The Toughest Pitch To Hit???

The Toughest Pitch To Hit???

The Toughest Pitch To Hit??? Written By Troy Olson

As I sit here in my house with the temperature hovering around -5 degrees, it is very obvious that softball season is a long way off. The funny thing is I have already heard people talking about the upcoming season, granted here in Wisconsin there isn’t much else to do other than ice fish and catch a basketball game or two. Well during one of these conversations I heard an interesting statement being made, someone said the hardest pitch to hit is a riseball that’s why my kid is learning to throw it. This got me to thinking, was the riseball the ultimate pitch in the game of Fastpitch Softball?

So I started with some of my own research, I surveyed a variety of people with an age of 20-71 years old. I talked with men and women, college players, local league guys, players who had won state tittles, players who are on Team USA, International players and retired old duffers from many years ago. I had preconceived ideas about what would come from this question, but the results and answers from these survey subjects were amazing.

The test was of many different kinds of players 55% of them had pitching experience, in our sport very few people only pitch unlike baseball. 25% of the subjects had some catching experience and 20% are utility players/out fielders. I wanted to get the biggest range of players possible, its tough with everybody jumping around from pitching or playing middle infield to catching in this sport we just have athletes that are able to play a lot of different positions on defense.

Well in my test I found that 5% of the people responded with curveball, this was a huge surprise to me as a curveball typically stays on the same plane but does move in or out. The average age of these people were 39 years old, and they caught and played infield.

The next pitch was the dropball with 19% of the vote, once again I didn’t expect this pitch to be even mentioned before I started this research. The interesting thing here was that the pitcher with the most International experience chose this pitch, he may also be the best hitter in the group as well. So I had to contact him ask why, his reason for this answer was that at his level of play this pitch is the hardest to hit out of the park. If I miss with the dropball it goes in the dirt, if I miss with a riseball and leave it thigh high its hit over the fence. I had often felt like this myself and had this discussion with some of my buddies, but it was an interesting take from someone at the highest level of our sport. Average age of the subjects for the dropball was 34 years of age.

The runner up pitch was the riseball with 33% of the vote, and an average age of 30 years old. I found this young age to be a very surprisingly low number. So this got me to thinking even more, were these younger guys that everyone knew had played baseball and they fed them a steady diet of riseballs? Or has our sport became madly in love with rise? It seems like every highschool girl claims to throw a riseball, which I think is the toughest pitch to master. Has our sport got to the point where we only throw hard pitches, have we fallen into a trap of watching Adam Folkakrd on youtube throwing 80+ MPH riseballs and we are all trying to duplicate this??? It just raises many questions to me…

Well first place goes to the changeup with 43% of the vote. Here the average age was 45 years old, and this group of players had the most experience of all the other groups. When I talked with these players it was stated that its easier to hit a pitch on location that is relatively the same speed, than it is to get your hands out front and be off balance. These players were not afraid of pitch location as much as they were scared of pitch speed. I find this to be true in my batting as well, once I get fooled with a good change up, I really feel out of sync in the box. Don’t get me wrong you have to have a good changeup or great hitters will see it coming, all great hitters are always trying to see what you are throwing.

So as you can see from this data if you want to pitch and be successful you better be able to switch speeds. I think a lot of times we spend too much time focusing on top speed of pitchers and not enough time coaching or teaching how to pitch. There is a huge difference between throwing and pitching, but we will leave that for another article……

Sooners To Have 14 Games Televised In 2015

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“Sooners To Have 14 Softball Games Televised In 2015″ Written By Bill Plummer

How times have changed and especially the televising of college softball games. Years ago, college softball was lucky to get television time. Even then it was usually tape-delay of the Women’s College World Series. That all changed, however, in 2001 when ESPN did all of the 11 games in the WCWS. Since then, ESPN has continued to televise all of the games in the WCWS live.

Regular season television coverage was rare, however. Not anymore. Teams, such as fourth-ranked and third-ranked Oklahoma, will have its share of television time. The Sooners will have 14 of their games televised during the 2015 season. Their first televised game will be March 14th when it hosts Wichita State on Sooner Sports TV in a 5:30 p.m. start.

The first time a nation-wide audience will be able to see the Sooners comes Friday, March 20, when OU takes on No. 19/18 LSU in Baton Rouge. That game will take place at 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

The Big 12 home opener against Iowa State on April 3 at 6:30 p.m. will be shown on Sooner Sports TV, as will the April 8 matchup against Arkansas at 5 p.m.

All three of Oklahoma’s games during the April 10-12 series at Texas will be shown on the Longhorn Network. Friday’s contest starts at 6 p.m. CT, while Saturday is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. CT start. Sunday’s finale will see a first pitch at 1:30 p.m. CT.

Fans won’t have to wait long to see the Sooners again as the very next series against No. 10/11 Baylor will have all three of its games televised.

It starts on Thursday, April 16, when OU hosts Baylor at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. Friday’s matchup will be shown by Sooner Sports TV at 6:30 p.m., while the series’ Saturday finale against the Bears will be shown on Fox Sports Regional Networks beginning at 12 p.m. CT.

Both games against Utah Valley, May 2-3, will be picked up by Sooner Sports TV. Those contests start at 6:30 and 2 p.m., respectively.

The final regular season national telecast features a Bedlam matchup in OU’s home finale. Oklahoma hosts Oklahoma State on May 9 in a 2 p.m. game that will air on ESPN2.

Specific networks for Sooner Sports TV games will be announced at a later date, as will ESPN3’s NCAA Division I softball schedule. Other Oklahoma home games not currently scheduled to be televised may be streamed online at SoonerSports.TV, but dates have yet to be determined.

UCLA & Arizona Look To Return To WCWS In 2015

UCLA and Arizona look to return to WCWS in 2015

“UCLA and Arizona look to return to WCWS in 2015″ Written By Bill Plummer

Will this be the year for UCLA and Arizona? Could be and you can imagine both schools will give their all in trying to get back to the Women’s College World Series. Neither school has been back to the prestigious event since 2010.

Years ago these two teams dominated the Women’s College World Series. Beginning with the first NCAA sponsored WCWS in 1982, UCLA won seven national titles between 1982-1992 while Arizona won eight titles. The Bruins overall have won 11 national titles with the last in 2010 while the Wildcats captured their last title in 2007. The Wildcats did, however, lose to the Bruins in the highest scoring finale, 15-9, in 2010. Since then the two schools to their frustration have been denied a trip back to a place that they were extremely familiar with.

But while the Wildcats and Bruins were trying to get back to Oklahoma City, numerous colleges and universities were getting better, with the SEC having won the last two World Series after the event had been dominated by the Pac-12 with 23 national titles. Last year was the first time that a Pac-12 team wasn’t entered in the event.

For elite softball programs like Arizona and UCLA, it’s not about rebuilding, it’s about reloading. These teams have the talent but also are deep and versatile. They have players who can played a variety of positions. They have athletes who can come off the bench or out of the bullpen and get the job done. And they have athletes who range from freshmen to seniors who are capable of stepping up and leaving their mark. Those qualities ensure that the best teams are at the top of the national spotlight each year.

Besides playing each other in the Pac-12, UCLA and Arizona traditionally schedule some of the best competition in the United States. Arizona will play five of the eight 2014 Women’s College World Series participants including defending champ Florida. In all, UA will play 24 games against NCAA tournament participants from a season ago. The Wildcats’ schedule features 19 nationally televised contests. Seventeen of UA’s 24 conference games will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks while the Cats also have two games on the ESPN family of networks.

UCLA, which was recently ranked No. 3 in the country, will be featured on TV 20 times this season, including 19 of 24 Pac-12 contests and 20 of the last 27 games of the regular season.

Following the first five tournaments of the year (SoCal Collegiate Classic, Feb. 5-8, Easton Stadium; Wilson/DeMarini Desert Classic, Feb. 13-15, Las Vegas/Henderson, Nev.; Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, Feb. 19-22, Cathedral City, Calif.; Louisville Slugger Invitational, Feb. 27-March 1, Lakewood/Long Beach, Calif.; and Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament, March 6-8, Easton Stadium), the Bruins will host Baylor in a non-conference matchup, which will be televised on Pac-12 Networks, on Tuesday, March 10 at 5 p.m.

Only time will tell if UCLA and Arizona get back to a place that they are very familiar with. And you can bet not making that trip for the past four years has gotten to be frustrating and maybe 2015 will be the year that the Bruins and Wildcats get back to where they belong.

Athlete Motivation

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“Athlete Motivation” Written By Shannon McDougall

Highly motivated athletes are said to have a personality that reflects that motivation, much like an athlete that is not highly motivated. A softball player for example who enjoys the challenge of tough opponents and continually wants to improve on his/her skills is highly externally as well as intrinsically motivated. An external motivation might be a college scholarship, winning a championship or the approval of someone they look up to. Intrinsic motivation is the desire to simply improve and play well. Not relating specifically to anything outside of themselves but for themselves.

Players who are not intrinsically motivated may be susceptible to Social loafing, playing lesser opponents to ensure success and “not trying” so that if they lose, there is a valid reason.

The difference between quality of motivation and quantity is that the quantity of motivation is the amount of time spent on the activity and how the athlete is performing. The quality is directly related to what the athlete is getting out of the sport and how long they stay involved in a positive manner. Our hope is that all softball players remain in the sport well into their adulthood.

One of the motivating factors is Self-efficacy or perceived abilities. Self-efficacy is the self-judgment of an athlete’s ability to perform a task. This is generally related to past and recent performance, and can have an effect on the athletes perception of ability to sustain and control their mastery of the skill. If they feel good about their skills they are likely to be more motivated than a softball player who has low self confidence and feels unable to achieve the desired results during competition or at practices. If they feel that they have control of their abilities to improve they will be much more likely to be self directed in their participation,

The following are examples for each of the six antecedents of self-efficacy in a sport setting.

1. past performance – how did the athlete perform the task previously, this will have some influence on their perceived ability to perform it again.

2. vicarious experience – if she can do it, then I must be able to do it; watching someone else perform a task that looks relatively easy can give an immediate feeling of self-efficacy.

3. verbal persuasion – “I believe in you”, or “do it this way” says the coach; having someone who is knowledgeable say verbally that the athlete is capable will generally add confidence to the attempt.

4. physiological state – the athletes perception of their physiological condition will have a physical effect on their self-efficacy; “am I ready for this?”, “I am nervous”, “I have had lots of rest”

5. emotional state – ideally, a positive mood state is felt before and during competition, if however a negative mood state is felt, learning strategies such as negative thought stopping can be helpful. If an athlete is in a positive mood state, he/she will likely have a higher self-efficacy and if he/she has a negative mood state such as frustration, a lower mood state may result.

6. Imaginable experiences – this can be very useful in skill acquisition, or for example if an athlete is unsure about her/his ability to perform a skill or perform in the competition, they can use imagery as a sort of rehearsal to gain confidence.

Weiner’s attribution theory includes internal-external attributions in which the cause of the performance was a result of an internal attribute where pride and personal satisfaction may be felt, or external attribute may cause disappointment, frustration and anger. The unstable-stable attribution suggests that the performance was a result of an unstable attribution such as umpires or stable attributes such as skill level of the athlete. The uncontrollable-controllable attribution is an emotional response. If the athlete feels that they are in control of the performance, they will be more motivated and accountable for their development. If the athlete feels that the performance and their environment is uncontrollable, they may develop a form of learned helpless. They feel that they are simply not good and will not be good so it is no use.

A motivated athlete will typically attribute their good or bad performances to controllable, internal and unstable factors. An athlete who has motivational difficulties will generally attribute their performance to uncontrollable, stable and external factors.

Where does this leave you as a coach? Provide as much information for your softball athletes as you can. The more they know and the more they can control the more motivated they are likely to be. It is common for coaches to simply lay out the rules and the way the season will go and then say leave it to me. Just show up at practices, do what I plan and we will be good. This approach although may be easier for you to control, takes away from the ability of the athlete to self-direct. A self directed athlete is your best tool for success in your season weather it is at the beginning or during the final tournament. Give it a try and let me know how it goes :)

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Mens Fastpitch Softball, What Happened To It???

Mens Fastpitch Softball, What Happened To It???

Mens Fastpitch Softball, What Happened To It??? Written By Troy Olson

I find it very amusing that I tell people I have a softball game and they naturally assume I am playing slow pitch softball. Did you know that there is actually Mens Fastpitch Softball in America? I happen to live in Wisconsin and we have a lot of Fastpitch Teams in our state, the league I play in is in a small town called Cushing. Our league is consistently between 8-12 teams per year, just depending on who is around for the summer. Most tournaments will once again draw 8-12 teams with several traveling from Minnesota to participate.

At one time Mens Fastpitch was a huge sport in this country, in the 60’s and 70’s it was at its peak. There was all kinds of hugely talented teams and of course the most famous of them all “The King and His Court.” So what happened to this one time flourishing sport?

In my opinion its a combination of several things, first was the evolution of slowpitch softball. Most people aren’t happy going 1 for 3 at the plate, jumping to slowpitch would allow even poor hitters to put the ball in play all the time. It also seems with no practice one can still compete in slowpitch. Lets be honest if you are going to be successful at Fastpitch you have to put time and practice, you just don’t pick up a bat and hit riseballs out of the park.

The second part of the equation is lack of homegrown pitching, this has really hurt our sport. Pitching in fastpitch softball takes a lot of time and effort to be good. Most of the great pitchers right now in the Mens game are from foreign countries like New Zealand, Australia, and Mexico. Don’t get me wrong there are some real good pitchers from America but we just don’t seem to produce as many as other countries.

The third reason I feel our sport is declining is TIME. To play this game and be good, its going to take a little time. This game is different than baseball or slowpitch. It appears to me a lot of young guys aren’t patient enough to take the time to develop into great fastpitch players. Our society as a whole doesn’t seem to have a lot of free time, we are all busy with work, school, family, and dozens of other things.

One positive thing I have noticed is kind of a resurgence of interest in Mens Fastpitch Softball lately. It is starting to slowly turn around and I have even seen a few new teams sprouting up. I think some of this is the fact that there is an entire generation that has never seen Mens Fastpitch, with the raving success that the womens side has seen I think guys are starting to get the itch to try the sport. I hope that men can take a look at how the women have been able to promote their sport and with a little help maybe we can revive this wonderful game.