a catcher who can instinctively and immediately zero in on an opponent’s mental weaknesses. Little sisters are born with that ability.

Little sisters are tough. So not only are you in all that hot gear on a hot infield on a hot day, you’re the player on the field mostly to find your body being hit by the ball on a regular basis. It could be a foul tip, a ball in the dirt you’re expected to block, or even a pitch that is supposed to break right but breaks left.

Whatever the reason, if you’re lucky it hits your equipment, which still has an impact – particularly if it’s hitting your face mask. But it can also hit your arms, your hands, your legs, or other areas fairly easily.

You can also get hit by a bat if you have a bat thrower at the plate. While there aren’t supposed to be collisions at most levels anymore they do happen sometimes.

You also spend a lot of time in the dirt, squatting in it, kneeling in it, diving in it. Of course if you look between innings half the time you’ll find the catcher playing in the dirt anyway so that part probably doesn’t matter as much. But still.

Little sisters know the game. It’s not that they put in any more time studying the nuances of softball than anyone else. But after years of being dragged to their older sisters’ games, and listening to the in-game and post-game analyses of their parents, they’ve picked up a thing or two about how it’s supposed to be played.

Little sisters just seem to know that the first look should be at the lead runner instead of just automatically throwing to first. They know that if they can pick off a runner at first with two outs the runner on third won’t score.

They know that not every pitch that goes up is a rise ball and not every pitch that goes down is a drop ball. Which incidentally not only puts them ahead of many parents of pitchers and team coaches but also most softball announcers on ESPN.

They know which base to throw to when the ball is coming from the outfield and which player has priority when two fielders are going for a pop-up. Although they usually think it should be her if she is involved in the play (see point #1).

If you want someone on the field who knows the game and can direct the others, a little sister will get that job done.

A great choice

Figuring out which of your players will make the best catcher is an important decision that can affect your whole season. Finding out who the little sisters on your team are is a good place start.

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