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How to Create a Strong Presence, Even if Your Team is the Bad News Bears

How to Create a Strong Presence, Even if Your Team is the Bad News Bears

How to Create a Strong Presence, Even if Your Team is the Bad News Bears Written By Keri Casas

Just because your team has a record of 0-14 doesn’t mean every other team has to think of you as the bad news bears.  You may not be coaching the best team around, but you can help them create an intimidating presence in their practice, pre-game warm-ups, between games, and on the field.  After following 5 key elements of maintaining a strong presence, you will notice the difference in your team’s appearance and how other teams react to these changes.
 
1.) Hustle.  Every team that has caught my eye hustles on and off the field.  It is extremely noticeable when athletes sprint to their positions and sprint off the field, every inning.  This shows other teams that your team is serious, that they are here to play, and that they are disciplined athletes.  Your team could be a 1st year 10u team that just learned how to catch the ball in the outfield the day before your tournament.  Just because you and your team know that, doesn’t mean other teams need to know that.  Giving a presence of hustle shows that your athletes are disciplined enough to know they need to run on and off the field, as well as sets a tone for their opponent.
 
2.) Aggression.  Every inning, every out, should be played like it is the last out of the game, tied ball game, with runners in scoring position.  Keeping the game competitive from start to finish is one of the most intimidating things a team could do all game.  To exploit aggression, have a plan for your fielding warm ups.  Typically, you see the pitcher warming up and the fielders receiving ground balls from the 1st baseman.  What we also see are lazy grounders and throws back to the base.  Make your warm ups look skilled and effortless; this is where the other team notices your aggression.  When they can see how strong your fielders are in warm-ups, the intimidation factor sets in.  Rather than having your fielders all throw back to 1st base, have them make plays.  For example, once they all field and throw to 1st, have them turn a double play.  Also allow for your 1st baseman to field a ball and throw to a base.  Do note, it does need to be reinforced that every fielding warm up should be performed like they would in a game.  Remember that female athletes need a lot of repetition in order to perform a task correctly; beginning your weekly practices in a similar fashion as your pre-game warm-ups will help reinforce success. Not only will this intimidate the other team, but it will promote efficiency in game-like situations as well as confidence in making the play.
 
3.) Appearance.  As cliché has it sounds, appearance is everything.  Appearance starts when the athletes walk into the stadium.  Being so, make sure your team enters together.  When the whole team is walking to the fields as a unit, rather than coming in one by one, it shows that they are a team instead of a bunch of individual players wearing the same uniform.  When the team does walk into stadium, their hair should be game-ready, uniforms tucked in, and tennis shoes on.  No athlete should walk into a stadium with a messy appearance, and that includes flip flops.  When a team looks prepared and well-kempt, other teams will take notice and assume you mean business.
The first two key points, hustle and aggression, also fall into appearance; the more your team looks like they know what they are doing, the more other teams will think the same.  As the saying goes, “fake it ‘til you make it.”  Not only will your team look good, other teams will take notice to you and think you are good based on your appearance.
 
4.) Confidence.  Confidence is essential in every good athlete, and every good team.  The more confident you and your athletes appear, the more other teams will take you as a serious opponent.  Exuding confidence not only intimidates other teams, but it is also extremely beneficial to your athletes.  If you have athletes that struggle in games, it is noticeable that they lack confidence; they are nervous fielding and HOPE to hit rather than KNOW they will hit.  This is another scenario where you want your athletes to “fake it ‘til you make it”.

Sometimes confidence building takes a long time and many female athletes struggle to believe in themselves.  Telling your athletes, “pretend to be confident, even if you aren’t,” will help your athletes more than you think it could.  Have your athletes think of themselves as the best hitter on the team, that they can hit the opponents’ best pitch with ease.  The more you instill confidence in your athlete, the more they believe they can do it as well.  Furthermore, your athletes will begin to produce the more they tell themselves they are confident.
 
5.) Relentlessness.  Relentlessness ties in all 5 key points to creating a strong presence as a team.  The more your team shows hustle, determination, aggression, and confidence, the better they will look as a unit.  Even if your teams’ skills are not up to par with their age bracket, they can still look good trying.  Make sure your athletes run on and off the field, warm-up as if it was a game situation, and play like it was your last out, every single out.  Every athlete should swing hard, run hard, and make effort as if it would be the winning hit, pitch, or out.  The more your team works hard and gives 110% each play, the more your opponents know you will not go down without a fight.  When your team battles every pitch and every hit, it allows for other teams to respect their work ethic, determination, and stamina to never give up in a game.

Video On Demand

Real Talk. The Truth About Recruiting

Real Talk. The Truth About Recruiting

Real Talk. The Truth About Recruiting, Written By Matt Lisle

I have a confession. It’s 6am this morning and I’ve already deleted a dozen emails from recruits without reading more than one sentence. It has become a daily morning routine just like having my coffee.

Most of the emails I receive are direct from student-athletes and some are from recruiting services, but they all get deleted within five seconds opening and I can tell you this morning routine is commonplace across the country either at the homes or offices of most college coaches.

I actually love recruiting. I really enjoy going out and searching for and evaluating not only talent but also the intangibles, looking for things like attitude and effort. Searching for diamonds in the rough that have heart and hustle to go along with skill.

I’ve done recruiting at every collegiate level. And I mean every. I was an Associate Head Coach at the NAIA level. We had a ton of money to give and it was easier to get kids into school than I could imagine. The NAIA’s eligibility rules are not as stringent as the NCAA. I’ve been a Head Coach at the Division III level with no scholarship money. Where parents didn’t know the name of the school and would run for the hills when they found out I didn’t have any athletic scholarships to give. I’ve been at a Division I school that had more resources than probably any other school in the country. I’ve coached at the Division II level where scholarships aren’t fully funded, yet other schools in our conference were.

So back to those emails. You keep sending them. I keep deleting them. Let’s help each other out.

What Can You Stop Doing?

Stop sending me mass emails that you sent to a hundred schools (maybe more). Most likely, if I’m a Division I coach (which I am now) it got deleted before I even finished reading your name, not because I’m coaching at an elite program that is committed for the next 5 years, but instead because I don’t have the time to go through the 25 emails a day that are exactly the same from 25 different student-athletes. Depending on the Division II/III and NAIA school it got deleted before reading as well. That line in your email that says something like “I’m really interested specifically in your school” seems a little fishy when I look up in the To: column of the email and can tell it was sent to another 100 schools with the same line. I basically have now added you to my blacklist like a restaurant that posts the names of the people whose checks bounced.

There are a small percentage of coaches that do read the email and watch the video that you sent. And then they show interest. But when push comes to shove and they reach out to you, you realize that you’re a California girl and playing at a Division II school in Minnesota wasn’t what you were hoping for when you sent the email out.

What Can You Do?

Let’s talk more about this email thing and the best way to use it. First, it needs to be a very specific and very personal email if it comes directly from you (the student-athlete). I am “email savvy” enough to know when it’s a mass email to every coach on the planet.

Secondly, your best chance of getting me to read the email is to have someone that I have a relationship with send it. If I get a personal email from Tony Rico or from another reputable travel ball coach, I’m going to open it and read it. Yesterday I got a text from a friend who was a former college coach about a girl that he recommends. Do you think she’s on my recruiting list now? Yes.

Maybe your high school coach or travel ball coach isn’t very well connected and no one you know has relationships with the colleges that you want to attend. This does make it more difficult for you in regards to email and contact, which means that personal email you send out better grab my attention.

A friend of mine who is a Head Coach at a Division III school this year got a card in the mail from a prospective student-athlete. It was a card inviting her to a macaroni party with the words “macaroni party” crossed out and the “Colorado Sparkler” written above it. Do you think that caught her attention? Strangely, yes.

Two years ago, my youngest brother (I have four) was getting close to graduating. He was a small school All-State football player here in California and also an All-League baseball player. He didn’t go to any combines or exposure camps and because of his smaller (5-10,160) frame he was one of the only non-committed all state players. I spoke with him about what he wanted and he was willing to go to any college in the country that helped pay for school. I sat down and wrote an email to every college football coach in the country. I began by saying who I was and my experience in collegiate coaching. I received over 50 emails from schools all over the country showing interest. I helped him narrow down a few of them and he went on recruiting trips. He ended up going to a Division III school in Minnesota that he loves and although they don’t offer athletic scholarships, he was able to get 60% paid for with need based and academic aid. He’s going into his junior year now and has loved his experience and is the starting 3B for the baseball team.

Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, he broke his own rule about the mass email. Yes and No. I knew that my college email address coupled with my introduction about my own experience would help get a few more email opens. It helped a lot that my brother was actually sincere when saying that he was willing to travel anywhere and I was forthright about that in the email. If you want to ignore my advice on the mass email that is OK…I just wouldn’t put all my eggs in the email basket.

Email can work. It just has to be done right. 99% of you aren’t doing it right and its making 99% of the college coaches out there swipe left on their iPhone’s too many times a day.

Exposure

Everyone wants more exposure. This is why there are multiple recruiting services and travel ball tournaments every weekend of the year. (Don’t get me started on that) In a lot of ways the recruiting services like NCSA and NSR are great for student-athletes. They have helped thousands of student-athletes receive scholarships and helped place them at colleges. I recommend them for “certain” student-athletes that feel like they missed the exposure boat or have the resources to afford it. It’s not a good fit for everyone.

How can you get more exposure? If at all possible, you want to get in front of as many college coaches as possible. Playing on the right team for the right coaches helps. I admit that. At some of these showcase tournaments you’ll have 50 coaches at a Firecrackers vs. Glory game. (Or insert any other big name travel ball team).

Even if you don’t play for a big name travel ball team anytime you can get in front of a large number of college coaches this will “help” with exposure. And I know that may be difficult in many pockets of the country especially outside of places like California.

For most parents, exposure means expensive. The cost of traveling to showcases and tournaments has gotten astronomical. I think there are some parents out there who end up spending more on exposure and camps then they would have just paying for college. Be every selective in where you spend your money in the exposure department #realtalk

Skills Video

Making a skills video is a great idea and helpful for coaches that actually do read your email and want to keep a file on you. Having said that, please don’t have a long intro with schnazzy (is that a word?) effects and music. Just go straight into the skills. College coaches don’t care about the background music. We want to see your swing, your arm, your fielding, etc.

My Best Advice

If you really want to play at the college level my best advice is to figure out which schools you really want to go and start building a relationship with those coaches as soon as possible. The best way to do that is with the schools camps. Attending a schools camp gives you so much more face time with the coaching staff and allows you to get to know them and the campus and school. Maybe that coaching staff and school isn’t as great a fit for you as you had hoped.

Every school has youth camps and prospect camps where they can really get to know and evaluate student-athletes up close. Now let me make this very clear. If your Top 5 schools are in the Pac-12 or SEC and you’re skill set is better served at a Division II school, there is going to be a problem with this route. Make sure you are attending school camps of schools that you might actually get a chance to play at. Which leads me into…

Be Realistic

Parents and students must have clear expectations and be extremely realistic with their childs athletic ability. There were almost 400,000 high school softball players last year. 30,000 (almost 8%) will play in college. Out of those 30,000 there are about 180 in the Pac-12, which means 0.045% of high school softball players will end up playing in the Pac-12.

Recap

What not to do
Mass email

Burn through your savings and credit cards trying to get exposure

What to do
Attend schools camps. Build relationships

If you’re going to use email have a coach or someone that has relationship with college coaches send email and make sure that it’s personal. Not mass.

If you feel like you need a bump in exposure, sign up with a recruiting service but be VERY selective about who and the cost. It’s a huge red flag if the cost is absurd.

Attend as many showcases/tournaments as your pocket book allows and when you are there show the intangibles: Heart. Hustle. Attitude. Effort.

Make a video of skills with no frills

Recruiting = Ridiculous

I won’t get into my thoughts on the recruiting process from the colleges end (that will be for a different article). It’s a failing system in a lot of ways when we have 8th graders being verballed and 5th graders at showcases. (Yes, I saw this last week).

I know that this process is incredibly daunting for parents and student-athletes and will continue to be overwhelming until some big changes happen.

Lastly, be honest and open if you are being recruited and talking to coaches. There is nothing worse for a coach to spend quality time reading your email, watching your skills video, reaching out to you and getting their hopes up of your interest and then finding out you haven’t even heard of the university they’re from (happened to be several times at the D2, D3 and NAIA level).

Fastpitch Magazine

“Lori Meyer Enters The NFCA Hall Of Fame”

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Fastpitch Radio Show - Episode 45

Lori Meyer enters the NFCA Hall Of Fame

On this episode you will hear Lori Meyers’s speech she gave as he entered The NFCA Hall Of Fame. – Produced By Gary Leland

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Softball Faceguards (more…)

This is this episode of The Win Some Softball Stuff Show. This month you can win a 2015 Louisville Slugger LXT Fastpitch Softball Bat. Produced By Gary Leland

This month you have the opportunity to win a 2015 Louisville Slugger LXT Softball Bat. Watch the video to find out how to enter.

Make sure and watch on the 25th of every month for our newest contest.

The LXT is built with Louisville Slugger’s patented TRU3 three-piece connection technology and a Pure 360 Composite Barrel. These give the LXT a lighter swing weight, dramatically reduced vibration and overall better feel. An aluminum inner disc was added – called S1iD technology – to the LXT to create a more flexible, forgiving barrel, a larger sweet spot and a cleaner “pop” with every hit right out of the wrapper.

TRU3 3-Piece Bat Technology
Revolutionary new connection technology strengthens the link between the barrel and handle of the bat for better feel and dramatically reduced vibration.

S1iD Technology
Aluminum inner discs allow for a flexible, more forgiving barrel, a larger sweet spot and a cleaner pop with every hit. S1iD guarantees your bat gives maximum performance, right out of the wrapper.

Pure 360 Composite: Thinner high-strength and lighweight graphite fibers add more layers to the barrel for added strength while reducing the overall thickness of the barrel wall. More pop, less weight!

Bat Specifications
Drop: -10 Fastpitch Bat
Barrel: 2 1/4″
Handle: 7/8″
Certified: ASA, ISF, USSSA, NSA, and ISA approved
Barrel Load: Balanced
Material: 100% Composite
Construction: Three-piece
Grip: Synthetic Grip (more…)

My Daughters Coach Got Thrown Out And Why I Have His Back

My daughters coach got thrown out and why I have his back

My Daughters Coach Got Thrown Out And Why I Have His Back, Written By Renee Ferguson

Today for the first time since my daughter began playing select softball in 2007; her coach was ejected from the game. Some may say there is never a reason for this to happen because the coach is the ultimate model for the players. How the coach reacts and what he or she allows dictates the overall culture of the team. Normally I agree with this but after witnessing today’s situation, I have a slightly different take on this. As a coach, I try my very best to live by the standard above but today I could not be prouder of my daughters coach for being ejected from the game and here is why…

Let me give you some back story first; we were the home team, 1st inning 2nd batter when the head coach of the other team questions the legality of our pitcher. The base umpire calls the play dead in the middle of the pitch because the coach just walked out of the dugout onto the field and began to question the ump without first calling time or waiting for an appropriate time to call time and approach the umpire. As taught, our pitcher who was in mid windup at the time pitched through the abrupt NO PITCH that was called from the base umpire. The result of this action was a no pitch for us and absolutely no warning or punishment for the opposing teams head coach. The base ump confirms our pitcher is legal…all’s well.

We come in to hit and go up by 2 or 3 runs. Next inning begins, the coach of the opposing team is still arguing the pitching issue and after 3 outs are made again comes out of the dugout and questions the umpire about the legality of the pitch due to the amount of drop on the ball. The plate umpire again tells him it’s legal. Throughout the game there were bad calls for both sides and our coach questioned one play at 2nd base where he walked out calmly (or as calmly as he can….he kind of has an angry walk if you know what I mean), and asked the base ump if he was willing to appeal to the home plate umpire, he said no, again all’s well.

As the game wears on I begin to notice the plate ump is spending a lot of time on the other side of the field chatting with the coaching staff of the other team, giving high five, fist bumps and sharing sunflower seeds, etc. At the same time I begin to notice his strike zone becoming smaller and smaller for our pitcher and those drops that were originally strikes are now called balls. Please note I am in no way of accusing anyone of throwing a game or showing preference for another team. I am just giving you my perspective on what happened during the game.

Finally here comes the play in question, our girl is attempting to make it from 2nd to 3rd by sliding into third base. The base umpire calls her out, no big deal so far right? At this point in time our coach tells her to hold her position because he plans on appealing the call. To be specific her position was sitting back in the sliding position. The player was smiling and waiting to get up when the plate umpire, yells at her to get up and get off his field. He addresses the player a 14 year old girl in a very loud and unprofessional manner and continued to do so as our coach called time to walk up to him to discuss the situation. The umpire continued to yell and berate the player for following her coach’s instructions.

Obviously our coach was upset and told him not to speak to his player in that manner and to address the issue with him as the coach. He said he would address it with the girls because he was not going to have her holding her positon to “show up the umpire”. Until this point I have purposely not quoted anyone because I can’t really remember who said what exactly. What I can tell you is that both were angry and upset. One took it out on a 14 year old girl and one took it out on the umpire because he felt it was inappropriate for him to speak to “his girl” that way (in case you are wondering the child in question was NOT our coach’s daughter). At this point in time the umpire yelled at our coach to go back to third, it was very clear that the next step the umpire was going to make was eject our coach if he didn’t be quiet and go back to the coaches box. Our coach complied to keep himself out of trouble and to get the game moving. At the end of the inning our coach approached the plate umpire again to express his displeasure for how the situation was handled and after some back and forth he was ejected from the game.

Some parents on our team thought that he handled the situation incorrectly and let his emotions get the best of him. I on the other hand am in total agreement with how he handled it and if I am being honest here, I am pretty sure I would not have made it to the end of the inning as our coach did. Our coach stood up for his TEAM, his actions showed that his girls deserved a much higher level of respect than they were given and he was willing to sacrifice himself to ensure that they got it. In my opinion, he was the ultimate team player because he made the ultimate sacrifice for to defend his team.

In my lifetime, I have seen parents and coaches get thrown out of games for arguing balls and strikes and safe and outs, so ejections per say were not something I am unfamiliar with and perhaps that is why I feel the way I do. In any case there is one thing I am sure of and it’s that I am proud of her coach for sticking to his guns in hopes of redirecting the umpire’s anger from our player to him. As parents of young women or girls what more could you ask for from a coach? These men and women who volunteer to coach this sport teach our girls so much more than the physical aspect of the sport, and as a mom of a 16 year old kid on the team, I can honestly say I hope my daughter can look back one day and remember this event as the day she learned what chivalry is all about and how she should never settle for anything less than her coach gave her teammate today.

Fastpitch Magazine

What Is The Pitch Speed Of An Average High School Pitcher? by Dr. Sherry Werner Ph’D Produced By Gary Leland

Fastpitch Softball Books
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