Have you ever heard the expression “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”?
What a bunch of baloney. Anyone who has been around the game of Fastpitch softball for more than 1 day has seen players seriously injured while they were attempting to slide. Broken ankles. Torn up knees. Snapped wrists. Huge burns on their legs. Nothing to fear but fear itself huh. Seems like a lot of very real, very strong reasons for fear to me.
I’ve purposely saved sliding as the last major skill to do a series on for a reason. I truly believe that player’s fears are so well founded and legitimate. They aren’t irrational. It’s not a fear of what could happen. It’s a fear of what you’ve seen happen … some of you many times. I felt like I had to earn your trust by teaching you other skills and helping you through those fears first.
But with the new year and a new season rapidly approaching I felt like it was time to get down to business. To help you understand why players break ankles sliding. Why some tear up their knees. Why teammates have snapped their wrists. Why so many limp off the field with huge burns. My hopes and prayers are that once you fully understand why those very serious consequences occur and what you can do to avoid them you will become a more aggressive base runner.
Notice I didn’t say “you will start sliding.” Like diving, sliding is simply a skill. A skill intended to be used as a weapon on the bases to help you “generate” more runs.
Notice I didn’t say “score” more runs. Scoring is what you do when your teammates do their job and hit the ball forcing you to advance. “Generating” runs is what you do when you attack the bases in situations where others say “It’s just a ballgame. I’m not going to risk injury by sliding.” As a result you stand around on bases and use excuses like “I thought the coach said stop” “It felt like I was going to trip so I came back to third.” Oh you know what I mean.
As you watch the video you’ll understand how strong I know this fear is that you have. You’ll see something crazy. My two helpers won’t even move. They are going to sit perfectly still, as I want you to do as you simply understand why others, and perhaps even yourself, have been injured.
If we were in a Bug’s Bunny cartoon sliding would be easy. We could slide into a brick wall anyway we wanted to and we’d simply bounce back in the air with a funny sound effect like “Booooo-iiiiiiii-nnnnnng” playing in the background. Unfortunately that very solid player in our way at times isn’t Elmer Fud and is as solid and unmoving as a brick wall and science isn’t on our side, unless we let it be. You see science says “For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. Meaning if you slide into a brick wall, or short stop, with a great deal of force that force is going to come right back through you. If we don’t understand and the knee on our leg that is extended is “locked” then that force is going to hit back at us. Unfortunately guess which teeny-tiny set of bones usually takes the brunt of that force? You are so smart … of course it’s your ankle.
So what can you do? You can provide a way for your body to absorb that force that doesn’t cause you to be in a lot of pain. Like ensuring that the knee on your extended leg is bent. Seriously it’s that easy! If you ensure that your knee is bent that force will come back through you and force it to bend more. Fortunately God designed your bodies in such a way that your knee bends the way it does enabling us to slide.
How about those knee and wrist injuries? How do so many players get them? Great question. Those are very real to and guess what … science is the cause again. You see that gravity stuff holds us onto the ground despite our desire to fly. Not only does it hold us to the ground but when we try and move across it another force called friction comes into play. As you sit on your bottom trying to slide that friction is great it won’t let you move much. You’ve seen this happen on the field a lot. A player runs towards full speed. Gets about 10 feet in front of the plate and slows down. She drops to the ground in a seated position. Catcher tags her. Umpire yells out. Her momma yells from the stands “She slid under the tag.” Or perhaps the catcher misses the throw and she’s safe and momma yells from the stands “Did you see that Harold our baby girl slid.” Regardless what the outcome of the play is, or what momma yells, that girl didn’t slide. She did a seat drop. There is no way with all of her weight on her bottom that she can possible slide forward. There is simply to much friction.
While goofy at times, y’all aren’t stupid. Eventually you figure that little piece of science out on your own. So you start leaning over to one side or the other so that you can continue your forward momentum … sliding across the ground a bit. Unfortunately that sideways slide makes you vulnerable to every injury in the book. If you put your hand down into the ground as you lean over … guess where most of your weight is. Yeah on your hand. Lots of friction there and as your body wants to continue sliding but friction is holding your hand in place guess where an awful lot of force is now being applied? Your wrist that is right above that hand on the ground. Can you say ouch?
Not only that but as soon as you roll over to one side your knee that was bent gets straightened out. Oh no I hate that for you. Now you are vulnerable to that whole sliding into a brick wall, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction stuff that can snap your ankle or tear up your knee. Because while your knee bends one way really well, it doesn’t like to bend sideways. Yuck!
Oh wait there’s more. As you roll sideways while your weight isn’t all on your bottom and is distributed a little bit more because you are leaning over almost flat, there is still an awful lot of weight on the outside, upper part of your leg. Yep friction again. Friction as you know from rubbing your hands together causes heat. Good stuff when it’s cold outside. Bad stuff when it’s your leg on the ground. Too much friction causes too much heat which leads to burns. You know those great big open soars that so many girls get … right on the upper outside part of their leg. Hmmmmmm! But we can’t call them burns or that same momma cheering her daughter did a seat drop will come running on the field “my baby got burned … my baby got burned.” And nobody would ever slide again.
Instead we call them “raspberries” or “strawberries” and we simply say “It’s ok sweetie everybody gets them.” But guess what they “BURN.” You don’t want them. I don’t want them. So what are we to do. If we sit on our bottom we can’t go anywhere. If we roll over on our side we put ourselves into the worst possible position because then we are open to every injury.
For all it’s faults, and all of the boring people teaching it, science is good for one very positive thing. It’s called “weight distribution.” You see if we are seated, knee bent, and we simply lay straight back our body does the most incredible thing … it distributes our weight very evenly from our toes all the way up to our shoulders. If use weight distribution we can beat friction. Hurray for weight distribution. If we keep our knee bent we can beat “for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.” Hurray for bending our knee.
You know what I call it when you bend your knee and distribute your weight? SLIDING.
As I led off with as you watch the video all you are going to see is my players sitting there so that you can visualize what I’ve written about. You then have an entire month to practice nothing more than being in the right position and laying back to distribute your weight. I’m thinking when next month’s article comes out you should have long since understood why others get injured and your body should now have the muscle memory to avoid it. See you next month and be ready to GET DIRTY!
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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