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 | Blog

DiveBackHopefully you are sitting down as you read this. Because what I wrote recently for Fastpitch.TV might really surprise you.

The Pursuit of Good for Fastpitch.TV

Category : Mental advice | Training | Blog

_DSC6549“Oh girls they want to have fun
Oh girls just want to have

That’s all they really want
Some fun
When the working day is done
Girls – they want to have fun
Oh girls just want to have fun,
They want to have fun,
They want to have fun”

Cyndi Lauper’s tune is a catchy one for sure. You start singing it and any hope of accomplishing anything that day just flies out the window because you just can’t get it out of your head.

_DSC6438Well I’ve got it in my head now because I think it’s the perfect way to describe the Aggressive Baserunning Clinic’s I get to do. As you can see in the pictures the clinic’s I conduct like this one for the 12U Atlanta Flames are no picnic. We “work” on attacking the bases and not just waiting around for other players to knock them in or for coaches to tell them to go.  We “work” on each and every player sliding flat on the ground and distributing their weight evenly. When I say that we work on Diving I mean that we “work” on each and every player actually diving in the air just like Super Woman.

You might think that getting girls to do something like this would take a miracle. But guess what? You would be wrong. Dead wrong.

These are softball players. Hardened athletes who are willing to do whatever it takes to win ball games._DSC6316

Once I help them get over their initial fears of the unknown and make it “fun” just look at the results. For a little fun in the dirt they are willing to work harder and push their bodies beyond anything you may have imagined. Once they catch on that GETTING DIRTY is “fun” there is nothing they won’t do._DSC6453

As you study their faces you’ll see that each is unique for sure but each is also intensely focused. Not the kind of expressions you expect to see when having “fun” I suppose. 

Your image of “fun” likely involves girls being silly. Cutting up. Laughing. If you were with me you might even say out loud that these players don’t really look like they are having “fun.”

_DSC6425I have perhaps a different perspective of “fun” than most folks which is likely derived from my premise that athletes enjoy pushing themselves to accomplish new things.

That while they are in every sense working hard externally, internally they are actually having “fun” because they know they will go to bed that night a better player. A tougher player. A player who has skills that will never be taken from them. Skills that they will use in the coming weeks, months and years to differentiate themselves from their competition.

Some shutter at the thought of hard work. They cringe at the concept of discipline. Pride? Passion? Excellence? Merely cute quotes to “share” on Facebook or Instagram.

Three things that I can tell you with absolute assuredness:

1. The young ladies on the 12U Atlanta Flames were indeed having a ton of “fun” while working hard because for them Pride – Passion – Excellence is what they are striving for as athletes and as young women.

2. There is no greater “fun” in this world than looking young ladies right in the eye and seeing that they truly get it.

3. I wouldn’t trade the moments like in this picture for all of the money in the world.


Category : Training | Uncategorized | Blog

Thats HotTwo and a half years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to do some instruction at the annual Higher Ground camp for elite softball players. The camp is held each year in Columbus, Georgia in mid June. If you know anything about the south, and that area in particular you know that the thermostat can pretty much go off the charts during that time of year and combined with the humidity it can become unbearable.

Despite the title of the post and the picture which shows what the thermostat read in my car on the way to my afternoon speed and agility session, this article has absolutely nothing to do with the temperature. Like anything in this great game called Fastpitch softball, temperature is only a problem if you can’t control your mind and you allow it to be a problem.

One of my favorite things to teach is speed and agility. Partially because I believe that athletes can do everything better if they train their bodies to react faster to what their brains tell them to do. But more importantly I love challenging girls to push themselves beyond the limits they’ve often imposed upon themselves. Typically my sessions are 45 minutes long and include a combination of core training, agility drills and speed work. I taunted all 63 campers all week long telling them that it was just crazy that Higher Ground founder Bobby Simpson had given me 75 minutes to punish their bodies in this kind of ‘heat.’ I whispered to most of them that they weren’t tough enough to even show up, because most girls can’t complete the 45 minute sessions and that they should find another session.

Yet 14 girls were brave enough in 111 degree temperatures to meet me on the field. We warmed up with 25 minutes of grueling core training drills isolating and working core muscles and large leg and arm muscles. At this point their muscles were screaming at them for being crazy enough to show up. I didn’t take much time to listen to those screaming muscles, so we then pushed right into 25 minutes of agility drills. Constantly moving. Constantly increasing speed. Now that I had the full attention of their core, their muscles, their brain, their heart and their lungs we started working the speed ladder. Two speed ladders actually so that instead of just slacking off and going through the motions I challenged them to compete at the end of this grueling experience. I also challenged them to do the same drills we did through the ladders on our feet using their hands instead. In all fairness I did warn them all.

One young lady named Raven got my attention, the first time through the ladder. She clearly didn’t have much experience using a speed ladder and she was paired up against a player who obviously had lots of experience. Her comment was something like “I just can’t do this.” So I took pity on this poor young lady who clearly had given her all and I paired her up with someone much slower. Well that’s what she hoped would happen when she said it, but that’s not the way I work. Instead I called her out right there in front of the other 13 young ladies. I told her that I admired all she had done to this point, but that she was at an elite camp. That I don’t accept “can’t.” That she needed to push herself beyond what she ever believed she could accomplish. That she didn’t need to beat this player the first time through the ladder, she only needed to keep improving and beat her before our session was over. That she needed to look this bigger, stronger, faster player right in the eyes and tell her that she was going to own her very soon.

So how did Raven respond? Did she just give up? Cry and then go get a drink? No! My girl stepped up, shouted that she would own her, and proceeded to improve each and every time through the speed ladder and eventually tied her and then beat her once. As Raven pushed herself further with each step or hand through the speed ladder so did the other 13 young ladies. She dug deep and realized she had more inside her that she had never let the world see before, and the other 13 weren’t about to let her be the only one to step up to another level.

On a muggy 111 degree day in mid June 2011, in Columbus, GA, 14 young ladies stepped forth and met a challenge like they had never faced before in their lives. They fought through the pain, the scorching heat and muscle fatigue and emerged as warriors. NOW THAT’S HOT!

On a muggy 111 degree day in mid June 2011, in Columbus, GA, Raven stepped forth and met a challenge like she had never faced before in her young life. Not only did she have to fight through the pain, the scorching heat and muscle fatigue she had to overcome being called out in front of 13 strangers and then overcome her Goliath. And she did it. NOW THAT’S HOT.

On a muggy 111 degree day in mid June 2011, in Columbus, GA, 14 young ladies demonstrated for about 30 parents who’s jaws were dropped in amazement as they watched them, and most of whom weren’t the girls parents, that they were indeed amazing athletes and not just girls playing softball. NOW THAT’S HOT!

On a muggy 111 degree day in mid June 2011, in Columbus, GA, 14 young ladies touched my heart, and reminded me exactly why I LOVE THIS GAME and LOVE working with players that want to become champions, regardless of the cost. NOW THAT’S HOT!

Category : Training | Blog

[Wintality] – win-tal-i-ty – noun; The act of admitting your weaknesses and working to correct them. “Her wintality inspired others on the team, and our season totally turned around.”

When I began this series I shared that each week I would have fun just making up definitions for this great word that I first heard from the 2011 Auburn Lady Tigers. The thing I juLainest love about wintality is that it really explains the characteristics that we see and admire in the great ones but that we have trouble explaining using common words, since the traits are admirable, but uncommon. Since I’ve confessed to making it up as I go I suppose it is safe for me to share that honestly I wasn’t sure what to write about this week until I received inspiration from a teenage ball player that I’ve never coached, nor instructed but one who reached out to me via Facebook.

I’ve often gotten blurbs from players that start with “Did you hear how great I did?” “Did you hear about my no-hitter/my homerun/my great dive?” But I’ve never gotten a message on Facebook quite like this one. A message that was so open and so amazingly honest. No beating around the bush. No trying to find out if the mood was safe. She just blurted out “I have a real problem trying to pull the outside pitch. Do you have any ideas that might help?” I thought: “This is going to be interesting. There are no easy answers to that problem, because if there were 95% of the players in the game wouldn’t have it. Plus she’s a teenager, and certainly her attention span will wane before I can even finish giving her my suggestions, but since she asked I will give it a try.”

So I began sharing in small paragraphs that each ended with “Does that make sense?” Partly to ensure she got it, and partly to see if she had already moved on to texting with some friends. But she responded to each one, and always immediately. I wasn’t sure what it would lead to, but I was impressed nonetheless because it isn’t often that a player, a teenage player is able to admit that they have a problem, nor does their attention span often allow them to wait out what can often be my long winded answers. A few days later she reached out to me again with a message that basically read “I tried what you suggested and it was really hard. But I never gave up and eventually I got it. After I got it I just kept working at it and working at it. Then at a practice that me and another player asked to have even though most of our team was on spring break I was killing every outside pitches our coaches tried throwing to me.” Then last night the important message came “In our game I got an outside pitch and I crushed it for a double.”

She still has a lot of hard work to do, but more important than this issue was her willingness to face the problem head on. I think it will establish a lifelong pattern of success for her, and I’m excited to see it become contagious with her team, a team that I happen to love. Most humans have the amazing ability to put in 10 times the effort to make excuses for our weaknesses/problems, but as a teenager she’s already out broken out of that. More importantly as a player, coach, parent or spouse what aspect of your life is getting in the way of you really becoming all that you can be? You’ve tried hiding it. You’ve tried masking it. You’ve tried using excuses. Why not take the chance and admit your problem to someone and ask for help. Then however difficult their advice might be, take it. Laine’s wintality really inspired me this week, I hope it does the same for you.

PS – This story was first written in late 2011. As I post this onto my site for the first time I’m happy to say that this year Laine became the 16U A National Championship and then followed that up shortly after by also becoming the 6A High School Georgia State Champion and her team was ranked #1 in the country for High Schools. Her WINTALITY has indeed continued to grow and she still inspires me.

Category : Mental advice | Training | Blog

No I’m not talking about picking your nose.

I’m talking about what you do when you are alone that is going to help you win that championship game that isn’t for 6 months from now. You know the one I’m talking about. You will be stepping into the limelight.  The fans will all be cheering. Your teammates will be encouraging you. Your coaches will be advising.

That championship game.

We all want to be there.

We all want to come through in the clutch in that situation.

So I’ll ask the question again … What do you do when you are alone that is preparing you to deliver in that situation?

Are you jogging on your own? Are you lifting weights to build your strength? Are you doing speed and agility drills to increase your explosiveness?

Are you only hitting with your team or are you taking 100 swings per day on your own?

Are you waiting for something magic to happen at one of your team practices that will increase your endurance or are you doing a lot of cardio work on your own?

Are you hoping your coach provides a magic energy pill or are you following a solid nutritional plan that will help you after a long fought weekend or will your body let you down like it did this past year?

I gotta tell you one thing I’m really good at is math. And girl have I got news for you. There are so many more days/hours/minutes when you are alone than when you are on the field for practice. If you REALLY want to win that game that is just 6 short months away … you need to be using those days/hours/minutes when you are alone to your advantage. Commit yourself to the fact that what you do before the game while you are alone is going to be what helps you win that game when you are with your team. Commit yourself to doing the kind of things that other players just wouldn’t be willing to do. Then you will go into that championship game, step up to the plate with the game on the line knowing that your work is what you got you there and then deliver.

Category : Mental advice | Training | Blog

As the season rapidly approaches you need to be in the best shape of your life.

P90X …. that’s old news.

Insanity … child’s play.

Cross Fit … boring.

In this 4 minute video Coach Dalton will help you get the MOST IMPORTANT MUSCLE in your body into shape and have you ready to seriously light it up this season.


Category : Training | Blog

In the spirit of Valentines Day I couldn’t help but try and tie in softball to the most romantic day of the year. Not easy to do but fortunately for me reality TV made it easy for me.

I don’t mind the show, nor the staff nor the dresses. My problem lies in the fact that the vast majority of the brides seem to have put about $37.50 into their “relationship” yet are ready to drop $20,000 for a dress. Their dream romance seems to stem from having the fairy tale gown, rather than the fair tale marriage.

In fact I’ve actually watched shows, did I just say that out loud, where the “brides” are choosing the dress and don’t even have a fiance. Not kidding, I’m not sure I can understand the concept of caring more about the dress than the groom. I guess it’s harder to find the perfect gown, than a man who will spend the rest of his life loving you selflessly and sacrificially. Reality TV, here is a reality check … there is no fairy tale romance without the work. Ladies if you ever listen to anything I say … Say NO to the dress and spend the time building a solid foundation instead.

Here is how it ties into softball ….
Say NO to the new $300 bat and say YES to a $20 batting tee and a bucket of wiffle balls and DO THE WORK.

Say NO to the pretty new batting gloves with comfort pad and air conditioned grip and say YES to putting in enough practice that you develop blisters.

Say NO to the $200 sunglasses to wear in the outfield and say YES to running until you are sore learning how to judge the ball and block the sun with your glove.

Say NO to the new glove and say YES to wearing out the leather on your old glove learning to field and dive.

Say NO to worrying about how pretty the $4.72 trophy looks and say YES to the knowledge that you left everything you had on the field to earn it.

Say NO to a new color coordinated pair of cleats that help you look prettier standing around and say YES to learning how to be aggressive on the bases and actually producing runs.

Bats, helmets, gloves and cleats are tools that are needed for the job. But at the point that you put your hope in the “stuff” instead you are like a bride buying a wedding dress with no groom. Say NO to whatever that fairy tale items is that you believe is going to make you a princess on the field (your dress), and say YES to DOING THE WORK.

Category : Baserunning | Hitting | Mental advice | Training | Blog

What is the difference between a good team, a great team and a championship team?

Great question, but rather than write it all out for you I’ve created a video for this particular post

Category : Coaching | Leadership | Mental advice | Training | Blog

2013 is almost upon us and with it comes a new season of softball. For many it involves being one of the new players on existing team, and for others it involves having new players join your team.

One of the interesting things that makes us human is our ability to quickly categorize people we don’t know. We lump them into convenient categories that we’ve formed based on our past relationships. “She is a hitter.” “She plays SS.” “She is to serious.” “She is to silly.” “She doesn’t practice hard.” “That coach is strict.” We feel good about ourselves the faster we “size up” new people. Gives us a sense of accomplishment. Forget about these new people for a minute and think about yourself though. Are you really that simple a human being? Could anyone really identify all that makes you you within 15 seconds? Could they capture who you are with 1 phrase? Could they even capture all that makes you a unique person on this earth if they watched you for 1, 2, 5 or 10 practices and games?

I doubt it. We know that we are unique. That we ourselves are more complicated than others give us credit for, yet we still try and judge the “new people” that come into our lives based on very little input. If the new girls has a few bad plays “shes not very focused.” No questions asked if she had lost a loved one earlier in the week. If you make a few bad plays and hear any laughter “they are mean.” No questions asked if the existing team was really laughing because a coach had tripped over something on a different area of the field.

We celebrate New Years because they offer a new begginning. A chance to correct the mistakes of the past year. A chance to challenge ourselves to do better the coming year. Take advantage of the opportunity that 2013 is about to present to you. Commit that 2013 is going to be the year that you quit jumping to conclusions about new people that come into your lives, and onto your teams. Commit that at least where you have control you are going to do everything you can to become a true teammate. Not someone who knows how to pass an egg the right way, or pass oranges under your chin correctly but someone who truly works to build a cohesive unit.

The following is a list of questions from Doc RobynOdegaard’s book “Stop the Drama! The Ultimate Guid to Female Teams.” Print the list out and take some time during your team practices and get togethers this coming season to go through them together. Let everyone see who you really are, and give them a chance to show you who they really are.

  • What is something about you that no one on the team knows?
  • What is something that is really important to you that no one on the team knows?
  • What kinds of things really stress you out?
  • What is your default response to conflict with someone?
  • Most people are leaders or followers depending on the situation. When do you want to lead and when do you prefer to follow?
  • How do you respond to stress?
  • What is something you are really good at?
  • What skill do you have that might surprise people?
  • What athletic skills do you bring to this team?

If you really want to get to know others ask this one:

  • What is your biggest fear in life?

One final thought as you prepare for this coming season … “a car’s windshield is much larger than its rearview mirror.” While it is good for us to reflect on where we have been, we shouldn’t dwell on the past. Yet more often than not I hear players referring to what things used to be like on their old team. How their old teammates acted. How their old coaches conducted practice. How players acted in the dugout. Bringing that kind of baggage to your new team isn’t helpful. Focus on what is ahead of all of you. Where all of you are heading together as a team. 2013 is coming quickly. Whether it is a Happy New Year or not depends on what you make of it.

Category : Coaching | Mental advice | Training | Blog