facebook-button twitter_button youtube_button





Softball Coaching Bible


Cathi Aradi

NFCA Coaching Tip Of The Week:

Now the season is approaching and you are already learning and practicing. You have researched pitching styles and techniques, attended clinics, and organized your thoughts for upcoming practices. The next step is to find a pitcher that is willing to practice during the winter before the season starts. Look for a player with good family support and at least one parent that will attend all individual-pitching practices and preferably catch his/her daughter. Find a player that is willing to consistently practice three, four or five times a week. Look for an athlete that has a sound work ethic, does not get easily rattled over failure, does not have to be reminded to practice, and has a desire to be better than she already is. The more passionate the girl is about pitching, the more willing she will be to make the sacrifices it takes to become a pitcher. These are sacrifices that she alone can decide to make. I have never met a successful pitcher who was forced into it by her parents or coaches. (emphasis added). In many cases, you are better off going with a lesser athlete that has the desire to pitch. It is not the easiest route to success but it is the right path to choose in the end -- for you and the players. The hardest part for a coach to accept in such a situation is that it is going to take more time and effort on her part and yours to help her catch up athletically.

Look for someone who is not afraid to be challenged and to be the center of attention. Look also for someone who is humble or can learn humility. A lack of this virtue will prevent her from getting better. The athlete should be proud of her hard work but never satisfied, thus keeping her open to learning new skills. Learning new skills is the only way to take a pitcher's game to a higher level.

At this time, begin preparing your pitcher for the psychological side of pitching. I am often kidded for spending too much time talking to our pitching staff. It may appear that the pitchers and I are sitting down and taking it easy while every one else is exerting themselves. I cannot stress enough the importance of preparing your pitchers for the mental challenges they will face. The best way to do this is to talk through all of the scenarios that are likely to arise during a game and practicing those situations. Repeat until you can't take it any longer. Take a break and repeat the situations once again. You haven't done your job if you find yourself coaching an athlete on every pitch or play. The more talking, coaching and practicing you and the pitchers do in practice, the less you have to do in the game. Again this refers to being a proactive coach rather than a reactive one.

Describe what pressure will feel like. Discuss what normally goes wrong in a game and what situations are likely to arise. Discuss how they should behave when errors or bad calls go against them. Discuss how to handle losing and winning. Discuss how to be resilient and to maintain confidence. Pitchers should practice every situation that may arise in a game before the first game starts. Following that premise, you should never run out of things to do or talk about in practice.

Talk to your players, but more importantly, listen to your players. Set aside days when all you do is ask questions and listen. Discipline yourself to offer no opinions or suggestions. Simply absorb information. I always ask pitchers (no matter what age) to give me a pitching lesson the first day of practice. I tell them to pretend I am their student, assume that I know nothing about pitching and teach me how to throw. This is often difficult for even the most successful of pitchers. Open communication is also a great learning opportunity for coaches as well. It is crucial to know what their perception of pitching is in order to coach them. Repeat chat sessions and listening after each game. Look at the season as a marathon, not a sprint. Coaches tend to focus too much on individual games. Don't lose sight of the opportunity to learn from single experiences, which can create a winning season and career.

As seasons begin, teach your players how to behave through your own behavior. Coaches know what result they want, but I donÕt see a lot of coaches leading their players with successful behavior. Maintain a proactive approach by coaching how you want your player to perform. Begin by using positive terminology. Use statements that encourage the behavior you want to see. "Get ahead" is better than "Don't walk her." Try using reverse psychology with pitchers. State what you want to happen rather than saying what you don't want to occur. Keep track of how many negative remarks you make. Be aware of your tone. Is your demeanor defeated, angry, or frustrated? Are these messages you want to send to your pitcher? Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

Coach the opposite of the situation at hand. If your pitcher is throwing great and in control, be challenging and demanding. Expect her to execute what she has practiced. Use this as an opportunity to try newly learned skills. If your pitcher is having the infamous bad day when everything goes wrong, be a cheerleader; be positive and understanding. Is it really going to help if you give up and walk to the back of the dugout or throw a helmet? Why should the pitcher work through the situation if you can't? When your team is failing, you should be the loudest and most energized person on the field; this is when they need you, not when you are winning by 10 runs. When your pitcher is nervous, be calm and even silly. When she is upset or rattled, you should mirror confidence and patience. This is not the time for you to be upset. Do what you want done. How is you pitcher supposed to put on her game face when the adult coach can't control his/her own emotions? This is a tremendous frustration for players. When the team really needs a coach to help them get through something difficult, the coach has been rendered useless because he/she is too angry to actually coach.

I have taken the same approach with this article as I do with my pitchers. If these ideas intimidate you, then you should reconsider coaching. You may have the wrong mental makeup. Just as some players shouldn't be pitchers, not all adults should be coaches. If you are still with me, then relax. Be positive and encourage your players to have fun. Address the many nuances of the game before the first pitch and you will find you can coach with a clear head and be there for your developing pitcher.