What Is Crow Hopping?

what is crow hopping

What Is Crow Hopping Written By Gary Leland

More and more illegal pitches are being called in fastpitch softball recently with crow hopping as the most common infraction. The prime question that comes to mind is, why just now? Crow hopping has always been done by most pitchers, if not all, and it really didn’t make such a big deal until now. So a lot of people are left with a couple questions which we will be clarifying out. Is crow hopping really illegal? What would be the appropriate penalty for such violation? Why do pitchers have the tendency to crow hop?

Unfortunately, not everyone is even truly knowledgeable about what crow hopping really is. So it’s important that we get to the nitty-gritty parts of this term as well as discover the rationale behind it so we can understand it better.

What Is Crow Hopping?
According to the ASA rule book, crow hopping refers to:

“the act of a pitcher who steps, hops, or drags off the front of the pitcher’s plate, replants the pivot foot, establishing a second impetus (or starting point), pushes off from the newly-established starting point and completes the delivery.”

Simply put, crow hopping happens when the pitcher does not push off with the pivot foot from the pitcher’s plate. As the term suggests, this occurs when you make a forward hop with your back foot causing your foot to break contact with the ground, and replant and push off from another starting point other than the plate. Crow hopping is also often referred to as replanting.

Furthermore, the rules explicitly imply that crow hopping is illegal.

Crow Hopping In a Different Context:
However, crow hopping may be used in a different context when you’re talking about doing this motion in the outfield.

In many instances, outfielders use the crow hopping technique so they can set the momentum and therefore have enough power to be able to make long throws from the outfield towards the infield. This has been proven to be a very useful, easy technique. And this is totally legal.

However, crow hopping committed during the pitch (by the pitcher of course) is illegal. No “ifs,” no “buts.” That’s a fact. Moreover, the rest of the article will be focused on crow hopping on the basis of being an illegal pitch.

Crow Hopping vs. Leaping:
It is also very critical that we point out the difference between crow hopping and leaping since a lot of players and even coaches mistaken crow hopping and leaping as the same or the meanings of both are being interchanged.

Take note that crow hopping and leaping are in no way the same. Both are illegal pitches, but defined separately.

In crow hopping, the pitcher’s back foot pushes off the pitcher’s plate and replants it on another point other than the plate prior to delivering the ball.

On the other hand, leaping refers to the act of the pitcher in which both feet are simultaneously off the ground before delivering the ball.

Why is Crow Hopping Illegal?
Crow hopping is considered illegal for the sole purpose that this would give an unfair advantage to the pitcher in that it brings the pitcher closer to the home plate and thus the ball is apparently released closer to the batter.

Working around the Technicalities:
A common technique several pitchers attempt to do in order to avoid being called for crow hopping is to make an aggressive push off the pitching plate. This is done by the pitcher dragging her pivot foot along the ground as it’s pushed off the rubber. So technically, there is no violation done since the foot never lost contact with the ground.

Why Pitchers Crow Hop:
There are in fact other different reasons why pitchers tend to crow hop.

One reason could be that the pitchers hope to be able to make a strong pitch thinking that using the crow hop motion would be faster. Well it may seem faster, but really, it’s not. If you really want to throw harder, the trick is in delivering a powerful drive through.

Another common reason for crow hopping that most people don’t realize is a poor posture in pitching brought about by a weak core. So even if there was no intention by the pitcher to get closer to the home plate, the tendency to crow hop may just be inevitable. When the pitcher has the tendency to put too much weight on the front leg, this could result to the back foot being easily lifted off causing it to become airborne. This can be corrected by developing your core strength so you’re able to create a very strong front side resistance.

Consequence for Crow Hopping:
When an illegal pitch is called, the usual penalty for this is a ball on the batter, regardless of a strike thrown. If the illegal pitch results to ball four, the batter will then have to walk to first base. If there are other runners on base, then they will also be allowed to advance one base.

Why Is Crow Hopping Ignored?

Over the years, crow hopping has been considered commonplace despite being illegal. Many people know it is illegal but they don’t mind doing it anyway because umpires don’t call them. It’s either that the ump doesn’t know the rule too well or that his judgment call is to be in favor of keeping the game more dynamic rather than just counting the number of times pitchers have to violate this rule; which they might perceive as only a waste of time or a complete bore.

In addition, umpires would rather choose not to call crow hopping much less tell the pitcher to change and correct the pitch, because especially if the pitcher has been doing this posture over the years, doing so could either get the pitcher out of sync thus affecting her performance in the game; or worse, this could cause injury to the pitcher as this could over stress the shoulder and back.

At the rate of illegal pitches being called at present, crow hoppers must consider correcting this posture; but easily said than done. It actually requires a lot of practice and determination before you can perfect your pitching posture especially because crow hopping can develop into a habit which may just be hard to break.

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MOTIVATION: 6 Tips To Ignite Her Fire Within

Motivation

MOTIVATION: 6 Tips To Ignite Her Fire Within Written By John Michael Kelly

In fastpitch softball today we ask a lot of our young athletes. Here in southern California we play over 120 games each year over nearly eleven months. The girls are asked to go through grueling three hour practices, sometimes twice per week, and play three to seven games over the weekend. Keeping up with school work means doing homework in the car or between games; having a social life…forget about it!



As your athlete becomes a teenager her motivations in her life can and likely will change. The little girl who would do anything mommy or daddy asked her to do becomes a distant memory. It is at this delicate time in your athlete’s life that you need to accurately assess her softball motivation and do all you can to keep her motivation high.



The one caveat is if she truly no longer loves the game enough to make the continual time and energy commitment to do what it takes to master the very difficult game of fastpitch softball. My daughter chose to walk away from the game for this reason at 15 and, in hindsight, I respect her decision and having the courage to tell me how she really felt (as she certainly knew that I would be disappointed). She applied the same effort she gave in softball to her school work and was recently accepted to one of the finest private universities on the east coast!


However, statistics suggest, undeniably, that high school athletes are better students and more trouble free than their non-athlete counterparts, so doing all you can to keep her in the game make pay big dividends!


As a parent or coach it is helpful to understand that there are two kinds of motivation: internal (intrinsic) and external (extrinsic). External motivators can be things like rewarding your daughter with money or a new iPhone for good grades; while internal motivators can be things like self-satisfaction for a job well done, reaching the goal of making the varsity or playing in college, or being appreciated by friends, teammates, coaches or parents.

In reality by the time your athlete is 14 she needs to be motivated intrinsically. The game will only get harder and the pressures greater, so if she (like my daughter) is not prepared to make the commitment and really love the “process” of working hard at mastering the game and being her best…maybe it’s time for her to stop playing. After all, you are likely making a substantial investment in her sport, so if she can’t summon enough fire in the belly to justify your investment…(Well, I’ll leave the answer to that up to you).

So what things can you do as a parent or coach do to keep your athlete motivated to be the best softball player she can be?


1. Sit down and ask her a really important question: “Why do you play the game?” If she can’t answer that, or answers “because you want me to Dad” you’ve got some work to do. Thinking about that question might trigger in her a new excitement about the things she actually loves about playing! At least after the process you will both have a clearer idea of where her head is at. I do highly suggest having an annual chat to revisit the same question, particularly during the teen years.

2. Have her write down clearly defined softball goals she wants to achieve (in other words, have a plan!). Break her goals into shorter term (for the season) and longer term (over several seasons). They can include improved physical skills, improved mental toughness, making new friends, or traveling to exciting new places to play! Review these goals often as a means to keep her on track and motivated.

3. Write down a clearly defined game plan of action steps she can take to achieve her goals on a weekly and monthly basis. This will make the bigger picture goals easily to stay connected to and allow her to track her progress in several key areas. This could include pitching velocity, power, speed, making the backhand play, hitting the outside pitch, not getting flustered after an error, etc.

4. Have her write down all the things she loves about the game of softball. Again, it will serve to motivate her and likely bring up a few things she hadn’t thought about in a while.

5. Have her write down all the benefits (the payoffs) she receives playing the game (friendships, exercise, life lessons, opportunity to play in college, status in the community or on campus, etc.). This process will fuel her intrinsic motivation, the ultimate key to her becoming her best.

6. Review all these written statements with your athlete to be sure you are both on the same page and be extra careful not to judge her choices and how she feels about the game. If she is to play for “her” she must own the reasons why. Always encourage her and allow open communication so that if she ever needs to share her thoughts or feelings about the game with you she is comfortable doing so; free of judgment and criticism.

The bottom line, be sure that you accurately assess your athlete’s motivation and have a sincere conversation with her about it and get her involved in the process. If your expectations for her commitment and performance exceed her own there will be trouble ahead…guaranteed!

Buy her a journal that she can use to record her thoughts, feelings, perceptions, aspirations and goals along her softball journey and you will find that her mental clarity and focus as to why she plays the game will be front and center and her motivation on track!

So You Didn’t Make The Cut

Make The Cut

So You Didn’t Make The Cut Written By Mike Adams

So you or your kid didn’t make the cut. Now what? I recently had a friend whose kid didn’t make a team. She was looking for advice on what to do, how to console the kid. Her thoughts were either talk to the coach and convince him to change his mind or explain to her child that it happens in life. My suggestion to her was pretty simple; talk to the coach and find out what needs to be worked on for next year’s tryouts.

After giving it more thought, I thought of a few more suggestions:

1. Ask the coach what to work on. DO NOT ask why you didn’t make the team. Asking what you can work on for the next tryout already asks that question in a more proactive light.

2. Work on what they suggest. Seems a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised.

3. Keep involved. Even though you are not a player on the team, the team consists of many other things. I knew of a hockey player that wasn’t quite up to the level he needed to be and volunteered to keep stats during games. We let him because honestly by him doing that it allowed us to concentrate more on the game. He asked if he could help out chasing pucks at practice. Again, we let him because it was something we didn’t like to do. Well, he was also watching the plays, watching the drills, and the next tryout he knew more than most of the “players” on last season’s team as well as stepped up his playing. He not only made the team, but became captain.

4. If you can’t find a way to stay involved in that sport then try another sport that will help you with the skills you need. An athlete is not a person who does one sport. It is someone that stays athletic. The best base runner I coached found out later that she was better in track than softball. She was really good at softball, but running became her passion. She still plays summer ball and actually because of her track coach, she became a VERY scary base stealer. If she made it to first base, I could chalk it up to a score because she would steal the rest of the way around.

Although there are no promises in life, I can tell you what I have found that helps become a player that a coach wants on their team. The player someone the coach doesn’t want to cut doesn’t always rely on %100 skill.

Here are some things I look for in players for a team:

1. Make sure the coaches know who you are. This one can be kind of tough because you don’t want to be annoying. Standing in the back of the team, being the last in line for any drill, not cheering the team on, these are ways to not be noticed. Being front and center, being the first in line for drills is an easy way to get the coach to remember you.

2. Ask Questions. I am not saying inundate the coach with a barrage of questions, but if something doesn’t make sense, ASK! Some questions may be put off until after a drill, play, practice or game, but make sure you ask. When a player asks me a question, (why did the ump make that call, what is the purpose of this drill) it makes me think the player really wants to learn. On the flipside, a good coach should never turn away a player with questions. I once asked a team why we were doing a drill, they replied “because you said so”. A drill is never because “we say so.” Tt is to work on specific things to prepare for specific situations in a game. Just having them run a drill doesn’t teach them the game itself.

3. Show up early, leave late. When you do this, you are the first one and the last one the coach sees. Keep in mind that just showing up early and leaving late doesn’t make you look good. Be there early, see if you can help set up, make sure you are 100% ready when practice starts. If you are the only one there and you just sit because you are the only one there, the coach will notice. Same when you leave last. You need to be more than just “there.”

4. Work hard all the time. Most coaches will agree they would rather coach a hard worker than a naturally talented superstar that doesn’t work hard during a practice. Honestly, the superstar will probably still be on the team, but the hard worker is the one the coaches like to work with.

5. At least once a week (again not too much to be annoying) check in with the coach to see what you can work on. Every player, good or bad, can work on something. Don’t forget, it is more than just finding out what you work on, you actually have to do it! Good coaches have drills for everything, and they have ones that can be worked on alone, or indoors at a house as well.

6. Get along with your entire team. OK, before you go into this one too deep, I know there are some people that no one gets along with, but it is pretty obvious to a coach who is creating team upset. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see the same two players always practicing together during warm ups or two-person drills. Spread yourself around! If you are not the best, team up with the best and ask for pointers. This not only will help you get better, but I guarantee it will make the other player feel more important and they will play better. If you are the best, then you are conceited, sit down… Just kidding. If you are one of the better players at a certain drill, team up with someone who doesn’t get it. That way, you can help them. DO NOT, however, become a player-coach. Only give them directions when asked or suggest little things.

The best part about these suggestions is they work for any sport. Actually, they even work in life. Employers are like coaches. The tryouts happen every day. People are cut, people are hired. Knowing how to take that cut and better yourself is what will make you succeed in the end.

My Shoes Kept Getting Me Into Trouble

Shoes trouble

My Shoes Kept Getting Me Into Trouble! Written By Charity Butler

While playing softball in Sweden I had the opportunity to visit a fourth grade class. Prya, one of my teammates, works at a local elementary school. She asked me to attend class with her.

You see, students in Sweden begin learning English formally at age six. I was scheduled as a special guest during the English lesson.

I took my seat in the back of the class until it was my turn to speak.

As I surveyed the young crowd, a thought crossed my mind. Why were all the students wearing socks and no shoes? Even the teacher in the front of the class was only wearing slippers. Maybe this was a special day? Is this a treat during story time?

The next question that came to mind: “Where are all the shoes?” I did not see a pair of shoes anywhere in the room. Finally, I asked Prya to explain the barefoot mystery.

“Oh, the students are not allowed to wear shoes inside the classroom. They put them on the shelves in the hallway.” Then I looked down and realized she is not wearing shoes either.

I was the sole-bearing, shoe-wearing guest of honor. All eyes were about to be on me, and I was in violation of school rules!

It was a close call. Fortunately I was able to slip my shoes off to the side at the last minute. The students were thrilled to speak with a “real American.” I narrowly avoided a Swedish social disaster.

The following day, however, I encountered my second shoe episode. This time, I was unable to elude the incident with such grace.

“You want me to do what? Take off my running shoes before we go in the gym?” I asked my teammate, Lina. I was terribly confused as we entered the new workout facility in Skovde (the town where I lived). We were greeted at the front door by several shelves full of shoes.

Here we go again. I have to work out in my socks, too? This is crazy!

The situation is not as bizarre as it first appeared. In fact, it is actually brilliant.

In Sweden people are supposed to have indoor shoes as well as outdoor shoes. When exercising inside they are expected to bring “indoor shoes.” Changing from street shoes is a requirement before entering the workout area. This keeps the floors and other equipment spotless.

I missed the shoe memo… again. As a result, I did lift weights wearing only socks on my feet! Studying in socks is normal here. Lifting in socks, though, is not. I was obviously the confused American who did not know the rules.

People were probably making fun of me in Swedish, but I would not know the difference. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Being in another country and another culture provides for all kinds of misunderstandings and “Cultural Snafus.” Living on another continent, though, brings the diversity of life to light. The norms and expectations are different here than in the US.

This world is full people, ideas and ways of living that are, to us, atypical. Most of the world does not live the way we live in the US. They do not think as we think. Any softball player who has the opportunity to travel, whether it is to another city or to another country, go for it! Your experiences will be invaluable.

Although the process may involve misunderstandings, potentially embarrassing moments and shoeless workouts, I was ecstatic to expand my world view and understand more about the beautiful country of Sweden. Where could fastpitch take you?

Why Do You Do That???

Why Do You Do That?

Why Do You Do That??? Written By Troy Olson

I am no world class pitcher by any means or reason, I am just a guy that has always been a third pitcher on the team or an emergency type guy. If nobody else shows up to our league games that can pitch or cares to pitch, then I step in and do what I can, sometimes its good and sometimes its a disaster… As I have ventured in to the world of coaching, I have noticed more and more coaches calling pitches from the dugout….

I guess that this isn’t new, as I have noticed college coaches doing this for as long as I can remember watching softball on TV. My question is WHY? What is this purpose of having a coach sitting on a bucket in the dugout calling pitches??? Do we feel that these pitchers and catchers aren’t experienced enough to know what pitch to throw?

So why am I against this you ask? Well for one, every situation is different when you are on the mound, every ball is different in the game. What you say, yes every softball is different, some have higher seams, some are heavier than others, some are scuffed up a little, some are slick. So what if I have a ball with low seams and you call a rise ball from the dugout, if this is a slick ball with low seams I cant throw that pitch effectively. I might be able to throw that pitch 4 out of 10 times with that ball, but that won’t cut it against great hitters.

What if the pitcher notices that the batter opens their stance, or the batter grips the bat a little different, what if you call a drop ball and I notice the batter slide their hands a bit in the box wanting to bunt, we need a rise ball in this situation. These are things that a pitcher and catcher need to be able to work together on, these are game time adjustments that we have to make. Maybe with a runner on base I have more confidence in my change up than my drop ball, don’t you want your pitcher to throw their most comfortable and confident pitch in this situation? Maybe I want to throw a change up so the ball goes to third base, because I have more confidence in that fielder to get us out of the inning…

I think that at a certain point you as a coach need to have faith in your players, at the college level the pitcher and catcher should be able to call the game. Talk about the situations between innings with the athletes, maybe I am just not a control freak and that’s why I don’t do this. Or maybe its because I would hate this if I were the pitcher, out there waiting for my catcher to get a sign from the dug out. How do you ever get into a groove pitching if you have to wait for someone to decide what you are going to throw next? What if I want to quick pitch a batter that screws around in the batters box? There is just too many situations that the pitcher needs to control, and waiting for you spitting seeds on a five gallon bucket to send in a called pitch isn’t one of them….

Help! I’m A Benchwarmer

Benchwarmer

Help! I’m a benchwarmer Written By Renee Ferguson

The number one complaint on any softball team is playing time. Some people get too much of it and other doesn’t get enough of it. There are a lot of thoughts and feelings that have been conveyed to me over the years when ones child is sitting the bench and none of them are ever good. Never do the conversations focus on the opportunity that sitting the bench creates for the child in question. What they do focus on is the unfairness involved in deciding who sits the bench and who doesn’t, maybe it’s because the coach’s daughter is on the team and has preferred playing time over everyone else or perhaps it’s that the coach plays favorites and your daughter isn’t one of them. Whatever the conversation may be its never (in my opinion) what it should be, so today I am going to give you my views on being a bench warmer and how to make the best out of a bad situation.

Let me start this off by saying the following, for about 4 years I was an every other game bench warmer. Specifically, I pitched and sat pitched and sat until about my junior year of high school. This drove my dad nuts especially when it came to summer ball team. Every year after the close of the season he would encourage me to go try out for another team where he felt that I would be given a “fair shake”, and every year my answer was always the same, “No!”.

The team I played on was a great team for the first couple of years. We had a ton of talent and we all worked well together and our win/loss record proved it. As the seasons wore on we stagnated and developed egos after those first few successful seasons. As the egos grew, the team atmosphere crumbled. On top of that, you add boys to the mix and good Lord we were a mess- the “team” was gone and we were left with individuals. And that type of atmosphere never breeds success it breeds contention, but I looked at things differently. I saw the opportunity of being a bench warmer (an opportunity I had been given because I was labeled a one trick pony) as underdog status on the field. There was no question I could pitch, ask anyone who knew me and that is what they would tell you about me. I was Renee the pitcher, but I didn’t just want to be a pitcher, I wanted to be a player who could pitch in when and where needed and help my team succeed. I wanted to make an impact even when I wasn’t on the mound.

So while I could have taken the role of benchwarmer as a negative, I looked at it as a way to prove that I deserved to play, not only to myself but to my coaches. It was a role I had to figure out how to embrace so that I was prepared and able to perform when I was called upon by my coaches to “bail” my team out when we were in trouble. Honestly the way that I did this was by looking at my situation as an opportunity to be a “hero” on the field and make a huge impact whenever I was needed. And if I am being honest what type of pitcher doesn’t like to be a “hero”? I like the ball in my hand, I like the pressure and honestly, I performed better under pressure than I did if we were up by 5 or 10 runs because I knew I had to.

To all my fellow benchwarmers out there, embrace your role; be leaders in the dugout, ensure your left or right fielder is completely warm before that next inning, keep your throwing arm bat and legs warm during the game without your coaches telling you to. Your actions speak louder than your words, you can complain about how much not playing bothers you but if you are not proactively showing your coach that you are willing to work harder than any other player on that team your coach will never believe you. You can’t let the actions of your coach or the excuses you or your parents may create regarding the actions of your coach ever be a reason to stop you from trying. In life you will encounter people who just flat out don’t believe in you, and you will always have 2 choices, roll over and prove them right or stand up and prove to them that they have no idea what you are capable of. You have those two choices in front of you every day of your life and how you choose to respond today will determine how you respond to similar adverse situations in the future.

Some may say it doesn’t matter its only softball, so what if they don’t believe in me. They are stupid, it’s their loss but in reality you are teaching yourself how you will react when your boss comes to you 20 years from now and tells you, you didn’t get the promotion because they just don’t think your were right for the job. Show your coaches (aka bosses) that you have a great attitude and will bust your butt to get into the game and you WILL be ready when and if they need you. At the end of the day, if that time never comes (hey, some coaches are hard headed) you will always be able to walk away with a clear conscience knowing that you did your very best to prove your worth not only to your coach or teammates but also to yourself, and that my friend is worth more than its weight in gold.

When Good Isn’t Good Enough

good enough

When Good Isn’t Good Enough Written By Robby Wilson

Imagine this…you have a 3.5 star player (we will call her “player A”) who has natural talent, works with a pitching/hitting coach 1x/ week, and always seems to perform “relatively” well every tournament you play her in. She’s known as one of the best in the area but the problem is, she knows that. She knows she has talent right now and stands out in a town, county, etc. But how long does that cut it? Now imagine the other girl (we will call her “player B”)…she’s really a 2.5 maybe 3 star player talent-wise, but she’s a “grinder”. She’s not only meeting with her pitching/hitting coach 1x/week, she’s following the plan the coach gave her to do on her own those other days, she’s hitting the gym numerous times a week as planned, eating correctly, going to applicable skills camps to further her knowledge not just of the game, but of training for the game. Over time player A stays the same, pretty good but about as talented as she was last year. But player B has been working her tail off not just in practice, but in lessons, at the gym, in the classroom, and at home. At the end of the day who do you think is the more appealing player to a college coach? Player B of course. Why? She realizes that “good isn’t good enough” and she works for it!

The who are you when I’m not looking is much more than just a country song, it’s what scouts and coaches want to know as well. The answer to this question is one of the prime indicators as to whether an athlete is truly dedicated to their craft (softball) and whether or not they have what it takes to play and study at the next level.

Work Ethic

When you think of “work ethic” you think of how hard somebody is working during a game, during a practice, or in class. What a lot of players/parents fail to consider is that having a good “work ethic” means an altogether effort towards maximizing one’s potential in a given area(s). So this means what you’re doing OUTSIDE of what you’re required or expected to. How many extra hours did you spend studying for the ACT because you wanted to score well? What did you do this week to get faster? Every softball player that has the desire to play college softball always tells us scouts that they have a “great work ethic,” but in reality the ones with a great work ethic are much less frequent.

This is why college softball coaches love a prospect with work ethic. It not only means they’re determined and driven to succeed, it also means when they step onto campus they’re going to work their butts off on the field, in the classroom, in the weight room, and in the community. Because of the high physical demands of being a college student-athlete, someone with an average work ethic won’t survive academically, much less athletically. So give your work ethic some thought…sit back and analyze how much free time you have on social media, sleepovers, and so forth. Not that those things aren’t great for a kid, but did you do your training first?

Organization & Time Management

Some people don’t learn the importance of being organized or having meticulous time management skills until much later in life, if at all. However, if you hope and plan to be a college athlete, you had better get started NOW! Start with a planner. Keep a planner of your events. Write down not only your game and tourney schedule, but also your lessons, practices, etc. Also write down academic obligations. Write down any other obligations that you want to make sure to plan around. But then especially, write down your individual workouts. Write them into your planner. Make it an appointment with yourself that is non-negotiable. Also use this planner to help you keep your college coach contacts, your un-officials, your prospect camps, and so forth organized.

Organization and time management skills are a very vital aspect to not only surviving but thriving as a college student athlete.

Act Long Enough And You Will Become

This isn’t always the case in student athletics, much less at the collegiate level. However, it’s a similar statement to what I tell all of my prospects: If you want to be a college athlete you must study like a college athlete, train like a college athlete, eat like a college athlete, and prepare like a college athlete. It’s actually very self-explanatory. Outside of school, practices, games, tournaments, 1x/week lessons, what else are you doing?

There are several aspects never considered in the underclassmen/High School level that are actually very vital contributors to a successful athlete:

1. Nutrition:
In order to obtain optimal performance the athlete must fuel themselves with adequate nutrition including essential vitamins, minerals, and ratios of their dietary needs. This means eating clean, avoiding fast foods, properly hydrating, spacing meals adequately, basically fueling properly.
Think of your body like a sprint cup car. Do you think they just drop by the local gas station and fuel up on 87 unleaded? NOPE! They use race fuel specific to a high performing engine like they’re running. The same goes for an athlete and their body!

2. Strength Training:
There are so many misconceptions out there it’s ridiculous. What many don’t know is that my degree is in Exercise Science/Dietetics and I was a strength coach and personal trainer for years. Working with athletes on these same concepts is what I did all day every day. Strength training is one of the must-have components for a proper athlete training program- regardless of who you are. However, it becomes even more important for softball players looking to gain a competitive edge for many reasons. Coaches around the world recognize the true need for a solid player who is quick, agile, and focused on his or her sport.

Go watch a softball game and you will see that most of the time the players are standing around and then must move quickly for a short distance. Naturally this would make you assume that softball is an aerobic sport… but the players’ restriction is found by how they respond to anaerobic needs. You may sprint for a few seconds but then you have the opportunity to rest before having to do so again, if needed. This is where the misconception is softball training always comes in, they either train themselves one way or the other, without understanding that the foundation of one IS the other. In softball your strength training and conditioning program should center around raising your anaerbobic threshold and thus a good aerobic base. Using interval training, quick movements in different directions, emphasizing foot speed, balance, and agility. This should also be combined with strength training utilizing the same interval concepts to an extent, using compound and multiplanar movements. At particular parts of the off-season you may utilize some isolation movements, but not much. Most movements in softball involve the ATP-CP system which on average, performs for 7.4 seconds or less. Some of the highest ATP-CP systems ever recorded were ~10 seconds, and that was Michael Johnson, an Olympic sprinter!

Other tid bits of strength training for softball:

1. Never ignore an adequate dynamic warm-up, from head to toe.

2. Never ignore an adequate cool down.

3. Never ignore your pre-competition nutrition and post-competition nutrition.

4. What counts the most: what you’re doing outside of what everyone else is doing. In the deep, dark corners of the gym, the field after the lights go out, the back yard speed and agility work.

5. Modify your strength & conditioning plan every 4-6 weeks.

6. If you play softball year round, interval and strength training lightly 2 maybe 3 times a week on non-competition days is best.

7. If you don’t know how to train for your sport, ask a professional. Look for a certification in ACE, ACSM, etc. Look for a degree.

What Does All Of This Have To Do With Softball Recruiting?

Everything! The bottom line is a college coach is looking for a prospect that not only has talent, but that isn’t satisfied and continues to grind and work her fanny off to get better. Polish the good aspects of your game and correct your not-so-good aspects of your game. Strive to get stronger and faster, strive to increase the GPA and ACT, strive to be the absolute best that you can be. An athlete that settles on the talent level she is now is an athlete that one day, will be forced to settle herself when she completes her softball career in high school rather than college.

As a scout I see players all the time that survive on the talent they have and the routine they’re working with, but without a specific plan and goals in mind besides playing college ball. These athletes tend to always remain the same, procrastinate, and settle. These athletes will most likely not play in college unless something changes.

Now What?

1. Write down your goals. Start at the end of the paper and write in big letters your macro goal of “play college ball”.

2. Then start backwards with mid-sized “micro” goals such as “Increase speed from 3.0 to 2.7” or “increase overhand to 65” or possibly even “become natural at playing additional positions.”

3. Now you have your goals laid out, and it’s time to plan for them.

a. What is going to be necessary of you to better your Hto1 from 3.0 to 2.7? Speed school? Strength and conditioning 2x/week? Proper nutrition? Timing yourself 1x/every 2 weeks? Write it down and get started.

b. Same goes for the other goals. Map out a plan and get after it.

4. Now that you have your macro goals and micro goals and a plan to achieve them, you need to self-assess each of these categories/goals and determine where you’re at right now. If you don’t know where you’re starting, how can you monitor your progress?

5. Now that you’ve self-assessed, you need to do a little research. Find out what speed you need to run, what overhand you need to have for your position, what GPA/ACT you should have to make it and get academic $ from the schools you have written as a goal.

a. Now you know where you are as well as where you need to be.

Take Home Message

Although the message above seems a little off topic for college softball recruiting, I can assure you, it is more applicable than most posts I’ve written thus far. Improving yourself in all aspects academically, athletically, physically and mentally not only makes you a better individual but is sure to increase your “stock” with the college coaches you hope to be recruited by. Work ethic alone can impress a coach enough to move you forward in the process with his program. If you came to a July prospect camp and threw a 55mph overhand and ran a 3.0 home to 1st, then returned in December and threw a 61mph overhand and ran a 2.7 home to 1st, don’t you think he is going to take note of that? I do, because I saw it happen with a prospect of mine. She had been working tirelessly in the gym, on the field, and doing all things necessary to “better her stock” with the college coaches. And once she did, they took notice and began discussing with her what she had been doing in the last several months. The metrics and talent are great, but the true value is that the difference between those months told that college coach she wants it and is willing to do what is necessary to obtain it, period.

The same thing I’ve taught all my athletes and prospects: If you want something bad enough, you work for it and you never stop working for it. Once you’ve gotten it, you have to work even harder to keep it. Being “good” isn’t good enough anymore. The rise in competition for a scholarship, the very apparent rise in the growth of the best sport on earth (softball), there’s always someone out there just like you working to steal your opportunity. You’re either the sheep or the wolf, and it’s your choice.

Science says it takes 6-months to adapt to a routine and 12 months to build a habit…so my best advice is you better get started right now.

Pitch Counts In Softball

Pitch Counts In Fastpitch Softball by Dr. Sherry Werner Ph’D Produced By Gary Leland

This week Sherry Werner Ph’D talks about the importance of pitch counts in fastpitch softball .

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Secrets of Softball Savvy

Secrets of Softball Savvy

Secrets of Softball Savvy Written By Matt Lisle

Is your team as Softball Savvy as you think during games? I watch a lot of college, travel and high school softball games and am amazed at some of the things I see during games. Here is a break down of things that I notice Championship teams do to stay focused in games and display high levels of Softball Savvy that go highly unnoticed to the common set of eyes.

Savvy on Offense

Championship teams have a lot going on in the dugout that most fans don’t see. Not only are the coaches charting and working off scouting reports to call pitches and position the defensive, the players have a lot going on as well. There are always a few players that are working on trying to decipher the signs given by the opposing pitching coach to the catcher as well as a player and/or coach focusing on watching the pitcher to see if she gives away any of her pitches by pre-gripping or by tendencies in her delivery that might give away a pitch. They always have a few players charting tendencies as well.

Cheering, chants and songs are a big part of softball and I’m all for it. But if your team does those things the expectation is that everyone participates. Not just a handful.

On Deck Batter & Foul Balls

Most players and coaches know that the task of the On Deck Batter and In-The-Hole Hitter are to begin the process of getting focused in on their upcoming task of hitting with focusing on timing and approach. What most coaches and players don’t realize is that there are a few other “jobs” they have on a championship team.

The On Deck Batter has to know that if there is a play at the plate they will be behind home plate directing traffic to the runner letting them know whether to slide or not. It is also their responsibility to get any foul balls that come to their side. There aren’t too many things that irk me more than seeing a catcher run after a foul ball twenty five feet away that lands a foot from the on deck batter’s feet. By the on deck batter securing any foul balls on their side it’s sign of respect to the game of softball, the other team and especially the umpire by helping the game have a healthy tempo.

A key teaching point on retrieving foul balls in general: Anytime a coach or player on your team retrieves a foul ball, make sure to HAND the umpire the ball. Do not throw it even if you are only three feet away and are under handing it. We’ve all seen throws into the catcher or umpire that are errant or get dropped. Not only is it embarrassing but it also slows the tempo of a great game. Umpires appreciate and respect coaches and players that will run up to them and hand them the ball.

Championship teams also make sure to shag the foul balls down the foul line on their side of the field. My eyes roll back into my head when I see a foul ball go down into the corner of the field and the corner outfielder runs 100 feet to get it, throw it back in and then head back to their position. I love seeing a player fly out of the dugout as soon as it happens yelling “I got you” or “let it go” so that the game doesn’t have to wait and can continue without delay.

In-The-Hole Hitter

When an at-bat ends we want the In-The-Hole Hitter to go directly to the on deck circle so that they can begin their process of getting ready to hit. What we don’t want is for them to head towards home plate, pick up the bat of the previous hitter, and then walk all the way back to the dugout before finally proceeding to the on deck circle. To fix this issue we have the new In-The-Hole Hitter retrieve the bat. It seems like a simple step, but I see very few teams even at the collegiate level do it.

Pick-Up Your Teammate

When your team scores a run, or a player executes a sacrifice bunt or moves a runner over, everyone should get up in the dugout and pick up that player by giving her a high-five, fist pound, “thatta girl” or something positive to her regardless of the score. It shows that you’re focused in the game and also a great encouragement to your teammates. This is especially important for when players execute a quality at-bat that they don’t reach base on. On a non-championship team there are times that a player will hit a sacrifice fly to score the run and everyone high-fives the girl who scored and forgets the girl who drove her in. This sends the wrong message that only base hits help the team win.

Organized Dugout & Hustle

The dugout is your teams’ sanctuary. It should be kept extremely tidy. If possible, keep all bags out of the dugout or hang them to maximize your space. The only items that should be out of the bags are gloves and bats. Anything that is not needed in the game should not be in the dugout or at least not out of the bag. I see dugouts that have shoes, clothes and personal items strewn about and coaches and players tripping over them while trying to get in and out of the dugout. Which leads into next thing that championship teams do. As soon the defense gets in from the field, all outfielders should have their gloves placed together somewhere in the dugout and all the infielders gloves in a separate pile so that when the inning ends your nearest fielder can pick you up without having to look all over for your stuff. So much warmup time is lost when players spend a minute or longer looking for their glove between innings. Having your gloves organized allows the last batter of the inning and runners that are stranded on the bases to head directly to their position without having to run all the way back into the dugout. Players can your helmet to the nearest base coach and sprint out knowing that another player is going to pick them up.

A lot of coaches & players will read the above paragraph and say, “I don’t think those things are that important”. Championship teams think they are important. Championship teams know that they want to maximize every little detail of the game and want to use their 90 seconds of warm-up between innings getting as ready as possible for that inning. That’s why championship teams demand that as soon as the last batter of the inning gets out, they expect all 9 defensive players to be at their position in less than 15 seconds including the catcher and last batter (sometimes the same person).

In the next game that you play, stopwatch the amount of time you get to warm-up between innings and then stop watch how long it takes your team to get to their positions. Are you maximizing your time on the field? If you add this into your practice schedule every once in a while, you will notice how much this improves your teams over hustle and in the games you’ll notice that the umpire will appreciate your team even more and everyone wants the umpire to like them at least a little more.

Savvy on Defense

While on defense there are a few key things that championship teams do outside of just playing defense.

A championship team has players in the dugout working on deciphering the sign system of the 3B coach while also keeping a close eye on the batter and runner to communicate anytime the offense is up to something. They always have a player designated to give the CF and 1B a ball when they run in to have them prepared for the next inning’s warm-up.

Keeping with the theme of hustle, competing and respecting the game as soon as the third out is recorded on defense, we expect the entire defense to be in the dugout in less than 10 seconds. I love seeing defenses that are so excited to go hit they literally have a race to the bat rack. You can even incorporate this into your practice as a conditioning drill. Player’s love to see what their time was and if they beat the record.

Practice Savvy

Want to have the savviest team around? Start by having a classroom session teaching the little things, post a list in the dugout and then go out and practice it. You’ll find that your teams’ hustle will increase. You’ll find that your games go faster and have better tempo and you’ll see that they are so much more focused which will translate into a few more W’s in the win column as well.

Hidden Secret To Softball Success

Managing Emotions John Michael Kelly

Managing Emotions: The Hidden Secret To Softball Success Written By John Michael Kelly

It is often said that sports are 80% mental. As someone who played baseball through college and has coached over 1,200 fastpitch games I would argue that statement is far more TRUE than most parents, coaches and players know or care to acknowledge.

The sad truth is that the young softball players of today don’t spend 80% of their preparation time on their mental game. Heck, I would imagine that for most players, teams and coaches that percentage is a likely a dreadful 10% or LESS!

You see any athlete can take a thousand more swings in the cage or off the tee or into the net; throw a thousand more pitches or take a thousand more ground balls –and yes, this is essential to mastering the physical mechanics of the game. However physical preparation alone, without meaningful mental preparation, will always leave both player and team vulnerable to that critical moment when “the game” decides to whack you upside the head with a strong dose of ADVERSITY that changes the outcome of the game (or an athlete’s future in the case of a showcase game with dozens of college coaches watching!).

Even more critical in determining game success is the fact that, not only is mental game mastery essential, the mental and emotional actually proceed and direct the physical. In other words the “process” of playing the game –hitting, pitching, fielding, base running—all start with the mind’s ability to see, cognitively process and then take action in a fraction of a second.

Imagine the challenges a hitter faces when having but 1/3 of a second to determine pitch velocity, movement and ultimate location at contact before swinging. Wow! In order to successfully navigate an at bat the hitter must possess 100% PMA (present moment awareness) and a strong foundation of sports confidence to be able to execute their swing without hesitation or doubt. Past focus (regret, anger, frustration) or future focus (worry, fear, doubt) will surely sabotage the hitter. The harsh reality is that emotion will always win out over the physical.

Additionally the mental drives the physical in terms of the physiological impact an athlete’s emotional state triggers during periods of elevated stress and anxiety. These physiological changes look like an elevated pulse, sweaty palms, shorter breathes leading to reduced oxygen intake, tense muscles, reduced eye-hand coordination and even diminished eyesight. Yikes! As you can clearly see in this scenario what chance does a hitter have to put that round bat on the round ball squarely if her emotions have gotten the best of her?

In short emotion can make all the physical preparation invested by any athlete relatively worthless without attention to and substantial preparation in the mental side of the game.

Today in the world of fastpitch softball I see a huge disconnect between parents, players and coaches as to the mental/emotional component and consistent game performance levels. Yet these same parents, players and coaches wonder why their athlete/team looked so good in practice or with their hitting or pitching coach yet cannot seem to achieve the same success come game day.

If you want your athlete or team to step up their game the answer may just be found between her ears and not with her bat or glove. An athlete’s ability to manage her emotional state is crucial to being able to optimally perform the tasks necessary to succeed on the diamond.

In my next article article I’ll dish out five powerful solutions to help your athlete and team to win the emotional game!