Training

8
May

It’s not the trendiest new dance club in New York City. Nor will you find it as you walk the Las Vegas strip. But “Club 10” is every bit as exclusive. In fact you can’t pay for admission you have to earn it.

Normally I write about “heady” things that make players/coaches/parents stop and think. Things that allow all of you in the cyber world to use your own application to what I’ve written. Not this time. This article, and “Club 10” are the exact opposite. You see “Club 10” was simply what I wrote on my blackboard when I recently made a shift from subjective evaluation of my batting students to a more objective approach. I simply wanted a way to see if they could actually reproduce their swing 10 times in a row. 10 straight line drives off of the batting tee in their favorite position. No thinking at all. No subjective hypothesis of how good their load, stride, elbow, eye contact was. Simply a statistical measure of whether or not they could take the same swing 10 times in a row. If they hit the tee, hit a popup or a ground ball they had to start back at 0.

I was pretty amazed at how long it took most of players to be able to achieve that number. The ball was on a tee, in their favorite position. Yet the pressure of actually being measured seemed to weigh on them. Instead of just swinging after 5-6 they started thinking too hard. Good thing for them that in games there is no pressure. There is nobody standing there watching them and measuring if they get on or don’t get on. Oh wait! That’s exactly what happens in games.

As with all great clubs, “Club 10” was expanded once it became a hit (pardon the pun.) Girls had to deliver 10 line drives off of soft toss in different locations, including a change up or two. For some it was much easier as they didn’t have to worry about nicking the tee. However, for others it became an even more difficult challenge because they tensed up while waiting for me to toss the ball.

Nearly all of my batters have now achieved entrance into “Club 10” off the tee and soft toss. During the most recent testing I had 7 out of my 40+ students who were able to achieve entrance into Club 25 (25 straight line drives off of soft toss.) That achievement permitted them to apply for the VIP room of Club 10. Which means I took them to a batting cage and gave them a full half of hour by themselves to try and hit 10 straight line drives off of the pitching machine.

The name “Club 10” really isn’t important. What is important is the confidence that I’ve seen developed in my students as they have seen themselves repeating a great swing over and over. They can then take that objective measurement and confidence into their games because they know their swing will be there for them. Not because I say it’s a good looking swing. Or because mom/dad say it’s a good looking swing. They know it’s a great looking swing because they’ve seen the line drives delivered one after another.

So what about you do you want in to “Club 10”? Admission simply involves your ability to repeat a solid line drive swing 10 times in a row. First earn your way in the door by hitting 10 in a row off a batting tee. Then move to 10 in a row from soft toss. Finally try to earn admission to the VIP room by hitting 10 solid line drives in a row off of a pitching machine. Basically what I’m suggesting is to stop thinking, stop talking, stop discussing, stop analyzing and start hitting.

Category : Hitting | Training | Blog
5
Mar

As I’m sure you have figured out by now if you know me, I love quotes. I just absolutely love quotes. Whether they are about chasing dreams, building confidence, working hard anything that I can use to inspire me. So I love watching some of the all time classic sports coaching movies. The ones where at just the right time emotionally the well respected old coach delivers the perfect motivational saying. The one that rallies the troops to come back from an insurmountable score, the one that sticks with you the rest of your life and you just wait for the right time to share it with others and pass it on.

 One of the lines that has stuck with me for 18 years now actually comes from one of the most unexpected places. The comedy classic “Cool Runnings” which is about the Jamaican Bobsled team. The coach in the movie is played by John Candy and throughout the movie he is the exact opposite of what you would expect from a “great coach.” He’s not very disciplined. He doesn’t even try hard. As the move progresses you learn that he got kicked out of the sport he loved, bobsledding, for cheating. Clearly not the kind of person you would want leading your daughters … right?

After rolling on the floor for over an hour at the rib splitting humor in the movie, it finally transitions to that pivotal moment. The central character in the movie finally has that “heart to heart” talk with the coach and asks him “Why did you cheat?” The laughable, fool hardy, undisciplined coach finally opens up and shares “I let the pressure get to me. I felt like I HAD to win. Don’t let that happen to you. If there is one thing I want you to know” and here is the line I’ll never forget “If you are not enough without it, you will never be enough with it.”

As this season kicks off, and practices are in full swing let me ask you this simple question “Why are you going through all of this?”

If you are doing it to win your parent’s approval … don’t bother.

If you are doing it to prove something to your coach … don’t bother.

If you are doing it to win some $3.74 trophies … don’t bother.

If you are doing it so you have bragging rights at school … don’t bother.

The only reason you should be playing this game …

The only reason you should be putting your body through grueling workouts …

The only reason you should be beating your body on the field during practice …

Is for YOURSELF.

When was the last time you picked up your glove and a ball and played catch with a friend just because you love playing catch. Nobody watching. Nobody pushing. Nobody telling you that you are doing something right or wrong. You did it just because you love playing catch.

When was the last time you asked dad to just drop you and a friend off at a field or a batting cage and you just hit for the sheer fun of hearing that magical sound that comes from hitting the ball right on the sweet spot? Nobody watching. Nobody pushing. Nobody saying “great hit” or “fix this.” You went and hit just because you love hitting.

When was the last time you fought all weekend long. In bone chilling cold or brutal heat. Dug deep within yourself, won the 3.74 trophy and then handed it to your little brother/ sister or your mom and thanked them for being there and giving up their time to support you all weekend long.

I want to challenge you right now to take some time and examine why you are playing this game. Whatever else you may be playing for other than yourself, isn’t going to fulfill you. Because … “If you are not enough without it, you will never be enough with it.”

Category : Mental advice | Training | Blog
17
Nov

One of the hardest things in this game is knowing as a coach where the line is between a player being hurt and a player being injured. The longer I’m around this game, and the more amazing young ladies I watch the harder it is for me to know the difference between her needing to come out of the game, and her being able to push forward. Just when I think I know the level to which they can ignore the pain, another player comes along and demonstrates to me that I still underestimate the ability for heart to go further in overcoming the pain that I had previously seen. This past weekend I watched one of the players that I work with frequently do something that raised my expectations of just how tough a player can really be even further.

Before I share the specifics about her let me share that I already had high expectations. At a recent National Professional Fastpitch event I had Caitlin Lowe sign a poster I had made for one of my top slappers. When I gave my player the poster she said “Coach you have no idea how much I love Caitlin Lowe. As a young girl I watched her run into a fence and break her nose. I want to be like her.” At which point I interrupted her and asked “you want to break your nose running into a fence?” She said “Of course not. She came back the next day and played ball. I want the chance in my career to show the world how tough I can really be, just like her.” Of course I knew what Caitlin Lowe had done. I had also watched this player gut out a 102 fever one time and the flu another time to play exceptional ball. So I had no idea that what I had witnessed from her didn’t even scratch the surface of what she was really willing to go through if need be in order to show the world how much love she really has for the game.

So back to the story … this young lady dove for a ball in the first game of her tournament. The timing was off just a bit and she broke both knuckles on the index finger of her throwing hand as she tried to cover up the ball. The odd shape of her finger, the purplish color of it and the fact that it was about double the size in seconds was the first clue that it was definitely broken. Her coach and the umpires both wanted to do the humane thing and take her out of the game. Fighting through the tears and the pain she refused to leave. You would have to know her to understand that that battles wasn’t one that her coach or the umpire were going to win so they allowed her to remain in the game. Big deal, seen that lots of times, that just the background for what I really wanted to share. By morning her finger was swollen worse and it was obvious that she couldn’t throw. But she insisted on hitting, and in practice demonstrated that she could still hit despite being down 1 critical finger. She destroyed the ball all day long. I was there to watch her the first game on Sunday and honestly looking at her finger almost made me sick. But she was determined to continue hitting. Not only did she hit, she ended up in a situation that I’m not sure I’ll ever forget. At my clinics I teach/encourage very aggressive base running. Well here she was on base after crushing the ball, and just when I thought she’d done all she could to impress me she took a huge lead and begged the catcher to snap back to first base and then proceeded to do a perfect dive back into first. Broken finger and all.

Macy showed me this weekend that her heart was in fact much bigger than I had previously given her credit for. I’d love to hear from others who’ve seen girls with amazing hearts that shine through the pain and the tears. Those that have demonstrated for you that the line between being hurt and being injured is sometimes really hard to find.

Category : Coaching | Mental advice | Training | Blog
9
Oct

One of the neat people who will be aboard the Softball Cruise Clinic is Gary Leland, the founder of Fastpitch TV. Fastpitch.tv is a neat site which has over 100 episodes available online that offer some of the best advice, instruction and advice available in the softball world. Seriously! In the shows Gary brings you well done interviews and demonstrations from the best in the world that you can watch right from the comfort of your chair.

Gary has compiled these episodes while traveling the country as a road warrior. Getting you the “up close and personal” with the biggest names in coaching as well as playing. Here are a few examples:

Nearly every player I’ve met has asked “How can I do a better job hitting the change up?” Well lots of thoughts on that, but why not “tune in” and check out what the great Lisa Fernandez has to say: Fastpitch TV – Hitting the Changeup

If you are a pitcher and are thinking about the Softball Cruise Clinic, why not tune in and watch/listen to Angela Tincher one of the great presenters who will be onboard at: Fastpitch TV – Softball Cruise Clinic

Hitting to the opposite field? — It’s there
Drills to increase pitching speed? — It’s there
Tips on bunting? — It’s there

Did I mention that Gary has made his entire series of shows available completely free of charge. So what are you waiting for go check it out and increase your knowledge immediately.

Category : Coaching | Training | Blog
26
Jul

I had a blast yesterday with several of my Cross Training students conducting a Home Run Derby. I start them in the outfield and everytime they hit a home run they back up 10 feet. I love seeing the look in their eye as they see a ball clear the fence. But more importantly I love seeing them make the adjustments that it takes to hit a line drive and they can clearly see it. As much as I’d love to I cannot reproduce that in a cage, so sometimes I have to go to the field and let them light it up. All of the girls did a great job and none of them complained about the extreme heat.

Call me a softie, but I really enjoyed Dairy Queen with all of them afterwards. Yes! Real coaches enjoy chocolate blizzards after a tough workout too.

Category : Hitting | Training | Blog
3
Jun

We had instructors from Canada, California, South Carolina and Georgia and players from Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. The one common factor among all: FUN. In fact it should be illegal, but glad it isn’t, to have as much fun as we had this weekend at my Memorial Weekend Softball Camp.

All of us as instructors were touched by the incredible effort put forth by the players on both days of the camp. Session after session all of the girls dug deep, did what they were asked, then hustled right over to their next session. Yes they were hot. Yes they were sore from crunches, running, diving but they managed to do it all while smiling.

My hat goes off (and shows my bald head) to Howard Kobata, Marc Dagenais, Ashley Tomlinson, Tori Fobb and Keith Prichard for their efforts this weekend. Hopefully the players appreciated the effort that each and every instructor put in to trying to help them develop their skills. It’s easy to just pat girls on the back and move on to the next girl it’s much harder to do what we did in paying individual attention to each player and showing them what they needed to work on and then pushing them to make the improvements.

All in all …. just way to much FUN!!!!

Category : Training | Blog
22
Apr

Have you ever watched the first few games in a t-ball players career? They are so cute when they hit the ball and then panic and run the wrong way when everyone starts yelling “RUN!!!”

If you are a coach trying to figure out how to get your players to hit to the opposite side of the field (behind lead runners) then you might want to have your players do the same thing. Run to third after a hit instead of running to first. Seriously!

More often than not, as players get started they have coaches/parents encouraging them to pull the ball because the poor little princess on third doesn’t have the arm strength to throw them out. So they learn from the age of 5 that pulling the ball leads to success. Which works great, right up until the time that the little princess at third has her arm transition into a cannon, or until there are runners on base and hitting it to third produces easy outs of lead runners. And as a team you find yourself unable to produce runs.

So if you are looking to help players break that habit, and they constantly say “but I can’t hit it to right field” then play a few practice games where they swing normally, but they have to run the bases backwards. It’s a fund drill to do that also serves a great purpose. Under those rules a hit to the third baseman becomes an easy out. So they quickly begin adjusting and trying to drive the ball to the right side. It also provides them with situations that are completely new to them and forces the offense and defense alike to have to think before every single pitch which is a good habit to be in. It also forces the defense to practice throws/tosses that are ordinarily not part of the game.

I guess you could say that running the bases backwards is like fashion, things always come back in style.

Category : Coaching | Mental advice | Training | Blog
17
Apr

If you love softball. Love learning. Love Cruising. Love eating. Love meeting players from around the world. Then your ship has come in.

Or rather it will be coming in February 21, 2011 and I sure hope all of you are on it. In addition to great sessions on board the gorgeous Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas, our main stop will be Nassau, Bahamas where will spend an entire day on ball fields learning and playing games along with and against girls from the Bahamas.

Coach Dalton will be joining a great group of instructors that includes Olympic Gold Medalist and hitting sensation Crystl Bustos, her long time batting instructor Howard Carrier, pitching phenom Angela Tincher and softball peak performance coach Marc Dagenais.

You can check out more details on the Cruise Clinic page.

Category : Training | Blog
15
Apr

For years I’ve used the term “Practice doesn’t make perfect … Perfect practice makes perfect.”

A very close friend of mine, David Newman, handed me an interesting article yesterday that captures the heart of what I’ve been trying to say for years. Interestingly enough the article is actually about supercross motorcycle racing. The article was about the need for practice, and more importantly the need for the proper practice. His illustration was that after riding for 20 years you could have learned each year and have 20 years of experience under your belt. Or you could be riding with 20 years of practicing what you learned the very first year. In other words you would have repeated step 1, 20 times.

What I loved most in the article was the simple quote from Jason Pridmore which applies to anything “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” I love that type of mental advice because it says basically the same thing that I’ve always said, but has the conotation to it that whatever it is you are doing is going to have permanence to it. It isn’t just going to make you better (or worse) while you are doing it.

I have no intentions of riding a “super” bike at 180 miles per hour, but I sure appreciate the advice of Jason Pridmore. Maybe I should invite him to demonstrate something at a softball camp one day. Not on any fields near my house of course. ;)

Category : Mental advice | Training | Blog
20
Feb

I just returned from the first Softball Cruise Clinic and was asked by one of the parents to share information about one of the sessions that I did. It is something that I learned from one of my mentors, Bobby Simpson of Higher Ground Softball. As I previously shared in a post Bobby likes to challenge pretty much everything, and believes that practice should resemble game speed and game situations as closely as possible. One of the most important thing any defensive player has to do is “get rid of the ball” once they have it, and more often then not in a game they are moving and their target is also moving. So this drill session is quite simply targeted at making the girls move and “get rid of the ball.”

You can start the drill with the girls in two lines, both facing forward as partners. One of the partners would start with a ball. They would simply walk forward and they would toss to each other. The partner on the left side would do a sideways toss like a second basemen would need to do to try and turn a double play at second, or a shortstop would do tossing it to third. The partner on the right would receive the ball and immediately try and get rid of the ball by making more of an underhand toss like a SS would make to second, or second basemen would make to first. They simply proceed walking to the end of whatever distance you’ve marked off. On the way back they would be doing the opposite type of toss because they would be on the opposite side. The drill would be repeated at a jogging pace. Then at a fast game speed pace.

You can then adjust the drill so that the partners face each other and shuffle their feet sideways from one of the field to the other making the toss to each other. Again start walking it through, then shuffling faster and faster.

Another progression would be to have the partners jog at each other and make the toss. This forces them to make adjustments for a closing distance as their speed varies. Once they have this down you can do a very fun and challenging variation. Form 2 lines that face each other from opposite ends of the distance you’ve marked off using just 1 ball. First girls in the line proceed to jog at each other and the girl with the ball makes the toss. Once she makes the toss the next girl in her line would then start jogging. The girl that received the ball would then make the toss to that girl as she approached. At that time the next girl in the line she was from would then start. The lines would continue alternating in that manner and the goals can be whatever you want. Every girl makes it to the other line without a dropped ball. There and back without a dropped ball. Complete the drill there and back at a speed that beats some given time to force receiving and getting rid of the ball at a faster game speed etc.

Toughest variation of the drill would be where the 2 lines face each other but they turn backwards. So that they are approaching other back peddling and they have to throw the ball to each other. What you will see is that girls will continue to try and make tosses but when they are both moving in opposite directions they really need to throw the ball and put something on it. They need to judge what the distance will be, and not toss based on what the distance is at the time.

There are tons of variations that you can add to the drills:
1. Toss the ball to lead the player instead of tossing it to her.
2. Popup type tosses that lead the player.
3. Karaoke steps instead of shuffling feet.
4. Hops instead of jogging.
5. Have a coach or player with a helmet walk back and forth between where the players will be going to cause “baserunner obstacles”.

Hopefully you and your players will get something out of these type of active movement drills. Encourage your players to come up with their own variations, because you will find that they can be very creative with this type of activity. Be sure to comment and share those variations so that others (and I) can benefit from their creativity.

Category : Coaching | Training | Blog