Encouragement: Silly, and at Times a Little Lame, but So So Important!
I am a huge believer in positive self-affirmations; say it out loud, say it to a teammate, and then have it on repeat in your head before every pitch, every swing, every game, every…everything. I get some eye-rolls from some dads, and mostly my older girls, but I can’t stress enough the importance that encouragement can have on the female athlete. Females need it more often that you, or even she can expect to need it, and they need it in a specific, detail oriented way especially from the person who pushes her the most, and expects the most out of her.
Females are strange and dynamic individuals, but one thing in common with all, is the need for encouragement and positive reinforcement. We thrive off it, and it never fails; when I say something encouraging or recognize something that’s been done well, a weight is lifted, a spark is ignited, and attitudes make a shift for the better.
Quick note; if berating, punishments, silent treatments, cussing, angry words directed at your daughter all aren't working, and your daughter is a moody mental basket case from it (you know exactly what I’m talking about), make a valiant effort to give what I just described a try. Even just once, and see if your daughter makes a shift mentally which can parallel to physical abilities.
Not Every Day is Going to Be a Breakthrough Day
Some lessons are going to go really well, some lessons are going to go really poorly, and then there will be plenty of in between lessons along the way. Sometimes I’ll say something that just clicks and works really well, sometimes I’ll say something that I know was not a good choice and I’ll need to think of a different way to approach and present it for the next time.
Some days your daughter is going to be off and not be able to do what is asked of her, and sometimes everything will fall into place, a light will be switched on, and you will be able to tell that mentally and physically she is on and she’s on her way to reach a new element in her game.
And I hate to tell you this, but even after working with me, your daughter is still going to have hitting slumps, pitch horrible games, or let the ball go between her legs. Expect it, and realize that she knows darn well, and all too well, that she messed up and her performance struggled. Give her a break so her mind doesn’t end up becoming her worst critic.
Expecting the same performance from a player on a day to day, lesson to lesson, game to game basis, is unrealistic and detrimental. It could be the drills I choose, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be modified or revisited when I think she is ready again. It could be that she just wasn’t having it that day. Recognize the bad days, throw them to the waste side and focus on what needs to be accomplished in the future. It’s the players who expect different results from not making a single change, that are going to be passed by in performance every time.
Coaches Have to Evolve Just As Players Do
I have made it a personal goal of mine to continue to learn more about all aspects of the sport and to continue to evolve with the times. The game has changed in countless ways; from rules, equipment, strength and conditioning exercises, to mentalities, general fundamentals, and strategies, and this is all just in the years since I have played.
I recognize that it is my job, my duty to my girls, to keep up and continue to evolve. I have methods and thoughts behind everything that I teach, but that doesn’t mean that I’m a know it all, be all person, who can’t be taught some new tricks. I learn new things each year that I watch the WCWS, and I ask that you make sure that each coach your daughter runs into along her career, is someone that is evolving or willing to listen to others so that your daughters best interest is at the fore-front.
Fundamentals Above All Else!
Honing in key fundamentals and having sound mechanics are often what translates into a great player. In the grand scheme, (as long as mechanics aren’t going against the rule book) having picture perfect mechanics isn’t the be all, end all of a good player. If you bat wrap, forget to stride, drop your back shoulder a little, but go 3 for 3, it really doesn’t matter what you look like. My job is help you get those results consistently, give some pointers on how to hit the ball farther with more power, and of course help you avoid injury.
If something has proven to hurt your body in anyway (think swinging with only the upper body, crow hopping, dragging on the wrong part of the foot, throwing side arm), it’s not something I’m going to look past. I will continue to address it, work on it, and expect you to go home and practice it (the right way!).
The Pitching Fundamentals Are No Different!
My job as a coach is not to have new, young pitchers, who have only been shown the basic windmill motion with the small straight step off the mound (sometime with the correct foot..sometimes not), to come in for a lesson and for me to say, ‘great pitch, way to go!’
You can count on me always breaking down the motion, step by step, and teaching to the correct fundamentals which will not only help a girl throw with more accuracy, and better speed, but will also help with the longevity of her career injury-wise.
I try to keep the lessons fresh and progressive, but if a girl isn’t able to do the basic drills, then she isn’t ready to advance on to the next drill. Or if a girl isn’t able to constantly locate the fastball on command, she isn’t ready to be shown a new pitch.
Fundamentals are unfortunately not the most fun, they can tend to feel mundane, and nit-picky especially since I tend to make the smallest of adjustments to ensure the whole motion has a fighting chance once we put it all together.
Know now that pitching is a huge commitment, that takes more practice, time, and effort than most other positions, and isn’t going to magically come together overnight, after one session, or even after one season. See my recommendations on the number of times a pitcher should be working on her own here.
Older, More Seasoned Pitchers Aren’t Off the Hook Either!
Along the same lines, pitchers who have the fundamentals and have been throwing for a couple/few years, my job is still not to stand to the side and say, ‘great pitch, way to go!’. My job is help that pitcher reach the next level, I’m assuming that’s why I’ve been sought out and hired to do, so I will suggest adjustments in form, release, grips, and thought processes.
If it doesn’t work, I’ll think of different ways to say it, present it, or approach it, but it’s up to the girl and the parents to put their trust in me, let down their walls, and give what I say a chance.