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Softball Coaching Tips | Softball Performance
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Softball Coaching Tips

You’re Coaching More Than Softball

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Today’s fastpitch softball rant comes after an encounter Sunday with one of my players and her mom. No, it wasn’t a negative experience for me. It was more the effect on the player.

coachingFirst of all, let me tell you that the player in question, Lindsay, is one of the nicest, sweetest girls you’d ever want to meet. Always polite and respectful, always with a smile on her face. And she’s a hard worker in practice — the type that dives for balls others would let drop because, well, it’s only practice.

Anyway, after our Sunday practice I stopped to chat with her and her mom for a minute. Her mom says “I have to ‘tell’ on Lindsay,” and she proceeds to let me know that a college coach had contacted the girl a week prior, by email and phone, and Lindsay still hadn’t returned the call.

Mom was telling me because she knows I have a very good softball relationship with her, and can get her to do things her parents can’t. I, of course, told her how special it is to have a coach you haven’t contacted be interested in you, and made her promise that she would return the call that day. I even followed up with her and her mom via text to make sure it was happening.

I couldn’t understand the reluctance until her mom told me Lindsay had finally broken down and said why she was afraid to call. She was actually worried that the coach would tell her “Oh, that was a mistake, I didn’t mean to contact you” and she would be left feeling hurt and disappointed again.

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Softball Performance Tips – 5 Motivational Quotes


Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

While servant leadership is generally thought of as a business concept, there is no question it also can/should apply to coaching fastpitch softball. If you’re not familiar with it, servant leadership is the idea that these leaders achieve results for their organizations by putting the needs of the people they’re in charge of ahead of themselves. You can learn more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership

Most softball organizations have a mission statement that reflects this type of attitude. But not all of those actually live it. How many times have you seen or heard about coaches of 10U or 12U teams keeping players on the bench for all but a few innings in a tournament because they’re trying to win? How many times have you seen coaches play favorites with certain girls, even the ones who are not the best players on the team, because they just like them better? Or the girl is BFFs with the coach’s daughter?

There are all kinds of scenarios where the idea of taking care of the players — all the players — becomes secondary to the coach running up a great record, or making sure his daughter is on the All-Star team, or that her favorite player is named all-conference. And that’s just wrong.

As a coach you have a number of jobs outside the obvious ones of hitting ground balls, making up lineup cards and choosing tournaments. One of the biggest is to give your players — all your players — the opportunity to succeed and feel good about themselves.

That doesn’t mean the girls get to play wherever they want. But it does mean if someone’s not cut out to be a shortstop that you make sure they understand why, and feel good about the contribution they are making to the team.

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Softball Performance Tips – Building to Become Success


By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

You see them all the time — that fastpitch softball team this is always touting its great win-loss record. They place an article in the local newspaper, or you go to check out their website, and there’s a list of tournaments they’ve won and their record is something unbelievable like 64-5. Yet you’ve seen them play, and you know their players, and they just don’t seem that good.

Some coaches do it on purpose, because for them it’s all about the win-loss record. They are known for sandbagging, i.e. playing in tournaments or leagues that are below the caliber of their teams to rack up easy Ws. Or they play to win in games where everyone else is trying to develop their weaker players.

Others do it more accidentally. Sometimes you don’t know how good your team is going to be so you pick tournaments or leagues you think are right, only to find out you’re better than you thought.

Here’s the thing, though. If you’re winning every tournament you enter, you’re probably not challenging your players enough. Winning a tournament should be an accomplishment, not a regular expectation. You want to play the best competition you can handle, so at the end of the day it takes your all to come out on top. Anything else is cheating the players.

How can it be cheating them when it feels so good to win? Because they’re not developing at the level they should. In order to be the best you have to play the best. If you’re playing teams you know you can beat easily it’s like power lifting with light weights. It looks good, but it doesn’t do much to make you stronger.

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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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The Danger of Being Predictable

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

English: A tee ball coach setting the lineup a...

Photo taken by Vinnie Ahuja (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the weekend I saw a very well-played high school playoff game. It was a one-run contest throughout. But in the end, when the losing team needed to score, their coach’s predictability killed them.

This is one of those coaches who believes you always sac bunt a runner from first to second with no outs.  He’d done it two or three times already in that game.  In the top of the seventh the defense was ready and ended up getting the out at second.  So for his trouble the coach gave up an out without gaining anything in return.

In pretty much anything in life, if you know what’s coming, you can better prepare for it. People in coastal areas, for instance, pay close attention to hurricane warnings and board up their windows when one is coming.

People in snowy areas heed winter storm warnings (usually) and try to avoid being on the roads if they don’t have to. Businesses close early too.

So it goes for softball.  Take the change-up, for example, the whole point of the change-up is the element of surprise.  That’s its greatest strength because, theoretically, it’s easy to hit if you know it’s coming.

If a pitcher always throws a change-up with an 0-2 count it shouldn’t take hitters long to start sitting on it. Heck, my oldest daughter Stefanie figured that out for herself at the age of 14 when facing a pitcher her teammates couldn’t hit.  She saw that 0-2 change-up get a few of them, so she just conceded the first couple of BBs and waited on the change.

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Softball Performance Tips – Players’ Eyes

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softballplayerseyesAs a private instructor, I often think that in addition to listing the areas of the game I coach I ought to include the term “amateur psychiatrist” to the mix.  I can’t tell you how many times, especially this year, I’ve had to stand there and get a player’s head back on straight after some coach shook her confidence.

The more I do it, though, the more I’m convinced that the issue isn’t that the coach is mean, or an idiot, or whatever.  It’s that he/she doesn’t see his/her actions or hear his/her words the way the players do.

There’s a reason for that too.  As we get older and move into positions of authority, we still remember ourselves as kids, or players or junior members of an organization.  When we say things or do things it’s not from the perspective of the Great and Powerful Oz. It’s from the perspective of the person we used to be.

Unfortunately, that’s not how our players see us.  To them we are the Great and Powerful Oz, with the ability to determine who gets the prize (playing time, all-conference, all-star team, etc.) and who gets shut out.  To them, our word is gospel.

So if, in a fit of frustration, you tell a player that she did awful and ought to think about whether she wants to play softball or not, it’s not the motivational statement we intended it to be.  Instead, it’s a real question that can send a vulnerable teen or pre-teen or small child into a vortex of self-doubt.

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Softball Coaching Challenge: Break the Cycle of Mean

English: This image belongs to Dakota County T...

This image belongs to Dakota County Technical College, which authorized its use in this article in accordance with Wikipedia policies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Today I have a challenge for the young, up and coming coaches: be the one who breaks the cycle of mean.

What does that mean?

Many of us learn how to do things by following the example of others.  We learn many things by imitating our parents, older siblings, and others whom we perceive as being more knowledgeable than ourselves.

And when it comes to coaching, the people many of us learn from are the coaches we had when we were players.  Often times that’s a good thing.  Coaches can be very influential in our lives, and if we had a good one what better way to model ourselves when we become coaches than on someone we admire?

Unfortunately, that influence of coaches can also work the other way.  If we had a mean, nasty coach who always put players down, treated us unfairly and made our lives miserable it’s very easy for us to pick up that behavior.  It becomes part of a cycle, passed down from coach to player, who then becomes a coach and passed the behavior down to his/her players.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  Think about how you feel with the coach who acts that way.  Did you enjoy playing for him/her?  Or did you just tolerate it because you wanted to play?

Assuming you answered the latter (as most of us would), why would you then want to model that behavior to your players?  Because it’s all you know?

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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 – Avoid Negativity


By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Hard to believe that it wasn’t so long ago that fastpitch softball was a game played by kids for the – wait for it – fun of it. Sure, there were a few adults around regularly in the form of coaches and umpires, and parents would regularly come out to see them play if they weren’t working. But it wasn’t life-and-death, with every player’s future prospects for a good education apparently hanging on the result of every pitch.

All that seems like some sort of pastoral dream, like a Norman Rockwell painting of America as we always imagined it should be. Today parents seem to be way too wrapped up in their children’s athletic endeavors.

Some are unabashed boosters/braggarts for their kids. You never want to be cornered by them lest they start to regale you with tales of Lindsay’s might line drive, or the diving catch Erin made in center field, or the 13 Ks Alice racked up in her last appearance in the circle. Still, they’re relatively harmless.

The ones who are of real concern are the ones who go the other way – fitting former Vice President Spiro Agnew’s description of “nattering nabobs of negativity.” Unlike the boosters, these parents only see their kids’ failures – and they make sure their kids hear about so they’re “inspired” to improve their performance the next time.

That’s a category that, as a parent, you definitely don’t want to fall into. Yet it seems to come naturally to some. Perhaps they don’t realize how they sound (or look, because they’re usually scowling). Perhaps they think they’re setting high standards for their kids. But the fact is nothing can take the enjoyment out of an activity like an adult you trust – like a parent – telling you how bad you are at something.

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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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