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Cathi Aradi

NFCA Coaching Tip Of The Week: Selecting a pitching instructor

With the rising popularity of fastpitch softball in the state of Georgia, parents are desperately looking for pitching instruction that can help their daughter become the next Lisa Fernandez. Prior to selecting one individual instructor over another, there are a few critical questions you must ask yourself. First, am I willing to sacrifice my own time to transport her to and from lessons as well as the countless hours necessary working with her at home? Am I willing to make the financial commitment necessary to provide her lessons for a long period of time?

Learning to pitch is not something that happens overnight. Most pitchers at the college level still attempt to find time to take lessons from their personal pitching coach. These same girls started taking lessons when they were 9-12 years old. So many successful pitchers may invest more than 10 years in year-round weekly pitching lessons. Most people answer those questions in a similar fashion: "If it may help to pay for a college education, then I'm willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary."

I want to add to that thought by asking, "Even if it doesn't lead to a college scholarship, what price can you place on the value of learning commitment, sacrifice and discipline?" Additionally, it's a healthy alternative to so many other non-productive things kids seem to be interested in these days. Statistics show that kids who choose to become involved in athletic endeavors are far less likely to become involved in the negative things that plague our society today.

If you answer with an affirmative to these questions and you want to continue to explore the options available, the key ingredient to securing a pitching instructor for your daughter is the credibility of the instructor. There are far too many "wannabee" instructors out there who have merely watched a variety of instructional videos and now pass themselves off as qualified instructors. Granted, they may be able to walk a young student through some basic technique drills, but they will reach a point when they cannot become a good troubleshooter when mechanical problems arise, or will be unable to help accelerate the ongoing development of the student after beginning stages.

These wannabees use a "cookie cutter" approach to providing instruction. While the basic techniques must be taught to every girl, the various physical assets and athleticism of each girl will determine the approach a quality instructor will use in enhancing each player's ability level.

The following is a list of questions to consider when deciding on the right pitching instructor for your daughter:

*Does the instructor have experience working with athletes of various ages?

*Does the instructor have good people skills?

*Has he/she ever actually pitched fastpitch softball? (Not always necessary, but it will assist in developing pitchers and not merely just throwers.)

*Does the instructor use the "production line" (many students at one time) approach or does he/she offer a more personalized approach to instruction?

*Do you have to sign a long-term financial contract?

*Is the learning facility conducive to a good learning environment?

*Is the instructor qualified enough to adapt and adjust to a variety of size, strength and ability level of each individual player?

In addition to asking these questions, talk to other students and parents using the instructor in question. All of these questions address the credibility issue of any instructor.