The sun is setting on another long day at the ball field. A day which held a number of ups and downs. One in which you are leaving the park with yet another of the$3.27 trophies that you have won in your career. Only this trophy has the words “Second Place” on it and you have no intention of putting it on your shelf. Not because you didn't hit well. Not because you didn't fight all the way until the end. No this trophy won't be on your shelf simply because you know deep inside that you allowed fear to get the best of you.
It's a fear that has been gnawing at you for years and one that you can't seem to get over. You know you aren't the fielder you could be because you just can't get over it. You can't even focus while the coach rattling off his customary “its ok we played our hearts out today” kind of speech. You know the one he says while avoiding eye contact with you. You don't hear a thing your parents are saying as you get into your car because the voice inside your head is practically screaming. The same thing it seems to scream at every big tournament “Why do they always hit line drives near me when the game is on the line and WHY CAN'T I DIVE FOR THE BALL?”
If you've read my previous columns you know that they are usually full of humor. It would seem disrespectful of the game, and dishonoring of all the players out there for whom this is a very, very, very real fear. But if you've read my previous articles and watched the accompanying videos you also know that I'm not about to bring up this fear without providing a way to get over it. And that's exactly what I expect you to do … go get your glove and a softball right now and get over it.
The fear of diving for the ball is based on a lack of understanding of what to do that allows you to not just belly flop onto a very hard field. Well getting over that fear starts with realizing and repeating two key things: 1 – Diving is best done really low to the ground and 2 – Diving involves going forward across the ground not down into the ground.
Sit down on your knees. Put the glove on. Lean forward with the back of your glove hand touching the ground with the glove open facing up with the ball in it. Now put your other hand on top of the ball, you know that whole 2 handed catch thing. Now simply extend your arms away from your body. Repeat the very simply “extend your arms away from your body movement” until you are comfortable.
If you are still alive and didn't injury yourself diving for the ball in step 1 then take heart you just might get over your fear and are certainly ready for step 2. It involves leaning forward just the same way but instead of your hand being on the ground you need to lift it off the ground a few inches with open part of glove and ball still facing up and the other hand still covering the ball. Now continue the lean forward and practice extending your arms away from your body but this time, gulp, you'll be 3-4 inches off the ground so that you'll be able to differentiate flopping straight down from forcing your arms to extend.
If you are still with me I'm going to ask you to do something really hard. For this drill you are going to still be on your knees but sitting up instead of already on the ground and your hands are going to start out at your side. For this drill you are simply going to start leaning forward and bring your hands together for the catch as you do and then force your arms to extend. Your glove hand should do the same thing, the back of the glove should make contact with the ground with the open side up so that you can make a two handed catch and extend . If you have trouble visualizing this step, pause your reading and watch the video as Graham and Savannah demonstrate demonstrate for you as soon as they finish this part then stop the video and come back to this step for your own practice. Don't rob me of the pleasure of telling you the next thing by going past that step in the video.
So what is it I wanted to share with you first . . . simply that you've just done the most difficult dive of your life. done the most difficult dive of your life. that I mentioned . . . Diving is best done low to the ground and up on your knees is way higher than you will need to dive once you stand up on your feet.
If you didn't read my column about diving on the bases this might seem a little crazy but seriously once you stand up you'll find that you have the most wonderful gift from God, the ability to bend your knees and lean forward . When you do that you are actually much lower to the ground than you are when you are up on your knees. If you don't believe go ahead and watch a little more in the video, or have your mom or dad co me sit on their knees and you try and bend and lean as far forward as you can with your glove leg in front of you and your throwing hand in the back, right next to them and you'll see that you are in fact much lower than you were on your knees.
How cool is that? Not kidding that is awesome news. Or at least it should be. It means that everything else you'll work on this month and in the 2 articles that follow are all going to be gravy compared to the whopper of a dive you did way up in the air on your knees. So let's get on with the easy stuff now.
Start out by standing up in the air and do that same lean, glove leg front, ball in your throwing hand, and lean as far forward as you can before gravity pulls you down and then dive forward and bring your hands together for the catch just like you've practiced since the beginning.
Did you do it? Did you repeat it? Did you get up thinking “Go ahead and hit that same line drive near me next game and see how that works out for you” Because you should. You are no longer a player who has to fear the ball coming near you but not right at you because you are now a player who can DIVE FOR THE BALL. Next month we'll be looking at the next step in your progression so see you soon. Or at least you'll see me. It's not like I can see you or anything. That would just be weird.
Dalton Ruer: Coach Ruer has been using softball to encourage and motivate athletes for 15 years. Throughout the year he is a private softball instructor to many college bound athletes in Georgia. He facilitates team based clinics and instructs at many elite and college recruiting softball camps. His specialties are helping players verbalize their dreams and establish a plan to achieve them and helping players overcome the fears that are holding them back from being exceptional athletes. He has produced 6 instructional DVD’s covering all aspects of how to win the short game and how to dive for the ball. Keep up with Coach Dalton by visiting his blog and resource site at CrossTrainingSoftball.com. Join Dalton On: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube
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