Going Viral Written By Mike Adams
How many of us have spent hours watching highlight clips on youTube (Not on business time, of course) It is a fun way to watch incredible catches and close call plays. What needs to be kept in mind is that great flying horizontal catch has more of a chance of failing than it does succeeding. I know players in this social sharing age, would love to see their catch go viral. What needs to be addressed is why that extreme maneuver needed to take place.
As usual, I shift this from softball to hockey. I watched an interview a few years ago with a NHL goalie. The interviewer was commenting on an incredible save the game the night before where the goalie almost did complete splits to save a shot. The goalie commented something like “Yeah Man, I am sorry about that”, to which the interviewer replied “Sorry? That was incredible!”. The goalie got a grim look on his face and pointed out that if he was really paying attention, he wouldn't have had to stretch to make the save. That pretty much ended the interview, but it sank in deeply with me. He was dead on; a great player makes things look easy, not flamboyant. A great player reads the play well enough to be where they need to be.
Ask any coach, in a clutch play, would they rather see their player make a high jump snag, or a text book easy 2 handed catch that drops right into their glove. Some of the coaches may answer “I don’t care as long as they catch it”. Well, we all know they are fooling themselves. They do care. A lot. Coaches spend hours on batting line ups going through probabilities. Putting that into perspective, the probability of a nice knee-sliding catch is far less than an easy drop into the glove. When a pop-up is headed right for a fielder, the coaches breathe. When they hit towards a hole, they hold their breath. That is why we see these plays as special because the chances dictate a failure to the defense and no one wants to remember those.
I saw this take place at a tourney I was at last weekend. When the ball was hit to the outfield where you saw fielders running back, you heard gasps from the defensive team spectators, and hoots of joy from the offensive team spectators. When the ball was hit in front of the outfielders, you heard the opposite. There was one Center fielder, however, who seem to always have the ball directly in front of her. Was the batter sending the ball right to her? No, careful watching showed she moved a little left, a little right, front and back according to the hitter. The moment the ball was hit, she moved. And moved fast. She would try to position herself right to where the ball was going. Made for some real boring looking catches, but she made them. On the same team, there was another player who was constantly diving, missing most of the balls.
This is where it gets tricky as a player or a coach. Reality says you really can't be in all places at once. Reality says as a 2nd baseman you really can't move to be in front of a line drive unless it is almost in front of you to begin with. There are times where a dive is important and because of that, it needs to be practiced. Knowing how to jump up for a ball, to snag it before it goes over the fence is a learned skill. Knowing how to reach across either side of you to field a ball does come into play in a real game. Most important is knowing when to use it. A good player has a big box of skills in which they choose from. A great player knows when each of those tools should be used. An easy grounder to the player should always be centered on the body. It should never be planned on having to reach to the left or right. You learn how to catch when it is on your side in case it takes a bad bounce once centered. If you plan on the ball going to the left so you reach that way and it bounces even further, then the ball is gone. Probability says centering the ball is your best chance. Pulling a knee slide to catch a ball that could have been caught normally with just a little more drive is asking for it to go bouncing past. Yes, you may end up catching it. But, probability says you will miss that catch more often than if you set yourself to make an easy catch.
I know it doesn't sound exciting, I know it won't make ESPN’s play of the week, but plays that look simple, are more than simple. Executed simply and correctly gives the team an out. The team that plays for the simple out will end up with more wins.
Mike Adams Mike has over 20 years coaching experience between Softball and Hockey. His passion is with coaching and seeing players grow. Creating drills to focus on specific skills is his forte and is often called upon from different coaches to create them. He is Highly ADD which makes for a different type of blog but the ADD keeps him more in touch with his child side. You can contact Mike through his email firstname.lastname@example.org
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