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Softball Performance Tips – Building to Become Success

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By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

You see them all the time — that fastpitch softball team this is always touting its great win-loss record. They place an article in the local newspaper, or you go to check out their website, and there’s a list of tournaments they’ve won and their record is something unbelievable like 64-5. Yet you’ve seen them play, and you know their players, and they just don’t seem that good.

Some coaches do it on purpose, because for them it’s all about the win-loss record. They are known for sandbagging, i.e. playing in tournaments or leagues that are below the caliber of their teams to rack up easy Ws. Or they play to win in games where everyone else is trying to develop their weaker players.

Others do it more accidentally. Sometimes you don’t know how good your team is going to be so you pick tournaments or leagues you think are right, only to find out you’re better than you thought.

Here’s the thing, though. If you’re winning every tournament you enter, you’re probably not challenging your players enough. Winning a tournament should be an accomplishment, not a regular expectation. You want to play the best competition you can handle, so at the end of the day it takes your all to come out on top. Anything else is cheating the players.

How can it be cheating them when it feels so good to win? Because they’re not developing at the level they should. In order to be the best you have to play the best. If you’re playing teams you know you can beat easily it’s like power lifting with light weights. It looks good, but it doesn’t do much to make you stronger.

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Softball Coaching Fears – You Are Not Alone

By Stacie Mahoe

Most coaches have fears, worries, or anxiety about something. In fact, I’m not sure I know any coaches who don’t.  It’s pretty normal, when you really care about something greatly, to have concerns or worries about it.

However there is one softball coaching fear in particular that I see get in the way of good coaching time after time.

Can you guess what it is?

It’s the fear of what others will think about you. I’ve heard advisers in other areas of life say that if you really want to be successful, you have to stop caring what other people think of you and your choices.

I believe that holds true for coaching softball too.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. You and I both know how many critics there are of any softball coach. It comes with the territory. It’s tough not to take things personally. Sure we all intellectually know that we shouldn’t, but that’s not always easy.  You’re not the only coach who finds challenge in not allowing whispers (for shouts for that matter) from the outside impact what you do and the choices you make as a coach.

After all, no one likes to be put down, especially when your are pouring your very heart and soul into something like many coaches do.  If you’re reading this article, my guess is you are one of those coaches that really does care deeply about your responsibilities as a softball coach.  That’s awesome, but it does make it tougher to “let the water roll off your back” so to speak.

While it’s pretty “human” to care, sometimes too much, about what others think, the problem really comes in to play when that fear of what others think or what others might say outweighs your desire to make the best decision you can FOR YOUR PLAYERS!

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Reviewing Moneyball the Movie

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

moneyball movieOver the weekend I had the opportunity to see the movie Moneyball starring Brad Pitt as Oakland As GM Billy Beane. If you’re not familiar with the original book — which is a great read by the way — it chronicles the story of how Beane changed the game of baseball by focusing on a few key statistics rather than the conventional wisdom of the time, which was (and still is in some cases) whether a player “looks” like a ballplayer.

Of course, Beane didn’t do it alone. He was assisted greatly by Paul DePodesta, a young Harvard graduate (here played by Jonah Hill and using the pseduonym Peter Brand) with a fondness for Bill James’ Baseball Abstract, computers and a love of stats.

You can read about the values of the movie from countless professional movie reviewers. What I found interesting was Beane’s reasons for taking such an interest in this radical approach, and the differences between his public and private faces while doing it. Those are things I think most of us can relate to.

Essentially, Billy Beane is in a tough spot. His team’s three biggest stars leave the team for more money after taking the As to the playoffs. He asks his owner for more money to replace them, but is told the budget is the budget. That means he has to find another solution to his dilemma if the As are going to compete the next year.

The answer turns out to be using statistics to find under-valued players — good ballplayers the rest of baseball is ignoring. As Brand explains it, the single most important stat is on base percentage (OBP). You have to get on base to score, so the more players are on base the more likely the team is to score. Yet many of these players get on base by walking, which isn’t very highly valued by the baseball establishment.

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Softball Performance Tips – Surviving the Tryout Season

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball-tryoutsYes, it’s hard to believe we’re already in the thick of tryout season. All the comfort of knowing what the days ahead will look like is gone, replaced by that feeling in the pit of your stomach over all the uncertainty that will be dominating your thoughts for the next week or two.

That feeling applies to both players and coaches, by the way. For the players it’s obvious, especially if you’re trying out for a new team.

Suddenly you’re being judged and evaluated by a group of strangers who don’t know your track record. You have to perform right here, right now if you want to be selected. It can be very nerve-wracking, which doesn’t help your performance any.

Yet it can also be stressful for coaches. You can look at all the skills you want, but it doesn’t answer how a player will perform in a game situation, what type of teammate she will be, how high maintenance her parents will be, what kind of game knowledge she has, etc.

In both cases it can be tough because you’re presumably making a long-term decision. Choose correctly and you’re in good shape. Choose poorly and it could make for a very miserable year.

The big key to survival is actually the same strategy for success in a game — focus on the process instead of the result. You can drive yourself crazy worrying about what might happen, especially when it involves things beyond your control. Instead, you want to focus on the things you can control.

As a player, focus on this event, right now, and no others. If you’re fielding ground balls, focus on your process – see it in, get your hands on it and make the throw. For hitting, see ball/hit ball. If you miss, let it go immediately and focus on your next opportunity.

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Quick Tip for Softball Coaches – It’s Okay to be Tough!

coaching-softball-tipsBy Stacie Mahoe

There are many coaches out there doing their best to teach instead of just yell which is great. I believe you coach best when you get to know your players and have the heart of a teacher vs just using a dictator style of coaching. (You know the one where you just yell as loud and often as possible to “make” your players listen.)

I’m all for positive coaching, however don’t forget that if you DO have players that do better when you put some pressure on them or are “hard” on them, it’s perfectly fine to get on them!

I’m not saying this from one coach to another. I’m actually saying this as a parent.

I have one daughter who is one who needs more encouragement with firmness. My other one does much better when someone just gets on her back! If you try to be nice to her she doesn’t do as well. When you push her and get on her and even yell a little, she does better.

As a parent, I appreciate when a coach can back off just a tad and mix in some finesse with my younger daughter. With my older one, I WANT her coach to go ahead and get on her case because that how she performs best and a good coach recognizes that and does what they can to bring the best out in her.

In this day and age of positive coaching movements, you may think twice about being “tough,” but there are times when it’s completely appropriate and sometimes even necessary. You can be “tough” and still be a positive coach. Try to please everyone and you’ll have more headaches than you ever wanted.

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Softball Coaching: Your Number One Job Is…

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

As A Coach, Your Number One Job Is…

 

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It’s always interesting to ask a group of coaches what they think their number one job is. Some will tell you it’s to teach their players the game. Others will say to get their players in shape. Still others will say it’s to get their players scholarships, win State or Nationals or this weekend’s tournaments or some other similar goal.

Me? I believe your number one job as a softball coach, especially a coach of female athletes, is to get your players to feel good about themselves. If you do that, most of the other stuff mentioned above is a lot easier to attain.

I’ve seen Coach Mike Candrea credited with saying “Boys have to play good to feel good, but girls have to feel good to play good.” I don’t know if it actually originated with him, but there’s a lot of truth to it. While it may not be true for every girl — yes, yes, I’m sure your daughter is the exception whose game is not affected by how she feels at any given time — in my experience it’s true for most.

If that’s the case, then it stands to reason your number one focus should be on getting them to feel good. If they feel good they will be more receptive to instruction, play harder, be more focused and be more successful. If they do all that, winning can’t be far behind.

Yet it’s surprising how many coaches don’t really get that. They watch the movie Miracle or Remember the Titans or some other macho sports flick and decide that the way to coach their team of 12 year old girls is to yell at them, scream at them, punish them for any minor indiscretion and otherwise make them “mentally tough.”

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Softball Coaching Tips – When to Move On

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

reduce softball coaching stressAs a general rule, the type of people who frequent discussion boards such as the Discuss Fastpitch Forum tend to have a high level of interest in the sport. And none more than the coaches who come seeking to share ideas and information.

Coaches such as yourself are usually very dedicated to their teams as well as individual players and/or students. You want the best for all of them all the time. Yet there’s a lesson each of us has to learn at one time or another: you can’t save the world.

What I mean by that is sometimes, despite your best efforts, a kid just won’t be that interested in getting better. When that happens you have two choices: fight a losing battle or move on. In my experience, unfortunately moving on is usually the better choice.

Yes, it’s hard to do. You’ve put in the time and you know you can help that kid if she’d only listen. But she won’t. She doesn’t care if your way is better. She wants to do it her way, and that’s all there is to it. Once that idea sets in, you might as well be trying to show the wall how to field a ground ball or deliver the pitch; the reaction will pretty much be the same.

It’s not any lack of effort or ability on your part. It’s that you’re faced with someone who has made a decision not to learn. Teachers face that all the time. The only thing that keeps them sane is recognizing an advanced case and just trying to get through it as best they can.

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Coaching Softball Tips – Learn, Practice, Master

coaching softball

By Stacie Mahoe

Coaching softball is not just a matter of running drills. There is actual teaching involved and I am amazed at how many coaches seem to bypass or forget about that part.

I recently watched some newer coaches coaching Little League baseball and I realized that some coaching mistakes are universal. The same mistakes that are made while coaching softball are also made in other sports as well. Take this teaching issue for example…

Some coaches skip this aspect altogether for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they feel the pressure of the season coming up. Sometimes it’s because they simply aren’t sure how to teach skills. Sometimes it’s because they feel players should already know certain things and they shouldn’t need to teach it.

I don’t care what age level or competition level you coach in, if players don’t know how to do something, whether they “should” already know it or not, it IS your job to teach them!

Where the mistake is made

It’s said that becoming good or competent at something or reaching a level of mastery happens in stages. First you learn the skill or concept. Then you practice it. Typically, you need to do those two things in order before you can master something.

Learn. Practice. Master.

Coaching softball successfully requires that you don’t overlook that first word…Learn.

Most softball coaches are great at the “practice” part but sometimes skip or overlook the “learn” part…

“Our team needs to hit, so lets throw the girls in the batter’s box and pitch to them and let them practice hitting.”

You can do that IF your players already know what to do, if they have already learned about hitting.

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Softball Hitting Tips – Helping Players Adjust in the Box

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
softballhitterFastpitch softball hitting is challenging under any circumstances. But sometimes factors combine to make it even more difficult than usual.

A pitcher with better than average speed or movement on her breaking balls is one example. An umpire with an extra-wide, low or high strike zone is another. Even the field conditions or weather can play a part. It is at that time that smart coaches will often suggest that their hitters make an adjustment in the batters.

Sometimes that works. But often it turns into a battle of wills between the coach and the hitters. Because even though the coach is right that moving up in the box will allow the hitters to hit the drop ball before it breaks, or the riseball before it gets too high, the hitters still don’t want to do it.

It’s not that they’re being obstinate, at least on purpose. It’s that hitters often don’t feel comfortable moving to an area in the batter’s box they’re not used to.

Now, before you start getting aggravated with them, think about it for a minute. What’s one of the things we stress to hitters? The importance of having a routine – a series of actions the hitter does every time before signaling to the umpire that she’s ready to go.

Often getting into the batter’s box in the same place is a part of that routine. So when you tell the hitter to move up, back, in, out or live La Vida Loca, you’re taking her out of her routine. When that happens, expect a collapse at the plate, and a dirty look meant to convey the message “I told you so!”

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Softball Performance – You Can Build It or Destroy It

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball coachingI have to say that my favorite compliment to receive as a coach isn’t about how much better a kid hits, pitches, plays third base, etc. It’s when a parent says, “You’ve given my daughter so much confidence.”

I know this is going to sound all sunshine and puppy dogs, but what better contribution could you make as a coach than to help a kid go from shy and uncertain to bold and capable? After all, even for top-level players careers are short; they’re only going to need those skills for a little while, relatively speaking. But confidence in themselves is an attribute that spills over into their daily lives today and will serve them well throughout their lives.

Yet there’s a dark side to that compliment: why is it the player needs her confidence boosted in the first place? Lately I’ve been hearing it because someone else (read: some other coach) destroyed the player’s confidence first. That’s just sad.

Yet it happens all the time. Why is it that some alleged adults feel it’s okay to say anything they want to a kid, as long as the end result is winning a game or league or tournament? Why is it they feel it’s okay to put down a kid who won’t help them get there? Or (as in the story about the coach telling the 10U player she’ll never be a pitcher) why do some coaches feel it’s necessary to destroy a kid’s dreams before they’ve even had a chance to take flight?

I have my own theories. I’m sure the reason in some cases is that the coach thinks his/her only job is to win games. He/she doesn’t know very much about the game, and so by browbeating the players — especially the ones whose skills haven’t developed yet — he/she can cover up the fact that he/she is unable to help anyone get better.

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