Typically, I am a little more creative with the title of my articles. I like to keep you guessing where “I might be going” with my writing. But for you the loyal reader I wanted to leave no doubt what I believe to be the absolute most important part of being an infielder is quite simply to get the out.

Oddly enough I wrote this post for another media outlet when my first grand daughter was born over 10 years ago. I started thinking then, that if she does play softball she may have 10-20 different coaches throughout her career plus dozens of different instructors at camps, clinics or for personal lessons. Here I am 10.5 years later and I have not 1, but 2 granddaughters playing the sport.

I didn’t write this to help my granddaughters avoid awful instruction. I trust that the clear majority of the information they hear will be solid fundamentally and will be delivered with good intention. Instead I wrote a series of things about the one thing about each skill that I would deliver to my heirs if we were sitting down in the shade eating an ice cream discussing the game. They might look at me with their adorable eyes and dirt covered uniforms and ask, “Pops what is the most important about …” and in this case playing infield.

I would stop licking my chocolate raspberry truffle cone, look her right in the eyes and say, “sweetie that’s easy the most important part of being an infielder is to GET THE OUT!”

She would probably follow up with something like “But Coach A says we have to be down and ready a thousand times each game.” Being set and ready is a great thing because it ensures you are in a position that gives you the best chance to get to the ball which helps you get the out.

“And Coach B constantly yells out that we should know what we are going to do if the ball comes to us.” Sweetie thinking through the play before the ball leaves the pitchers hand is also a great thing because it ensures that you are in the best mental position to help get the out.

“And at the last camp Instructor C had us practice our footwork over and over. She said we don’t have to go straight to the ball we can come around so we are in a better position to throw after wards.” That’s also an awesome thing to practice. It helps you be in the position to throw to help you get the out.

You can probably guess that I could go on forever and if I were enjoying an ice cream cone with my grand daughter talking softball I you better believe I would drag that moment on for as long as possible. But since this is you, you don’t have an ice cream cone, and have other things to do, I won’t.

There are a million things that as coaches/instructors we try to drill into players heads. Generally, we emphasize the one(s) we believe to be important. Sadly, there is also a lot of competition between coaches/instructors over the words they choose to use when trying to emphasize their points. I can’t tell you how many plays I’ve sat and watched where a player gets the out and is still yelled at by her coach. “You should have charged it sooner.” “You shouldn’t have stood up you should have tossed it.” “You shouldn’t have tossed it you should have stood up and made a solid throw” “You shouldn’t have tossed it to her you should have led her to the base” You should have … You should have … You should have.

All too often what I see is coaches, parents and players getting hung up in what they know about the game. They forget about the simple fact that all of the millions of practice hours are simply to help us prepare to get the out.  My challenge for you this month is to figure out not only how you will teach the skills, but how you will help players learn that each skill alone is simply a tool to help them increase their chances of getting the out.

Help them understand that when the play is over, if the out was made then it was a perfect play. Don’t let them beat themselves up just because they missed 1 of the 127 things you practiced the weekend before. And certainly, don’t beat her up to the point that she focuses on doing that skill right to the detriment of getting the out.

If I ever have the privilege of watching any of grand daughters play a championship game and they simply kick the ball to the other fielder for the game clinching out I will be the first one in her ear saying, “Sweetie that was the best infielding play I’ve ever seen.”

Category : Mental advice / Training / Uncategorized