Catcher Zone: Self Assessment and Self Confidence

Written By Bryan Ingalls

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Catcher Zone Self Assessment And Self Confidence

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In order to truly improve at your craft and perform on the field at high levels, two things are vital; self confidence and the ability to give yourself an honest self assessment. Those two things come at completely different times. The self confidence aspect should always be there but more so than ever when you are on the field in a game. You have to believe that you have the ability to perform at a level that you may not be able to. Thinking you can do something is a very powerful tool. But one thing that we should all be able to do as an athlete outside of the game type situation is be able to give ourselves an honest self assessment.

Believing you are better than what you are when you are in battle is a powerful tool to perform higher than the levels you may be capable of, but believing you are better than what you are in your training will severely hinder your ability to actually get there. Sometimes it is very difficult to think to yourself that there is something you cannot do, but you have to be realistic with yourself in order to improve on certain things. The power of the self assessment is the first step to believing in a process to improve your game physically and mentally. Your coach or instructor may be one of the best in the game, but if you as the athlete do not buy in, than you will not get better.

You need to give an honest assessment, write down your strengths as an athlete, but also write down your weaknesses. Your goal should be to make your weaknesses your strengths and make your strengths become second nature. For example, if you are a shortstop, you may do extremely well moving to your glove side, but struggle a bit on the approach going to your right. Identify that weakness and work on it. Get stronger, get faster, learn how to read to ball off the bat better, and improve your skills or approach to the ball. You should never ignore your strengths, those need to constantly be worked on as well, but the weaknesses need the extra attention. During practice and training you should never think to yourself, I can do it all, I am the best. There is always something to improve on and there is always someone better.

With that being said a flip must be switched when it becomes game time. There is a quote that seems simple but it is so true, “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is a little bit extra”. That extra 10-15% of intent and self confidence makes the world of difference when it comes to competition. Whatever you are thinking in your head, you are right. You are up to bat and the Pitcher may be the best in the league, and you think to yourself, “Man, she is good; no way can I hit her”. You are right, you are already defeated. But if you think to yourself, “Yea, she is good, but she can't throw the ball by me, I am even better”, you may surprise yourself with the result. Mindset and self confidence in a one on one battle is one of the most important things you can bring as an asset, but it is not something that any coach can give you. You have to believe in yourself and what you are doing, and that goes back to the self assessment.

By giving that self assessment to yourself and working on the things that you may struggle with better prepares yourself for that battle. Practice is like studying, and the games are the test. If the chemistry exam is the test do not tell yourself you know the periodic table of elements when you are studying when you really don't. You are setting yourself up for failure. Think to yourself, “I really need to know this. I need to put the time in and get to know this so I can go into the test ready”. Once the test comes do not go in worried. You prepared, you did what you had to do and right now all you have to do is go in confidently and trust your preparation.

It is a very fine line, basically what is being said is that you should humble yourself, break yourself down, admit your weaknesses, and then do what you have to do to make them better. But once that game comes you have to trust that process, trust your preparation and believe that you are even better than you are. You cannot make that extraordinary play, hit, or pitch without believing in yourself that you can do it. The mind is a beautiful and powerful thing, use it to your advantage to give that little extra and become extraordinary.

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Pitcher Catcher Relationship: Nonverbal and Verbal Communication to Teammates

Written By Bryan Ingalls

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Pitcher Catcher Relationship

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We have talked immensely about the communication and the relationship between the Pitcher and the Catcher, but communication should not end just there. The battery working well together without a doubt enhances each others talents and abilities but also the other seven players on the field have your back as well. The defense should not be left out of the equation so it is very important that they know what is going on and everyone is on the same page.

Small forms of communication take place constantly throughout the game and sometimes can be taken for granted but should always be thought about. Every player on the team should know the signals for pitches. Most players and coaches may think “What do we need to know them for? I am not a pitcher or a catcher.” But it is your job to defend and if you know what pitch and location is coming it can and will help you in setting up and getting a jump on some of the balls. If you know that a drop ball is coming, you know that there is a better chance for a ground ball coming than a rise ball. If the mental game and learning how to read a hitter is taught, then knowing what pitch to call is certainly a very important piece of information without a doubt.

This game can be very complicated yet at the same time very simple if there is the right thought process. In between every pitch you have a few seconds as a defender to think about the situation that may or may not take place. What do I do on a ground ball to my left or right or if I am charging or if it is hit hard? Little things like that are very important. So as those thoughts go through your head the communication with your other fielders take place. Talk with the fielder next to you, talk about who is covering what bag or where you position yourself in the field so maybe the player next to you can make adjustments. All of these little adjustments can be made based on the batter and pitch and location.

A couple of the big things a pitcher can relay to the fielders are simple hand gestures as to who has the bag at second on a groundball back to them. You cannot turn two without the first one, but if the first out comes smoother and more efficient then you will have a better opportunity of getting that second out. The catcher also plays a big role in reminders.

Since day one it has been said that the catcher is the field general and is the boss on the field. Small things like who covers what on a bunt, who is covering second base on the steal, who is backing up, etc. If you think there is nothing to do and nothing to talk about than you are mistaken, Softball like many sports is a sport that is full of communication and you rely on your teammates more than ever.

As a catcher myself, one thing that I always make sure is relayed to the fielders is who is covering second base and always giving the first and third basemen the pitches. Those are non verbal cues that to the average eye may always go unnoticed. But the corner infielders are in the line of fire and if I can give them a heads up that this pitch is designed to go their way it helps the team become more successful and also gives them an avenue to protect themselves along the way.

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Respect The Game

Written By Bryan Ingalls

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Respect The Game

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Usually you see me writing about the Pitcher and Catcher relationship or something along the lines of a catching aspect in here, but this article is something that I believe every athlete should read let alone softball player. It has to do with something that I believe can be lost very easily in this day and age with Athletics, not just by the players, but by coaches, parents, administration, and fans. It is Respect, Respect for the Game, and Respect for Your Game.

I used to be big on rules, I thought that the more rules you incorporated the easier it would be to keep the athletes out of trouble and the easier it would be to enforce them. Still being young yet experienced in the game and the coaching world I have come to the realization that you really only need one rule and that can cover just about everything involved with your sport and enforcement. Its called Respect. Not just Respect your coach, or respect your family, or school, or teammates. Respect the Game.

If you truly Respect the Game and get an understanding of the history and all the hard work people before you put in to get it to where its at you will truly grow to love your sport. When that happens you will do whatever it takes to get the most out of your potential and truly appreciate the opportunity you get to be a participant everyday. Respecting the game has so many meaning while it may be such a simple phrase.

When I think of Respecting the game, I think of a 39 year old Derek Jeter who has nothing to prove to anybody yet going 100% up the line until that ball is caught and called out on a routine ground ball. I think of Coaches like Coach K and Jim Boeheim of Duke And Syracuse who have been involved in their sports and at the top of the history books in wins yet are still putting in the hours to get even better well into their 60's. I think of Peyton Manning who spends countless hours in the film room dissecting his opponent for the next week so he is fully prepared.

But it is not only professionals. They have a God given gift but they work so hard to maintain that gift and sustain it for a long prosperous career. But I also think of the 12 year old kid who just had a 2 hour practice and wants to go hit later at the batting cage, and the 100 degree days where a girl is in the heat shooting a basketball instead of in the house with the AC on blast staying cool. That is all Respect for the Game.

I feel that there is way too much entitlement in this day in age not only in professional sports but college as well. Being content and settling on the level you are at or resting and taking a play off because the game is in hand, or simply losing that fire because you may have won the title the year before. That is not Respecting the Game. True character comes out when nobody is watching. When the stands are empty and nobody sees you what are you doing to better your game.

Respecting the Game is not about just better your own physical and mental game, it is helping your teammates. Every person on a team plays a role and without that role the team cannot reach its potential. Every rep you take off is disrespecting your time, your teammates time and your coaches time. Everything that you do says something so be prepared to make a statement with every action.

Coaches, do not rest on the knowledge that you have right now, the game is ever changing and you can learn things from not only coaches at a higher level or coaches with more experience but you can learn from lower level coaches and beginners. Everyone has a different outlook and everyone sees the game a little bit differently so never be too big to take a second to learn, or take that extra minute to have a conversation. That is Respecting the Game.

Players, never take it for granted, every rep is important and will affect the outcome of your performance. You have to put in the energy so you might as well make the most out of it. Complete every rep in your workouts and then do one more. Play for yourself and the alumni that paved the way and the players 50 years ago who without them maybe this sport would not be around.

Fans, Parents, Administration, the game is about the people that are playing, it is not about you or what is best for you. You are all there to support the athletes and support the Whatever the sport is you are involved in, Respect it. Respect the process. Respect the players. Respect the Coaches. And most importantly Respect yourself. If you just think to yourself is this Respecting the game or did I respect the game today, than the rest will take care of itself and your goals and aspirations will be taken care of from there on out.

Programs, do that, and do that positively. The parents have raised the athletes and the Administration has hired the coaches. Let the people that were put in place do the job they were intended on doing. The games are exciting, so much work is put in, Respect the Game by supporting, and supporting is so much more than merely being in attendance at an event.

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Throwing From Your Knees vs. Throwing Standing Up

Written By Bryan Ingalls

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Throwing From Your Knees Vs. Standing Up

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There is no momentum breaker better than throwing someone out from behind the plate. The success rate in softball for stolen bases is extremely high, much higher than baseball is, and some coaches like to teach their Catchers one way to throw. Some are adamant about throwing the ball standing up and others like to have them throw from their knees.

Throwing a runner out is not all about having a great arm. The quickness of the release combined with an accurate strong throw goes hand in hand. If it takes you an extra couple tenths to get the ball out of your glove and load up, what does it really matter if your throw is a tenth of a second faster. As a Catcher your goal should be to get the ball out of your glove and out of your hand accurately to second base whatever way possible.

Some coaches do not like to teach throwing from their knees, and personally I just do not understand that point of view but there is never one right way or wrong way. If you as a Catcher have the ability to do both very well than you give yourself and your pitcher a very distinct advantage because then you do not have to change the way you call a game from an up and down in and out aspect. Sure the old mindset is, the rise ball is a great pitch to throw on. Well I ask “Why?” You have an idea of when someone may steal, but it is never certain, and sometimes that may not be the pitch that you really want to throw in that situation. If you only throw from your knees then a rise ball is not a good pitch to throw on.

Just like in anything with this sport having multiple skill sets just gives you an advantage over the competition. You should be able to do both interchangeably. If you concern yourself more with what pitch to call to try and throw a runner out you are putting in less focus to the hitter and at that particular time that is the most important thing that you have to deal with. Remember in previous articles we have talked about taking things one pitch at a time, this is a perfect example.

However you throw it is important to have proper mechanics; the grip of the ball, the correct push with the back leg, hip drive and trunk rotation. Those are the basics for anyone throwing a ball in the upright position. That does not change when throwing from your knees. You still receive the pitch, you still get the good grip on the ball, you still rotate your trunk and you still get a good push off of your back leg. You can get just about as much power doing it correctly than you would by standing up without the added steps of actually getting in the upright position. That alone will save you a couple tenths of a second and in the base stealing world that is huge!

I use the simple rule when throwing. If you have a strong enough arm to throw on a level plane, all the way through on a line throw from your knees as much as possible because it does save time without a doubt. Same goes when you are trying to pick people off. That in itself is another topic but it is all about deception. But if the pitch takes you upward then throw standing up and go with it, if the throw keeps you down throw it from your knees.

Again, you want to get the ball out of your glove as quick as possible accurately but the last thing you want to do is jump the gun and be coming up out of your catching stance and the Pitcher misses the ball down or vice versa. Then all of a sudden you don’t catch the ball and the runner now gets second base and maybe even third. One pitch at a time and one step at a time is always the motto. You cannot throw it unless you catch it and the pitch is always the priority.

The best way to improve your throw out percentage is to practice your transfer, regardless of whether you are standing up or throwing from your knees the quicker the transfer from glove to hand and out is the best way to enhance your pop times. This can be practiced even by yourself by throwing the ball up to yourself and getting it out of your glove.

To recap, don’t ever call pitches thinking about a base runner, that is when doubles and homeruns happen. Adjust your game and your throws based on how you have to get that hitter out. Pitch by Pitch, task by task. As the Catcher you have to make everyone around you better and put them in a position to succeed. With that being said, practice your throws from your knees, and practice throw throws popping up out of the stance. The quicker you can do that and the faster your transfer can be the better chance you will have to not only get hitters out but base runners out as well and quiet that other teams rally.

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Separate Your Game

Written By Bryan Ingalls

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Separating Your Game in Catching

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Catching in Softball is a game of failure so more often than not. That's exactly what will happen especially on the offensive side of the game. The game is built off of many individual battles within the team concept so concentrating on your task at hand is vital to whatever success you may have, especially at the Catcher position.

As we have discussed before the Catcher is the general and the boss on the field so it is very important that other factors throughout the game are not affecting your catching duties in a negative way, more so your offensive game. Many coaches consider anything contributed offensively from their catcher is a bonus as long as they are calling a great game and receiving stealing strikes.

Catching Requires Complete Focus

The worst thing that a Catcher can do is bring their at bats behind the plate because catching requires the up most focus and you owe it to your pitcher and the rest of your team for the 100% focus every pitch. Every competitor wants to succeed at every aspect in their game. It is only natural and it is perfectly fine getting upset if you have a bad at bat or are having a bad game offensively. Take your time after your at bat to do what you have to do to clear your head and focus for when you have to go and do your job behind the plate.

The simple act of putting on your catcher's gear can act as that fresh slate that you can use to zone in on your job and put that last at bat behind you. There are eight other people in the lineup that have the same job as you hitting but there is nobody there to back you up while you are catching so that needs to be your focus.

The thing that you have to remember being a Catcher is that you have so many responsibilities and so much is asked from you mentally and physically. It is extremely hard to be on point offensively every game when the mental and physical exhaustion kicks in, but a mistake behind the plate is much more costly that a mistake at the plate.

Separate Your Game From The Rest

There are certain things that you can do to help yourself offensively in practice knowing the workload that you put in as a Catcher. Try and take your offensive reps before you do your Catching reps. When you do that you are fresh. Sometimes when you are tired, your fundamentals at the plate lack due to exhaustion. That may create bad muscle memory that you will need in the game.

Do a lot of leg work strength wise and stretching wise. Mental exhaustion kicks in when the body becomes physically tired so if you train your body the right way physically, you can stay even more mentally strong longer throughout the game, weekend, and season.

Throughout the game talk to your pitcher about the game plan. We have talked about this before as a necessity for making adjustments and staying true to your plan, but by doing this you stay focused on what you have to do when you go back out there. If your focus is on your last at bat, be it positive or negative, it may affect a pitch the next inning in the field. So talk to your pitcher, talk to your teammates, try not to sulk or even boast about an at bat because it takes away from your job.

The Success And Failures In Softball Catching

The great thing about this game is that it is so mental and every person and player are different so not the same things work for everyone. Find what works for you to have a clear and focused head by the time you go back out onto the field. Like I said earlier, it is natural to be upset if your at bat was not what you planned or be excited if it was successful. Take your time in being upset. Take your thirty seconds or a minute to get it out. Do not let it build up. If its positive, be excited but when it is time to put that equipment back on its to “ear up” literally and figuratively.

Find your routine but just like everything else what you do before the games to prepare can help or haunt you in the tasks that you have in your game and individual battles throughout. Separate your game, focus on those individual battles and leave the past or future ones out of your task at hand. You are the Catcher, you are the Boss, you are the last line of defense, be that Leader that your Pitcher, Teammates and Coaches want and need you to be.

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Making Sight Adjustments Mid-Game

Written By Bryan Ingalls

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Making Sight Adjustments Mid-Game

 

The game of softball is always a cat and mouse game full of making adjustments. The best players are the ones that can make the minor tweaks throughout a game when something may be a tick off. Players and coaches prepare for hours upon end for competition but even when you are fully prepared some days it just doesn’t click and that is completely normal. Location for a pitcher is extremely important and if the location is off even a little bit, it can mean the difference between an out and a hit. But just because you may be off a bit, adjustments do not have to be so difficult because the mechanics may not always be the issue.

While talking with a golf pro he once said that when normal people drive they just try and look at the middle of the fairway and aim for that. The average golfer is happy just to land the ball safely somewhere close to the fairway. He says he picks out a blade of grass in the middle of the fairway so if he misses, the miss is minuscule. That to me says so much when it comes to hand eye coordination and self adjusting. His motto is aim small, miss small. That may not work for everyone but it goes along with what I will talk about on how to make sight adjustments when dealing with the pitch location.

Some days a pitcher is stronger, some days they are weaker so the pitches just are not breaking enough, or breaking too much and the location can be just off. Throwing a certain pitch is a combination of strength, release point and mechanics, but if on a certain day a pitcher is a little stronger or weaker it may throw the release point off just a touch. This does not necessarily mean that there is a mechanical flaw, it just means your body is reacting a bit different on that given day. This is where communication verbally and nonverbally between the catcher and the pitcher come in, and even sometimes the catcher just tricking the pitcher into making an adjustment.

For instance if a pitcher is consistently missing in a certain spot, as a catcher you can move your target to trick the pitcher into hitting the location that you truly desire. So if the pitcher is missing down, you may want to move your target up just a bit so that if they still miss down its closer to where you actually want the pitch to be thrown. Same thing can be done in any direction.

Another thing that is very easy for a pitcher to do is change what they are looking at. Some pitchers may look right at the glove, some may choose a spot on the catcher’s body, Pitcher’s have their own system of what they like and are comfortable with. Let’s say the pitcher is consistently missing high with the rise ball, the catcher should talk with them ask them what they are focused on and what they are looking at. If the pitcher is looking at the shoulder on the catcher then they may want to pick a spot a little lower on the body and see if that works. If they are still high than keep moving down the latter.

The reason why I am a firm believer in sight adjustments is because as I have said in previous articles, this game can be very complicated and the best way to succeed is to try and simplify it as much as possible and if you try and correct something mechanically to compensate for missed locations during a game it can ultimately create a bad habit down the road. Why make something more complicated when it does not have to be.

When making these adjustments it is vital for the catcher and the pitcher to be communicating so that they are on the same page. The pitcher has the best feel for their own body and the catcher has the best view of the pitch, the spin of the ball and the plane at which it enters the zone. Honesty is a must between the Pitcher and Catcher when making adjustments like this because if anything is held back is can affect the execution in a negative fashion.

Hand eye coordination is something that we used almost constantly in life and sometimes in sports it just is not clicking the way that you want. Sometimes you just have to trick your body into doing something else. Again, this game is a game full of minor adjustments and minor tweaks and the ones that do that the best are the ones that will end up on top.

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