Another annual trip to an NFCA Coaches Clinic is in the books! This year was a quick weekend trip to Portland, Oregon where I heard from Jo Evans, Texas A&M head coach, Maggie Livreri, Boise State head coach, Trisha Ford, Arizona State head coach, Melissa Gentile owner of PowerLine Sports, and Mike Stith, of California’s BatBusters organization.
Here are some of the topics covered over the 2 day convention:
-Developing Elite Catchers
-Team Defense Wins Championships
-It All Starts on a Tee: Building Effective Hitters
-The Pitcher/Catcher/Coach Relationship
-Competitive Drills for Pitchers
-Coaching Kids These Days
-Pitching…Through the Eyes of a Hitter
The clinic was a well rounded, pretty intense, back to back speakers presenting from Friday at 1p to 9p, to Saturday 8a to 4p. Lots of information, tons of drills, takeaways, mindsets, basically all the softball stuff you can possibly handle crammed into 2 days…AWESOME!!
Here are my main takeaways:
Instructors and Coaches/Players Need to Work More Cohesively Together
Of course I would be more in tune to it since I was on the defensive side, but I felt as though there was a clear stigma behind the communication between coaches and their players individual instructors. I got the sense that coaches feel instructors are telling players and parents whatever they want to hear in order to keep business and get paid. Whether that came from pitching coaches teaching girls every pitch under the sun despite the girl not being able to hit the zone to save her life in games, or the pressure coming from paying parents who aren’t seeing that just learned curve ball being thrown in a game, or in not seeing their daughter hit in a expected part of the line-up. The sigma was bad, and it kills me to hear that there are clearly too many instructors in the sport not in it for the right reasons.
When I was asked by one coach where I coach, and when he heard I was an instructor, the response I got was, “Wow, you must be pretty committed to travel and sit at a coaches clinic.”
Hey dude, I am a coach too. I may not manage an entire team, make a line-up, or volunteer a good majority of my time away from my family for free, it is, however, 100% my responsibility to create an individualized plan for each and every girl that walks through my door, to help create a girl who is better and stronger than the day before, and to teach her how to be a competitive athlete. That to me is what I’m getting paid to do, not to teach a pitch because Suzie Q on the same team has a dropping scurve (even though it has zero spin and doesn’t move an inch down to the plate), or that Betty Boop can hit the ball with an open stance and her bat wrapped all the way around her head. Each player is different and will be treated so.
My advice; if you’re paying for lessons, make sure the instructor is in it for the right reasons, that your daughter is learning more that mimicking movements, and is actually learning the game, learning the life skill take-aways from the game, and is gaining skills like how to lift, train, run, etc.
Also, communicate regularly with your travel coach, high school coach, rec coach, on what is being worked on at lessons. It shouldn’t be a taboo subject and the communication lines should be open. If you need my help to relay that message, I would be more than happy to set something up.
Pitching Coaches are Teaching Too Many Pitches
That last point leads me to my next, which is that pitchers are learning way too many pitches when she needs to be focusing and mastering 2 or 3. Speed with accuracy is the key, couple that with a wicked change up, and it creates all a pitcher truly needs to compete, and compete well. The name of the game is throwing off a hitters timing, so have a pitch you can throw on multiple planes, high and low, in and out, and devastate the hitter with a change. The ability to throw the change in any situation, in any count is also a great auxiliary in a pitchers tool belt.
If say, the curve is a pitchers best pitch, throw it high for a rise effect, have it as a backdoor to get the other side of the plate, and be able to bust it low and in as you would a drop ball. Highlight and work a pitchers strength, make a hitter prove she can hit that pitch, and if the hitter can’t, don’t be afraid to throw it back to back to back.
The Top, Top Level Coaches are Looking for Athletes and Competitors
This may seem and sound super basic, but for me, it solidified my job as a coach is to hold girls to higher standards. To expect more out of them, to push them in ways they have never been pushed before; to stick to my guns despite the tears, the eye-rolls, or the quitters. I ask every single girl that walks through my door what her long term goals are, and so many of them say that they want to go on and play D1. That’s in their eyes, what equates to them ‘making it’ in the sport. I think that it’s great to set the goal bar high, but I have to tell you, these top coaches that I have sat and listened to for hours, are looking for girls that are the top, most well-rounded athletes not only on their teams, but in the entire tournament, they are looking for girls that literally eat, breathe, sleep softball, who study the game non-stop, are sport savvy, are gym rats, and basically fit the mold of that coaches specific coaching style. The work ethic required, is something that has to be already engrained in the player, not something the coach is going to spend any time teaching.
If that doesn’t sound like your daughter or something either of you really want to commit to, know that that is ok. There are tons of other options for her, options that are still competitive, where there are still scholarships available, and can provide a better balance between life and ball.
If you want your daughter to be a well rounded athlete, get her involved in other sports besides softball. Some sports that directly relate to the same movements demanded in softball are; tennis, golf, dance, gymnastics. I am a big fan of some of the individual sports like tennis and golf so she can feel what it feels like to have all pressure on her to preform.
I also can adjust my coaching style and expectation according to individual goals, but I also need to stay true to my standards as a coach, and that’s to hold every girl to a standard that she is to try everything I ask of her, to respect me, and to work hard for an hour, every. single. time. Otherwise how are we going to maintain being the best of the best in CO? :)
"Only 7% of What This Generation Hears is Actually Heard and Processed"
Ouch. This was super eye opening for me, and a tough one for me to hear. I feel I do a pretty good job connecting with younger girls and figuring out unique ways to relay my message despite the age difference. But I feel this stat goes hand in hand with holding girls to a higher standard, from a young age.
The overall topic talked about by Melissa ‘Skeeter’ Gentile was how to go about coaching this generation of millennials. While it was said that coaches have to adjust and realize that kids are different these days and in turn, have to be treated differently, the expectation of respect doesn’t also have to go to the waste side. Demanding longer attention spans, making them process and repeat what was just asked to them, and having some consequences for not listening, should, in my opinion, all still be expected.
Here are some tips on coaching this generation:
Practices need to be faster paced
Provide short bursts of information
They need flexibility in how they learn, what they learn, and how they communicate
Give girls some ownership on what she specifically wants to work on
Ask them what they feel like they need to work on-- give her one station to have control over
Have the girls text you what they think they were just taught, and what the point was of that drill
They need more Frequent Rewards
Generation Z needs to be acknowledged and feel valued to compete tasks. They need affirmation for finishing a project on time or meeting a deadline
Video as much as possible
They thrive off of video and anything digital
I’ve Preached it Before so Having an Entire Segment Allotted to it, Solidified: Tee Work Builds Effective Hitters!!
Tee, tee, tee, and when you think you’ve spent enough time on the tee, hit another buckets worth more. I can’t say it enough, if a hitter can hit off the tee with good mechanics, she can translate it on the field with live hitting.
This meme shared at the clinic is so stinking true, we all got a chuckle out if it and do you know how many times I’ve heard, “I just know if she gets some more live work, she’ll hit better…”
The tee is meant to have players feel changes/adjustments needed in the swing. Work the tee first to get them to FEEL, then progress into timing and movement. The offseason is the ideal time to utilize the tee to make mechanical adjustments in the swing, which is why the offseason is so important to continue working!
Monetary reasoning aside, a huge thank you to all 8k clients and families for instilling the trust in me to teach your daughter these skills, and providing me a job that would allow me to attend NFCA clinics. If you would like access to my notes from the clinic, which includes several drills involving all areas of play, please reach out!