Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
While the winter weather isn’t too bad yet, we’re reaching that point in the year where those of us in the North have to think about moving indoors. As you probably know, that creates an entirely new dilemma for practicing.
During the warmer months (and the months where it isn’t dark by 5:00 PM), you can pretty much wander out to any available ballfield and get some practice time in. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a ballfield. Just about any old patch of grass or dirt will do in a pinch.
But once outdoors is taken out of the picture, things get a lot tougher. Sure, you can rent cage time, but that can get expensive if you’re serious about it. You can try to find an open gym, but their managers often are unhappy about a hard ball being hit, thrown or pitched in the general vicinity of others playing basketball, volleyball or other sports.
Moving indoors also takes more schedule coordination. Not only do coach/parent and player/daughter have to be available at the same time, that time has to coincide with the times a cage or gym are available.
But the good news is you don’t need to go through all of that, at least not all the time. Because there is plenty a player can do within her own home that will help her improve her skills.
For example, a pitcher can work on her motion using a rolled-up pair of socks to throw against any wall mom or dad says is ok. Or she can shadow-pitch – going through the motion without anything in her hand.
Hitters can shadow swing, or better yet work on a specific element of their swing such as weight transfer or turning the hips before starting the hands.
All of these activities and more require very little space. Yet they can have a huge impact on success come spring or summer if they’re done correctly.
One of the hot theories around performance excellence right now is the concept of “deep practice” – focusing on one element of a skill, and going through it slowly until the concept is mastered. It’s what many high-performers do all the time, a sort of perfectionist’s approach to the skill.
Fastpitch softball players can easily take this approach to their physical skills. Not for learning to judge fly balls, perhaps, but even outfielders can do at-home practice to work on their glove angle, their setup to the ball, even that first step back on a ball hit over their heads. The more they work on these little skills, the better off they’ll be when it’s time to put them to use on the field.
Mirrors are another great tool softball players can use to improve. If you know what you’re supposed to do to execute a skill, you can use a mirror to see what you’re doing and determine whether it matches what you THINK you’re doing. You’d be surprised how often the two are different. And the good news is you probably don’t know many young, tween or teen girls who don’t have access to a full-length mirror.
It’s all about being creative, and having the desire to succeed.
Now, this doesn’t mean you never have to get thee to a gym or cage. Those are great places to go to measure your progress and see what else you need to work on. But much of basic form and fundamentals can be learned within a very small space if you have the right level of focus.
Anyone can make up excuses why they couldn’t get practice time in. But keep in mind that while you’re making excuses, other players are making improvements, and the difference between the two will show up on the field.
So carve out a little space at home and get to work. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.