Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
Fastpitch softball coaches are always looking for new and better ways to teach their players the fundamental skills they need to succeed. There dozens, maybe hundreds of books of drills out there, and the Discuss Fastpitch Forum itself has zillions of posts on how to execute this or that.
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
In almost all cases the drills are designed to be executed at regular speed, or even high speed. So I found it interesting over the weekend, as I read Daniel Coyle’s new Little Book of Talent, to be reminded of a totally different teaching technique that’s been proven in training/talent hotbeds all over the world — the value of super slow motion.
The purpose is to get players to understand at a much deeper level than usual exactly what their bodies need to do to execute the skill the way the coach wants it. And when those instructors say super slow motion, they mean anyone walking by casually should either not be able to tell what you’re doing or they should think you’re crazy!
It’s all about building muscle memory — or more accurately myelin layers that allow your brain to tell your body what to do faster. The more myelin you have with a correct skill, the easier it is to execute that skill when you need it — in a game.
One of the advantages I’ve found is that using super slow motion helps players learn to focus on the process instead of the outcome. For example, I have a pitching student who learned her basic mechanics and a changeup quickly, but has started to struggle with learning the drop.
My prescription for her was, you guessed it, go through the motion super slow, without throwing the ball. By doing that she will be better able to lock in the position her hand needs to be in, where her release point is, how her arm circle works, etc.
But it also does something else. I had guessed that she got frustrated when the drop didn’t work (her Dad confirmed that), so now we’ve taken the result out of the picture. Because at the end of the day if she does all the other stuff right, the ball will drop. It will have no choice because that’s the way the pitch is designed.
At my team practice Sunday, I used super slow mo as a step in the ground ball fielding progression, and as a hitting station. For hitting, different players had different needs, so I told them what I wanted them to focus on there. They were all taking full super slow motion swings, but their brains were focused on different aspects.
It’s definitely a different way of practicing, and you can get some strange looks when you first explain what you want. But if you believe that the best mechanics yield the best results it’s something you’re going to want to look into.
As they say, practice doesn’t make perfect, just permanent. So if you can get your kids practicing perfectly by going super slow, by the time they’re at full speed those mechanics should be there — permanently.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
How about you, what do you think?