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.
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:
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.
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.