Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
Without a doubt this is a busy part of the fastpitch softball summer season. Tournaments every weekend, for some teams league or scrimmage doubleheaders during the week, and maybe a practice squeezed in here or there.
What that means is very little time to work on individual skills. Some may be able to handle that, but they’re in the minority. For most, all this play time means skills are actually deteriorating.
It makes sense. In a practice setting, a hitter might take 100 to 200 swings in a session. In a game, she’s lucky if she gets 12. That’s a pretty big delta.
Same with fielders. Whereas in a good practice session you may field 50-100 balls or more, you may go a game or two without any significant fielding chances – especially if your team has dominant pitching. Sure, you get some practice during warm-ups, but your focus is different then. It’s on getting ready for this game coming up, not on necessarily improving your skills.
Even pitchers can have it tough. Sure, you’re still throwing a lot of pitches. But the focus will be on the ones that are working. The pressure is on to throw strikes and keep baserunners off the bases, so if you curve is working and your rise is not, the rise isn’t going to get much of a workout.
That’s why it’s important to make time for that sort of deep practice that will keep skills sharp and you playing the way you want to play. Which probably means you’ll have to get out on your own to do it.
When my hitting students tell me they’re struggling because their team doesn’t practice hitting, my first question is do you own a tee? Followed by do you have time during the day to use it? The answers are usually yes and yes. So then why aren’t those players getting their own BP in?
I think a part of it is kids today have gotten so used to organized practices, formal lessons, etc. that it never occurs to them to just go out and swing a bat or get someone to roll ground balls to them or take a bucket of balls and pitch them into the closest backstop to their houses. That’s too bad, too, because some of your best practice time is when you’re by yourself.
Without a team or personal coach there, YOU have to figure out why something is going wrong and correct it. You learn the skill much more thoroughly and deeply that way, which means when crunch time comes you know what to do and how to overcome adversity.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should never see a personal coach during the season. If you have the right one, he/she knows you, knows the mechanics you’re supposed to be using, and can help you shortcut the discovery process.
Another good reason to see the personal coach is for a confidence boost. With games so focused on results it’s easy to get caught up in it. You start pressing to make the play, get the hit, strike everyone out, etc. and if it doesn’t happen you get in a negative thought pattern – perhaps helped along by a team coach.
A good personal coach will remind you of what you CAN do, and help you get back on track. Remember, no matter what the skill, it always works better if you’re confident in your abilities.
If everything is going swimmingly for you, keep on doing what you’re doing. It seems to be working. But if you’re finding that your performance isn’t where it ought to be, or where it was a few weeks ago, make time to do a little individual work. You’d be surprised what a difference a half hour here or there, even during a busy season, can make.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
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