Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
When looking for a good softball hitting, pitching, or fielding instructor, there’s one message I want to share with you today:
Beware of False Qualifications
The other day I was hanging around a training facility where I don’t normally teach. I was waiting for a co-worker from my day (real) job, who was bringing his son and daughter there for me to help them with their hitting.
Since I arrived a little early and the place was sparsely populated, I dropped my stuff off by a bench and wandered over to a bulletin board area. Among the items they had were photos of their baseball and softball instructors with a little description of the background of each.
As I looked at the softball instructor descriptions I saw an interesting phrase. It said the instructor I was looking at was “Hitting, pitching and fielding certified.”
Hmmmph, I thought. That’s interesting. I wasn’t aware that there was a national standards board with a test you could take to become “certified” in various skills.
I know soccer has a coach’s licensing system that goes worldwide. I know martial arts instructors have to pass a rigorous series of tests based on long-established and standardized teachings to become certified. But softball?
Of course, there is no such thing. What I’m guessing it meant is that someone at the facility gives them the ok, and then they’re certified there. But it points up one of those things that unwary parents have to be careful of.
Saying an instructor is certified sounds very official and impressive. Yet it’s completely meaningless unless you know the standards on which the certification was based. It’s like saying someone played professional baseball, or is a former college player.
Lots of people played professional baseball at lots of levels. If you were paid to play, even if it was at a dollar amount below poverty level, you were a professional. If you played for the worst college in America with the worst coach ever, you still played in college.
What it doesn’t determine is whether the instructor knows doodly-squat. There are plenty of folks out there who were good players that have no idea how they did what they did. They just went out there and did it. So when it comes time to teach someone else, they do the same thing as everyone else. They either buy a book or a DVD and teach that, or they repeat whatever they happen to remember their old coaches saying.
Ultimately, what makes an instructor a good one isn’t whether they’re “certified” or have some other impressive-sounding credential. It’s whether he/she can teach your child how to improve her skills and succeed in the game.
How do you tell that? Ask to observe a lesson or two and see how the coach acts with students. Compare what he/she says to what you see top-level players doing. There are still plenty of folks out there teaching “old-school” (read: obsolete) techniques for various skills. And not all of them are old – nor are the old ones necessarily teaching what they did 20 years ago.
Another thing you’ll hear is to look at how their students have done. That one I’d take with a grain of salt. Rather than looking at their top players, try to find out how the kids with average ability have done under their tutelage. After all, a kid with tremendous athleticism and/or talent will probably succeed with or without that particular coach. It’s the ones who succeed while having only average ability who provide the best barometer for the difference that instructor and his/her teaching makes.
Be sure to ask questions. If you see someone is certified, ask by whom. You may find it’s not as impressive an accomplishment as you may think. The only thing that instructor may really be certified on is working the cash register.
Remember, with fastpitch softball anyone can hang out a shingle and declare themselves an instructor. I’ve seen plenty who haven’t a clue but manage to buffalo enough people to make a decent buck off of it. It really is a buyer beware situation.
Before you invest your hard-earned dollars in a path that will lead to nowhere, be sure to do your homework. Look at the results, not the hype, and you’ll find you get what you want – an opportunity for your daughter to succeed.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.