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Softball Performance Tips – Start with Great Expectations

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

The pitching circle, seen here at ASA Hall of ...

ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, where championships are won (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

To Win, Start with Great Expectations

Everyone has known a fastpitch softball coach or two who never seems to be happy.  Ask him/her how the team is looking and you get a tale of woe that makes you wonder how the coach gets out of bed in the morning.  Then you watch the team and you realize they are a manifestation of the coach’s negative view.

Our sport is hard enough without making it harder on ourselves — player, coach or parent. What’s often needed is a positive mental attitude — in other words, setting out some great expectations for ourselves and the team.

I’m not talking about being unrealistic.  You can’t take a group of marginally interested players and expect them to win ASA Nationals.  Ain’t gonna happen no matter how positive you think. But you can expect your team/kids to play to the level at which they are capable — and have been trained. When you do that, you can also expect them to win most of their games.

Winning and losing both tend to be contagious.  If you step onto the field expecting to win, you stand a better chance than if you expect to lose. And once you win a few and start believing in yourselves, more wins are sure to come.  It becomes a self-feeding mechanism.

The same goes for losing.  When you expect to lose it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You make the little physical errors and mental mistakes that lead to losses, then figure “That’s what I thought would happen.”

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Great Softball Learning Opportunity

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

One of the great things about growing up in the Chicago area during the 1960s and ’70s was the opportunity to watch a lot of professional baseball on TV during the summer.  At that time the Cubs played all their home games during the day, so while we were off school there was a pretty good chance of catching games.

While those of you who remember those teams can certainly argue about the quality of ball being played, we were still able to learn a lot by watching what the pros did.  Even if we weren’t paying full attention, a certain amount seemed to seem in through osmosis.

English: National Collegiate Athletic Associat...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That opportunity is coming up now for fastpitch softball players.  The NCAA Division 1 playoffs are upon us, and with them the opportunity to see high-level games from many of the best teams in the U.S.

While pretty much every team always strives to play the best ball it can, when the playoffs come everything gets raised to another level.  Players run harder, dive more and extend themselves more because they know they either get the job done or go home.

Players these days don’t seem as interested in watching games on TV.  There are too many other distractions — texting, the Internet, video games, DVDs, streaming video and the list goes on.  But it will be a whole ‘nother year before this opportunity comes up again.  So how do you take advantage of it?

Parents, you can sit down with your players and watch some games with them.  Watch the techniques the players are using and see if they’re aligned with what you’re learning.

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Softball Tips: 3 Ways to Bounce Back From Mistakes

bounce-back

By Stacie Mahoe

One of the most powerful traits a softball player can have is the ability to bounce back from mistakes, overcome obstacles, and keep pushing through adversity. Of course, this is often easier said than done. How do you bounce back when you just cost your team a run on defense or stranded the tying run in scoring position after you struck out looking with two outs?

While there are various sports psychology tips and tricks for improving your mental game, here are 3 simple tips you can start using today to help you bounce back from your softball mistakes:

Accept: Accept that you made a mistake and that you’re upset about it.   If you feel mad, frustrated, embarrassed, sad, upset or any other negative emotion because you messed up, that’s OK!  It just means your human and means you care about what happens on the field.  Don’t fight that or beat yourself up for feeling that way.  Allow it for a moment, accept and acknowledge that you felt it, then side it aside for the rest of the game.  There will be lots of time to evaluate it further later.  Right now, you need to reset your mind and body for the next play!

Remember the big picture: No game ever comes down to just one play or just one mistake. Even if your mistake stands out the most, chances are there were many, many, many other missed opportunities during the game that could have made a difference in the final outcome.  If every player on a team did exactly what they were supposed to do in every given situation, your mistake wouldn’t be such a big deal.  Unless everyone on your team went 3-3 in the batter’s box today and did everything perfectly on defense, you’re not the only one who could’ve done better.  You’re not the only player that had an opportunity to make a difference in the game and failed to do so.  Remember that the entire fate of the team does NOT lie upon your shoulders only.

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Quick Softball Tip: Do You Know Where You’re Headed?

softballgoals

By Stacie Mahoe

Most softball players and coaches dedicate quite of bit of time to softball each week. In fact, you may even fall into the category of spending a “ton” of time on softball when you’re in season. However, it’s surprising how often players or coaches train, compete, and spend hours of their time on this game with only the vague purpose of having fun or wanting to “get better.”  It almost boggles my mind how much time and energy some commit to softball without really giving much thought to exactly what they want to accomplish this season or even over the course of the next 2-3 seasons.

Are you one of those people? Think about it. If I asked you right now to tell me where you want to be softball-wise at the end of this season, what would you tell me? How specific would your answer be? Do you even know what your first and biggest goal would be? If you only accomplished ONE thing, what would you want it to be? Is it a hitting goal or a defensive goal? Is it a speed and agility goal or softball skills goal? Is it more of a personal goal or one for the team you’re on?

If you’re not sure and can’t answer any of those questions with any certainty in less than 30 seconds, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone and I’m going to help you do something about that right now.

Is it really that important to do all that thinking and know all that stuff?
Before we get into the details of all that, let’s talk about why it’s so important.

You probably wouldn’t get in your car and start driving without first knowing where you want to go.  Right? 
If you would, then go ahead and stop reading right here. 😉

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Softball Performance Tips – Beware of Confirmation Bias


By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Last year just for fun I downloaded a book onto my old smartphone that had nothing to do with fastpitch softball. While I quickly discovered that reading a book on a smartphone is not an easy task for someone of my age, the book itself was quite interesting.

It was called “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” and its purpose was to give people the tools they need to decide if global warming is real and what (if anything) should be done about it. What the author, a fifth grade science teacher, was trying to do was give readers the tools to make their own decisions.

In the very lengthy discussion leading into the tools, the author talked about something called “confirmation bias.” The basic principle of confirmation bias is that when you are trying to prove a point, you will look for evidence that proves your point and ignore evidence that goes against it.

Sound familiar? It’s something most of us do naturally and sub-consciously. We have certain beliefs about the game of fastpitch softball and the skills required to play it, and we don’t want anyone telling us different. So if someone challenges us, we immediately look for “evidence” to support our position, usually in the form of video.

Here’s the problem. If you have sufficient time, energy and access to video you can prove or disprove just about anything. If common sense says you should do X, by golly there’s going to be someone who can come up with a video of a high-level player doing Y instead.

Some do it because they actually believe in Y. Some do it just because they like to “prove” other people are wrong. And some do it so they don’t have to consider changing their long-held beliefs.

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What Coaching Softball and Pictionary Have in Common

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Anyone who has played Pictionary, Charades or other games where one person gives clues to others knows how frustrating it can be. (Particularly if your partner is your significant other, but that’s a story for another day.)

You draw what you think is an accurate and brilliant representation of the concept you’re trying to get across. And then all you get are blank stares and confused looks from your partners.

As time ticks away you frantically gesture and point at your drawing, which elicits no more recognition from your partners than it did originally. Finally the buzzer sounds and you’re spent, with nothing to show for your efforts.

Sound familiar? That’s the experience fastpitch softball coaches often have when working with their players. You explain a concept the way you always have, in a way that makes perfect sense to you and that has worked before. Yet it’s met with blank stares, and more importantly it doesn’t make the change you want to make in the player.

This is one of the great challenges in coaching. Because it doesn’t matter how much you know, only how much you can convey to your players.

As a coach you always need to be looking for the cues that a player is understanding what you want. You can also directly ask, although the odds are they’ll say yes whether they get it or not. Either way, if you can see what you’re saying is not getting through, it’s up to you to find a new way to say it.

Sometimes it helps to come up with an analogy to explain a concept. I once explained the release of a changeup by saying you’re going to take a little red wagon, drag it forward and send it down to your catcher.

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Softball Performance Tips – How Willing Are You to Change

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Tonight I had a very interesting discussion with one of my students. She was my last lesson of the night and we had a little time to chat before her mom came back to pick her up.

We spoke of many things, but then we got into the idea of players being willing to change what they’re doing to get better. I then mentioned that my teaching had changed somewhat since the days when my sons had played baseball.

That’s when Jenna asked an interesting question: If you found better mechanics than what you’re currently doing, would you make your students change?

I paused for only a moment and then said yes. She seemed a little surprised at first, but then I asked her “If I discovered something that could add five mph to your pitches wouldn’t you want me to share that with you, even if it’s different?” It didn’t take her long to nod her head yes.

This is something coaches need to be willing to do — give up what they believe when something better comes along. That might seem self-evident but it’s really not.

Certainly anyone who hangs around the forum long enough sees posters who like to defend an indefensible position, or will split hairs on a technique in an attempt to prove they’re right. Yet it’s not about being right; it’s about finding the best way to do (or teach) a particular skill.

Changing what you’re teaching doesn’t necessarily mean you were teaching the skill incorrectly before. It just means you didn’t have as much information then as you do now.

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Softball Tips – Upping Your Focus Level Pays Off

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball-hitting-tips-mental-gameTonight I was working with one of my top hitting students, a girl named Amy who always draws oohs and ahhs when people watch her swing the bat. She’s a very good hitter, better than she herself realizes, I think, and really turned some heads as a varsity starter last year when she was a freshman.

Her normal swing is a good one, but tonight while we were doing some front toss I noticed something. At one point you could just see that something had changed with her — and changed for the better.

I had to stop and ask — did your concentration level just go up? Yes, she answered. She told me that the last swing, where the ball just jumped off her bat in what looked like it would’ve been a 300 foot home run if we were at a field instead of in a cage, she just totally blocked out all other thoughts and just focused on the ball.

What a concept, eh? We often tell hitters to “see ball, hit ball,” but how often do they actually accomplish it? There’s always some nagging thought getting in the way, whether it’s an instruction, a consequence (such as I need to get a hit so we can score the runners on base), a fight with a parent or teammate, a fielding error from last inning or something else.

Yet what you really need as a hitter is that pure concentration. When you are totally focused, the ball looks bigger and gets slower. You’re right there in the moment, just you and the ball, only you have a big ol’ bat in your hands.

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Softball Tips – Take a Little Time to Look Back

softball-tips-looking-back

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

With fastpitch softball being as competitive as it is these days, most of us spend 100% of our time looking forward. We see the goals, they’re out in the distance, and we’re always looking to move ourselves closer to them.

But with the new year upon us, it might be a good time to take a look back, even just for a moment, to see how far you’ve come. I find that is often one of the most inspirational things you can do, and a good way to recharge the ol’ enthusiasm for the journey ahead.

I’ve done this with a few of my students lately, especially the new ones. I ask them to think back to when we started back in August and September, and what things were like for them. I then go through a quick review of what we’ve worked on since then, capping it off with a count of the months we’ve been working on it.

For example, with a high school pitcher we might look back to find we’ve rebuilt her mechanics so they are more consistent and allow her to throw both harder and more accurately. We’ll see she is throwing a change-up, and starting on a drop ball.

That’s a lot to accomplish in three or four months. While we may still have a long way to go to reach her goals, she can at least feel good that she has gotten somewhere for all her hard work.

For a catcher it may be learning better stances, how to block, or improving her “pop” time — the time from when the pitch pops her glove to the time her throw pops the glove of the fielder on a steal. For a hitter it may be rebuilding her mechanics, adding power, increasing hard contact or overcoming mental blocks when facing an 0-2 pitch.

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10 Keys to Championship Success

coach-darrick-brown chicago bandits
By Darrick Brown

10 keys to our success this season:

1. Team chemistry – I truly believe this was a big part of our success. The veterans immediately accepted the rookies and new players from day 1. This was one of the closest teams that I have ever coached. A ton of lifelong friendships were made this summer.

2. Management – Our owner Bill Sokolis and GM Aaron Moore did a fantastic job of putting together a team full of great players and most importantly great people. Not a ton of big names but players who certainly are earning the right to be known in the future.

3. City of Rosemont/Mayor Brad Stephens/Rosemont Stadium – The 2011 season began a new era for the Chicago Bandits and most importantly a very positive move to a new location, 27 Jennie Finch Way, Rosemont, IL. Mayor Stephens and Owner Bill Sokolis moved the team to Rosemont and the city built us a 6 million dollar stadium. It could be the best stadium ever built for fastpitch softball. So when the players and I walk out on the field it is truly a honor to wear the Bandits logo.

4. The fans – I truly believe we have the greatest fans (of course I am biased) in the NPF. We had great crowds every home game. There is a very loyal following in Chicago and they expect nothing but the best. We are glad we could bring the Cowles Cup home to them! Game 1 next year will be for them. Im guessing the Cup will be present.

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