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Crazy Dads of Softball!

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Port Huron Cobras 14u Fastpitch Softball Champ...

(Photo credit: Mike Yarger)

 

Where would fastpitch softball be without the crazy dads?
With Father’s Day having been Sunday, it gave me time to think about dads and the game of fastpitch softball. No other group probably get maligned more (except maybe umpires), and yet really when you think about it where would the sport be without them?

Dads are the ones who often come to lessons with their daughters. They sit on buckets getting their shins bruised and their lips split as daughter goes from wanna be to dominating.

They come to hitting lessons to listen, learn and shag balls. They’re on the receiving end of throws, and get blisters on their hands hitting ground balls.

The term “Daddy Ball” is a negative one, used disparagingly about a father who favors his own daughter to the detriment of the team. That is a legitimate problem in some cases, but too often it’s used to put down any father who has the audacity to coach a team and not be perfect while doing it.

Truth is without fathers taking enough of an interest to get off the sidelines and stand on the field, our sport would not be nearly as popular or well-populated as it is today. Many are the only things standing between their daughters and not having a team.

What’s interesting is it’s not just the former baseball playing dads who get involved. In my coaching career I’ve known many dads who never played ball in their lives who help their daughters out, pitching to them so they can practice hitting, catching for them, tossing fly balls and so forth. They don’t let their own lack of skills or understanding get in the way; instead they do the best they can to help their daughters be the best they can. Sometimes even against their daughters’ wills.

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Softball Performance Tips – When You Know the Outcome

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IMG_4849 (Photo credit: Tom Dibble)

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

I was at a high school game today when an interesting scenario took place.  The home team was in the midst of a rally, having just scored three runs to pull within three runs of the visitors.

With a runner on third and one out, the batter hit a ground ball to deep short.  The runner on third took off (possibly a little late), and was cut down at home on a nice throw and catch from the shortstop to the catcher.

Immediately the parents on the home team side were upset, some more than others, with some vocalizing their unhappiness.  At that point the mom of the home team’s pitcher (who is one of my students), an experienced coach herself, asked me if I would’ve sent the runner.

“Probably not,” I told her. “At least not right away. If there had been runners on second and third yes, but otherwise I would’ve tried to draw that throw home to protect my batter and get another runner on base.

But,” I added, “it’s always easier to make that call once you know the outcome of sending her.”

I then went on to explain some possible scenarios that would’ve had the runner safe.  The shortstop could’ve airmailed the ball in instead of firing a strike home.  The catcher could’ve pulled off the ball early trying to make the tag.  The base runner could’ve done a slide-by to the foul side of the plate instead of sliding right into the tag.  If any of those had happened, no one would’ve said boo, except good job.

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Sports Parenting Tips: The Days Are Long But…

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By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

There is an old parenting saying that goes “The days are long but the years are short.” With the high school and travel seasons coming up in many areas right now, fastpitch parents would do well to heed that advice.

It wasn’t long ago that some of us were in your shoes. We were madly rushing from practice to game, or game to game, or lessons to practice or some other combination, wondering how we were ever going to do it all and keep up our houses and lawns and all that too.

Rest assured, however, that one day it will end. There won’t be anymore lessons, or practices, or games to get to. There won’t be any injuries to nurse or feelings to massage. And you may just find yourself wishing you had one more day of hot, sweaty tournament play to enjoy.

The time goes fast. It really does. And between running from here to there like a crazy person and being disappointed by an unexpected loss, sometimes it gets easy to lose your perspective. Don’t let that happen.

Take a little time to stop and drink it all in. Sure you may be freezing watching a HS game up North, but one day before you know it you will be all snug in your house on a cold April day because you don’t have a game to go to anymore.

Yes, today your lawn may be looking a little ragged, but one day soon you’ll have time to cut it with a pair of scissors if you want. Most importantly, yes your daughter may have gone 0 for today. But it won’t be long before she has the final at bat of her career and you will wish you were back pacing the sidelines hoping for a duck snort just to get her out of her painful slump.

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Softball Hitting Q&A with Crystl Bustos

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By Stacie Mahoe

After having Crystl Bustos in Hawaii and getting to see her work with young softball players, I thought she’d be a good person to ask about softball hitting and hitting instruction. Crystl graciously took some time to answer 10 softball hitting instruction questions for us!

1. What’s your favorite thing about working with young hitters?
My favorite thing about working with young hitters is to watch them grow and get better

2. What are some of the common myths or misconceptions hitters come to you with? (things they’ve been told by other coaches that isn’t really helpful)
Squish the bug. That this is softball not baseball so the swing is way different. That they can’t hit homeruns.

3. What is the hardest part of teaching hitters to improve their swing?
Getting them to practice at home!

4. When a hitter comes to you and has multiple areas of her swing to work on, how do you know where to start?
I start from the ground up and age sometimes plays a role.

5. What are some of the most common problems you see in hitters that come to you for help?
They don’t know why they should do what we are telling them to do.

6. What are some of the things you feel you do differently from other hitting coaches?
I get them to understand why we do what we do and how to fix it themselves.

7. When a parent is looking for a hitting instructor to send their daughter to, what should they look for? What kinds of questions should they ask?
Why do you do that? Why is that wrong? Why is that way right? A good hitting coach should know “why” and it when they tell you “why” it should make sense.

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How to Keep From Striking Out as a Softball Parent

By Janis Meredith

janis-meredith-sportsHitting that bright yellow softball is not as easy as it looks. Any softball player will tell you that there is more to hitting that just swinging away. With proper mechanics, a player can improve her batting average and hopefully minimize strike-outs.

Being a good sports parent is not as easy as it looks either. It takes more than just cheering on the sidelines. There are certain “mechanics” that can help you avoid striking out as a sports parent.

My husband, who’s coached softball for 10 years, gives his players 3 tips to help them when they step up to bat, tips that he hopes will help them get on base and not strike out.

Those same tips can also help you avoid sports parenting strike-outs.

First, he tells his girls, “Have a ritual to relax”.

In sports, the mental game is huge.
Most great athletes have a ritual that helps them focus. A tennis player may adjust racquet strings in between shots even though the strings don’t need adjusting. A football kicker may take a deep breath and stretch his neck side to side before the snap. A batter might swing a heavy bat. A softball hitter may tap the base.

Rituals provide a sense of stability and help us stay focused on our goals.

Do you have “rituals” to help you relax as a sports parent? Give it a try. It might help you relax and focus on what is important. Bring a water bottle, sit in the same location, chew on sunflower seeds. Say a prayer. Familiar habits that will help you relax.
When we relax, we are less likely to get uptight about bad calls, coaching issues, and our child’s performance.

Next, he instructs them, “Say yes, yes,  yes”.

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Softball Tryouts Problem – What Ever Happened to Earning Your Spot?

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball helicopter parentHad an interesting experience with tryouts this year, and I doubt it’s an isolated incident. In fact, it seems to be something that’s indicative of our society as a whole, as it’s not the first time I’ve heard of something like this.

Here’s the basic situation: we had a girl try out for catcher, but then got a note saying she had decided to play for another team. That in and of itself is fine — you should play for whomever you want.

But it was the reason that really stuck with me. Apparently during the tryouts, her dad saw that she clearly was not the best catcher trying out. I then heard through the grapevine he talked to someone affiliated with this other team who promised she’d be number one there, and the decision was made.

I find that rather disturbing. Instead of looking at where his daughter might receive the best training or best competition, he based his decision on the instant gratification of a guaranteed starting spot. It makes me sad, not only for society but for that kid and all the others like her.

A big part of sports is measuring yourself against other players and striving to become the best. If you are in the number two spot, you should have incentive to work on your game and get better. There’s a lot of satisfaction in knocking the former #1 off her pedestal.

Yet that’s not what seems to be happening. Helicopter parents — those who hover over their kids, smoothing the way for them on everything from which teachers they get in school to making sure they get into the right clubs or organizations — don’t want to see their kids fight or struggle for anything.

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Softball Father-Daughter/Player Relationship

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball parent
You see it at any softball park: the dynamics between fathers and the softball playing daughters. While it mostly applies to coaches, it probably really extends to any father who is involved at any level in his daughter’s playing career.

This is something I have first-hand knowledge of. I coached two daughters through their softball careers. They were far enough apart in age that when one finished I was able to start with the second.

Each experience was different, yet there were also some similarities. First, understand that I was probably more into the game than either of them. In fact, they don’t get why I have continued to coach once their careers were over, but have more or less come to accept it.

What that meant, though, was that I would often want to talk about a particular game, or the team, or a technique or skill and they wouldn’t. It could be frustrating on both sides.

Yet when it came down to it, both were actually happy that their father coached them. It’s a complex dynamic to be sure, and more than a little difficult to explain unless you’ve experienced it.

For the daughters, there are two basic effects of having Dad as the coach. Either you get all the privileges — automatic entry onto the All Star team, favored spot in the batting order, play the position you want, etc. — or you get screwed.

In the latter scenario, you end up sitting out a little more because it’s easier to sit you out than someone else’s kid, or you’re held to a higher standard of conduct that anyone else on the team, or you receive no special favors — even though all the other kids on the team seem to get them. About the best you can hope for is first choice of uniform numbers. And oh yeah, it seems like you always wind up carrying equipment while the others scatter after a tournament.

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10 Tips for Being a Great Softball Parent

By Stacie Mahoe

As a softball parent, you only want the best for your daughter.  So what can you do to help your daughter become the best she can be on the field? Here are 10 Tips to Help You Be a Great Softball Parent!

  1. Focus on reinforcing your daughter’s correct technique, mechanics, and good performance.
  2. Don’t dwell on your daughter’s mistakes.
  3. Value your daughter’s “intangible strengths” – determination, mental toughness, positive attitude, confidence, commitment, etc.
  4. Be a good example.  Your children learn from you.  Model the behavior and attitude you want your children to develop.
  5. Show your daughter you see her progress and are proud of her for the effort and improvement she is making.
  6. Allow and provide for taking a break – no school, no sports, just time to relax and enjoy family and friends.
  7. Don’t specialize too early in sport or in position.
  8. Encourage the same commitment and passion toward school as you do toward softball.
  9. Remember that there is no short cut to success.  Expensive equipment it and of itself won’t solve all problems, it still requires dedication, skill, and technique for maximum success.
  10. Provide your daughter with the ultimate reward: your time, your attention, your approval, and the chance to hang out with you doing and sharing something she loves.
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Softball Tip: How to Choose a Good Instructor

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

When looking for a good softball hitting, pitching, or fielding instructor, there’s one message I want to share with you today:

Beware of False Qualifications

fastpitch softball instructorsThe other day I was hanging around a training facility where I don’t normally teach. I was waiting for a co-worker from my day (real) job, who was bringing his son and daughter there for me to help them with their hitting.

Since I arrived a little early and the place was sparsely populated, I dropped my stuff off by a bench and wandered over to a bulletin board area. Among the items they had were photos of their baseball and softball instructors with a little description of the background of each.

As I looked at the softball instructor descriptions I saw an interesting phrase. It said the instructor I was looking at was “Hitting, pitching and fielding certified.”

Hmmmph, I thought. That’s interesting. I wasn’t aware that there was a national standards board with a test you could take to become “certified” in various skills.

I know soccer has a coach’s licensing system that goes worldwide. I know martial arts instructors have to pass a rigorous series of tests based on long-established and standardized teachings to become certified. But softball?

Of course, there is no such thing. What I’m guessing it meant is that someone at the facility gives them the ok, and then they’re certified there. But it points up one of those things that unwary parents have to be careful of.

Saying an instructor is certified sounds very official and impressive. Yet it’s completely meaningless unless you know the standards on which the certification was based. It’s like saying someone played professional baseball, or is a former college player.

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Coaching Softball – How to Build Relationships With Parents

By Coach Marc 

Do you know the two mains reason why coaches quit coaching softball? Parents.

Most coaches love to coach. Coaching softball can actually be addicting.

However, coaching softball can also come with some painful experiences for many like dealing with parents. Sometimes it is the parents’ fault, sometimes it is the coach’s fault and often, it’s a mix of both.

Here are a few strategies on how you can build relationships with the parents (and  athletes) to minimize the painful experiences and actually have fun coaching softball.

By this, I don’t mean that you need to open your home to the parents and cook them a wonderful four-course dinner.

But, if that works, then why not try it?

Instead, take the time to get to know the parents better than  you do. Many coaches try to keep the parents at arm’s length  in order to prevent anyone from feeling left out or that there’s favoritism on the team because of more positive relationships with parents.

It is a good idea to find out what is going on in their lives,  get to know a little bit about them, and find out what makes them tick. Everyone likes it when people show an interest in them, and the parents of your athletes are no different. Even if you don’t like it, to do a good job coaching softball, you should definitely do it.

Here are a few ideas on how you can build positive relationships with the people on your team:

  • Do team building exercises like: go bowling, go to the wave pool, have a wiener roast, go on a camp out – etc. These situations put parents in a place where they may feel more  relaxed, and seeing them in these situations might help you  to understand them better.
     
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