13
Feb

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
6
Feb

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
22
Nov

For many of the softball players I work with, and likely many around the country and the world this fall marks a serious time of transition. They started the year on teams that they had been on for a year or more and now find themselves on new team. Their former teams were marked with tremendous friendships and they knew exactly where they stood with the coaching staff. This weekend I watched many of these new teams finish the final games of this fall season, and frankly it hurt to watch many of them struggle.

If I could speak to those teams, I would say to them that just like an airport, teams are a “zero sum game.” You can’t see the romantic homecomings at the terminal gates, without also realizing that just beyond that couple there is a heartbreaking scene going as a family is separated. Planes cannot land, if they don’t first take off from somewhere else.

For those of you on new teams my advice is simple, remember the good times you shared but let go of the grip those old teammates have on your heart. Don’t spend your time comparing the players/coaches/parents of the new team to those people. Accept the fact that they are different. Embrace those differences. Look at each one of these teammates and realize that they are now in your life for a purpose and figure that out. Find what it is that you can learn from each of them.

For those of you who have lost great friends and have new teammates now on board. Try to imagine how they must feel, and how heart broken they must be for they are the ones who had to board the plan and depart from another town, another city, another team and they now find themselves smack dab in the middle of your team. Don’t wait for them to make the first move, and don’t just try and meet them half way, be the initiator. The one who opens your heart, is willing to accept the situation and reach out to them first, and reach out often.

Our former friends/teammates will always have a dear place in our heart, nothing can change that. But our new teammates can as well if we just let them. But teams can’t function effectively if players are still playing in their hearts with teammates that are miles away. There is sadness in leaving, but their can be happiness in new beginnings if you allow it.

Category : Coaching | Mental advice | Blog
20
Nov

If it were a movie the sun would be rising over a dew covered luscious field of green grass. One by one the camera would move from face to face. As it panned out you would begin getting the bigger picture, the picture of a ball team. Soon you would begin realizing that they were one of many, warming up for the battles that would unfold before you on the big screen. Soon the heart touching orchestra music would fade and the camera would begin meandering through it all as you heard the faint voices of the coaches and the players. It would finally rest on our heroine as you started hearing the music she was listening to. As she completed her mental preparations for the day, she’d remove the ear buds and put them away along with her iPod, pump her fist and storm out of the dugout with the loud noise that only cleats on concrete can make.

But this is my post, not a movie and as I approached the cloud covered, frost bitten fields yesterday in Duluth, GA and could see my breath the picture was quite different from a movie I can assure you. In the movies the weather is always perfect, and you know who the heroine will be. In real life the weather is often brutal, and at 8:00 AM you have no idea how the games will unfold. But you see that’s entirely the beauty of it. The fact that the players have to compete against each other under such diverse conditions, and accept and play through whatever situations come there way, and at the end of the day when the sun has set, and the briskness of the autumn air has set back in, the ones that rose above it all, the ones that understand it is a team of heroines and not just one are the ones standing tall. The ones that you just jump out of your seat, with your cold knees, and your stiff back and you throw your glove covered hands around. They are the ones with the tears of joy welling up in their eyes because they are going to bed forever changed by what they did on that day. That single cold, fall day when they were the David facing their Goliath, and they delivered the fatal blow.

The fatal blow in this case being a 7 run, late, inning marked by lots of singles, bunts moving runners and of course the gratuitous fist pumping Grand Slam just for the folks in Hollywood. What I love about this game, and the amazing players I have the privilege of knowing and working with is that those kind of innings never happen at 8:00 AM, they are always at the end of the day. Because comebacks like I witnessed are never marked by a single player, it has to be a team effort. To the 18U Gold Duluth Wildcats I say:

Thank you for the opportunity to watch a team of girls who despise losing fight until the end, never having given up.

Thank you for the opportunity to watch a team of girls who never turned down the throttle on their intensity just because it was cold and late.

Thank you for the opportunity to watch a team of girls who always lifted up and never doubted each other.

Thank you for …. THE PERFECT DAY.

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
27
Sep

An exciting element of being me and helping girls learn how to raise the bar on what they expect of themselves, seeing them set really high goals, and then watching them hit those goals. In regards to this, I have to say that this week was on of the most exciting times for “being me” that I can recall. You see I work with a player that is at a level of competitiveness, that what she wants to achieve and what she is willing to do to achieve it that is just way out there.

One of the things that I frequently talk about with my players is when you are done, what will your legacy be. Will your name be in the college program for just the 4 years you are there, or will you be in the back of the book for others to use as a target? If you know me, then you know that I get all keyed up attacking the bases. So when this player set a goal to beat the NCAA Division I single season stolen base record I was stoked. Not normal Dalton stoked. I mean like way out there stoked.

When you set a long term goal like that you don’t just wake up one morning accomplishing it. You have to set a roadmap, I call them GPS Based Goals if you have ever been to one of my clinics. You have to define the points along the journey that allow you to measure whether you are heading in the right direction or not. So the first destination on the course, was breaking her high schools stolen base record. Rather than just breaking the school’s single season record, she went ahead and shattered the schools career stolen base record. In just this season. What another had accomplished in 4 years, she broke just this year. And they haven’t even started their playoffs yet where she’ll surely get more.

We celebrated for a few minutes. Ok maybe more than a few minutes, and maybe I did get her a card to tell her how proud I was. But then we moved right on to “Now how do we go about breaking the entire State of Georgia’s single season stolen base record next year.” The first thought of course is “Can you get on base more often so that you have more chances to steal?” While we always strive for perfection the fact is her batting average is almost .500 and her on base pct is almost .600. So while there is room to improve, the odds that she doubles her production next year just by getting on base a few more times is pretty slim. So we had to analyze each time she was on base, and figure out why she didn’t get more this year. The problem was that there were girls in front of her that were in her way. She could ask them to just make outs, but then it would be hard to lead the team in RBI’s. Part of setting goals has to be an acknowledgment that whatever obstacles are in the way, will still be there unless you figure out a way to get around them. Basically we both feel like the strongest possible way to accomplish her individual goal, is to become a leader and somehow help those players become more aggressive as well. If they steal 3′rd, she can steal 2′nd. Or they attack 3′rd when she hits instead of stopping at 2′nd, then she can steal 2′nd. In other words, instead of just focusing on the same skills we have been for the past 3 years: timing, speed, sliding, diving and consistently getting on base she has to become more of a leader and motivator to get these girls on board with helping her achieve her goal. She has to help them “want” to GET DIRTY.

Meghan is determined that the single season stolen base record for the State of GA will be hers and she needs them to move forward, so that she can move forward.  So the exciting thing is that while they don’t know it yet, but by this time next year they will also have broken the schools “former” record.

Yes I’m throwing som props out to Meghan Rud for what she puts into this game, and for the fact that she sees now what she’ll do in 6 years and is willing to work hard to get there every single day of her life. But hopefully as you’ve read this you yourself are realizing that whatever your personal goals may be. The odds are strong that for them to be “record breaking” you will benefit the team by accomplishing them, and you will also need the team to help you accomplish them. But that sounds to cliche I know so I won’t write that.

Category : Baserunning | Blog
26
Sep

There is an interesting phenomenon in life, that perhaps I’m the only person who has ever noticed it. It seems to me that when people practice something, they get better at it, and they start making it look easy and attractive to others. I know that may seem absurd, but that is the pattern I’ve noticed.

For instance I see young pitchers start practicing and the first couple of practices are hard. They get blisters on their finger tips. They get winded really easily from having to drive off the mound so much. But as they practice more and more eventually the become pitchers. Not kidding, it seems that it really works.

Same goes for hitters that I work with. At first they hurt my ears by hitting my batting tee over and over. They start complaining about blisters on their hands. But after weeks of hard work they start actually making the swing look easy. Eventually others besides their parents actually call them hitters.

Sometimes those pitchers/hitters do so well as a result of their practicing that they make it look like something that others want to try. Am I crazy or have you noticed that too? Not that you can really answer me, well you could reply or comment but nobody every does for these blogs. It’s not like it’s Facebook or something.

The problem I’ve seen a lot lately, is that all too often players, parents and coaches are practicing the wrong thing. It all starts innocently enough with some excuses that seem legitimate at the time. After that is practiced, then it becomes more of a group event. After it has been rehearsed enough people get really brave and start actually broadcasting it. Loudly.

Are you still with me. I’m talking about quitting. Surely you’ve seen that to. You know where the player/parent doesn’t like having to sit the bench for 5 minutes of a game so they decide that they won’t come back to that league/team/coach, but they feel guilty so they just slip away quietly at the end of the season. But now that they’ve practiced the next time quitting is a little bit easier. This time when the coach doesn’t give her exactly 52.5 innings of pitching time like they promised they would months ago, they justify quitting during the season by saying “we pay to much money for her not to pitch” or “we paid to much money on her new bat and lessons for her to bat 8′th instead of 5′th.” Pretty soon those people don’t just leave at the end of the season, or even leave by just telling off the coach, pretty soon their guilt about quitting is gone completely and they are bold enough to start recruiting others to quit with them. “Aren’t you unhappy too? If you leave with me then we’ll really make a point.” I even heard of a family that comitted to a team, and then literally quit after the very first practice.

For everyone reading this I assure you that you will become really good at whatever it is you are practicing. If you are practicing pitching you will become known as a pitcher. If you are practicing hitting you will become known as a hitter. If you are practicing quitting, then you will become known as a quitter. It gets easier. It’s just how life works.

My best advice to you is to instead practice not quitting. Honoring your comittment. Sticking to your word. You know all of those things that you admire seeing in others, but are afraid to try yourself because it’s hard. Yes it’s hard to honor your comittment when the team is falling apart, but the more you practice it, the better you get at it. Pretty soon you are known as the person that never gives up. You know the one that everyone else admires. The choice is yours, you will eventually be, whatever you are currently practicing to become.

Category : Mental advice | Training | Blog
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
8
May

If you’ve read any of my former posts you probably realize by now that my writing is meant to encourage athletes, coaches and parents alike. I try to string together words that perhaps you have read before, in a way that makes them sound fresh. Recently one of my batting students made me realize how cliché some of our sayings can be at times and yet how critically vital they are to continue to repeat.

One of the things as a coach and an instructor that I realized a long time ago is that anyone can look good when everything is going there way. But how you react when you are in the batter’s box and the umpire made that strike call even though the ball bounced is what really separates the average players from the great players. What I’ve found is that average players allow the “happenings” around them to determine their “happiness.” While the players with the ability to win long term, and throughout life, are able to maintain control of the 6” between their ears despite the circumstances around them going against them.

That’s so profound right. Just follow that advice and all the weeds in your life will turn to roses. Well on paper everything sounds profound, but when you are a 14 year old girl like my student Jessie how does that work when you are in a big tournament and the coach benches you 2 games in a row for no fault of your own, 2 tournaments in a row. How do you control that 6” between your ears then? That’s kind of where the “rubber hits the road” as they say.

Back to what I was writing … Average players tend to react to negative situations in a way that disables them from contributing in a positive way for the team, and often carry those situations with them for several innings if not all the way home with them and sometimes throughout their entire life. While players that control the 6” between their ears by realizing that the umpire, the coach, their parents, their teammates, other coaches, other players all have one thing in a common; They are human. Humans make mistakes. Humans let you down. Humans tell you one thing, but do another. If you accept in your mind that others will make mistakes, just like yourself, then when they do it isn’t quite so hard to accept/handle.

Back to Jessie … final game to get into the championship and she finds herself on the bench. End of the game, 2 players on base and the coach calls her in to pinch hit. She could pout right? “Sit me on the bench and now you want me to hit, well I don’t care if YOU lose the game or now this will teach you.” She could have done that. But what she did was wait for her pitch, no I’m not going to tell you what her pitch is because you might play her at ASA Nationals, and drives the snot out of it and helps her team win the game. Surely now she’s earned her way into the lineup for the championship game. But No! Championship game starts against one of her best friends and she finds herself on the bench again. After the coach had previously apologized for having done that in the past and said he would do a better job of remembering who sat which games.

Back to what I was writing … Average players bring their baggage from the past onto the field with them. The players that want to be their best, the players that want to win are able to leave that baggage at home because they realize they can’t play with all of it draped on their back.

Winners are separated from others …

Not by the score

Not by the amount of RBI’s they generate

Not by the number of strike outs they ring up

Not by who wins the biggest trophy

Winners are separated from others by the way they control their effort and their attitude.

Whether you are a parent, a coach or a player there are a million things that you have absolutely no control over no matter how much you try. Close your eyes for a few minutes and think through several recent really bad situations. How did you react? Did you let the umpire, your parents, your coach, your teammates, the other team, your boss, your colleages control  the 6” between your ears or were you able to control of your effort and your attitude despite everything going against you. 

Back to Jessie … Championship game. Late innings. Score 0 to 0. Coach once again calls upon her in a crucial situation and asks her to bunt. Ouch! How’s that going to work? She’s got to be furious. She’s got to want to kill the ball and prove something to her coach and her best friend. Yeah NO! That’s not how Jessie rolls. She lays down a perfect bunt and not only moves the runners into scoring position, she gets on herself. Next girl delivers the game winning hit and she is now a champion. Or was she already a champion for controlling the only 2 things which she could control; Her Effort and Her Attitude?

Category : Coaching | Mental advice | Blog
29
Oct

I love teaching girls how to sacrifice bunt. I mean I LOVE it. Partly because of the importance in the game, but more importantly because sacrifice is such an important part of life. Which is why it absolutely breaks my heart that in this game I love I see so much incredible sacrifice from parents, and so little from the players.

Performing a sacrifice bunt actually requires very little skill. The only true requirement is a simple desire to sacrifice ones self for another. The ability to bunt or not bunt, is a simple indicator of where the players heart is at. Because at the end of the day, at the end of the season, the most important things are not what can the team or coach do to help you. They are: “Where is your heart?” and “What are you willing to do to help the team?” Because those are the things that will carry you through the rest of your life.

It’s called a “sacrifice bunt” because it is supposed to be a sacrifice. You don’t get the glory, like you do for hitting a home run, because if everyone in the stands jumped up and down and chanted your name then it would be called a “glorified bunt.” The life lesson in the sacrifice bunt, is that it requires your heart to be willing to say “I want my teammate on base to get applauded for scoring the winning run, and I want my other teammate to get the applause for having the winning RBI. I’m willing to take the back seat and perform this seemingly meaningless task and be happy for them because their success means that we win.” If that is what goes through your head, then your heart is in the right place to be a great teammate and my guess is that you put 100% effort into bunting practice. But if your heart isn’t in the right place, then my guess is you really don’t put much effort into bunting practice because you are constantly thinking “Let’s just hurry up and do hitting practice so that I can look good.”

Challenge yourself as players to really examine where your heart is at. Would you want you as a teammate? If you honestly can’t answer yes, then as a player the easiest way to get your heart into the right place, is by starting with “sacrificing” yourself at home first. Seriously! Your tournaments last until after midnight many times throughout the course of the season, yet your uniforms are magically clean and ready to wear when you wake up for the first game of the next day. So when was the last time you put your cell phone down and stopped texting long enough to do the laundry for your mom during the week? When was the last time you closed the lid on the laptop and shut down Facebook long enough to help your little brother/sister with their homework so that mom could go get a mani and pedi?

Hopefully the next time you see a girl lay down a sweet sacrifice bunt, it will transcend the field and the actual act and you’ll get a glimpse of her heart. That’s where I’ll be looking.

Category : Hitting | Blog