Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
A few years ago, one of my pitching students was in a tough predicament on her team. It was coached by, shall we say, some less than scrupulous parents who were primarily in it to make their daughters look good.
Don’t set your players up for failure
Ok, that’s not unusual. But here’s the problem. Pitching time was based on performance according to certain criteria. That’s ok too. Except the criteria always seemed to be a moving target.
One week she’d be told that circle time required getting at least 60 percent first pitch strikes. (Never mind that the more advanced thinkers have come to realize it’s the first three pitches, not the first one, that are the deciding factor. Because there’s a huge difference between 2-1 and 1-2, no matter what order you use to get there.)
In any case, she’d work hard all week and when she got in there she’d hit the mark. In fact she’d succeed it. But then all of a sudden she’d be told now it was hitting your spots that counted most.
She’d do that, and the “pitching coach” (whose daughter also happened to be a pitcher as you might’ve guessed) would come up with something else. Generally it reflected whatever his daughter had been able to do that weekend. Except, of course, throw meatballs, which she excelled at.
It was very frustrating to the girl, and to her parents, who thought they’d moved up to a quality team. But instead, they realized that she was being set up to fail to further someone else’s ambitions.
That was a deliberate case. But how many times have you seen coaches do the same thing accidentally by trying to hold their players to impossible standards?
It’s wonderful to have goals, even reach goals. But they have to be realistic. Setting impossible goals is just setting the player up to fail, because she’ll never have the chance to achieve success.
Take pitching speed. There’s no doubt speed is a wonderful thing, and you can never have enough. But some kids are just more naturally inclined to throw harder than others. To say “you must hit XX mph,” especially at the younger ages, is setting a player who doesn’t have the DNA up to fail.
In reality, while speed helps the most important attribute a pitcher can have is the ability to get people out. Remember that Cat Osterman is considered slow by International standards, but I don’t know of any coach who wouldn’t want her in the circle.
The same goes for other positions and parameters. Your catcher may have slow feet, but if she has a cannon for an arm she can make up for it. And vice versa. If she has a weaker arm but an incredibly fast release on steals she’ll still throw people out. But if you insist that the only thing that’s important is the mph on the radar gun you’ll not only hurt that player. You could be potentially hurting your team as well.
This is not to say you can’t or shouldn’t push your players to get better. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s important to help your players become the best they can be — not just to win a $30 hunk of plastic and fake wood, but to teach the skill of striving for improvement that’s important throughout life.
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