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


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.

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!

Top Ten Sport Quotes For Fastpitch Softball

Top Ten Sport Quotes

Top Ten Sports Quotes Written By Gary Leland

I see lists of great quotes on the internet all the time. I thought it might be nice to build a list of quotes that would apply to softball.

I figured that since I was making the list, that I could include one of mine own quotes in the number ten slot. I know there were probably better ones that could of been number ten, but I don’t care. it is my list, so I get the number ten slot by default.

1. You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain. Leo Durocher

2. The best thing about baseball is that you can do something about yesterday tomorrow. Manny Trillo

3. It ain’t over til its over. Yogi Berra

4. My attitude has always been… if it’s worth playing, it’s worth paying the price to win. Paul “Bear” Bryant

5. You’re never a loser until you quit trying. Pete Post

6. You can accomplish a lot if you don’t worry about who gets the credit. Bill Arnsparger

7. Champions keep playing until they get it right. Billie Jean King

8. Win with class, lose with class, and always respect your opponent. Yves Auriol

9. The ability to prepare to win is as important as the will to win. Bobby Knight

10. How you act on the field, is an example of how you live your life off the field. Gary Leland

I hope you enjoyed my top ten list. Do you have any quotes that should of been on the list? If so please leave then in the comment section at the bottom of this page.

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Enjoy My Swedish Softball Stories

Swedish Softball

Please Enjoy My Swedish Softball Stories From 2009 Written By Charity Butler

SKÖVDE, Sweden — In a country that consistently produces top notch athletes and maintains a strong base of athletic enthusiasts, the game of softball is rather unfamiliar to mainstream Sweden.

Women’s fastpitch softball has only developed in Sweden over the last several decades. The players here do not have the long, rich history and the resulting resources available to players in the US.

I have great respect for the Swedish Saints players. These women are pioneers, the frontrunners of fastpitch in Sweden.

This week, we took our second set of games in a double header against Norrköping. Our team improved to 4-0. The final scores for the weekend, 15-0 and 19-4, are evidence of Skövde’s dominance in the Swedish softball world. We blasted 27 hits over two games!

Although softball is relatively young, other sports are well-established here. The Swedish compete on world class levels in hockey, hand ball and futball (aka soccer).

My second week in Sweden, I experienced two major Swedish sporting event championships.

Stockholm played host to the Swedish National Handball Championships for men and women. The Skövde Women’s Handball Team competed for the national title. The town of Skövde is where I lived and played. Everyone was rooting for the hometown team as we huddled around the television to watch the final game!

Also on Swedish sports television this week, the National Hockey Team of Sweden took 3rd place in the World Hockey Championships, just edging out Team USA 4-2. Everyone was talking about and following hockey.

Although softball is not afforded the same air time as other major sports in Sweden, the Saints are definitely making a name for themselves across the country and around Europe. The team is the defending National Champion of Sweden, five years running!

As the top team in the country, the Saints earned a berth to the European Cup, the most elite international tournament in this part of the world. We compete in the highest pool against the nine other top European teams. The tournament took place in Legnano, Italy (you must keep following to read the outcome!).

In a relatively short time, the women of the Saints have developed the sport of fastpitch and are competing at the top international level. They do not have the luxuries we so often take for granted in the US: full time training staff, field crew, recruiting coordinators, administrative staff and the like.

Nonetheless, playing in Sweden was refreshing. These women play “for the love of the game.” They practice and play to win! The Saints players work hard on and off the field.

More importantly, though, they portray the TEAM concept effortlessly. The perspective of the players serves as a reminder to me, the achievement-oriented American, that life is about people.

Softball allows me to live, love and share my life with people. I am grateful for the opportunities this game has afforded me. It is a blessing to pass the knowledge and experience on to others, both at home and abroad.

Oh, and winning is a blast, too!

Why Are We Behind?

Why are we behind?

Strength and Conditioning for Softball: Why Are We Behind? Written By Jenna Straight

It’s time to wake up and smell the iron softball world!  Every day, the successful practices of professional and collegiate teams are adopted by high school and youth coaches.  This passing of information happens with everything from game strategies to practices drills.  In sports such as football, baseball, soccer, and volleyball, the emphasis on a quality strength and conditioning program has been widely adopted by coaches at the high school and youth level.  Why is softball not on that list?

If you ask any of the top NCAA softball coaches if they are strength training, the answer will be unanimous. Yes, they are strength training and it is a big part of their success!  So why are high school and club coaches not implementing and preaching about the importance of strength training?  I believe there are three main issues:

A lack of knowledge regarding why softball players should train and the benefits it will have on performance.

A lack of understanding what distinguishes a softball training program from “working out”.

A lack of access to these programs.

Why should both players and coaches start devoting time to strength training at the high school level?

It is difficult to get anyone to commit their time to training, unless they believe it will benefit them in some way.  So, here it is in a nutshell.

* Training is the only way to prevent injuries, such as ACL tears.  No injury means no missed practice or playing time.  No time lost on the sidelines means more time spent improving your skills.  Better skills mean better chance at playing in college.  Playing in college is the highest level most softball players will ever reach. Only 7.8% of high school softball players will even make it to college1.  Do you want to be a part of that 7.8%?  TRAIN.

* Training will improve your muscular strength, thereby improving your performance.  That means hitting further, throwing harder, and running faster.  ALL GOOD THINGS.

* Training is challenging and fun.  Good training programs allow you to set individual goals and give you a roadmap to reach them.  Athletes enjoy this type of competition, otherwise they wouldn’t be athletes!

* Every female athlete I have worked with has told me how much more confidence they have, both on and off the field, after they start training.  They feel powerful, athletic, and have high self-esteem.  These are traits I think every girl growing up in our superficial, appearance driven world could use some more of!

At a majority, if not all, of the top softball universities there is a full-time strength and conditioning that trains all of the athletes in the school. These strength coaches are well educated in not only how to improve the performance of their athletes but also how to keep them healthy. They design programs that take into account the special considerations that should be made for each sport.

Why do softball players need “special considerations”?

* Softball an “overhead” sport, meaning the shoulder is prone to injury.  The best way to prevent these injuries is to implement a softball-specific training program.  These programs are designed to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, strengthen the surrounding musculature, and correct any muscular imbalance.

* The softball population is predominately female.  (Exclusively female, if you take out the beer league slow-pitch enthusiasts!)  All female athletes require appropriate ACL injury prevention training because not only is the number of ACL injuries in sports rising, but that number is significantly rising in the female half of the population.  Research has shown a number of possible reasons for this gender difference. Many of which can only be prevented through specific training.

Injury prevention is only one of many the factors that distinguish a quality training program from simply working out and lifting weights.  An effective training program should also include strength training, power training, rotational power development, mobility and soft tissue work, agility and speed training, as well as appropriate periodization and progression. Sounds like a lot, right? That is why the top teams in the country work with strength and conditioning coaches. You teach softball skills and we train the body to execute those skills.

What about my high-school “strength program” or “weights class”?

I have worked with over 200 athletes from 30+ high schools.  Not one of these high schools has a “strength program” or “weights class” run by an NSCA Certified Strength Coach.  This is the certification I have, and the only fitness certification specific to athletes.  With very few exceptions, the high school strength programs at all of these schools are run by the football or wrestling coach.  While these coaches may understand basic training principles, often they are not well-educated in the complexities of strength and conditioning.  Each sport is different and each athlete is different.  Their training programs should be specific to their sport and specific to the individual.

Many of the athletes I’ve worked with attended their high school “strength program” and/or “weights class” only because it was a requirement by their varsity coach.  I commonly heard complaints about the lack of individuality, supervision, and proper coaching.  Granted the athletes I work with are training in a private performance facility so they have experienced what training should be. In the coach’s defense, most are doing the best they can.  A group of 20 or more students at a time, ages 14-18, athletes and non-athletes, and athletes from a variety of sports is not even close to an ideal training situation for a coach.  Even so, the lack of proper program design is appalling.  These classes should be renamed “Bodybuilding 101”.  Although it may require more after school time taken away from tweeting and snap chatting, serious athletes are better off training at a private facility or finding a sport-specific program and training on their own.

What if I don’t have access to, or cannot afford training in, a private performance facility?

Thankfully, the amount of softball specific training information available is steadily growing.  Soon we will start seeing more programs available for individuals and coaches to use in their local gyms.  I encourage you to look for a program that has all of the factors I discussed above.

There are also great resources available online. In fact, you are reading this article on one right now. Knowledge is power. Educate yourself and your athlete.

The time for change is NOW!

As coaches and parents, we want the best for our athletes.  We want to give them all of the things we didn’t have.  We want to teach them all of the lessons we learned the hard way.  I speak from experience when I tell you, training is absolutely necessary for a long and healthy softball career.

As softball specific training information and programs become more available, teams and individuals are going to start training.  Stay ahead of the competition and get started educating yourself today!

Contollables vs Uncontrollables

Contollables vs Uncontrollables

Contollables vs Uncontrollables Written By Renee Ferguson

My players will tell you I preach about a lot of things on the field but if they had to pick the one thing I preach about the most it would be controllables vs uncontrollables. You may be unsure right now what a controllable or uncontrollable is but it’s really pretty simple, controllables are the aspects of the game that you as the coach or the players can control, meanwhile uncontrollables are those things that you can’t change or control no matter how hard you try. Follow along; I’m sure you are more familiar with this than you think you are.

The number one uncontrollable on the field is the umpire, yet if you ask coaches, players or parents the number of umpires who “cost” a team a game is staggering. His strike zone was too tight or too big, he blew that call at third, let’s face it, umpires take a beating. But do you know why they take a beating? Because they are human, they make mistakes, they seriously do the best they can but sometimes they make mistakes. If there is one thing I preach most about to my team is that I never want to hear that the umpire cost us the game, number one the game should never be close enough to come down to one or two outs. If it is we haven’t effectively done everything we could do to win that game that day. Sure their strike zone got tighter in the middle of the game or they blew a call at 2nd base that cost you a run but can YOU fix either one of those scenarios? No, you can’t and no matter how much you complain you will never be closer to rectifying the situation than you were when the ball call was originally made.

The number one way to deal with an uncontrollable is by adjusting. We all know the strike zone runs pretty much between the letters and knees of the batter, right? Well what if you had an umpire who called a pitch thrown down the middle a ball and pitch thrown rolling on the ground a strike? Guess what? You better figure out how to hit the one in the dirt and lay off the one thrown down the middle of the plate. The team who makes the adjustment first will usually end up on the winning side of the score board. Even though there is a rule book, every umpire’s interpretation of the rules will be slightly different from the previous one and chances are your interpretation will be different than one or both of those aforementioned umpires. The sooner parents, players and coaches realize they are not in control of this aspect of the game the more success the team will have on the field.

So what are some things you can control in the field? You can control how you react after a bad call was made, or how you react after a teammate commits an error on a routine fly ball. One of the hardest team controllables seems to be the ability to stay focused when the opposing team is fired up in the dugout or talking about a player on your team. These are the times when controlling your reaction becomes the most important. To help drive this home, I will give you an example of what happened when we were playing for the regional championship last year that will hopefully stress the importance of focusing on the game or task at hand.

After a pretty rough start to our season last year, we made it to the championship game of the regional tournament and in order to win the regional tournament and go to nationals we had to double dip the team we were facing. To make matters worse the team we were facing had already beat us 3 times that season, they were pretty confident coming into the game to the point that their parents were already booking flights to nationals for the following week. Obviously my girls overheard this and started talking about it to one another because they were mad as hell. When I finally caught wind of the conversation I quickly rounded them up and told them I didn’t want to hear any more about it, we had 2 games to play and we needed to be focused on those games not what the other team was planning to do after they won. That was an uncontrollable. I stressed to my team that the more the other team was focused on the trip the less they were focused on us and that in and of itself was an advantage we needed to capitalize on. I wish I could say at that point things ran smoothly and we no longer focused on the uncontrollables of the game, but if I did I’d be lying. Throughout the game I had to continuously snatch my girls up when they were beginning to lose focus, sometimes it was a reaction they had to a player who yelled a comment to our fans other times it was squashing the talk about the other team in the dugout. All I know is it wasn’t easy to keep them on the right path that game but in the end this is how it played out; the coach of the other team became increasingly frustrated with the umpires and spent a lot of time arguing calls that he felt were blown, his players became focused on the rowdiness of our fans and became reactionary. Meanwhile, we were solely focused on the task at hand which was winning that 2nd game and going to nationals, a place when we started that season we never thought we would get to. In the end we beat them by one run and went to nationals. It was easily one of the best days I’ve ever experienced as a coach not only because we won but because I saw these girls give everything they had on the field that day and while not every call went our way that day we made the adjustments necessary to succeed. In the end what more could a coach ask of her players?

In your role as a coach, parent or player remember it is easy to make judgments or excuses as to why your team lost, but in doing so you are teaching your players that they are simply a victim of circumstance instead of teaching them that they are in control of their own destiny. And when you are in control of your own destiny you are going to encounter road blocks and challenges that call on you to constantly adapt and make changes without losing site of the bigger picture, this is how you become successful. Now, I’m in no way saying this mentality is fool proof and if you focus on all the right things all the time you will win every game because that is an impossible claim to make but what I can guarantee is that if you teach your players and yourself to always be ready to adapt and to remain focused in high stress times you will be teaching them the keys to success in life as well as on the field.

The Properties of Getting Pulled (As a Pitcher)

The Properties of Getting Pulled (As a Pitcher)

The Properties of Getting Pulled (As a Pitcher) Written By Shannon Murray

Every passionate pitcher known to the world of softball goes into a game with a game plan…a WHOLE game plan. When we are called to the mound, we are under the assumption that we are taking on all 7 innings. The game goes on and things aren’t going as planned. What happens next? A lot of times, we get pulled and a relief pitcher comes in our place. This is the farthest thing from what we wanted starting the game. But the reality is, it’s going to happen and it’s all a part of the game. It’s not the end of the world. And guess what… It’s not about you! The choice to pull a pitcher from the game is about what’ best for the team and what’s going to help the team win in that specific game.

Trust me, I know that getting pulled off the mound is not fun. You can feel disappointed, guilty, angry, embarrassed, or even jealous of the relief pitcher that is taking your spot…your spotlight. However, these are not the thoughts we should be having as pitchers. As a pitcher, whether you see it or not, you are usually seen as some sort of leadership role. Your teammates need to see you as positive, productive, constructive and supportive. After getting pulled do you really think it’s the best idea to drop your head, get mad, throw your glove in the dugout or pout? Absolutely not. When you have a bad attitude about getting pulled, you are affecting the rest of the team. Ignoring or scolding the relief pitcher isn’t going to help the situation either. How do you think that makes the other pitcher feel? She’s already coming into a pressure situation of getting the defense out of a jam, and your poor attitude towards her can’t ease her nerves. As she comes out, YOU give her the ball, a few pointers on the ump’s strike zone and a simple “you got this” as you HUSTLE (not walk) off the field. You not only gave that pitcher a boost of encouragement to go on, but you showed character to the rest of your teammates by holding your head high. By giving the relief pitcher tips on the strike zone you were also productive and constructive to the team. Those little things will make the difference.

Remembers this too, being taken out of pitching doesn’t mean you were pitching badly. It’s about strategy. Different teams are better at hitting some pitchers than others. If you’re in a game getting hammered, it doesn’t always mean you weren’t hitting your targets. It could be that the other team is just good at hitting your style of pitching (whether it’s how fast you are, the kind of movement that you put on the ball, what your best pitches are, etc.). Bringing in a different pitcher serves the purpose of showing the opposing team something different. Their batting line up needs a little shaking up. If you keep pitching, realistically, they are going to keep hitting you. It is not a swing at your pitching or intended to offend you by pulling you out. Pulling out a pitcher is purely strategy. All you can do from there is play your role as a leader and do whatever your team needs you to do. Your job now could range playing another position, to designated hitting, or even standing on the fence cheering on your teammates that are playing. Whatever it is, you do it 100%, with all of your passion and with every ounce of energy as if you were still on the mound.

So remember pitchers, your teammates need you on and off the mound. The kind of attitude choices you make will reflect how they see you. Being in the center circle also means being center of attention and everyone is always watching you. Be a reflection of good character to look at and not one of poor attitude. So the next time you get pulled, stay positive.