Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
Had an interesting discussion with one of my pitching students today. She played in a tournament over the weekend, and while she had a good overall performance she had some issues with control.
This was an issue that cropped up for her toward the end of the summer so it wasn’t a total surprise. But it was definitely something we wanted to address.
After some discussion I saw what I believe to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, or even a death spiral for a pitcher. Since she’d had some problems in the recent past she was concerned about throwing strikes. As a result she was trying to force herself to throw strikes. That made her tighten up, which of course made things worse. As she got worse she got more uptight, and so forth.
And that’s the way it often goes. The focus on outcomes, the worry about what is happening, knocks a player off her game, creating more pressure which makes things worse.
It’s true that the outcomes during a game are important. But they should be the canary in the coal mine, not the main event. If a player is struggling pitching, hitting, fielding, whatever it’s more important than ever to focus on the process.
In tonight’s example the pitcher was inconsistent in her motion. (Understand that her strikes to balls ratio was 2:1 so not horrible, but as I understand it her misses were mostly big misses.)
So we worked on breaking down her arm circle in particular, making sure it didn’t wander behind her and that she led with the elbow all the way down to release rather than getting mostly there then trying to release the ball too early.
For left-right control we focused on driving her momentum toward the glove rather than striding slightly left to try to throw right.
With each step we focused on the process, the mechanics. And low and behold the outcomes got better.
It’s not magic, or rocket science. It’s simply about the desire to perform and contribute to the team. If a player is worthwhile at all she wants to do well, and any hint of failure can make her uptight. That’s why it’s important to take her out of that mindset and keep her focused on what she can control — herself.
Players who perform well gain confidence, and confident players play better than tentative ones. It’s kind of chicken/egg, but you can break the cycle. Give your players something mechanical to correct first and see if that helps develop the outcomes you want. You’d be surprised at how well it can work.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
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