How often Should My Daughter Be Practicing?
I struggle with this question, not because I don’t have the cookie cutter—every coaches practice-plan answer memorized in my mind—but because I think parents and players need to be realistic about 1) how committed your daughter is 2) how much time you can personally invest in the extra work and 3) being more cognizant of where she’s at with her competition.
I can give practice plans, workout plans, pitch count minimums, time spent practicing at a minimum to anyone and everyone who asks, but it’s almost always the parents asking me how often the daughter should be practicing, and I typically will give my answer by looking at and reading the daughter’s direct reaction. Staring into the distance, coupled with a “yeah ok whatever” look is the best way I can describe the look I typically get. And how do I know what I’m saying is going in one ear and out the other?
Because I was that girl.
I was in her shoes and I know that attitude and feeling. So for me to stand there and say, practice 2-3 times a week, workout 4-5, and have a lesson with me once a week, sounds great and is almost always paired with an agreeing nod of the head, but I feel like I should be asking what do you think is realistic and what is something you and your parents can commit to?
I push and ask more of the girls that from what I can tell, are committed and want to go somewhere (like college) with the sport. I can only suggest and push so hard, but often wonder how I can influence a girl to realize her potential and work her tail off to have the opportunity she doesn’t even know exists. Personally, I never could connect that and foresee the future as a player, and I often wonder if I had done more conditioning, strength, practiced more, just did more—more doors would have opened for me. I don’t regret my college career in the least, but want to present every avenue for your daughter that she is willing to put forth the effort towards. It’s up to her, I will guideline and direct as much as I can, just as you can.
What is your expectation as a coach giving lessons to my daughter?
My expectation is for open, honest, but more importantly, regular communication. Just as you would expect to see results from paying me to work with your daughter, my expectation is some feedback on how she winds up playing or practicing on her own; what went well, what we still need to work on, even what we need to discuss game strategy or mentality wise. Feedback lets me think about, and plan for future lessons, plus it keeps me better equipped to keep my lessons fresh with diversity and stimulation in the future.
How many lessons does my daughter need to take from you to excel in games?
This is such a loaded question with no easy answer. I will never blow smoke at you and tell you that your daughter needs 'x' amount of lessons to have her make the team of her dreams, be her team MVP, or have college coaches knocking on her door.
No position in softball will work that way, and each position, especially hitting, requires time, patience, practice, and then some more practice. Excelling at any sport often comes from sheer athleticism, and unfair as it is, some athletes just have to work harder for longer than others.
I can tell you that I will strive to pack as much as I can into one lesson, every lesson. Understand though, that if what I’m showing isn’t clicking, I may have to backtrack and go back to the basics to pin point exactly what needs to be adjusted. Once you leave and are on your own, it’s up to you to put forth the effort and practice what I show you.
I know whether or not your working consistently at home, and when you are ready to move forward and be shown something else.
We’re not pleased with our current coach, how do we go about cutting ties with him/her?
Just as I can only hope you’ll be with me—just be honest. While there are some things that can’t be fixed, or personalities that just don’t mesh, please communicate if there’s something you want to see more out of my lessons with your daughter. If you’re unsure of the direction, of what the point is of what we’re doing, or what I’m saying, please just ask.
I’m not perfect, sometimes I only know a certain way to teach or explain something, but that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to try to expand my knowledge, attend clinics to continue to get ideas, and I certainly will never think that my way is the only way that something can be done.
I do take pride in my work, however, and I hope that you trust that what I teach is spot on. There’s always a rhyme to my reason, a method or underlying key step I’m trying to isolate with each and every drill I do.
Why should I pay you when my daughter and I can just watch video tutorials online?
There are millions of tutorials available to all of us from a simple search and a few clicks. Tutorials from how to fix your car, how to install a tile backsplash, even on how to cut your hair.
I can tell you I have tried to cut my own hair, and just because I can purchase a pair of scissors and can follow steps laid out by an expert, doesn’t mean you will find me making an attempt to cut my own hair, ever. again.
Point is, having someone showing, guiding, mentoring your daughter with specific needs and abilities, is so much better than assuming just because Jennie Finch, or Amanda Scarborough says to do something, doesn’t equate to making your daughter into an all-star.
Trust me, and trust the process. Meet me just once, and let me show you how I compare to the videos and even to my local competitors.
My daughter is having back pains from hitting, what do you suggest?
A complete break down of her swing. We need to isolate at what point in her swing that the pull in her back is coming from, and I would be willing to put money down that she’s not using her legs to power through her swing. If her arms are expected to take on all the torque of swinging a say, drop 10 bat, it’s only natural for a woman’s back to not be able to handle it.
My daughter is having arm and shoulder pain from pitching, what gives?
If she is having the pain before meeting with me, more than likely I will have to make some major adjustments to her motion. Pain in the upper body and even her back is a strong indicator that she’s not utilizing the power of her legs in her motion, and she is relying on her arm to take on the brunt of the work. Longevity wise, I can almost guarantee the strain of not using her legs will become too great, and she either will be ineffective in a game, too sore to throw the game, or even get to the point where the pain is bad enough to be the cause of her ending her pitching career.
Following the recent articles and studies of pitch counts needing to be implemented in softball, I’ll be upfront in saying that I have mixed feelings about the topic. If a girl is powering through her pitch using her hips and thighs, she could probably rock a handful of games in a weekend without much wear and tear on her rotator cuff, elbow, back, etc. However, if she was taught incorrectly and has been pitching incorrectly with consistent soreness, then yes, she should be limited on how many pitches she throws in a weekend tournament.
I am not guaranteeing long term injury prevention, some girls honestly have bad genes where tendons are naturally too tight, too short, it could be something a little more serious like having a calcium or iron deficiency. There are so many factors that can weigh into making a player injury prone. I’m not saying that because a pitcher is sore she should quit all together, but where we may need to work harder on is strength focused conditioning, and being more consistent with icing and stretching throughout her entire career. And focusing heavily on utilizing the power of her legs more.
I want to see my daughter increase her pitching velocity, how do we go about making that happen?
Being a pitcher in softball is like a really difficult choreographed dance. There are a lot of moving parts that literally have to fall into place at exactly the same time in order for pitches to move, locate, and more importantly, have velocity. Oh and let’s add in that you have to be able to do it the exact same way over and over again for batters 1 through 9, for three outs, for 7 innings.
As basic as it seems, practicing the repetitive motion of pitching is what makes for a really great pitcher. Once you get the correct mechanics down, building that confidence in knowing where and how your body needs to be positioned and where the ball needs to be released, allows tension to be released in your muscles, and only then are you able to sling the ball quicker with a longer, leaner look and feel. Know that sometimes letting go of accuracy temporarily also needs to happen in order to take your daughter to that next step and to get her throwing harder. We’ll find that release point again, then practice it over and over again!
How do we get there? Work on your own consistently—with me, with mom or dad, ask your coach if you can grab a catcher and throw at your weekly practices (I’ll bet you he/she won’t say no), basically as often as you can, within reason.
I am also a firm believer in the power of off season strength training. Yes, I’m talking the squats, the lunges, plyometrics, agility, band work. These will never be the focus of my lessons, but I do expect my girls who want more speed to work on those things. Reach out if you would like a personalized workout plan put together for your daughter.
My daughter is having a hard time translating what we work on in practice, into games, how does she get over the pressure of game situations and throw more strikes?
There’s a couple of approaches your daughter can take in situations like these, and really it comes down to your daughter’s personality.
My typical go to when I was struggling in a game was to mentally go back to the basics. I would visualize my body going through the motion and tell myself the key words or trigger words that I associate with a certain pitch or adjustments that my body needed to make.
Now the other approach, and this would depend on your daughters competitiveness and overall demeanor, is sometimes good old fashioned breeding of competition gets the job done. You know what I’m talking about, a little getting under her skin if you will. I’m not talking about demoralizing or making fun of her, but competition breeds success, but more importantly: focus. So maybe you mention that someone else is out there working harder than she is, coming up with a challenge that’s tangible, something that gets her motivated and thinking about how she’s going to be able to raise the bar a little higher and play better. The person who ends up delivering these words has be selected wisely and needs to be someone she respects. The last thing you want is her shutting down and stepping away, instead of stepping up. Be selective with this approach, but it’s incredible to watch the fire light in a players eyes when she feels a little pressure and competition.
How can you help make my daughter more aggressive at the plate?
Confidence plays probably the biggest role in any successful hitter's tool belt. Without confidence, the mind can play some wicked games on your body, making even the strongest hitters turn their aggression at the plate into straight-up fear.
After making sure your daughter has the right mechanics to her swing, repetition has to be the next step where the contact point is literally burned into her muscle memory so that there is little to no thought put into the actual swing.
I preach and teach tee work done correctly, methodically, and worked regularly. If we can isolate the contact point on a stationary point, confidence will literally build right before your eyes. It’s all about quality swings, not the quantity of swings, which is why I will hardly ever use rapid fire type drills. Nothing is worse than practicing something wrong, but adding in working it wrong at turbo speed…no. just no. There are better ways to learn how to have quicker hands, and bat speed, promise we’ll work it in if we need to.