The 2013 NFCA Convention was absolutely incredible! The best and brightest in the fastpitch world come together annually for this action-packed event.
This convention featured a talk by University of Florida Head Coach, Tim Walton, entitled “The Working Relationship Between Coaches and Hitters”. His words of wisdom were not focused on the fundamentals of hitting but on communication: communication between hitters and coaches and hitters’ internal conversations with themselves.
Many of his statements were simple, yet quite profound! I will share his thoughts and expand with some of my own.
“Work on strengths, not only on weaknesses.” –Tim Walton
ESPN the Magazine has analyzed high profile athletes, seeking to determine if top level competitors are, as most would claim, over-paid. Through pages and pages of statistical analysis and explanation, the experts concluded that top athletes are actually under, not over-paid.
Rationalizing that someone can be underpaid by $ millions per year to hit a baseball or catch a football sounds absurd. The answer, however, lies in the basic principles of economics: supply and demand.
You see, ESPN Magazine determined, “the more unusual the skill and the harder it is to replace, the higher its price will be.”
No one can consistently execute at the level which top-paid athletes perform. Their skills generate billions of dollars throughout the US and around the world, and no one can consistently do what they do.
The demand for professional sports is ever-increasing and the supply of top athletes is comparatively small. Therefore, top athletes earn top salaries.
Granted, the dollars paid and generated in female athletics are many times laughable compared to equally skilled male competitors, but do not miss the point chasing political rabbits!
Top performing athletes are usually very good at one skill or a set of related skills. A center in the NBA may hang its hat on rebounds and blocks, while a point guard earns his money handling the ball and a 3 guard finds his value in stellar 3-point shooting.
Sure, all of these players can perform all skills required in the game: dribbling, shooting, passing, rebounding, defense etc. NBA players can perform these skills at a comparatively high level. It is definitely valuable to be a well-rounded player and all around athlete. This concept applies to fastpitch softball, as well.
However, the best players have found their niche, their wheelhouse. They have fully developed their strengths.
The best quarterbacks in the world are not simultaneously the best kickers. Each player has his role and has developed his ability in one particular area to its fullest.
As hitters, we sometimes become too perfectionistic. We want every pitch to be our best pitch. We want to be the power hitter, the hitter for high average, a short game player and the base on balls leader… all at the same time! It is as if we want to be the quarterback and kicker all in one.
Yes, fundamentals are important, and yes there is a time and place to develop our weaknesses and improve skills in multiple areas. Ultimately, however, hitters must understand their strengths and develop them relentlessly.
In areas of natural advantage, cultivate those strengths to the point that no one can duplicate them. Even in the world of college recruiting for fastpitch players, “the more unusual the skill and the harder it is to replace, the higher its price will be.” –ESPN Magazine
Focusing on strengths more than weaknesses is counterintuitive but will allow players to increase their price. Hitters who can hit the ball 300 feet may strike out more than those who lead the team in on base percentage, and that is ok!
When hitters can do one thing better than anyone else, they create their niche. They make themselves irreplaceable. Riches are in niches (metaphorically speaking)! Most hitters cannot be the best at everything, but they can work to be better than anyone else at something. That area of strength could be a player’s ticket to great success.
Coach Walton pointed out that when using video analysis, most hitters are looking for mistakes in the video. Hitters can be so focused on their weaknesses that they forget to hone the strengths! When using video, be sure to look for the good in the swing, in addition to the bad.
Visualize and feel the good. File away the good aspects of the swing for recall and mental practice.
“It is not necessary to always work on something [negative],” Tim says. “Sometimes hitters can just get their reps and feel the timing.” This can allow players to fine-tune their strengths and really feel their swings.
Feeling the swing is absolutely necessary! I almost jumped out of my seat when Tim declared, “If they can’t feel it, they can’t fix it”! My Fi Hitting™ System was designed to help players feel it so they can fix it.
Hitting is not about looking like someone else or trying to fit some stereotypical mold. Hitting is about finding each individual player’s best swing. She must know herself, including her strengths and weaknesses. She must find her best swing and feel the thrill of truly turning it loose at the plate.
“If I tell a hitter what to do, they may not be as good. They know themselves better!” –Tim Walton
Absolutely, there is a time and place for coaches to guide, direct and coach, but all too often hitters become caught up doing what they are told. They try desperately to improve their areas of weakness, while ignoring their God-given advantages.