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Softball Performance – Tips & Tricks for Softball Hitters

Softball hitters are the engine of a softball game. Hitters do make the game lively and enjoyable. As such, I am pretty sure enough training on drills and emphasis has already been made to bring up perfect hitters.  But drills alone aren’t all that one needs to win. A few tricks will supplement a winner. When all teams are equally prepared, the winning team will only need utilize just one simple trick to gain an upper hand in the competition and outperform. Thus, in this edition, I wish to take my hitter readers through a simple “recipe” to outplay and outperform in the field.

#1. Be consistent in training: train, train and train always

To be a perfect hitter in softball is a daily full-time job. I mean it. Any sincerely good hitter will confess that hitting doesn’t come easy as it looks when other people do it. To be a good hitter, you have to invest loads of time in training. One important tip is that you should be consistent and learn to throw repeatedly with only one single style constantly. Of course you can add some showoff and pomp but only when after you are absolutely sure of winning.

 #2. Be confident: …if you think you can do it, you will surely do it.

It’s not just an issue of telling yourself you can. It means knowing you can. Obviously, such confidence in anything can only come from adequate training/learning. So, tip #1 will be a key to tip #2.  When you are confident, you will be sure of the perfect swings and perfect releases regardless of how a pitch is hurled at you.

#3. Learn the pitching discipline

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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 Performance – How Aggressive Do You Go

softball-baserunning

B Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Over the weekend I was working with Erin, one of my former players (who is still a student) on her baserunning skills. Actually, that’s a misnomer.

We weren’t really working on skills. We were working on the mental side instead — knowing what to do, and working on her opening up her game on the bases.

You see, she has legitimate speed. Not sure where she is now, but I know she was 3.0 home to first a year ago, and probably faster than that now.

Yet once she got on base, she tended to shrink into a shell. Most of the time she would think station to station instead of realizing just what her speed could do on the rest of the bases, so we went out on a field to try and change that thinking.

A big part of her “conservative” running was a fear of making an out. She’d take the easy base, but was reluctant to push the envelope even a little bit despite my encouraging everyone on the team to always “think two bases” when running.

That’s not unusual. Softball players don’t like to make mistakes, and they sure don’t like to get thrown out.

Yet the fact is if you’re ever going to be any good as a baserunner you have to accept that you will make some mistakes, and you will get thrown out occasionally. That’s just the nature of the game if you’re going to be aggressive.

I heard that same speech at the NFCA Coaches College class on developing a run-producting offense. I believe it was Jay Miller, former head coach of the USA National Team and Mississippi State who said if you’re aggressivve on the bases as a coach you’re going to get some runners thrown out — often at inopportune times. If you can’t live with that, you’ll never get the benefits of being aggressive.

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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 – 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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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 Skills Debate

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

There’s No ONE Answer for How To Execute Skills

Most of us come to resources such as the Discuss Fastpitch Forum because we’re looking to improve our understanding of the skills and strategies of the game.

One thing you’ll find along your journey, though, is some people are extremely, uh, passionate about what they think is the best way to hit, throw and catch a softball. Not only will they make statements about techniques as if they are facts instead of opinions, they will dismiss any contrary opinions as if they are the work of heretics. It can get mighty uncomfortable to read at times as vastly differing ideas go head to head.

What you need to keep in mind is either side could be right — or wrong. The only fact in the debate is that we don’t really know the absolute optimum way to execute any given skill. No one does. A lot of people think they do, but not a one would bet their house on it. And for good reason.

You can watch all the video you want. You can read all the books you want. You can take all the swings or throw all the pitches you want. You’re still taking your best guess, no matter who you are.

The reason is there is no reliable way to test varying theories against each other. To test something scientifically, you have to be able to restrict the variables to one. But you can’t do that with human beings. Regardless of whether a technique is good or bad, an athlete will tend to execute something she knows better than something she doesn’t know. So if you have the same person do two different things, she’s going to be better at one than the other. It doesn’t mean it’s the better thing to do, just that she’s better at it.

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Softball Performance Tips – Softball Performance Tips

softball drag buntBy Coach Marc

We’re still in the off-season. The season is only a few weeks away for some and a few months away for others.

No matter when you season start, you must make sure you’re ready.

As you know, the hardest thing to do in softball is to score runs.

That’s why you must spend a lot of time working and refining on the various offensive skills during the off-season.

It’s the part of the game that takes the most time to improve.

Here’s a quick checklist to help you out.

Hitting

  • Bat Selection
  • Positioning in the box
  • Stance & Set up
  • Timing & Loading
  • Swing Mechanics
  • Tracking
  • Pitch Recognition
  • Adjusting

Bunting

  • Sacrifice Bunt
  • Drag/Surprise Bunt
  • Fake Bunt
  • Squeeze Bunt
  • Push Bunt

Slapping

Base Running

  • Running Mechanics
  • Exiting the Batter’s Box
  • Running Through First Base
  • Braking
  • Rounding Bases
  • Leading off Bases
  • Tag-Up
  • Getting out of a Rundown
  • Heads up Running
  • Stealing

Sliding

  • Bent Leg Slide
  • Pop Up Slide
  • Head First Slide
  • Hook Slide
  • Back Door Slide
  • Breaking up Double Plays

Dive Backs

 

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Softball Performance Tips – Acceleration Techniques

By Coach Marc

Softball fielding is a lot about reading the situation and reacting quickly. The faster you can read and react, the more likely you are to get to the ball and make an out.

This quick softball video introduces the proper technique to accelerate from a static position (fielding position) to any direction where the ball might be going.

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