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Softball Tips – Practice Makes Permanent

By  Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softballtips-practicepermanentMany of you have probably heard the expression “Practice doesn’t make perfect — it makes permanent.” Yet how often have you really thought about that in the context of your own work?

I know I see that in action all the time. Walking through a facility or along a field I will see teams diligently running drills or working on techniques that essentially have them practicing to lose. Even though they may have best of intentions.

I see it with hitting a lot. I like hitting stations as much as the next coach, but they can do as much harm as good if they’re not set up or supervised properly.

Now, if you have older players whom you’ve worked with for awhile you can probably have them work the stations without someone being with them every minute. But for younger players it often doesn’t work as well.

I will see young players putting no effort into hitting off a tee because they think it’s for babies. So they just sort of knock the ball off instead of working on elements of their swings.

Soft toss is another one that can be problematic. Players will toss arcing balls to one another, which creates all sorts of problems in the swing that will have to corrected later.

But it’s not just hitting. You can see it in throwing, when players just push or lob the ball to one another while chattering away. You see it in the way they catch or field, just going through the motions instead of working on technique. They figure as long as they get the ball, or get it to wherever it needs to go next, they’ve done their jobs. But then, when they really need the better skills, those skills aren’t there — because they haven’t developed them.

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Softball Performance Tips – The Funnel Approach

softball coaching tips-funnel approach
By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Whether you’re working with a team or an individual, many fastpitch softball coaches struggle with where to start. There’s so much to learn in our game that it can be quite overwhelming.

This is where coaches can take a cue from the business world — in particular the “funnel” approach used in sales. Most sales organizations have it down to a science. They know that if they’re going to close X number of sales, they need to X number of customers to come to the website, which means they need their promotional efforts to reach X number of people in total.

In the case of coaching, it works this way. Start with the big things, get those happening first, and then work your way down into the details.

Now, that may seem rather obvious but you’d be surprised how many coaches try to get to the detail parts too quickly — or try to teach everything about a skill at once. What usually happens is the player becomes so overwhelmed by information that she doesn’t learn much of anything.

Let’s take hitting as a good example. As you’ve no doubt seen on the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, those who get into hitting often really get into it. They will spend hundreds of hours or more looking at video of top-level players and analyzing everything down to the way their eyebrows twitch when they’re waiting on the pitch.

That’s fine as an intellectual pursuit. Where the problem comes in is when they try to impart all that vast knowledge to their players. If they don’t prioritize in a way that creates success for the player, it’s likely that the player will become frustrated and simply give up.

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Softball Tips – How to Practice When There’s Nowhere to Practice

indoor-softball-practice-tips

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

While the winter weather isn’t too bad yet, we’re reaching that point in the year where those of us in the North have to think about moving indoors. As you probably know, that creates an entirely new dilemma for practicing.

During the warmer months (and the months where it isn’t dark by 5:00 PM), you can pretty much wander out to any available ballfield and get some practice time in. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a ballfield. Just about any old patch of grass or dirt will do in a pinch.

But once outdoors is taken out of the picture, things get a lot tougher. Sure, you can rent cage time, but that can get expensive if you’re serious about it. You can try to find an open gym, but their managers often are unhappy about a hard ball being hit, thrown or pitched in the general vicinity of others playing basketball, volleyball or other sports.

Moving indoors also takes more schedule coordination. Not only do coach/parent and player/daughter have to be available at the same time, that time has to coincide with the times a cage or gym are available.

But the good news is you don’t need to go through all of that, at least not all the time. Because there is plenty a player can do within her own home that will help her improve her skills.

For example, a pitcher can work on her motion using a rolled-up pair of socks to throw against any wall mom or dad says is ok. Or she can shadow-pitch — going through the motion without anything in her hand.

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Softball Performance Tips – Making Time for Practice

notimeBy Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Now that school is back in full swing time is at a premium for fastpitch softball players. Especially high school age players who are either in-season right now or playing other sports.

The demands of schoolwork and/or other sports/activities make it easy to say “I don’t have time to practice.” And that’s true to an extent — it really is difficult to find the time in the midst of everything else going on.

Yet the fact remains if you’re a pitcher, come next summer the hitters you’re facing won’t care that you had volleyball practice after school or that you were taking three AP classes in the fall. The only thing they’ll look at is how fat that pitch is and how hard they can hit it.

On the other side, if you’re a hitter, the pitchers won’t care if your free throw percentage was 85% or you sat first chair flute in the band. If you’re not ready to hit they’ll simply blow the ball right by you.

softballplayerI’m not saying it’s bad to have other activities, sports and interests. Personally, I think it’s a good thing. But you can’t use it as an excuse not to practice softball if you want to play at a high competitive level.

No matter what, you have to make time to practice. It might be when you’re dead tired after running sprints, or while you still have a big project due in a few days. It won’t be easy, but then nothing worthwhile ever is.

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Softball Performance Tips – Take a Little Time to Retool

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Without a doubt this is a busy part of the fastpitch softball summer season. Tournaments every weekend, for some teams league or scrimmage doubleheaders during the week, and maybe a practice squeezed in here or there.

What that means is very little time to work on individual skills. Some may be able to handle that, but they’re in the minority. For most, all this play time means skills are actually deteriorating.

It makes sense. In a practice setting, a hitter might take 100 to 200 swings in a session. In a game, she’s lucky if she gets 12. That’s a pretty big delta.

Same with fielders. Whereas in a good practice session you may field 50-100 balls or more, you may go a game or two without any significant fielding chances — especially if your team has dominant pitching. Sure, you get some practice during warm-ups, but your focus is different then. It’s on getting ready for this game coming up, not on necessarily improving your skills.

Even pitchers can have it tough. Sure, you’re still throwing a lot of pitches. But the focus will be on the ones that are working. The pressure is on to throw strikes and keep baserunners off the bases, so if you curve is working and your rise is not, the rise isn’t going to get much of a workout.

That’s why it’s important to make time for that sort of deep practice that will keep skills sharp and you playing the way you want to play. Which probably means you’ll have to get out on your own to do it.

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Softball Training Tips – This is What Really Counts

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

It’s the Time Between Lessons That Really Counts

softballpitchingAs most of you who have been around for a while know, I am a private instructor in addition to being a team coach and administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum. It’s something I love doing — I must, because for most of the off-season I’m doing it nearly every day of the week for hours at a time.

As such, I’m certainly an advocate of taking lessons for various skills — particularly hitting and pitching. A good instructor can really help shorten the learning process, and keep players from making a lot of dead-end decisions regarding technique.

Yet I always have one thing I stress to every new student and her parents: It’s not the time you spend with me that’s important. It’s really the time you spend between visits to me that makes the difference.

Sure, I wish I could offer some miracle cure to players — a simple laying on of the hands, so to speak, that would instantly convey the skills they want to acquire. But honestly, if I could do that I’d be charging $1,000 per lesson, maybe more. And there would be a line a mile long to get a little of that “healing action.”

That’s not the way it works, though. Instead, learning skills in softball hitting takes time and effort. Lots of both. But I find that when players put in the time on their own, their overall progress is much faster than those who show up once a week not having touched a ball or bat since the previous week’s lesson.

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Never Be Afraid to Ask WHY

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball-performance-tipsPerhaps one of the most interesting and fun things about coaching softball players who come to you after working with other coaches is hearing the crazy things they’re told to do. I’m not talking about the standards — the often-repeated instructions such as get your back elbow up. I’m talking about some of the really odd things coaches have players do.

A great example was the craze that had hitters slapping their backs with the bat. I’m not sure where that started, but there were a lot of females making that painful move not too long ago. Thankfully it’s mostly gone by the wayside now.

The thing that most fascinates me about it is it seems neither the players nor the parents ever ask the simple question “why?” As in why do you want me to slap my back? How does it help?

Everything you do as a player (or say as a coach) should have a purpose. Sure, you don’t want to be seen as being disrespectful, and if you’re paying for lessons you want to be able to trust the person you’re paying. Yet you have a right to know why you’re being asked to do certain things, particularly if they deviate from the norm.

In my opinion, players and parents don’t ask enough questions. Perhaps sometime, as an experiment, I will take a group of students and tell them to do something really crazy just to see if they’ll question it.

I always stress to the players I coach, whether as a team coach or private instructor, that if they don’t understand something or they’re told by me to do something different than what they’ve been told before they should ask why. If I can’t give them an answer they shouldn’t do it because I’m probably just making it up. But I make an effort not to do that, so I’m not worried.

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How to Attack Your Softball Training for Maximum Success

softball training

By Stacie Mahoe

Two things you have to understand about softball training is that there are no “small things” and that often times boring = important.  How often do you see teams to baserunning drills and actually see players run in an all out sprint?  There may be 1 or 2 that actually run at their best speed during these daily baserunning drills.  How many times do you see players do routine fielding drills and just “go through the motions” giving their bare minimum to get through the drill?  It happens quite often wouldn’t you say?

But what kind of preparation is this for competition?

How many times have you heard a coach yell, “You gotta get down!” after a player gets tagged out going into a base standing up…and yet when this team practices, players are allowed to wear shorts or show up with no sliding pads?  They are never required to “get down” in practice and yet coaches expect it in games?

“Practice how you play” they say.  What does this mean?  Is it something you really do?  If you want to perform great consistently…Guess what?  You must train that way.  You must attack your softball training with your 100% complete and total effort in EVERYTHING. Every drill, no matter how “boring” or “small” or “simple.”  Make your full intensity, determination, and concentration when executing skills a HABIT by training that way every drill, every day.

You can’t go up to a bunt station and just stick out your bat for 5 straight pitches, bunt some fair, bunt some foul, and miss one then expect to be able to put down a perfect bunt in a one-shot opportunity at game time when you have an opposing pitcher standing at the other end of the pitch throwing at you with everything she’s got.

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Softball Training – In-Season Practices

softball-fieldingBy Coach Marc

School is now done and we are now busier than ever with softball.

Every weekends and most week nights are busy with softball either playing, traveling, or practicing a little.

The question is…

At this time of the year, what should you be practicing?

I will start by answering what you should absolutely positively NOT do…

The ONE thing you need to AVOID doing is to implement any  significant technical changes.

Learning takes time to integrate and doing technical changes at this time of the year will HURT your game, not help it.

Resist (even if it is really tempting when things aren’t going well) doing significant technical changes and keep for until after the season.

Keep the technical changes for after the season.

At the current moment, you’ve got to go to war with what you’ve got!

The focus of practices at this time of year should be on:

1) maintaing your skills sharp
2) finding your timing / rythmn / flow
3) making some tweaking or very minor technical adjustments to
optimize execution (like last minute adjustments on a race car)
4) perfect defensive and offensive strategies / tactics
5) work on deficiencies (what has not worked well in games lately)
6) prepare for a specific opponents

You have limited time to practice so you need to focus on the most important things and make sure you keep your game sharp to be at your best in game.

Also, another very important point about in-season practices is that the focus should be on quality, not quantity.  The last thing you want is for your practices to affect your recovery. Keep things short but intense.

 

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Softball Training – Practice What Matters

softball trainingBy Coach Marc

We’ve been practicing outside for 3 weeks now. Our first game is in 2 weeks and very much forward looking to it. It’s about time after almost 6 months of off-season softball training.

I have to admit – I’m excited!!!

Even though I’ve been coaching softball for 20 years, I still get excited at the beginning of each season. This is a good thing. It  means I still love coaching this game and helping players.

Now, what do I most of my time doing in practice currently?

I practice what matters.

You see, softball is a game of errors and that are often won or  lost by one or two runs.

You’ve got to minimize errors as much and as you can and execute all the fundamentals very well.

In a nutshell, What matters most in softball:

1) Make good contact with the ball
2) Field groundballs cleanly (in front, on your right, on your left)
3) Use proper footwork and quick transition
4) Accurate throws
5) Get the bunts down
6) Make good decisions at the plate
7) Catch all “catchable” flyballs
8 ) Run bases properly
9) Communication
10) Pitch around strike zone, deceive batters and have control.

In my book, these are the elements that matter most in our game. You do them right, the odds are stacked in your favor.

So, I spend about 85% of my practices working on these things, especially with an inexperienced 16U team.

Do you spend time practicing what matters?

Think about it.

 

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