Blog Archives

5 Tips for Preparing Yourself for Tryouts

Fastpitch softball can change your life

The fastpitch softball tryout season for high school is rapidly approaching in many areas. Normally it’s already over by now, but thanks to COVID-19 it’s been delayed by a few weeks.

I’m sure the parents who are used to sitting in nasty cold weather (whatever that is for your area) don’t mind pushing the season back until a little closer to actual Spring.

Now, I have written in the past about things you can do to show well on the day(s) of tryouts. Those articles were brilliant, of course, and you can find them here and here. Others have as well.

But what isn’t talked about much are the things you can do before tryouts begin to help you show your best. Remember the old saying that “Success is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

The opportunity is the tryouts, and you don’t have a lot of control over what happens there. But the preparation is what happens before that day, and you have plenty of control over that.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re ready when the opportunity presents itself.

#1 Start running. A lot.

Yes, I know. You got into softball because you don’t like running. But in a tryout you’d better be prepared to do a lot of it.

You might think that softball teams have their prospects run a lot during tryouts to get them in shape for the season. In some cases that may be true.

But often they use running to weed out the players who are dabbling versus those who are committed. It’s a lot easier to win when your team is committed.

If I wanted to run I would have stuck with @#$%&* soccer.

It also saves them the heartache of having to make cuts. Except for maybe a sadistic few, most coaches (especially in high school) don’t like having to cut players. It takes an emotional toll.

So if they can get those players to cut themselves it makes their job that much easier.

Bottom line is, if you’re planning to make it through the first two to three days of tryouts, start running sprints and distance now. You can thank me later.

#2 Learn to hit off a pitching machine.

I hear this all the time: “I can’t hit off a pitching machine.” Well, sister, you’d better learn because that’s what’s used in a lot of high school tryouts.

You can be the greatest hitter in the world (or at least your school) off of a live pitcher. But it’s unlikely anyone is going to see that during a tryout because they don’t have a live pitcher throwing to hitters.

If you’re lucky they’ll have a coach doing front toss. But more than likely you’ll be facing a wheel machine because that enables coaches to see you hitting against more speed.

The problem is the way pitching machines are fed makes it very difficult for those who aren’t used to it to be successful. Fortunately for you, I did an entire video blog on this topic, so check it out and practice the techniques to help yourself get ready. You’ll be glad you did.

#3 Make sure your throwing is spot-on.

This is an area many players don’t even think about. But it can be a huge difference-maker, especially if you’re not an overall standout athlete.

I know when I used to do tryouts our coaches would watch prospects throwing in warmups. It would look like we were just impatiently waiting for them to finish their obligatory warm-ups, but actually we’d be looking at their throwing technique.

Those who can throw smoothly and confidently, and hit their targets at least most of the time, stand out from the girls who push the ball, drop their elbows, or whip their arms wildly around their heads.

Statistically, 80% of all errors are throwing errors, so if you can eliminate those you again stand a much better chance of winning a ballgame. And the easiest way you can do that is to select players who already know how to throw a ball.

This can be a problem even for players who throw, hard by the way. An inaccurate hard throw will bang off the fence much further than a softer inaccurate throw, so don’t make your judgment based solely on how good an arm you have. Be sure you can hit what you’re throwing at too.

If your arm does need some work you can try this product. You can also look into the High Level Throwing program, which can make a huge difference in a relatively short amount of time.

Whichever way you go, get on it fast. Learning to throw properly can not only help you look better in a tryout. It can save you from a lot of pain and arm injuries down the road.

#4 Check your equipment and replace it as-needed.

When you go to a tryout you want to be sure not only that your equipment works but that you look like you’re an Ace. A floppy, beat-up glove, shoes with holes in them, catcher’s gear that looks like it’s been through a war, a bat with the grip hanging off or paint falling off, etc. doesn’t make a very good first impression.

Particularly if you have to stop to make repairs.

Go through all the gear you will use during a tryout and ask yourself, “Does this look like the equipment a top-level player would use?” If not, and if you have the ability, replace it.

The same, incidentally, goes for the clothes you plan to wear at the tryout. First impressions do count.

If your lucky t-shirt is all raggedy, or your favorite softball pants look like you were crawling around the alley looking for quarters, find something else to wear. Can’t do much about the pants, but you can always wear the lucky t-shirt under another shirt or jersey.

#5 Know the environment where you’ll be trying out.

In some areas it will be obvious whether tryouts will be held inside or outside. If it’s 30 degrees outside with snow on the field you can bet you’ll be indoors.

But with tryouts happening later in many parts of the country it may not be so simple. You might even be indoors one day and outdoors the next.

As a result, you’ll want to be sure you’re prepared no matter what the decision will be. If you’ll be in a gym, have a good pair of gym shoes available to wear. If you’ll be on turf, have turf shoes. For a regular softball field, have cleats.

If you even suspect you’ll be outside during the day, be sure to pack your sunglasses. Nothing worse than missing fly balls in the outfield not because you can’t catch but because you can’t see.

Also be sure you have warm clothes in case you’re outside for an extended period of time. That includes jackets that will keep the wind from cutting through your clothes.

Can you believe Coach is still having outdoor tryouts today?

A hoodie may seem warm, but if it’s chilly and the wind kicks up you’ll find out just how little protection it offers. A warm hat or headband will also be in order, as well as a warm pair of socks (assuming you can still get your cleats on over them).

If you’re miserable, it will show in your demeanor and your play. Being ready for any conditions will help you show your best.

Running photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Penguin photo by DSD on Pexels.com

Product Review: The Softball Rope Trainer

Liv ROPE Trainer main

It doesn’t take too much time going through Life in the Fastpitch Lane to see that I am pretty fanatical about good throwing mechanics. I definitely feel overhand throwing is one of the most under-taught skills in the game, which is a shame because it’s such a big part of the game (unless you have a pitcher who strikes out 18 hitters a game, every game).

So that’s why I was excited to receive a new (to me) product to test – The Softball ROPE Trainer by Perfect Pitch and Throw. According to the manufacturer it is designed to help softball (and baseball) players learn the proper mechanics for a powerful, strong and safe throw by unlocking the joints in the proper sequence. From their website:

“Using The ROPE Trainer allows players to work the throwing muscles in all parts of the kinetic chain. Using The ROPE Trainer optimizes the mechanics of the throwing sequence by building the muscles and joints used during the throwing process. Over time, using The ROPE Trainer will allow for better muscle memory, improved strength and endurance without the excessive stress caused by releasing the ball.”

You can read more about the theory behind it and how it helps prevent injuries here.

The basic design is fairly straightforward. It’s basically a softball with a plug system that lets you attach one or two sets of ropes. By focusing on getting the ropes to work ROPE Softball Trainerproperly (and not smack the player on the head, legs or other body parts), The Rope Trainer helps players find the right path to slot their arms and follow-through properly.

You can add more resistance by using both sets of ropes to create more of a strength workout, although the grip will then not be the four-seam grip most players are used to. No worries, though. You’re not actually going to throw the ball anyway.

The manufacturer positions it as an upgrade over the old “towel drill,” where a player holds a small towel and goes through the throwing motion with the same goal in mind. In fact, here’s an article that tests The ROPE Trainer versus the towel drill. They tested the baseball version rather than the softball version, but I’m sure it’s the same.

One of the big differences in my eyes is that the ropes can swing around more than a towel, so the player has to be more precise in her arm and hand path to get the right results.

Ok, sounds good in theory. How did it work in practice?

The first girl I had try it was a terrific 14U catcher named Liv. She wanted to learn how to throw from her knees, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out.

One of the big issues with catchers, especially young ones, learning to throw from their knees is that they tend to only use their arms. They don’t get into a good position to use their shoulders, torsos, glutes, and other big muscles, and they have a big tendency not to follow through after throwing.

So I put on one of the sets of ropes, handed Liv the ball, and had her get into a runners on base stance.  When I said “go” she reacted, getting into position and using The Rope Trainer as if she was actually making the throw.

As I said, Liv is awesome so after a couple of attempts she got the hang of getting the ropes to whip through to her left side at the end. Here’s a video of her as she’s using it:

Then we switched her to an actual ball. She immediately was able to make the throw with good juice on the ball, and with great accuracy too. Most important, she was using a strong throwing motion that will protect her arm and shoulder.

To give you an idea of how strong her throw was, this is what happened to her mom’s wedding ring after receiving a few at second then at first. Oops. Kari broken ring

Of course, it’s easy to get something to work when you have an excellent player using it. So for another test I went the other way.

I took a younger girl (who shall remain nameless) who did not have a particularly good throwing motion and had her try The Softball ROPE Trainer as well. While the results weren’t quite as instantaneous, she also showed improvement.

This particular girl was doing the classic “throw like a girl” of dropping her elbow below her shoulder and just sort of shoving the ball forward with her arm.

(NOTE: Don’t even bother telling me how horrible I am to use the phrase “throw like a girl” and wonder how such a nasty misogynist could ever work with female athletes. I encourage my students to throw like softball players, and will put them up against any male player their age – or any dad who doesn’t think girls can throw hard. So chill.)

After working with The Softball ROPE Trainer for about five minutes she was doing better with her overhand throws. I doubt that little session was permanent, but I wanted to see if it would make a difference.

I believe it did, and that with repetition at home and/or practice someone with poor throwing mechanics could re-learn how to throw properly, most likely within 2-4 weeks with regular work.

The other nice thing about The Softball ROPE Trainer is that it doesn’t cost very much. You can purchase it direct from the manufacturer for just $67.49. I know, weird price, right?

For that money you get the ball, two rope sets (I think – the website says one but mine came with two), instructions and a nice drawstring bag to hold it all. If you wear out the ball or one of the rope sets you can purchase new ones as well, which is always nice.

If you have or know players with poor throwing mechanics, or have someone with good mechanics who want to get better, give The Softball ROPE Trainer a try.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I don’t know how it is for fastpitch pitching yet. That’s next on my list to try. Seems like if you have mechanics that focus on whipping the ball through the release zone instead of pushing it The Softball ROPE Trainer might work. We’ll see.

If it works, I’ll do another post on that. If not, I’ll update this one.

%d bloggers like this: