There is one type of play that coaches, players and fans love to see more than anything else in the game. Great dives. In fact we love to see dives so much that ESPN shows them over and over and over on their Top 10 Play highlight reels. You know what I’m talking about, a player rounds third base with a full head of steam and heads for home while the outfielder throws ball on a rope. Catcher makes the catch and swirls around for the tag but the player dives around the back edge of the plate, dirt flying everywhere. Everyone holds their breath for the moment of truth. The umpire shoots his arms straight to the side, she’s safe! Or the line drive into the gap. The batter knows that she’s just won the game for her team and explodes from the box with joy in heart, her teammates on base race for home as they can feel the victory as well. But one player on the field knows better. She leaps in the air just like superman, glove open, eyes wide and her heart is racing. She comes to her feet and her torso is covered with grass. Ball in hand. She made the catch and today is her day.
Yeah those are the plays we love to see. We watch game after game in unbearable weather to see more. We watch repeats of the same plays over and over for one simple reason. We love to see athletes who are willing to leave it all on the field to play, the ones who appear to have no fear at all. They elevate our desires. They fuel our passions. They make us want to reach new levels in our own play and our own lives. Just about all players would like to be on the highlight reels, the problem is that their fear of injury is greater than their desire to win.
After all who can blame them right? Belly flopping in the pool hurts bad enough, and it's just water. Sometimes you may have flopped on your bed and that didn't feel good either. So who in their right mind would want to flop on the ground and rick breaking every bone in their body just to win a ballgame?
The reality is that nobody would. The ones making the great diving plays have learned something that you might not know yet. They aren't belly flopping onto the ground from 5 or 6 feet in the air, they are diving forward from less than 3 feet off the ground. Hey I heard you out there asking “What’s the difference?” I’m glad you are thinking that way because you have to ask questions, in order to learn. Learning how to do something like diving safely will help you overcome your fears. So if you are willing to try a few very simple things, I believe by the end of this article I can actually have you diving.
The first thing I want to do is get down on the ground on your hands and knees. I don't care if it is on the carpet in your house, the grass in your yard or on the nearest infield you can find. All I want you to do is start on your hands and knees and then extend your arms away from your body with your fingers up in the air. At the end you will be laying flat on the ground with your arms fully extended and palms away, looking at the pretty nail polish you painted with your BFF the other day. Go ahead and try it 2-3 times and then come back to read the rest.
If you actually tried that simple move you learned the three most important things about diving, you need to get really low, you need to extend your arms away from your body and you need to get your fingers in the air to avoid jamming them up. Now I want you to try the next step. While you are on your hands and knees leave one arm in place and use your other hand to draw a line out in front of you as far is it can reach. Then you are going to sit straight up while still on your knees and dive out to that line. When you get ready to dive out to that line your mind is going to play some tricks on you … it is going to tell you to pt your arms out early which will make you flop onto the ground. Don’t listen to your mind. It’s a trick. What you actually need to do is pretty unnatural. You need to start leaning forward like you are trying to smell a pizza on that line so that your body is going forward and getting lower, and keep your hands at your side as long as you possibly can until that pesky gravity stuff starts pulling you down. You will feel when that happens, and when it does then you need to explode those hands forward just like you practiced in step 1 as fast as you can and say out loud if you want to “Huh uh gravity.” Go ahead and try it 2-3 times and then come back to read the rest.
Did your brain try to play tricks on you? Did you let it win and put your hands down to soon and flop or were you able to overcome your brain and that pesky gravity stuff by exploding forward instead of down? If you did then you are now a great diver. That’s all there is to it. Hey you in Michigan I heard that comment about only being on your knees and still being afraid to do this on your feet. So now I get to share the biggest secret of all with you … if you stand on your feet you can actually get lower to the ground and make it even easier on yourself than what you just did. Seriously! Have one of your parents come and stand next to you while you are sitting straight up on your knees. Then have them put their left leg forward, bend their knees and lean as far forward as they can without falling over. Now that you are looking down on them from way up there on your knees you see the beauty of diving from your feet. You can actually get lower to the ground than you were just practicing from and thinking “Wow this is so easy when I’m low to the ground.”
So now I need you to stand up and try to dive that way. Put your left leg out in front, keep your hands at your side, and lean as far forward and as low as you can, dive forward and explode those arms forward and say “Huh uh gravity.” Go ahead and try it 2-3 times and them come back to read the rest.
Guess what? If you were able to do it, you are going to go to sleep tonight as a player who has overcome her fear and has learned to dive without having to worry about injury. Sure there are more secrets to learn that’s why you will want to read next months article and practice over and over. And of course you’ll want to practice over and over that’s what will set you apart from others. But you have learned the true secrets of diving safely: Getting low and exploding your arms away from your body. Now get out there & GET DIRTY!
Dalton Ruer: Coach Ruer has been using softball to encourage and motivate athletes for 15 years. Throughout the year he is a private softball instructor to many college bound athletes in Georgia. He facilitates team based clinics and instructs at many elite and college recruiting softball camps. His specialties are helping players verbalize their dreams and establish a plan to achieve them and helping players overcome the fears that are holding them back from being exceptional athletes. He has produced 6 instructional DVD’s covering all aspects of how to win the short game and how to dive for the ball. Keep up with Coach Dalton by visiting his blog and resource site at CrossTrainingSoftball.com. Join Dalton On: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube
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