For Love Of The Game

Written By Jen Croneberger

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For Love Of The Game

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I was six when I first sat out on my grandmother’s porch, listening to the Phillies on her old brown radio. Staring off into space, for two hours or more, actually paying attention to every pitch. My parents knew then I knew what love of the game was. My town didn’t have softball when I was growing up, so I played little league baseball with the boys. I couldn’t get enough. I started playing softball when it was made available to us in 6th grade, and I never felt a stronger passion to compete and to retool my work ethic. It drove me, and some days, I drove it. But always, I had a deep love of the game that we all share, enough for us to coach and teach it now.

That deep love led me to diving into the side of the game that seemed almost elusive to me as a kid. I struggled with confidence, I was hard on myself, I was and sometimes am even now … a true perfectionist. But I knew that if that love stayed alive, I would find ways to dig deeper than I sometimes thought possible. And maybe to pull out some kind of strength that I needed to overcome the string of negatives that slipped from my lips. We can all relate. That is what makes the mental game so powerful. We all know what it feels like to fail. And the triumphs we share are sometimes enough to move us to tears. It’s the tie that binds us all together. It’s what I love about being a part of this game.

Everywhere I go, my first question to the athletes I work with is this: “How much of YOUR game is from the neck up?” In all of my years, all of my stops, from the 7 year olds to the 65 year olds to the professional baseball and softball players in between, to the hundreds of Division one, two and three athletes, all of whom I have worked with, I have yet to find someone tell me it’s less than 65%. That is in fact, the lowest number I have heard since I first started asking the question. And that happened to be a 7 year old who could at least pinpoint that it’s more than half.

My next question is then: “Are you spending that 65, 75, 90% of your time then on the mental game?” The answer is always a resounding “No.” That led me to studying sports psychology and realizing that this was the part of the game that really hit home with me. I could relate to that pitcher who beats herself up after letting go of the homerun ball. .. again. Or the one who walked away from the plate wondering why she swung at that last pitch in the dirt, knowing what it feels like to let her teammates down. The torture they will both put themselves through if the outcome isn’t what they hoped it would be. There is so much more than just the fundamentals and mechanics that create the player. We can relate to that, and we can understand the feeling of let down our players often go through. Because of that, two of the strongest foundations of the mental game from the way I see it, are confidence and love of the game. They will always go hand in hand for me. I deliver a program called the “5 C’s of a Mental Game Warrior” and the fifth, and most important C is Confidence. I truly believe that an athlete can change their whole outcome based on their confidence process. I spent the last year studying and researching this in fact, to write a workbook on instilling confidence in athletes for baseball and softball coaches. I realized how critically important it is to build a player’s confidence. Sometimes, it’s the most important piece. I know we all strive to be the best coaches we can for this game, for our players, for our programs. And if somehow we can remember that the confidence of these young women if often just a word away from being changed forever, we are aware of our greater power as teachers and as influencers. Confidence can be a fragile, delicate egg that we hold carefully. But the truth remains, it is what these girls learn on the field that create their paths for the rest of their lives. It is the thank you’s and the gratitude that we receive from our players long after the game is over that mean the most to us. The life-changing experiences and words we bestowed upon them reminds us of our power as coaches. Our ability to affect is so great. Really understanding how confidence works can be our greatest asset.

The second, the love of the game, is what keeps these girls coming back for more. It’s like the one good golf shot all day that makes you make another tee time when you go back into the clubhouse. It may just be one, but if you play golf, you know what I am talking about. It’s the only one that is necessary. If the love is there, it’s not as easy to give up when it gets hard. And we all know, it gets hard. So I start with these two pieces, and hope that maybe, the athletes I work with can continue to find one little thing that they can praise themselves for every day. And if their focus is truly on the process instead of the outcome, there are always small victories to be thankful for. I love the amazing growth potential our players have in the untapped power of the mind. It is so much more than just how much more weight they can lift or how many sprints they can run. The mind truly can be the game changer. I still feel the same butterflies, the same warmth, the same excitement when I step foot between the white lines. I still love to listen to baseball on the radio. And I still need a confidence boost every once in a while. And I absolutely know for sure, I still love this game.


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Just Do Nothing

Written By Dalton Ruer


For the past 15 months we’ve worked together on some of the most important aspects of the game. This month is no different we are going to look at the single most important thing you can do to ensure you have a long career in the sport.

That’s right there are millions of different drills that instructors could work with you on physically or mentally. But all of them pale in comparison to what I want you to learn this month because I truly believe this one thing alone will help prolong your career in this great sport.

If you’ve been reading my column for any length of time you know I could drag this on for pages as your curiosity builds but I won’t. I’m going to jump right to the point. For one solid month I want you to DO NOTHING.

No the phrase DO NOTHING is not an acronym for doing lots of work. I mean it exactly the way it sounds. For one month out of the year I want you to do absolutely nothing physical related to softball. What great athletes understand that others miss is the fact that constant punishment on your body takes a toll on you. Without taking the dedicated time to allowing it to heal your body breaks down. Your brilliant career is cut short because of constant nagging injuries. All the work you did for 12 years to prepare for college softball goes to waste if you can’t make it to the field.

I don’t want that to happen to you. I want you to achieve all of the wonderful dreams you have for yourself in this sport. I honestly believe that the best way for that to happen is if you allow yourself the downtime to just DO NOTHING and let your body and your mind heal. To fully recover. To regain its explosiveness. To regain the fire and passion deep inside of itself.

I know that in all of the driving, the practices, the games, the lifting, the running, the agility and the time working off a tee you may have forgotten how to simply DO NOTHING. In this month’s video Stephanie and Emily are going to remind you how to just relax and be a teenage girl. No joke I we spent time preparing a video just to help you remember how to do things that are not related to softball.

As it happens December is the perfect month for my students in the State of Georgia to DO NOTHING. They have finished their high school season which is in the fall and they have completed their fall college showcase tournaments. As they entertain you this month be thinking about when the best time for you to take a month off might be. When can you commit 30 straight days to allowing your body to rest? What activities can you fill those 30 days with to keep yourself busy? How could you pour some time into helping your parents whose lives are turned upside down by your normal softball activities? How could you use this brief downtime to build up your siblings who are forced to sit at game after game in the heat/cold supporting you.

We all choose how we spend our time. I hope that you’ll accept my invitation to dedicate time to allowing your body to heal so that your career is a healthy and lengthy one and for 30 days simply DO NOTHING.

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College Softball: Wimps and Whiners Need Not Apply

Written By Stacie Mahoe The easiest most portable Bunt Trainer on the market!

College Softball Whimps and Winers Need Not Apply

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A number of high school softball players recently saw their college dreams come true during November’s National Letter of Intent early signing period. They signed on the dotted line to play at the next level and took the first step in the next chapter of their softball career.

After going through the college recruiting process myself and going through it once now as a parent, I must say this…

The college recruiting journey is NOT for wimps or whiners. It includes ups and downs and can feel like a crazy roller coaster ride. Not everything that happens feels “fair” and if you have hopes of playing college ball, you’re up against some stiff competition!

Making it beyond high school and into the college ranks is about more than just playing well and taking care of business in the classroom. That’s only a portion of it. In fact, I’d venture to say, that’s the bare minimum.

Since there’s SO much to say about the college recruiting process, let’s just take a look at these basics first. I’ll dive deeper into some other issues in another article.

On the Field

As mentioned, gunning for a spot on a college roster puts you up against a TON of competition. If you want to beat out thousands of others who want the same thing you’re after, you must be willing to do something aren’t if you want the best chance at coming out on top.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to your softball skills and performance…

• What are you doing to raise your game that others aren’t?

• Is there something you can start doing to gain an advantage and begin separating yourself from the pack?

• Do you know what kind of running speed, throwing speed, or batting averages players who make it to college have?

• Do you know how you measure up, in these areas and others, against those you’re competing against for a college opportunity?

• Do you know what your biggest strengths are?

• Are you maximizing those strengths?

• Do you know what your biggest weakness is?

• What are you doing to overcome this weakness or make it a non-issue?

• What can you do, where can you focus to SET YOURSELF APART from other players?

I guarantee you, there is something excel at on your team. It may not be a physical skill. Maybe you look the sharpest. Maybe you encourage others and keeping your teammates up more than anyone else. Maybe you constantly make your team space easy to work within by keeping it neat and orderly. Maybe you earn the best grades on the entire team. Whatever you rock at, make SURE you maximize it. Make sure when people see you on the field, they know, hands-down-no-doubt-about-it you do THAT better than anyone else on your team, maybe better than anyone in your league.

In the Classroom

This one is simple. The better you do in the classroom the more opportunities you have. Period. Grades alone help open up more college opportunities. Ideally, you shoot for, and get, all A’s and B’s. Preferably more A’s than B’s if at all possible! Anything less limits your options, not only for athletic opportunities, but for other scholarship opportunities as well.

Unfortunately, many student-athletes don’t take this area seriously enough until half way through their sophomore year or maybe even their junior year. By this time it becomes very difficult to raise your GPA before coaches at the schools you want go attend must start evaluating you.

In fact, if you have dreams of playing DI softball, coaches begin looking at your class during freshman and sophomore year. If you’re not taking your grades seriously from the get go, you immediately put yourself at a disadvantage to the rock star softball players who are.

It’s absolutely true that DI programs seek out recruits that early. When trying to make a future decision on someone that early, they want ALL the pieces of the puzzle in order. Otherwise they’re taking a chance that you may or may not be eligible or may not get high enough entrance exam scores years down the road. The more sure they can be about these issues by you taking care of business in all areas, the easier you make it for them to choose you.

Either that or other areas must be “worth the risk.” In other words, college coaches *may* be willing to take a little bit of risk on the academic side if you already throw like Monica Abbott, hit like Crystl Bustos, or run like Natasha Whatley as a freshman in high school. That kind of talent isn’t bestowed on too many individuals that early so plan on giving yourself the best chance possible by keeping your grades as high as you can.

SATs and ACTs

Like grades, the higher your test scores, the better your chances and the easier you make it for coaches to recruit you. Not only that, good grades and good test scores open the doors to other kinds of aid so you don’t only have to rely on athletics.

If you can take some test prep classes, I highly recommend it. I took a prep class in high school and only needed to take my SAT once because I scored well enough the first time. Who wants to spend half their Saturday taking a test? The better you prepare the more likely you are do get the score you need faster. Sadly, many players I know score lower on today’s 3-part SAT than I did on the “old” 2-part test. Yikes!

Please don’t put yourself in that situation. Do the work beforehand and prepare yourself for success on the test.

I won’t lie, test prep classes aren’t the most exciting, fun thing you’ll ever do, but remember what I said earlier about doing what others aren’t willing to do so you can get results they want but won’t get? Yeah, this is part of that!

If you can’t afford test prep classes or can’t find one that fits your schedule, there are a number of free online prep options you can use. No excuses.

Think About What You Want

This goes a little beyond the basics, but it’s important in just about anything you do or going after any goal you set.

Start thinking about what you want. You may not know all the exact details right now, but if you at least begin thinking about it, you’ll find the answers sooner rather than later. Knowing what you want makes it far easier to make it happen. If you don’t know what you’re going after how are you going to get it? Work on getting clear about what you want.

With that said, freshman year, or maybe even a year or two before that, is a great time to begin thinking about things such as…

• Do you really want to play college softball?

• How much of a commitment are you willing to make?

• Do you really want to continue 4-5 training and practicing and learning and competing for another 4-5 years after high school?

• Do you want to play in a highly competitive program or do you want to play more “for fun?”

• What do you want to study?

• What kinds of majors are out there and which ones are you interested in?

• Where in the country would you prefer to go to school? East coast? West coast? North? South? Midwest?

• Are you more of a big city girl or small town girl?

• Do you enjoy the cold or would you prefer warm weather?

• Do you need to be near ocean or a lake or are you okay with being landlocked?

• Do you want to go to a big school where you’re just a number or would you prefer smaller class sizes, a smaller school, or a smaller campus?

There’s more, but that’s a start. It’s okay if you aren’t completely certain of the answers to all these questions, but the sooner you begin thinking them, the clearer you can get on these details. Most high school students don’t just wake up one day and suddenly know the exact answers to all these questions. These are issues you need time to consider and work through, AND your preferences may change over time so don’t just look at this list once and forget it. Revisit these issues every now and then and make sure you’re looking in the right places and for the right things in your college search. You’ll be far more productive working smarter and targeting schools that fit more of what you want vs wasting time with those that don’t fit at all.

I wish it were as easy as the few basics we talked about here, but it’s not. Taking care of business on the field and in the classroom and knowing what you want are just the beginning of finding your home after high school. Next time, I’ll go a little further and talk about other things that come into play along the way. Playing softball in college is a LOT of fun, but anything worth doing doesn’t come easy!

Don’t expect to breeze through the college recruiting process. That’s a disappointment waiting to happen. Get informed, do the work, and keep at it. I call this your college recruiting JOURNEY because that’s what it is. No one moment decides your fate. It’s not a “one lucky roll of the dice” situation so don’t treat it as such. The more effort and preparation you put into this process, the more you’ll get out of it. Until next time, keep working hard on and off the field!

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Is Running the Best Workout for Softball Players?

Written By Carly Schonberg

Is Running The Best Workout For A Softball Player

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Softball players seem to run a lot, and I’m not talking about around the bases. Many college coaches require their players to run miles in addition to strength training and practicing skills. At the high school, middle school, and travel levels, running is often the ONLY organized team workout promoted by coaches.

Let’s stop and really think about running for a minute.

Softball and baseball require a tremendous number of sport-specific skills—more than most sports. Sprinting around the bases, fielding with range and agility, throwing and catching, hitting, and pitching are all distinctly different skills with their own set of mechanics, supported by certain physical capacities. Each skill requires strength, stability, and flexibility/mobility. And every softball player wants to be able to perform these skills with more speed and more power.

Sustained slow to moderately paced running—which is what you get when you jog for miles— does not improve strength, stability, flexibility, speed, or power. Additionally, hitting the ground repeatedly with poor posture and leg alignment can lead to shin, knee, hip, and back pain. I’ve never seen a softball coach go running with his or her players to keep a constant watchful eye on their running form, and players who start the season without prior physical conditioning are usually weak and susceptible to poor running mechanics. Nevertheless, many believe that running long distances with little to no real supervision or mechanical correction will get players into shape. Not so. Instead, players should work to strengthen the specific capacities and components that contribute most directly to softball performance.

What physical capacities actually contribute to speed and power? Your running speed, as well as your pitching, hitting, and throwing power, come from how hard you can push off the ground with your legs. When you’re sprinting around the bases or running down a fly ball, your feet are pushing off the ground one at a time. When you pitch, you’re pushing with one leg off the pitching rubber. When you hit, your swing is initiated by a quick push in your back leg. When you throw, you set your foot on your throwing side and push off of it to initiate the throwing motion.

Here is a little physics lesson: the ground is enormous and by comparison you are very small. Because of this, when you push into the ground, the earth pushes you back and you are propelled away from it.

The more force you apply to the ground through your legs and feet, the faster and farther you’ll propel yourself. When you’re sprinting, you want to use that energy to keep moving forward as powerfully as possible. When pitching and hitting, you want to collect all that force and then use a strong, stable front leg and core to redirect the energy into your bat or pitching arm.

How do you push harder into the ground? By making your legs stronger. Specifically, you need tremendous strength in your gluteal muscles and tremendous stability in your hips and core for each of softball’s required skills/components that long-distance running does not address. So what’s the most effective way to make your legs stronger? Exercises like squats, dead lifts, lunges, step-ups, and jumping activities are a good choice. If you were to slow down video of a fast runner taking off into a sprint or a great windmill pitcher pushing off the rubber, and then compare it to a slow-motion Olympic lift, you’d see that the explosive action of pushing off the ground actually shares many similarities with the acceleration phase of the lift—more similarities than that action shares with jogging.

Athletes can begin doing these exercises using just their own body weight and gradually increase with weights as they become stronger, ALWAYS with supervision for proper form. If you must run, run on hills. In contrast to running with low resistance on flat ground, you will need to push hard and use your gluteal and abdominal muscles to stabilize your hips and core—strengths which, as I mentioned above, are necessary for softball skills.

Long distance running does have one notable benefit: cardiovascular endurance. Endurance is absolutely necessary for overall fitness, and running has long been the most popular choice for achieving this because it’s easy and free.

However, running is not the only way to achieve cardiovascular endurance. Performing the above-mentioned exercises in rapid circuits (never sacrificing form!) will provide you with a great cardio workout, one that can be even more challenging than running. It’s also more efficient than running and weight training separately, because you’re working on both strength and endurance at the same time, all the while constantly developing softball-specific physical abilities.

As the legs get stronger, running speed along with power in other skills will come naturally. You wouldn’t try to improve a hitter’s poor swing by having her swing over and over again hoping something clicks; you’d break it down with specific drills to address the components that need to be improved. The same holds true for running: endurance aside, repeating it over and over doesn’t even make you much better at RUNNING, never mind softball. Strengthen the various capacities that contribute to the skills, and improvement will surely follow.

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