Ah the offseason…
It’s like a double whammy to the gut; The summer is over, your season has ended, and now you’re left wondering what direction you’re headed in for the Spring. That’s whammy number 1. Whammy number 2: Putting in work and time during the offseason and having zero to show for it. No games to test it out, no reference to know where you’re measuring up to your competition.
I saw a post recently where a parent was asking how much time her daughter should be taking off in the off season before she should get her back into working out and practicing softball again.
And while I am on board for taking some time off to recover physically and mentally, ideally that time frame should be no more than 2 weeks (assuming she’s not playing another sport in the offseason).
Some responses from others said that the parent should be asking the kid when she was ready, but if I was that athlete in this case, my answer back to my parent would have been, “Never. No thanks, I’m good.”
Not kidding, I was one of the worse when it came to offseason work. As a pitcher you don’t really have much of a choice but to continue throwing, but I would always give an agreeing nod when coaches recommended some extra cardio or weights (just as I get back in return when I suggest it to my girls), then what do you know, the first practice is here and aw man, I just didn’t get to it...
Point is, one of the hardest parts of being a parent and coach is helping a girl realize her potential when she has a hard time seeing the direct results from the work she’s putting forth for herself. Especially when that potential has yet to be tapped into. Sometimes we have to push girls to work hard, yes even in the off season, to have them get closer to the level of play she’s striving for. To reach the goals she has had her sights set on. To have her do all the things (running, lifting, agility, balance and plyometric training) despite her absolutely despising it. This is all assuming she legitimately enjoys playing, and wants to continue getting better.
But how do you get a girl to trust you and believe that all the crazy things you’re having her do will help make her better? That if she works consistently and with a purpose, she will show up for her first team practice ready to rumble?
Here are some ideas, mindsets, and ways to help her stay motivated and hungry in the offseason:
What Were Those Goals Again?
Revisit the goals and visions you and your daughter set for last season and discuss the ones she achieved and which ones she fell short on. If she achieved all of them, set your goal bar higher this time, or be a little more specific about the type of goals you’re setting.
Now, figure out what you need to do to get there (I can help here). But think about short term goals, the ones you can accomplish before you show up for the first Spring practice, then think about long term goals.
Short term goal examples:
-Work on running mechanics
-Add a new pitch
-Work on accuracy
-Add more power to swing
-Work on being quicker with hands
-Drop a known bad habit
-Work on overall physique and power
Long term goal examples:
-Try out for a team you’ve been eyeballing
-Move up a level in play:
Rec to competitive, C level competitive to B, B to A or Gold, or 14U to playing up at 16U
-Make a high school team
-Play in college
-Be a top player/pitcher/hitter/fielder in the state
Pin Point Your Motivation
There should always be a player either on your team, or in the league, that you are chasing after. Someone who you essentially admire and think, “I want to be just as good, if not better than her.”
If you can’t think of anyone, make it a goal to find one. Spoiler alert: there is always someone better than you; let that motivate you. It can even be someone older and way out of your league. Because that person should be in the fore-front of your mind as you’re working. As you’re struggling and having a hard time finishing a set, exercise, or drill, that player is there, pushing you.
I can still rattle off the names of the girls I was chasing after when I played, because they played an integral part in my career as motivators who kept me showing up and working hard. I wanted people talking about me as the pitcher to beat, not them.
There are two ways that you can think about the player you’re chasing:
1.) She doesn’t think you’re putting in any work to get better.
That player knows they’re good, knows they were at the top by the end of the season, and honestly, that player needs a big ol’ slice of humble pie. Make sure you’re not that player. Know someone is always working at getting better, and they’re working harder and for longer than you.
2.) She is taking time off, eating bon-bons on the couch at home and thinking she can show up in the Spring leaning only on her prior physical athletic ability.
This entire post is about not being that kind of player, and I can tell you from an outsider looking in point of view, nothing is worse than ending a season well, thinking you’re way above your competition, then taking months of time off, and showing up to a new season only to get lit up. It is a rude awaking, and it is hard to overcome that when you’re in season. That realization is too late to backtrack to work on all the things covered in the offseason. At that point your back is against the wall and you are forced to go into survival mode. This is often the point players think the sport isn’t very much fun because they find themselves either on the bench, or not able to preform when needed, which then equates to wanting to quit.
Have a Baseline and Re-Test
Test your current strength with drills like the Shark Test, overhead squat, 1 minute pitching drill, around the world, 10 meter sprint time, 1 mile time, pushups etc. and revisit the tests throughout the offseason. Have a baseline to know where you started, and flex your muscles to see how far you’ve come.
If you’re doing things consistently and correctly, there is very little chance that won’t be progressing. Celebrate those small victories along the way, it makes the journey not seem quite as long, and it also provides some tangible feedback for all the work being put in.
Mind Over Matter
I raised my bar as a player and overall athlete, when I didn’t give in to my mind telling me that I was uncomfortable. Finding out and knowing the difference between being tired and hurting is the key, and difficult to do when your mind can get out of control pretty quickly;
“what if I pass out”
“I am going to throw up”
“I’m going to fall”
“what’s the point, of this”
“coach is trying to kill me, I’m sure of it”
“how is this supposed to make me better”
Your mind is the first to talk you out of doing something when things get hard. It’s the fight or flight theory. Subdue those extra unnecessary thoughts, take your mind some place else, so you can push forward. You are stronger than what you think you are, don’t forget that, and allow your mind to talk your body into overcoming whatever obstacle stands in your way.
This all Sounds Good in Theory, but the Ball is in Your Daughter’s Court
This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say her success is only limited by her desire. But sometimes we have to be pushed to do things we don’t like, only to find out that new doors of opportunities have been opened. Keep your sights set on the goals and the motivators that can help her get there.
So What’s the Master Plan?:
-Be honest and realistic about how much time you’re going to allot to softball in the offseason. I can come up with workout regimens every week, but if they aren’t touched or even looked at, it’s a waste of both of our time.
-"How often does my daughter need to pitch, hit, throw?”
My response is simply, how good does she want to be? If her goal bar is high, she needs to be working regularly every week. Ideally pitching/hitting/throwing 1-2 times a week, working out 3-4 times. If she just wants to stay in shape softball playing wise, working bi-weekly will have her maintain what she already has.
-My lessons are not meant to be the only practices your daughter puts in. They are meant to show fundamentals, new skills, ensure she’s doing things correctly so she doesn’t get hurt, and to have her do things enough times that she can go home and work on them on her own.