Measurement of Success

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“Mesurement of Success” Written By Shannon McDougall

When you think of the word success in the context of sports, the first thing that most times comes to mind is winning. The first question that most people will ask when you told them you were just playing or coaching a game is “Did you win?”

I believe there are numerous ways to measure success. Yes the outcome of a game is one way however when we can include the successes that make us a better player and a better person on the field you have to think at the end of the day they will bring you success in as many ways as winning a game will. Here are some things to consider:

  • Improved Softball Skills
  • The ability to use sport skills off the field

Improved Softball Skills

We all have a starting point at the beginning of the season in softball.  We may be starting as a beginner way up to an advanced elite player. The thing to remember is that there are so many components of this game that there is always something that we can improve on.  Either as a coach or a player.

As a Player

If you can break down your skills and look at what you improved on and how you want to get better, it will allow you to focus on the process. There is no doubt that everyone improves on skills to some degree in a season.  It may be the precision of the skills or the ability to execute with more confidence under various conditions. When yourecall improvements, write them down in a journal so you can reflect on them and maybe even use them for planning your success for the following season.  You may need to use your coach to assist you in this activity as they are constantly observing your skills, as I am sure you are aware.

Skills Improvement Check list for Players:

  • Technical skills
  • Tactical skills
  • Mental training skills
  • Getting along with team mates
  • Relations with officials
  • Relations with the coaches
  • Coachability
  • Work ethic (focus during practices and games on working hard)
  • Self direction (ability to work hard without being told to)

As a Coach

As coaches, we need to always be reflecting back on a season and documenting the things that we want to improve on.  It may be our relations with our players, it may be our abilities to manage a game or how to ad variety to practices so that our players learn and have fun at the same time. This is our successes. We often use the scoreboard because that is what the associations and spectators or parents use.  We need to ensure that we are focusing on our coaching and leadership abilities as much as our players abilities because we are the ones that can have the most productive influence on how they improve.  As we know the number of areas that can be improved are many.  I measured my success on my teams by the number of returning players.  Yes I had successes on the scoreboard however my biggest goal was to develop players and I was very successful at that.

Some Skills to improvement checklist for Coaches:

  • organization skills
  • technical knowledge
  • tactical knowledge
  • player relations
  • mental training skills
  • mental training skills knowledge
  • relations with officials
  • relations with parents
  • physical skills knowledge

Ability to use sports skills off the field

There are so many skills from softball that can be taken off the field and into our daily lives. When we learn to interact with others during a game or practice it is much like interacting with friends or family when at school or home. When that game is an important one like in a tournament, we need the skills to be able to perform stressful conditions. How many times have you encountered stress away from the field? Have you considered using relaxation or cue words for example to get through that situation? You would be amazed at the similarities. The complexity of this sport demands that you think of at least 3 things all at one time while doing one of them. There are also many rules that need to be learned.  When you find yourself feeling like you can not learn something new at school or work, think about how many things you need to know about this game. I bet the number of things is not that different. There are 12 rules in softball but many, many more sub rules. That is a lot of information. You have to admit you are pretty smart if you can play this game.

Your Success

The main thing to remember when evaluating your season's success is that it is YOUR success. You need to ensure that you do not compare yourself to others when considering what you have been able to achieve from the season and EVERYONE does achieve something. If you are having difficulty finding something, talk to team mates or coaches or supporters. You will find that in many leagues even officials will notice improvements because they love this game as much as we do.

Write down your successes at the end of every season and write down areas where you would like to improve. This will give you something to focus on that is not outcome oriented for the net season and something to look at when the season ends. Review them throughout the season as well to see how you are doing with them. And give yourself credit… (a high five) you have learned and done much more than you likely think you have.

Isn't this game great!!

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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Dealing With Distractions as a Coach in Softball

Didtractions

“Dealing with Distractions as a Coach in Softball” Written By Shannon McDougall

Many factors can represent a source of distraction and can affect your overall performance as a coach, both in training and in competition.
*coaches preparedness
*athletes preparedness

Scouting information
As coaches we spend almost as much time scouting our opponents as we do analyzing our own teams.  We have software programs on our phones and computers, radar guns, scorebooks, our observation skills and even video for analysis in putting together files on our opponents.  If you (the coach) have not taken opportunities to gather this data, you may not feel ready and confident when the major competition arrives which can be a distraction for you and for your team that cannot prepare as effectively as they might have been able to. 

Put the information together logically so that all members of the team can read it with ease and keep it up to date so that prior to games it can be reviewed.  By the end of the season you can have a binder or book on each team that can be used as a preparation tool technically and psychologically.  I have done that with teams and at the end of the season had coaches and officials be amazed at how we performed using the data compiled through the season.  It was awesome!

Preparing the athletes
If you have been preparing properly from the beginning of the season, you have been preparing your athletes physically, mentally and technically.  This starts with your yearly training plan, where you schedule your training, competition and events from the first training session, to the last regular season game and tapering for the playoffs.

If your athletes have been given the tools with good direction, their progress has been facilitated in a way that they should be ready.  If you have done that still you feel they are not prepared, you need to consider that in your preparedness as a coach.  What do you do with that?  First you need to accept the situation and then work with it.  It will determine how you set your line-ups and could perhaps make your planning more difficult as you will need to not only prepare for success, but you will also need to maintain a positive atmosphere with the team.

Preparation Strategies
There are many different strategies you can develop and implement as a coach to deal with these factors and to maximize their impact, both before and during training and competition. Following are some of those strategies, as well as how and when you might manage the situation.

Athlete Motivation
If your athletes are motivated your job is so much easier than if they are not.  A motivated athlete is most times also self-directed and will work as hard as they can to improve their skills in all areas of the game.  This athlete is also generally more coachable and has a good level of respect for
*environment
*equipment flaws
*team standings
*tardiness by athletes
*athlete injuries
*weather
*facilities
*officials
*fatigue
*spectators
*access to athletes
*athlete fatigue
*parents
*athlete preparedness
*phone calls
*opponents
*observers
*media
*public
*travel
*promotional and social events
*Importance of the event
*stress

Before a training session
*Weather
Dress appropriately before you leave and ensure that you have discussed with your athletes how to prepare for the weather such as sun screen if it is hot and to dress in layers if it is cold because during training they may get warm and need to cool off without getting cold.

*Be prepared for practice
Record practice on computer/print before you leave, make sure that you have a backup plan for your practice and extra drills in your book in case you are finished early.  Be prepared to drop a drill if you are running out of time and check all equipment and the facilities so there are no delays or unnecessary surprises.

*Access to athletes
Setup email / phone team list at the first meeting.  Make sure you have access to them before practices so that if you are missing anyone you can check and they can contact you f they need to.

*Parents boundaries
There is nothing more distracting as a coach than a parent or someone who is upset coming at you just prior to the beginning.  Set guidelines for supporters at your first meeting so that there are no interruptions that will distract you from your goals and task at hand during practices and training.

During a training session
*Motivation
Monitor your athletes during training to plan your breaks.  Allow the team to re-focus when needed to make sure you get the most out of your drills.  Fatigue will slow things down and take away from the excitement of the drills.  Plan drills that are challenging yet not too difficult so that they do not get bored or discouraged.

*Tardiness by athletes
Planning the schedule in advance gives the athletes time to arrange their schedules to fit the training sessions.  Establishing guidelines for tardiness at the beginning of the season will make it easy to respond to latecomers because they will know what to expect.  If you set up a procedure that is not distracting such as having late comers warm up on their own and wait until the drill is complete to join in then you can minimize that distraction.

*Fatigue
A tired team or individual is not going to be able to attack the drills with enthusiasm at the beginning of the practice and by the end of the practice they will not even be interested.  By ensuring that athletes are getting adequate rest and recovery post/pre training, they will be eager to participate in challenging and fast paced practices.  Nutrition is also a huge part of recovery contributing greatly to the energy level of your players.

*Facilities knowledge and awareness
Knowing your facility and doing a pre training check will prevent injuries and allow you to make adjustments if needed during your training session. Look for anything unusual and make a note of it while you are inspecting the grounds.  

*Being approached by parents or supporters
As with prior to training, it is best if parents and supporters refrain from approaching you to discuss anything.  Again this would be established at the first team meeting so hopefully there is no need for reminders.

*Cell phones
Another huge distraction which most times is very easy to deal with is cell phones.  It is best of course to not have them on the field.  Simple.

Before a major competition
*Adequate preparedness
Being prepared for the big game is done before the competition arrives.  Detailed planning which begins with the end of previous season will give you the information required to build on the teams strengths and to build confidence that will make them successful.

*Team standings
The standings can be a distraction if you are not aware of them through the season.  In some levels the regular season standings do not determine if you make the playoffs for the province or state but in some levels it does make a difference.  You need to know this and use it to prepare your team to know its place and to continue to focus on the process right through rather than the outcome.

*Media familiarization
Will there be media at the event?  Will you or your players from your team potentially be interviewed by the media?  You need to prepare.  Practice or rehearse interviews using students from your school newspaper.  Use all of the equipment that you expect to see at the venue.  This will do wonders to alleviate distraction for the athletes and you.

*Travel
Will you be traveling to the competition?  Prepare well in advance for this. What do you need to take with you.  What will the facility have and not have that you need to prepare your team.
Is there an equipment room for you to access?
Will you need to worry about accommodations?
What can you bring with you?
What do your athletes need to bring with them?
Do they have an Emergency Action Plan?
What about any medical conditions you might need to know about?
If you can, travel to the playoff facility with your team for a tournament or weekend to get familiarized with the environment before the competition

*Promotional and social events
Will there be events put on for the athletes during the tournament.  When and where will they be?  How close to the competition times will they be?  Set your guidelines early so that they can enjoy the moment yet be prepared to compete.  Discuss them with the team so that everyone understands and feels good about them.

*importance of the event

During major competitions
Environment Know what is in our control
athlete injuries follow PET recommendations
weather be prepared for anything
officials know the rules
spectators distraction control strategies
athlete fatigue
opponents – use your scouting reports
stress

Training Stressors and Competition Stressors
Developing and implementing a plan to facilitate coach mental preparation for competition

Adequate Preparedness
Being prepared and feeling prepared are critical to ensuring the lowest amount of stress for you as a coach.  If you feel that you have truly prepared, then you do not have anything that you need to worry about.  You can simply enjoy the games and carry out your plan as scheduled.  Much of your preparedness includes how well you have prepared your team.  Do you feel that you followed your plan to success as planned with regard to physical, technical, tactical and mental training?  This will have a large impact on your ability to relax and enjoy the process as you encourage your team to do the same.

Your preparation during competition in reality begins with the first practice and team selection. The parents meeting and/or team meeting is where your program is described and how it will be carried out. Carrying out the program with a detailed yearly training plan guides you in your training plans and competition milestones. At the end of the day, if the team and you have done all that you can and should have done during the season to attain success then the final competitions should be easy to carry out and enjoyable. If you spend adequate time on monitoring during the season and with measurable milestones then there would be no reason at all for your team to play to its fullest potential.

Coach stressors during competition
The following are some of the most common distractions during competition:
*officials
*my preparedness
*athlete preparedness
*environment
*opponents

Some things you can do to prepare and ensure these things do not become distractions:

For Officials – know the rules thoroughly so that you know the officials part in the competition and educate your athletes and establish ground rules regarding conduct on the field with each other and officials.

Your Preparedness as a coach – by ensuring that you have done your job up to the competition and done everything you can to assist your athletes in their preparation, you should not have any reason to doubt yourself and your readiness for the task at hand

Athlete Preparedness – implement regulations to ensure that athletes are taking responsibility for their own preparedness and have measures of evaluating their readiness while providing opportunities and resources to assist them

Environment – with the amount of distractions in the environment that you need to deal with, you need to have strategies such as distraction control, relaxation, focusing, and relaxation. The strategies would be solidified during the pre season.

Opponents – By having as much information as you can on the opponents you will be ready for them when you hit the field. Their success or lack of success should not interfere with your game plan or decision making process during the competition.

Competition Facilities
By finding ways to familiarize you and your team with the competition facilities in advance, you will have a better chance to foresee any potential distractions that might occur as a result of the unfamiliar environment.

Some of the ways that you can do that are:
*acquire photographs of the facility
*draw on athletes previous experiences
*find any video if you can
*find out how loud the facility is and emulate it in practice
*will they be expecting a large amount of fans and spectators
*what is the altitude compared to yours
*is the temperature different than your location

Before competition
Your preparation plan is crucial to your ability to be mentally prepared during competition. It will reduce the amount of stress and anxiety that most of us have experienced when unprepared. Feeling confident in the procedures and your abilities to deal with unforeseen circumstances are much easier when there are no other distractions. Your preparedness will also have an effect on how you deal with and relate to your athletes during the competition and the time leading up to it.  If you are feeling prepared and ready to go that will be passed to your players who will feel the same way.  If you are unsure and not feeling like you have done everything you could to prepare the team then you may find yourself relating negatively to your environment which will definitely also be picked up.  If there is an emotion that is more noticeable than others it is negativity.

Implementing a practice that integrates mental training strategies / skills with athletes

In the beginning of the season is when you want to be introducing and learning mental training skills.  Learning how to use the skills in simple situations will give the athletes familiarity with them as they begin to devise their own strategies to use during competitions and training.  If the skills are refined adequately during the preparation phase of your training the you only need to allow time to solidify them during the pre season and competitive season.  You will also find that the athlete’s ability to utilize mental training strategies will ensure that they are prepared in most all components of softball due to the goal setting and preparation activities that should be a part of their ongoing maintenance of their skills

A strategy that can be implemented into a practice for example could be distraction control.  Keep in mind that this is a strategy and not a skill so it actually incorporates many skills such as self-talk, focusing cue words and relaxation.  How can you design a practice plan to incorporate these skills in acquiring the ability to not be distracted?

An activity such as throwing is a perfect one ass you can have the athletes participate in a drill that requires focus such as the star drill. If they get distracted ….. it could hurt.  You might want to use indoor balls for this drill if the focus is to not be distracted because you may be doing things to intentionally distract them during the activity.

Assessment of Preparedness
One of the ways to ensure that your team is ready for the playoffs is to periodically assess the team and their responses to situations.  You can rate the performances for example on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being “not doing well” and 5 being “very prepared”  Here are some factors you can rate.
*Response to errors
*Knowledge of plays
*Ability to adapt
*Response to officials
*Awareness of role within the team
*Level of Confidence

In monitoring your athletes throughout the season you can give them every opportunity to play to their fullest potential when it counts.  And at the same time your mind will be at ease knowing that you did everything you could to create those opportunities.  Do you see a pattern here?  I am referring often to knowing you did everything as it is one of the keys to you as a coach being in the zone and enjoying the tournament as much as your players do.  Now that is the best place to be.  Isn't it?

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Physical Training for Softball

Softball Training

“Physical Training for Softball” Written By Shannon McDougall

Softball is an anaerobic alactic sport of explosions lasting from approximately .07 seconds in the execution phase of a throw to consecutive explosions lasting 3-4 seconds when running out a base hit. It is a sport which also requires the anaerobic lactic energy system when running 2 bases or more (120 feet, 8-15 seconds). Although most of the activities generate most power from the lower body and mid-section, in the women’s game, we need to pay particular attention when designing strength training programs to include the upper body as they are generally stronger in the lower body by nature and weaker in the upper body. As a power sport, the most popular activities used in softball to develop explosive power as it relates to strength and speed have been plyometrics. This type of training increases the elasticity of the muscles by contracting them eccentrically and training their ability to retract very quickly after extending. This form of training is very beneficial to athletes in softball as it works to decrease the amount of time the muscles take to contract. A good strength training program is first necessary however, to maximize the effectiveness of the workouts and to fully utilize its benefits when on the field.

Athlete should not be doing high box drops as it is more beneficial for deceleration training such as with volleyball players and other vertical jumping sports. Young athletes younger than 19 should also not be considering weight training unless they have been adequately trained progressively from youth as the amount of damage that can be done to the body is dangerous and will not benefit their performance.

Softball utilizes the following physical components which are all enhanced by strength training:
*Agility
—infield positions
*Speed
—outfield positions
—base running
—pitching
*Maximum Strength
—Throwing
—explosive power in running
—hitting
—pitching
*Aerobic stamina
—base for all other energy systems
—enhanced recovery, regeneration
*Anaerobic Alactic
—all explosive actions
*Anaerobic Lactic
—Baserunning
—running down a fly ball
—pitching
*Balance
—all actions
*Flexibility
—Sliding
—injury prevention
—improves range of motion allows more leverage in skill execution
*Strength Endurance (although not the same strength endurance as required for a sport such as wrestling)
—Pitcher pitching
—Catcher throwing
—Baserunning

Following is a bioenergetic breakdown of the most used skills in softball:
*Pitching
—Preparation phase – 1.35 seconds
—Execution phase – 100% intensity for .18 seconds
—Follow through phase – .68
*Batting
—Preparation phase – .30 seconds
—Execution phase – 100% intensity for 1.67 seconds
—Follow through phase – .47 seconds
*Throwing
—Preparation phase – .33 seconds
—Execution phase – 100% intensity for .07 seconds
–Follow through phase – .23 seconds
—Base Running Home to 1st base
—Explosion off back foot – .167 seconds
—Home to first – 100% intensity for 3.267 seconds
—Deceleration – 1.24 seconds
—Base Running 2nd to Home – 100% intensity for 5.6 seconds

Muscles involved in almost all technical skills in softball:
*pectoralis major – serratus anterior – latissiumus dorsi
—throwing
—hitting
—fielding
*trapezius – rhomboids – deltoids
—hitting
—throwing
*biceps – biceps brachii – brachialis
—hitting
—throwing
*triceps – triceps brachii – teres minor
—hitting
—throwing
*infraspinatus – teres major – subscapular
—throwing
—pitching
—hitting
*erector spinae – serape musculature – gluteus maximus / minimus
—all skills requiring balance
—running
*hamstrings – gatrocnemius – trapezius
—running
—hitting
—pitching
*gluteus maximus – external oblique – tensor fasciae latae
—all rotation activities
—quadriceps – illiopsoas – rectus femoris
—all rotation activities
—running
*soleus
—running
—hitting

An approximation of the muscle fiber type distribution for a successful athlete in softball (i.e. % Type 1 vs % Type II).

Softball is a sport requiring very quick movements drawing from the ATP-CP energy system in which the action is performed predominantly with the fast twitch or type 2b muscle fibers. It is however the Type 1 muscle fibers which are used to initiate all activities and to maintain our body positions while in the ready position etc. An athlete who has more fast twitch muscle fibers than slow twitch muscle fibers, will generally adapt to the training in a softball program much easier. It is not known exactly the percentages of type 1 to type 2 fibers are used in softball however I believe that an outfielder would use more slow twitch fibers as their level of intense activity while on the field is much lower than the level of intensity of the pitcher or an infielder.

The slow twitch muscle fibers are much more active in long duration aerobic activities in which carbon dioxide, water and heat are produced as a byproduct of exercise. It has been shown that although fast twitch muscle fibers cannot achieve any slow twitch muscle fiber characteristics, the type 2a or transitional muscle fibers can attain fast twitch muscle fiber qualities through proper training, in the early developmental stages of young athletes. This is important in designing training programs and when training young athletes as we want to ensure that the athletes do not spend too much time developing the slow twitch muscle fibers adapting the type 2a muscle fibers to slow twitch muscle fibers instead.

These types of muscular action are predominant in softball. Following is the percentage of importance (as it relates to training) of concentric, eccentric and isometric muscular contractions.

Softball is predominantly an explosive power sport which includes both concentric and eccentric muscular contractions. In exploding off a base for example, the concentric muscular contractions of the quadriceps, glutes, and gastrocnemeus muscles work with the eccentric muscular contractions of the hamstrings and the tibialis anterior muscles. The sprinting after requires the recruitment of both eccentric and concentric muscular contractions and even isometric contractions when coming to a stop after running through first base or after crossing home plate. Isometric muscular contractions in softball do not require the same force such as when wrestling, although they are utilized when waiting in the ready position on the field or when waiting for the ball to come when up to bat.

Although strength derived from concentric action is required in the muscles to produce the maximum force in skill execution, the majority of injuries sustained in softball are due to the deceleration phase of a skill which incorporates eccentric muscular contractions. Training the muscles adequately to prevent injury during this follow through phase of a skill, requires eccentric contractions to be emphasized during training. In attaining this benefit, the athlete would in their weight training program, emphasize the deceleration phase of the resistance exercise lasting 2 seconds, taking twice as long to undo the exercise as it did to do the exercise which is approximately 1 second. In the early stages of strength training, when muscular hypertrophy is the aim of training, eccentric contractions are better emphasized as it produces higher force than concentric contractions which facilitates the muscle fiber growth. When the strength training is the goal then the concentric contractions again become the focus.

Strength training recommendations for softball athletes

An overall strength training program with a solid aerobic base is important as it builds the foundation for the explosive power training that is most dominant in softball. It will also enhance the other important aspects of softball such as speed and muscular endurance. Strength and flexibility training in addition to joint stabilizing activities will also assist in decreasing vulnerability to injury, as well as assisting with a quicker recovery from injury. Finally but not lastly, a comprehensive strength training program will increase the athletes resting metabolism which helps to reduce body fat contributing to increasing V02max.

The following considerations need to be included when developing a strength training program
*athletes current fitness level
*athletes age
*athletes maturation level
*athletes psychological condition
*athletes medical status
*athletes level of experience
*athletes nutrition level
*athletes athletic goals

Although all athletes in softball should be equally strong in all areas, there are specific position considerations such as for infielders who will require more stabilization exercises around the knees to prevent injury as a result of quick side to side movement from a cold or semi-cold position. Outfielders will need to work on more sprinting activities for running down fly balls and covering infielders and each other on the field. Catchers and pitchers will need to work more on their arm strength endurance as they can throw or pitch over 90 times per game. The catcher will not only be throwing to the pitcher after every pitch but will also be throwing hard to 1st, 2nd or 3rd bases for pick off throws. It is important to vary the training program every 3 to 4 weeks by changing the weights or the days that the weights are done on. The training program can have the same focus while not allowing the body to adapt without getting stale.

Look for symptoms of over training
*unusual sleep patterns
*lack of motivation
*decreased appetite
*lean body weight loss
*increased irritability and anxiety
*depression
*decreased sex drive
*The first week of each training cycle should include an assessment, such as:
*Aerobic Power – 8 minute run
*Agility – shuttle run
*Balance – flamingo stance
*Coordination – hand slap test
*Explosive Power – standing long jump
*Flexibility – zipper test and modified sit and reach

Muscular Endurance
*half push-up (upper body)
*abdominal bridge (core)
*wall press (lower body)

Muscular Strength
*maximum number of push-ups (upper body)
*maximum number of sit-ups (core)

Reaction Time
*ruler test

Speed
*30 m dash

Following is a chart with the 1st week of 4 training cycles which progress through the YPI. During the season, weight training can be done post competition at minimal intensity as it would be a good cool down for the athletes and the would not have to worry about it the next day. Light plyometric activities can be done as part of the pre-game or pre-practice warm up however not too stressful to prevent unwanted stress on the joints.

Warm-up and cool-down plans for softball players, in a typical training session

Identifying:
1 The environment in which your warm-up is conducted
2 Individual components of your warm-up and the order in which they are conducted
3 Duration's for these components
4 Specific drills, movements and or activities you would implement for individual components

Pre – Competition Warm-Up and Cool-Down
*Use static stretching only to inventory muscle injuries
*Activity Purpose Time (minimum)

Slow aerobic jog 10-15 minutes
*light jog
*adapted game such as soccer, flag football etc.
*Heat muscles / Lubricate the joints 15 minutes

Dynamic Stretching 10 minutes
*side kicks
*butt kicks
*back pedals
*leg swings
*carioca
*Increase range of movement
*Prepare the body for activity
*improve range of motion
*use static stretching to check injuries

Acceleration strides 2-3 minutes
*wind sprints
*baserunning
*side to side hops
*increase blood circulation and oxygen intake
*gradually increase intensity until game speed is attained
*can incorporate plyometric activities here

Event specific drills
*throwing and fielding
*batting and bunting
*coordination preparation for training/competition 10 minutes

Cool Down 5 minutes
*Activity Purpose Time (minimum)
*Slow aerobic jog – Lowers body, muscles

Light static stretching 15 minutes
*long duration
*some PNF stretching
*relax muscles
*improve flexibility
*mentally relax

Softball is a quick movement sport with many breaks in between actions. It is critical to ensure overall training rather than simply focusing on one aspect of physical training such as speed or strength. Designing a training plan within a yearly training plan will best assure that your athletes will be best prepared for when the main completion part of the season arrives. Include aerobic training to enhance recovery for back to back games and to assist in preventing injuries.

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The Cores Of Coaching: Teamwork As A Coaching Staff

Teamwork as a Coaching Staff Written By Shannon Murray

The Cores of Coaching: Teamwork as a Coaching Staff Written By Shannon Murray

As a softball coach, every day we emphasize the importance of teamwork and the value of working together to our players. Learning this worthwhile lesson teaches our girls to carry this on and off the field. Though we can tell them a million times there is no I in Team, there is another source of knowledge for them to observe: in our actions as the coaches. We may not always realize it, the players on our team soak up our actions in addition to our words. They need to see us practice what we preach. I have had the upmost fortunate opportunities to always coach with others that stay on the same page with me about this important concept of working together as a coaching staff. However, I know some coaches haven’t always had this pleasure. That’s why I would like to share one of the cores to coaching: Teamwork for Coaching as a Staff.

In the world of teaching, we have a saying that teachers are thieves. We are thieves in the sense that we are always stealing ideas for lesson plans, activities, strategies and assignments from each other. If we didn’t bounce ideas off one another we wouldn’t get anywhere. The same concept can apply to coaching. What good are coaches who work together if they don’t learn from one another? Every coach brings something different to the table: knowledge, drills, strategy, etc. It is of no benefit for anyone to hold onto ideas for themselves if you are working towards the same cause for your team to win. With that said, communication is key to the success of a coaching staff. Without communication, there is no way you can be on the same page about anything. Communication involves every area of the coaching position and nothing should be left out. Being a coach, you probably played on a sports team in the first place and should understand from basic knowledge that communication builds positive relationships with your team. Therefore, as a coaching staff you should want to build that open line of communication with one another. What happens if a situation should arise? Whether you agree with how one coach may handle it or not, just talk about it so all of you can come to a common understanding. You never want to be on two different sides when it comes to finding the solution to a problem on the team. It can lead to alienation of players, parents and of each other which completely wrecks team chemistry.

Preparation produces successful results when it comes to the coaching staff. Before the season starts, design and come to an understanding of a team management system (for warm-ups, how drills are run, expectations of the players and parents, etc.) so that everyone understands how the team is run and both coaches look synchronized on this. Discuss and come up with a system of how to handle different situations that might arise with the parents, players, etc. It can help you come to a quicker and more efficient agreement if the actual issue arises.

By working together you are setting a good example for the players. This teaches the girls to respect both of you and your other coaches where there is no divide. You are one coaching staff just like you are one team. Working together will contribute a large part to the success of your team and how your team is run.

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Fuel the Focus

Fuel the Focus

Fuel the Focus Written By Shannon Murray

“What time is it Coach?” “What’s the score Coach?” “How much longer do we have of practice?” “Who’s your favorite singer in One Direction Coach Shannon?” These are all questions that my ten year olds pose to me almost every practice or game we have. As cute as they are and we love their eagerness to learn, our younger softball crowd has to achieve a major goal that builds the development of their skills: Focus. How do we teach the age group that lives to wander and explore to stay grounded long enough at practice to click with what we teach them?

Also pursuing a career in teaching, I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up some tricks of the trade in teaching the younger crowd. At the age of 9 (or younger) to 11, girls are really discovering the basic mechanics and love of the game. Put yourself in their shoes. They really just want to play with their friends and have fun. As they should, but we as their coaches are there to guide them in development of their softball skills as well as ensure they have a great time playing. Where’s the balance in all of this? How can I make sure my 10 U team doesn’t fall behind even though I want them to enjoy playing ball?

One part of the game that I try to teach my young girls during the game is about the score. Sometimes they are so consumed with score keeping and whose winning they forget about what they should really be focusing on in the game. From a teaching perspective, I carry over the idea of positive reinforcement to the field to help me with this. I tell the girls to focus on where they are going if the ball is hit to them. Or I ask them to tell me how many outs there are in the inning. As far as the score is concerned I teach them to always play like it’s a 0-0 ball game. “What does that mean Coach Shannon?” Well kiddos, playing like it’s a 0-0 ball game means to play your hardest no matter what. You’re not behind in the game but you’re not ahead either. You are giving 100% on the field at all times so you don’t have the pressure of when you’re losing, but not the comfort of when you’re winning either. So any time one of the girls asks me, “Coach, what’s the score?” I tell them, “0-0, like it always is.”

Practice is a different focus to conquer. While games normally carry a somewhat more serious tone for ten year olds, practices don’t always have that effect. Ten year old girls see practice as a reason to go play and hang out with their friends. And that’s great. That’s ten year olds building team comradery. Coaches, it’s important to find a good balance between social and serious for girls that young. If we make it all work and no play, girls will burn out faster than a candle on a birthday cake. Allot some time for them to socialize a little in between drills or at water breaks. On the other hand, we do need to establish the focus so they actually learn something at practice. Too much socialization and distraction will cause girls to have mechanics or drills stick. If talking gets away from them, don’t be afraid to recollect them. If you start to notice a slower pace in the drill repetitions, they are probably not completely focused. Again, I use positive reinforcement for this purpose. When I see one girl stand out among the rest I will mention something like, “I really like how Susie is down and in a ready position to get her next ground ball.” Kids crave praise and what better way to motivate them to earn it by showing off their teammates’ good work. Reward can come in different forms than verbal. When we run bases, I will tell girls that exhibit great focus they may not have to run the last lap at practice or will be allowed to wear a silly hat to practice next time.

So remember coaches, at such a young age we need to stimulate the passion for the game in girls but have that balance of focus to learn at the same time. Fuel the focus with fire positive reinforcement!

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