"The Greatest Gold-Mine Of Softball Tips, Tricks, and Advice!"

June 2, 2008

Softball Fielding Tips – A Mental Routine To Stay Focused

By Coach Marc

Have you ever noticed that we do the same things the same way most of time? We have routines and specific ways of doing things.

For example, I do pretty much the same thing every morning.

6:00 am – Alarm goes off / turn on TV or press snooze!
6:10 am – Get up and stretch
6:15 am – Drink 2 glasses of water
6:20 am – Preparation to go workout
6:30 am – Workout
7:25 am – Post-workout shake and shower
7:50 am – Breakfast
8:00 am – Turn on computer and start my day

I bet you do as well. I bet you can easily write down exactly what you do in which order every morning.

Why is that?

You see, humans are creatures of habits. They find comfort in establishing routines.

Elite softball palyers and coaches do it all the time. The use of routine is one of the most widespread practices among elite softball players and coaches.

Performing routines gives them confidence and helps them focus and get in the zone so that they can outperform their opponents on the field.

They perform routines before games, between innings and between pitches at the plate and on the field.

A routine integrates both the mental and the physical aspects. It is a specific way of doing things to stay focus, block distraction and put you in the ideal mindset. Routines are powerful and you should definitely use them.

Here is a sample routine between pitches that you can use between pitches if you are a position player.

The 4 “R” Routine

– Relax
– Read
– Rehearse
– Ready & React

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June 1, 2008

Softball Hitting – Ditch the Pitching Machine

By Coach Marc

You know you can easily hit for .800 if you want?

How? Just hit off a pitching machine!

Seriously, we are using the pitching machine way too much. We love pitching machines.

Pitching machines are a great invention but doing too much of it especially during the season is counter productive.

The machines do not vary pitch locations and teach your players to swing at every pitch without making a decision.

It’s great to work on hitting mechanics and get a lot of swings in the off-season but nothing beats live pitching, front toss or other variations of live pitching to learn how to judge a ball and adjust to different pitches.

After a bit of practice, it’s very easy to hit well off one of those pitching machines but it really takes away the decision-making ability.

Too many coaches and teams rely too heavily on them. It’s detrimental and counter productive.

So, once the season starts, ditch the pitching machine. Learn to run effective hitting practices with live pitching and front toss to simulate game conditions.

This will train visual tracking, timing, and decision-making which are crucial to hitting success.

Train hard. Play Hard.

 

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May 30, 2008

Softball Training Tips – Do You Know How to Stretch?

By Coach Marc

In the past, I explained why it’s important NOT to static stretch in warm-ups and why you should do dynamic stretches instead.

However, I never said static stretching is bad. What I said is that you should not do it before exercising but after.

Static stretching is NOT a good warm-up method but it’s a great flexibility training method.

Do you actually stretch after games, workouts or practices?

Let me guess… not as often as you should! 🙂

Everybody knows they should stretch. But we are often in a rush to head back home at the end of our practices, workouts or games.

However, taking only 2-3 minutes to stretch can be really beneficial.

Much more than you think.

What exactly do you get out of stretching?
 

– Increased flexibility and better range of motion of your  joints. Flexible muscles can improve your performance. More specifically, you will run faster, hit further, etc.

– Improved circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to your  muscles. Blood flowing to your muscles brings nourishment and  gets rid of waste byproducts in the muscle tissue. Improved  circulation can help shorten your recovery time if you’ve had  any muscle injuries. You will recover faster from injuries,  after each game and between innings.

– Better posture. Frequent stretching can help keep your muscles  from getting tight, allowing you to maintain proper posture.  Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains  at a minimum.

– Stress relief. Stretching relaxes tight, tense muscles that  often accompany stress. Being loose makes you more explosive at the plate, on defense and on the bases.

– Enhanced coordination. Maintaining the full range of motion  through your joints keeps you in better balance. Coordination  and balance will help keep perform better on the field through better execution of all the technical skills.

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May 29, 2008

Softball Hitting Tips – What to Look At In the Batter’s Box

By Coach Marc

Have you ever wondered what exactly you should look at while in the batter’s box?

“Duhhhhhh……At the ball!” would reply most players looking at you like you’re stupid or something.

Then, you reply, how do you look at the ball?

That’s when they look stupid because they got no answer – that’s the revenge of the coach! 🙂

Here what would be the ideal answer…

1) What you look at while steppin’ in the box doesn’t matter. Some players like to look down while they are focusing. Others enjoy making eye contact at the pitcher to establish dominance.

Whatever works for the hitter is fine.

2) That’s really when the pitcher is getting ready to deliver that what you look at is important. You need to have what we call a “soft focus” at that point.

A soft focus is when you are looking at the pitcher without zoning in or focusing specifically at something. You just  watching the overall body of the pitcher.

Just like you want to keep your muscles loose, you want to keep your “eye muscles” loose as well and not make them work too hard too early.

3) As the pitcher initiates his/her motion forward, you need
to go from soft focus to hard focus on the release point.

Picture a camera zoom… zooming in from a wide angle to a  narrowing point (release point). That’s exactly what you want your eyes doing.

When the pitcher releases the ball, you should be on “hard focus” mode being totally focus on the ball to pick up wrist action at delivery (for pitch identification), the spin direction and identify where the ball is going as quickly
as possible.

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May 27, 2008

How Staying Loose Can Boost Your Hitting Power

By Coach Marc

Everybody wants to hit the ball further. However, in trying to do so, one common mistake many ball players and even golfers do is “trying” to hit too hard. Most of the time, they end up struggling and even losing power.

Why? Wanting to hit the ball too hard creates muscle tension prior to the swing and it is a well-known physiological principle that muscle tension slows the muscle down.

In order to generate explosiveness, bat speed, and power, you need to have your mind and nervous system alert but your muscles relaxed, ready to fire.

You want proof of that? Take a look at sprinters prior to a race or professional tennis players before receiving a serve, they do all they can to stay relaxed so that can react quickly and explosively. They know that muscle tension will kill their reaction time and their power.

The key is not to try to put the ball out of the park every single time but just look for a solid hard contact using sound fundamentals.

You want to be relaxed, tension-free prior to the swing and explode into the ball as it arrives.

There is a fine line between “exploding into the ball with tension-free muscles” and “trying to muscle the ball out of the park”. The key is to focus on finding a relaxed but focused state right before the pitch delivery and not to try too hard.

 

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Softball Hitting Tips – How Stretching Can Increase Your Power

By Coach Marc

Just like in golf, the softball swing requires a tremendous amount of flexibility, especially in the trunk.

Unfortunately, too many players have poor trunk flexibility and that prevents them of hitting with all the power that they could have.

You see, when your trunk muscles are too tight and that you don’t have enough spinal mobility, you ability to follow-through and extend through the ball is dramatically reduced. As a result, you hitting power are greatly reduced.

Moreover, you have a much greater chance of suffering from back pain or injuries. Improving your trunk flexibility is one of the most important things you can do to improve your power and significantly reduce your risk of injuries.

I’m shocked because even despite its crucial importance, even the top strength and conditioning coaches in the world fail to train that key physical quality when working with softball players.

So, take a few minutes every day to stretch your torso and increase your dynamic trunk flexibility and that will help you hit the ball further!

If you want to increase your bat speed and hitting power, I invite you to check my new “28-Day Express Bat And Hitting Power Enhancement Program”.

https://www.softballperformance.com/products/get-hitting-power.html

This program is a variation of my other express fitness program but specifically designed for increasing bat speed and hitting power.

In addition to strength and power exercises, it includes special flexibility exercises, specific hitting drills, key principles of bat speed, and an advanced hitting protocol.

 

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May 25, 2008

Two More Softball Pitching Drills to Boost Your Speed

By Coach Marc

I got quite a few people interested in the topic of how to increase pitching speed from yesterday’s post.

So, here is a link to two more excellent softball pitching speed drills drills for you. They are video clips on youtube.

Softball Pitching Speed Drill #1 –
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKL56jCzluU

Softball Pitching Speed Drill #2 –
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnS2N-QUzj8

Just like any exercise or drill, you need to take action and do them to see the benefits.

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May 24, 2008

Softball Pitching Drills – How to Increase Pitching Speed

By Coach Marc

Last week, a discussion started on our forum about “why so much talk about pitching speed?”

Here is the link to discussfastpitch.com

(by the way, I invite to register to the forum, it is rapidly becoming a dynamic community of fastpitch fanatics)

My answer to that question was that speed has always fascinated and that it’s the first thing that makes a young pitcher dominant.

At the lower levels, a good pitcher is someone who throws hard and gets a lot of strikeouts.

Over time, the importance of pitching speed decreases as the importance of movement and location increases but speed remains important to make the ball move even more and reduce the hitter’s reaction time to a minimum.

A question that is often asked: “How do you increase pitching speed?”

It’s a combination of four major factors:

1. Genetic make-up of the athlete
2. Perfectly optimized mechanics
3. Muscular balance and coordination
4. Power and strength

Here are a two popular softball pitching drills that  can be used to maximize pitching speed:

1. Distance Pitching – This is a great drill to teach the body how to use all of its muscles to generate as much power as possible.

Start pitching to your catcher from your regular distance and back up 5 feet every 3-5 pitches until you can’t reach the catcher within one bounce. Then, you  reverse direction and do the exact thing until you come  to your regular distance.

The key point here is to focus on general power using the whole body without focusing on pitch location.

2. Walk-through – this is a popular drill to teach the body how to generate power and momemtum.

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Softball Fielding Tips – How to Play Great Defense

By Coach Marc

Have you noticed that 75% of the information online related to softball techniques, drills and tips is either on hitting or on pitching? These two areas is the central focus of most softball coaches and players in training. Do you see a lot of softball fielding tips? Maybe I’m not looking at the right but I have not come across a lot of them.

That’s why I have decided to offer you a few softball fielding tips.

– Keep low to the ground
– Balance weight on the balls of the fet
– Keep square to the ball
– Be “ready” on every pitch
– Be prepared to move when the ball enters the hitting area
– Maintain good balance
– Use two hands
– Field the ball at the “top of the triangle” (both feet are bottom, hands are the top)
– Position hands palm to palm
– Cradle the ball to the center of the body
– Develop soft hands
– Take a positive step to the throwing position
– Have quick feet
– communicate with infield teammates – call for the ball during double-plays and pop-ups
– Cultivate strong, accurate throw.

You could add a lot more softball fielding tips but this is a good list to start with.

While pitching and hitting are important areas, we need not to neglect the training of our individual defensive skills. Most teams and coaches spent a great deal of time on defense but that time is spent mostly rehearsing and practicing game situations and team defensive strategies while the training of individual defensive skills is a bit neglected.

Don’t forget – it is a lot easier to control how many runs you give than how many runs you score. You might as well make sure that the other team scores as few runs as possible.

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May 22, 2008

What Are Softball Catchers For Anyways?

By Coach Marc

It’s a fact that pitching is the name of the game.

Any coach knows that they can’t win without at least decent pitching. It’s the same as a quarterback in football or a goaltender in ice hockey.

So, what are catchers for anyways?

To most people that are not too familiar with the game, their job is to squat down behind the plate, make a target for their pitcher and catch balls. That’s it.

Pretty much like bucket dads catching their daughter in pitching practice.

Thankfully, most coaches and players realize that catchers are important to their team’s success.

But do you realize how much difference a good catcher can make?

You usually don’t know until you have such as a catcher.

Wow! Things are much easier and better when you have a catcher that knows what she/he is doing behind the dish.

Your pitcher is better. Your whole team performs better.

I am sure I am not telling you anything new.

But I wanted to point out how…

“catching is a thankless job!”

It’s a tough job and catchers rarely get all the recognition  they deserve. Even from their own teammates and coaches.

How often do you work exclusively with your catcher on their individual catching skills such as blocking, framing, fielding balls, recovering passed balls and so on?

Probably not often enough and not long enough.

Most catchers, during practices,  catch balls coming in during  drills, catch the pitchers when they practice and get involved  when the team practices their game situations and defensive strategies like pick-offs or first-and-third situations.

But do they get that same individual attention that pitchers  get to work at refining their catching skills?

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