Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Softball Throwing Drills for Beginners

It is beneficial to review softball throwing drills throughout the season. Players often fall into a comfortable routine and forget key stances that would maximize successful throws. One technique that would eliminate sloppy follow through would be to carefully examine each step. The following is a softball throwing drill that will minimize errors.

This softball throwing drill allows the player to review the steps required for a powerful pitch. First the players should visualize the target and take a step forward. With the hand that is holding the ball, the player should reach his arm back and have the ball level with his ear. The other arm should be kept bent in front of his body and pointed towards the target. With force the player should push his arm towards the target and throw the ball while twisting his body straight towards the target. The player should conclude the softball throwing drill by standing straight forward.

Softball Throwing Drills usually consist of simple techniques that most players adapt to and use throughout the games. If you go through each step carefully, allowing the players to freeze in each stance leading up to the throw, you will be maximizing the outcome of successful pitches and throws. Also, each child will be able to practice the essentials and find their own speed through each position.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Inefficient Time Use? You need a Practice Plan!

Time is one of the biggest assets a coach has, but it has to be used appropriately. When a coach arrives to practice unprepared or overwhelmed, athletes will immediately pick up on that and follow suit. Pretty soon, you have endured a frustrating, useless practice. Everyone leaves in a bad mood, realizing that nothing was accomplished and blaming someone else.

When coaching, your job is to lead your players through drills, improve technique, prepare them for competitions, and build self-confidence and team unity. If you do not have your practice planned, none of these things will occur. Just like a teacher, a coach must have a “lesson plan” of sorts.

Certain things should be kept constant in practice. There should always be time for a warm-up and stretching at the beginning of a practice. During this time, you should help your team transition into “practice mode” and focus on the work at hand. You should help them prepare their bodies sufficiently for the physical exertion ahead and help them concentrate on what they individually need to improve.

Next should be time for technique and drills. This may be the least entertaining part of practice, but it may also prove to be the most worthwhile. No one enjoys repeating drills just to fix some minute error, but this develops strength, patience, a drive for perfection, and personal pride when the drill is performed correctly. All these drills and technique practices should follow a series, working from the most basic to the most intense. You cannot teach your players to run before they learn to walk, so start at the beginning and work your way forward.

After working on technique and drills, take your team to competition preparation. Show them tapes of previous games and what they can work on, or walk them through their last game mentally if you do not have tapes. Be sure to point out the positive aspects of their game as well as the negative aspects, and gently show them what needs to be improved for the next competition. When you enter this section of practice, you must pick a finite number of improvements on which you want your players to focus. More than three is unrealistic. Look at the past competitions and look for a pattern. Are you seeing anything that your team is consistently missing, even though you have raised it as a concern? If so, pick that as your only focus between now and the next competition. Sometimes, even three improvements are too many, especially when you are trying to change a major pattern you see in your team. Ask them to be aware of that issue and to do their best to fix it in themselves. They need to know that even though they are part of a team, their main responsibility is to ensure that their own actions are the best they can be.

To help your team remember which aspects you want them to focus on before the next competition, talk them through it during the warm-up each day. Have a new way of explaining the problem and remind them to focus on improving those specific areas. Also, remind them of past issues you have already resolved, so that they do not fall into the same problems again.
At the end of every practice, spend a few minutes with your team doing some cool-down exercises and more stretching. This will help protect their muscles and give you a chance to have a last minute chat with them before leaving for the day. Encourage them by recognizing the good work they have done during that practice and give them something to think about for the next practice. Keep the focus on their personal performances instead of winning or losing the next competition, because youth athletes perform much better when the emphasis is on performance instead of results.

Before each practice, spend some time thinking of what your team needs to accomplish that day. Follow the plan outlined, but be sure to tailor it to your own needs. This plan is a great way to build rapport with your team, especially during the warm-up and cool-down periods.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Coaching Girls Softball: Techniques for Coaching Female Athletes

It’s obvious that men and women differ in many ways, but one of the bigger might be how coaches can coach women opposed to men and make them better athletes. Women have many factors to consider when training and practicing for a sport, especially a demanding sport such as softball.

Softball can be extremely competitive especially during tournaments and on traveling teams. To reach your peak, a healthy diet, good conditioning through winter months and a lot of practice are very important.

As the field positions vary, so do the different coaching techniques. The saying goes practice makes perfect, but what about a pitcher? It is not good for a pitcher to practice pitching many hours a week and then go pitch in a game. Every position in all the different sports requires different techniques and training.

Female players also have to watch for signs of overwork. Missing a menstrual cycle can be a sign of overwork and malnutrition. A missed menstrual cycle can also be a warning that Female Athlete Triad might be occurring.

Female Athlete Triad has three components that are extremely dangerous to the athlete.

1. Disordered eating - this ‘symptom’ can come in many forms, female athletes may limit their calorie or fat gram intake severely causing weakness or fatigue and could develop into more serious conditions such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.2. Amenorrhea (missing a menstrual cycle) - this symptom is caused by severely limiting calorie intake and exercising taken to the extreme. Everything is good in moderation; this is also true for exercising and limiting calorie intake. Although a missed menstrual cycle doesn’t mean you have Female Athlete Triad, it is important to consult a doctor if you usually have regular menstrual cycles but then miss one. 3. Osteoporosis - this symptom is, as the others, a harmful condition by itself, but is made worse in combination with the previous two. Osteoporosis is a bone condition where your bones become very fragile and are prone to breakage.

All of the above symptoms can be avoided by keeping a healthy diet and not over exercising.
Here are five techniques that can help you, as a coach, when it comes to coaching women in general:

1. When picking positions for your team, let every player have a shot at all the desired positions. The pitcher might be a better catcher and the center fielder might be a better shortstop.

2. Remember that women can be fragile, so watch what you say. Many female teams greatly dislike being referred to as ‘guys,’ while some extremely dislike the phrase ‘you throw like a girl.’ You need to be totally unbiased when coaching, unless you yourself are female. Many women tend to connect more with a female coach, and don’t mind some harmless ‘poking fun.’

3. Believe it or not, many male coaches can get better participation and drive out of female players than females themselves. This can be attributed to a few things, one being that the male is seen as insensitive so they don’t let their players whine or cry when they fall. This is good and bad, this gives the girls a high threshold for ‘pain,’ meaning when they slide hard into third, they are more apt to jump up than limp off the field. It is also a possibility that when girls are complimented on their sport accomplishments, like throwing six strikes in a row, catching the fly in center field or rounding third and heading for home, it means more coming from a male than a female.

4. If you are a male coach it is important that you are sensitive to cramps, needing a bathroom break and impromptu migraines. You have to remember that none of these are the player’s fault, sometimes things just happen.

5. Have fun! As in any sport, there will come a day that everyone just needs to have a break and have some fun. You can play a pick-up game instead of running laps, share stories of the best feeling you had on the field instead of batting practice or you could cancel practice and have a ‘pizza’ party.

The key to coaching and parenting a female athlete is to listen to them. If they are physically saying your pushing too hard then pull back a little bit. Trust is the main component to remember when participating in sports. If the coach trusts the player then the player and parent will trust the coach.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Softball Fielding Drill

It is important for younger players to understand what happens when the ball is hit and it comes to them. Most will be focused on actually stopping the ball, but when they do secure it in their gloves, they need to know where to throw it.

What you need (set up) The kids should have their gloves on and you can send them out to second base. Have one player play first base to field the throws. You can also have one near you (home plate) to field balls from first base to home.

How this drill works: You can either toss or lightly hit the ball to the players in line at second base. Explain to them that when they get the ball, one of the first places they are going to throw is first base. So, they practice their fielding skills, and then add one more step to it by throwing it to first base. Then the first baseman can throw it home.

Players can then rotate: the fielder goes to first, the first baseman goes to home plate, and then the ‘catcher’ will go to the back of the fielding line. Once the players get the hang of it, you might be able to just keep hitting in succession as all the players go through the drill.

Note: So players understand where all of the bases are, you can run this drill from any position on the infield, and throw to any base. Keep the throw length reasonably short (shortstop to 2nd or 3rd, 1st to 2nd etc.) for the younger players.

Results: One of the toughest things to teach young players is to field the ball, and then throw it to the appropriate base. Repetition is extremely important in this drill for them to associate fielding the ball with throwing it to first base (or other bases). This drill also helps them learn the bases and positions in the infield.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fielding Drill- Scoop Drill

This is a great drill to help younger softball players learn which way to use their glove.

What you need: Plastic milk jugs with the bottoms cut out. One half also needs to be cut out. It should resemble the set up of a softball glove, with one side cut out, so it looks like a scoop.

How this drill works: Since a scoop is something that is carried outside the hand, younger kids will be able to manoeuver the scoop easier than having a glove on their hand. With the scoop shaped similar to a glove, they will begin to understand glove positioning.

When you are instructing the kids on how to use their 'scoop', show them where the scoop goes in certain situations. Show them grounders, waist level tosses, and shoulder/head level tosses.

Result: What you want to show the kids is how their glove is just like the scoop. When they have the web side down for grounders the ball rolls into glove, etc.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Softball Workout Stations

Just wanted to share a little tip that SAVED me at
last night's practice.

I don't know about you, but sometimes it is tough to
execute softball drills that involve "stations". You know, where
the kids rotate through various drills in groups of 2-3.

I'll admit it, I've had station drills go down in flames.

Stations can be tricky because unless you have an army
of assistant coaches or volunteer parents, it is very
difficult to keep your eyes on each station at all times.

Kids, especially the younger ones, are easily distracted.

Inevitably, they would rather be on the station they aren't.

Last night I found a bit of a "golden ticket".

I told each player to bring in their favorite CD.

I brought a small CD player to the field.

I told them they would stay at their station for 1 song,
then the groups would switch to the next station when
the song was over, then we would keep going song by song,
station by station until all the drills had been done.

MY BIG TRICK: I selected a "winner" from each drill rotation.
The winner was the player who was most focused and hard working
on their particular drill.

The winner would get to play their song NEXT.

This worked like a CHAMP! The kids had a blast,
and for 30 minutes they were extremely focused on their
stations/drills. Every 4 minutes a new winner was crowned.


If you're looking for fun new drills to add to your
stations, check out my coaching guide:

Try my music trick and let me know how it goes!

Talk Soon,

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Softball Parents

Being a softball coach is not always easy...especially
when you run into "difficult softball parents" or DSP's as I
like to call them.

You know the parents I'm referring to: overbearing, overly competitive, and
overly engaged in your decisions as a coach.

I've actually had a fair amount of experience with this... dealing with
complaints about playing time, who gets to play what position, sportsmanship
issues etc.

No matter how knowledgeable, fair, or kind you are to your team, you can
probably expect an irate parent or two to crop up during the season. Here are a
few tips I find helpful when dealing with these situations.

1. Don't discuss the issue at the game

The first thing the coach should avoid is discussing the problem with the parent
on the field, especially if he/she is visibly upset.

2. Schedule a separate time/venue to have the discussion

Rather than discuss the problem then and there, the coach should agree to meet
or telephone the parent at a mutually convenient time to discuss the complaint.
By doing this, you avoid giving the parent an audience, allow the him/her to
'cool off', and give yourself time to prepare an appropriate response to the

3. Be an active listener

When you eventually talk to the parent, one of the most important things you can
do is be an active listener. Doing things like taking notes, maintaining eye
contact and nodding to acknowledge you have heard what the parent is saying are

4. Don't interrupt

Even if parents raise their voices or their stories have are not fact-based, the
coach should avoid interrupting. By interrupting a parent, you risk inflaming
the situation.

5. Don't get defensive

The coach should avoid defending or justifying their action. Such behavior at
this point will only make the situation worse.

6. Show empathy

Respond to their concerns with statements like "I'm sorry that you feel your
child has been treated unfairly". This will help the parent to understand
his/her problem is being taken seriously. They are likely to be calmer and more
willing to find a solution.

7. Clarify the problem

This can be achieved by asking probing questions. This helps both parties to
focus on the problem (not personalities), stick to the facts, and avoid being
caught up in extraneous issues.

8. Offer a range of solutions

A lot of times, parents just want their feelings to be heard and understood. If
they want more, try to offer a range of solutions. This demonstrates a
willingness to work together to solve the problem. It's important to avoid
making promises that you can't keep. Explain to them what you can and cannot do.

9. Get closure

Ideally, you will given the parent a number of options and agreed on a mutual
course of action. At this point it's appropriate to end the meeting. It should
conclude with three things:
* Leave the parent with a closing action statement (e.g.. 'I'll get on to that
* Thank the parent for their interest (no matter how unpleasant the meeting).
* If follow-up is required, tell them when you will contact them ('I'll ring you
This will leave the parent feeling as though their complaint has been heard, and
the parent-coach relationship will be strengthened.

10. Leave the door open

There will be cases, however after this whole process where you will not be able
to give the parent the response they are looking for. It is important in these
circumstances that the coach leave the door open for the parent, e.g.. 'If there
is ever anything else, please come to me'. By doing this the parent will at
least feel that his/her complaint has been taken seriously, and the coach-parent
relationship, however strained, will remain intact. Not doing this could allow
the problem to fester... and the parent could damage your reputation through

If you found this interesting, there's all sorts of great coaching tips and
ideas on my website... check it out.

Good luck,