His players implored him to belly-flop into a California hotel pool, and he complied -- at age 75. He once took a running plunge into the mud during a soppy game in Oregon. He adored when players pulled pranks on him, insisted players use his first name -- Frosty! -- and corrected them if they used "Coach."
He sometimes halted practice to have players spend five minutes gazing beyond the giant evergreens to Mount Rainier. He sometimes halted practice to have players go to other sporting fields and cheer on, say, the soccer team. He always halted two-a-day practices in August and instructed players to go help freshmen move into dormitories.
He believed deeply in singing. His players sang before games, after games. Sometimes they sang to the mock direction of the coach's cane. Always they learned to sing without embarrassment, for it had become uncool to refrain from the refrains. For his 300th win in September 2003, an offensive lineman led the team in James Taylor's "Steamroller." During warmups for the NCAA Division III national championship game in December 1999, right there on the field in Virginia, his players sang "The Twelve Days of Christmas," then proceeded to win 42-13.
Can you imagine warming up on the other side, then losing 42-13 to that?
During three of the best days of my career -- those in his company, in Tacoma, Wash., in 2003 -- he requested that I join his players for supper in their dining hall. Three of them drove me, in a pickup truck, back to my car. Along the way, they sang "Leaving on a Jet Plane."
"Why singing?" I asked the coach.
"When you sing," he said, "your consciousness is raised."
And lest you think this guy some Left Coast flake, let me hurl at you this biographical detail: former drill instructor, United States Marine Corps.
Did you know one of the most remarkable American coaches died on Friday? Did you know that Frosty Westering, who had 32 seasons at Pacific Lutheran without a losing record in any, who never mentioned playoffs or titles to his players but won four national championships and four runner-up finishes on two levels, died at 85 surrounded by his considerable family? Please know. Please, please know.
An airline pilot wrote to the university president. He wrote because the Pacific Lutheran presence on his airplane had taken a routine day and whipped it up into memorable. He wrote because Westering insisted his players respect other people's work. He wrote because that respect included rapt attention to the flight attendants, which in turn included a phenomenal sound that came when the players clicked their seat belts in unison.
He wrote because at the destination gate, the college football players had held back and lined up on two sides in a "go" tunnel so they could give high-fives to disembarking crew.
A janitor wrote to the university president. He wrote because when he came upon Pacific Lutheran's visiting locker room one postgame in Portland, he found the chairs lined up in impeccable order. He wrote because he found the floors and lockers completely free of the normal detritus. He found the place just about spotless.
He wrote because, when he arrived in the room, he found a note on the whiteboard suggesting he go home and join his wife by the Christmas tree.
A man in a wheelchair came to the "Afterglow," a Westering postgame concoction where a few hundred players, coaches and fans would gather in the bleachers. They might discuss the game. Players might thank the fans for support. Fans might thank the players for inspiration. Everyone would sing "Happy Birthday" to anyone with a birthday nigh. The "Afterglow" would happen after wins, but -- oh yes -- the "Afterglow" would happen also after losses, because in Westering's mind, losing meant you had just completed the privilege of playing.
On a weekday after the "Afterglow," Westering happened upon the man in the wheelchair and invited him to practice. Soon after that, he made the man an assistant coach, and so John Nelson, a quadriplegic Singaporean-American born with a debilitating condition and spinal-cord problems, came to head up the freshmen players. And they, in turn, had to take on responsibilities for his care: dressing him, helping him eat, helping him go to the bathroom. Do you suppose that taught them anything?
By 2003, Nelson had lost count of the times he had appeared as a groomsman in the weddings of former players, reckoning the number beyond 10. He told of a road trip stop at Disneyland when the players determined he should take a ride, so one player hugged him all the way through. During those three days I spent with the team in 2003 Nelson said to me, "There's a reason for this, a reason for the guys coming out to this program, to see somebody who's different. Hopefully, it inspires them. If someone in public needs help, I'm sure they will be comfortable with helping them."
Doctors thought Nelson would have trouble making 30. By 2003, he had made 38. By his death in 2009, he had made 44. At his memorial service, Frosty placed a jersey on his wheelchair.
Westering had such stern rules. His players had to help up opponents during games on the premise that the privilege of playing could not occur without opponents. Troublemakers didn't have to run sprints; no, they were denied the "honor" of running. He knew fear could motivate but thought love could motivate for longer, so players badly in need of upbraiding -- of putdowns -- would receive what Frosty called "put-ups," and he mandated six put-ups per day.
One put-up, "Attaway" -- a configuration of "That a way" -- became a staple. He had players use it prolifically, including toward hotel clerks, short-order cooks, fast-food clerks, custodial staffs, flight crews. They used it one day at practice after Frosty had some women's volleyball players address the team about their recent and difficult victory over Puget Sound.
In a football world chockablock with practices planned to the minute if not the second, Frosty's practices carried a decided imprecision. His son and coaching successor Scott said that, to his knowledge, his father had never written a practice plan. One day he had me address the team, impromptu. Sometimes he'd serve popsicles, with root beer one flavor during my visit. Wet days might enable frolicsome sliding contests. Meetings never started on time, and Frosty's penchant for hazy punctuality proved so entrenched that Donna, his wife and the mother of their five children, found an "ish" clock with the suffix "ish" beside each number and placed it on their kitchen wall.
Said Donna, one day on the phone, "In fact, it's five after 2-ish right now."
Players never wore full gear until game days, then would suit up on Saturdays, sing (of course), maybe even listen to some music professor Frosty had invited to play drums for them on an upside-down bowl and plastic pitcher. Then the whistle would blow, the kickoff would go up, and players would tell of this astonishing transformation into hard, hard hitting -- replete with helping up the people they'd hit.
Then again, one day in September 2003 the quarterback came to the sideline on fourth-and-12 and said, "Let's go for it," whereupon Frosty said, "You're kidding," whereupon a small gaggle of players agreed with the quarterback, whereupon Frosty said, "Let's do it, then," whereupon Pacific Lutheran converted the first.
Seasons would begin with a three-day getaway in which players bonded, played games but not football, apologized for any insufficient effort the prior season and sang, sang, sang, the freshmen standing on chairs and singing their high school fight songs unless they could not remember them, in which case they got stuck with "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Seasons would end the way almost all seasons everywhere end, with a loss, but with a way almost no seasons end, with an "Afterglow." Or they ended with a win and an "Afterglow."
And when PLU careers ended, the graduates sprinkled over much of the Northwest, some in coaching. One helped run a car dealership where they took time to behold Mount Rainier and they declined an applicant after a job interview in which the applicant told of being a No. 1 salesman, because they thought he had missed the point of it all.
Their former coach always bought used cars, so he drove me to the dining hall in his 1993 blue Oldsmobile. When he left one day for a speaking engagement, he offered me the use of his small office, which surely meant he wasn't cheating. And when I returned to New York, a dear friend who does not follow college football but who read my story said something simple, but said it with an inflection that made it ring in my head for good.
"He's a great man," my friend said. A great man died on Friday. A great man also lived from 1927 until Friday, and while he lived, oh boy, was he alive.
Dear Pitchers: Why So Many Pitches? Love, Gary
At the recent NFCA Convention in Las Vegas, legendary club coach Gary Haning was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame along with three other key influences in the sport.
Haning was the first travel ball coach ever inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame. Haning built the Batbusters into one of the most revered and successful travel ball organizations in the nation. During his coaching career, the Batbusters won over 30 national championships.
The list of All-Americans and Olympians he’s coached ranges from Laura Berg to Jennie Finch to Andrea Duran. Elevating the level of competition and expertise at the club level, Haning left an indelible imprint on the softball landscape.
Over three decades as a fastpitch coach, Haning witnessed the evolution of pitching and offers his wisdom for the future pitchers.
I have been lucky to know many great pitchers who were the hardest workers on the team and are responsible for much of the success our teams had on the field and how we were perceived off the field.
I believe softball/baseball pitching to be the hardest position one can play in a team sport. That being said, it is in my opinion — and in the opinion of many long-time coaches — a real dearth of quality pitching in Southern California.
I do not mean to insult and, to be sure, there a number of very talented, successful pitchers but the numbers are far fewer than, say, 10 and certainly 15 years ago. There are a number of reasons this has come about and I believe it could be changed.
1. Too Many Pitches
In my opinion, there is far too much emphasis on throwing a variety of pitches in the younger age groups. Time and time again, I hear a young pitcher — sometimes as young as 12 years old — state that she can throw five or six pitches.
I have been blessed to see, coach, or coach against some of the best pitchers in the world and none of them had, or has, complete command of more than four pitches.
Only one or two had complete command of four pitches, and only a small handful had complete command of three pitches.
If a pitcher practices around four times a week at 100 pitches at a time and she is practicing four pitches, it is only reasonable to say none of those pitches is getting enough practice, along with the fact that people tend to practice what they do well more than what they don’t do well!
2. Un-emphasis On The Fastball
The notion that a fastball is not used in fastpitch softball is just nuts. A well-located fastball not only can get hitters out, it is also extremely effective in setting up other pitches.
Lisa Dodd won back-to-back 18U Gold National Championships at a time when the Gold Nationals was the top youth tournament in the U.S. and almost assuredly the world. Lisa threw a 60 mph fastball, a 54 mph drop, and a 44 mph changeup.
She gave up one unearned run in winning nine games in the two nationals. She threw a perfect game followed by a one-hitter on a bunt single in the final games the first year, and threw shutouts the final games the second year.
Her greatest talent was simply that she never missed a pitch. You literally could have caught for her with a blindfold on and every pitch would have hit your glove.
3. Location, Location, Location
Location, movement, and deception are the most important factors in being a great pitcher, because even if you throw 75 mph and throw the ball in the middle of the plate, waist high, the pitch will get hit.
If you cannot throw a pitch and hit a spot very nearly every time you try, how are you then going to throw a different pitch that is a variation of the first pitch, requiring subtle changes to your mechanics and get the second pitch where you want it to go?
Before worrying too much about making the ball move, it would be good to make sure you can throw it where you want to throw it!
Learn to throw strikes, where you want them, when you want them. Once you have mastered that it is a pretty easy addition to hold the ball a little off-center, turn your wrist a little in either direction and put some movement on the ball in a manner you can command.
4. The Most Devastating Pitch Is . . .
The most effective and devastating pitch in softball is the flip changeup. It is also probably the hardest to truly command, as the release is completely backward and opposite of everything else you throw.
It can be mastered, though, as many pitchers have shown, but too often ego and perception get in the way. Who wants to be known as a “changeup pitcher” at 12 or 13 years old? Unfortunately, not many — and therefore it is not given the immense amount of practice time it needs to be thrown consistently.
A pitcher can be very effective with only two pitches if she has complete command of them both and a good plan as to how to use them. In my opinion, the next pitch to master would be a drop; be it a peel or turnover type drop, it is easier to stay out of trouble with something down in the strike zone and if one learns a peel drop it is pretty easy to make it run in either direction.
5. The Good & Bad Of The Riseball
Everybody loves the riseball, and granted if you can truly make the ball jump it is a very tough pitch to hit or to identify when not to swing. It is, however, a very dangerous pitch when not thrown well and, again, in my opinion, it is the hardest pitch for female pitchers who have smaller hands and less upper body and hand strength to throw consistently.
If one is exceptional and can truly generate the spin with the release angle needed to make the ball rise, it is very effective. In my experience, one pitcher in 10 or maybe one in 15 can make the ball jump. If you throw hard enough, the pitch can be effective as a high fastball or often you can get a high screwball out of it.
I should be clear in that I would never say don’t attempt to throw a rise, and if you are blessed with the physical attributes the pitch requires and you work enough to locate it; especially if you are one of the very few who can throw it knee high and still have it come up, you will undoubtedly get many strikeouts.
6. The Exception To The Curve
As a young baseball pitcher, I had a very good sidearm curve. I fell in love with the pitch and at one time thought it nearly unhittable. As I grew older and competition got better, I was very surprised when the pitch got crushed a good percentage of the time. I eventually learned what all pitchers discover: flat breaking pitches are big trouble if not perfectly located.
Underhand curve balls are easy to throw but have a greater tendency to stay flat than overhand curveballs. I believe it is also easier to "hang" a softball curve than it is a baseball curve thrown overhand or three-quarters.
If a curve is to be a useful part of a pitcher’s repertoire, she must be able to locate perfectly more than any other pitch. A curve thrown at a hitter’s knee that snaps and clips the inside corner is a good pitch. One that starts on the inside corner and breaks over the heart of the plate may get by a time or two because it fools a hitter, but more likely it will get you a seat on the bench next to an angry coach.
The same applies to the curve that looks like a strike and moves away from a hitter; this can be effective for the hitter to chase but if it doesn’t move enough and stays on a flat plane, you are likely to watch your outfield sprinting toward the fences or worse.
7. The Effective Screwball
Screwballs are now very popular and if thrown well it can be a very tough pitch to hit, especially to hit into fair territory. A riseball-screwball hybrid is also a good pitch, and if you can make it move up and in as well as up and away that is tough for any hitter to handle. Screwballs that break in the direction of you throwing hand and down are a good and fairly easy variation.
The biggest point of this “one man’s opinion” is simple: learn to do something well before you try to do too much. Master two pitches before you spend too much time on a third.
There are flame-throwing, riseball-wielding, totally dominating pitchers in the record books. There are also crafty, change-of-speed, change-of-location pitchers who confuse and frustrate hitters to distraction.
If you are one of the former, think how devastating you will be if you also use some of the skills of the latter!
Written by Gary Haning
Softball Fielding Tips – The Fifth Infielder
By Dick Smith
Head Coach – University of St. Francis
So, little pitcher, how did practice go?
“Well, pretty good.” says Felicia Flameshooter. “I threw 150 pitches.”
“Nothing. Why? Oh, if you mean stretching, I did that and ran some before I pitched.”
No fielding practice?
Well, let me count the “whys.” Please note that there are some very good fielding pitchers, but past observations have indicated to me that the majority of hurlers are “pitch oriented.” That is, once they throw the ball in the direction of the plate, they figure their business is completed until they have to throw the ball again.
Even when balls are hit well past their position, pitchers love to watch the outcome from their lofty bivouacs near the mound. The regularly fail to back up plays during the ensuing action and pretty much stand around complaining that the coach or the catcher called the wrong pitch.
These deficiencies are relatively easy to remedy, however. Some understandable, direct and vigorous instructions, along with a little practice, will often be sufficient. If after this the pitcher remains what I call “game dense” (clueless as to what to do) and if the coaching staff is not preoccupied with other matters during play, a coach might have time to shout out instructions such as, “Felicia! Back up home!”
Felicia will replace her blank look with a raised eyebrow and mouth the words, “Oh, yeah.” She might then have time to get to her appointed station.
Such softball pitching delinquencies, however, pale in comparison to others. These concern 1) failure to field balls hit up the middle, 2) throws from pitchers to a base, usually first, 3) throwing to home on bunts, and 4) covering the plate on wild pitches or passed balls.
1) “But Smitty,” protests Felicia, “My dad hits me grounders at practice.”
Yeah, but how often and how hard? I’ve seen the candy hops you get and most are right at you when you are in a fielding position. How about some line drives and hard hit balls a split second after you have pitched a ball? Yes, you can pitch to a catcher standing beside a coach and have the coach hit a ball at you about the time the pitch reaches the catcher. These should be hit to your right and left, at varying speeds and it should be done at every practice. Also, you might try getting your rear end down to field the grounders, rather than bending at the waist. Yeah, try groveling for the ball like the rest of the infield. It’s okay to get your uniform dirty, you know.
Coach can use whiffle balls for this practice. The pitcher used her full motion and the coach immediately flips a whiffle ball back at her from about 10 feet. The flips should be high, low and like a line drive. Works great.
2) “Well, o.k., but I’ve got a real good arm!”
Yes you do. It’s so fine that when throwing to first base, the right fielder has fun running after the ball. Have you noticed the throws are all high? The first baseman has little chance to catch the ball. I would rather you roll the ball on the ground to first. At least the person there has an opportunity to make a catch. There is a reason for high throws. Usually it is because you are over-throwing, over-striding and/or standing straight up after you field a ball.
On those occasions when you do throw it in the dirt, it is usually because you have no confidence in the throw and take too much off. You accomplish this by taking your throwing arm way back and then you try to slow down the forward movement of your arm as you throw the ball. This may be hard for you to visualize and I understand that, but you must make every effort to get your throws to your target. You can start by working on every overhand throw you make while warming up. Look for a target each time and then try to hit it. Maybe, with some practice, your basemen will be able to use their gloves instead of their legs.
3) “Yes, but what’s this about squeeze bunts? I rarely see one.”
You are right. There aren’t many such situations now and those that occur involve basically slow and unskilled runners. But what about the future, when you go up in level, when the opponents realize you can’t field a bunt properly? It won’t take them long, you know.
Basically, you do the same thing on bunts that you do on other plays. You get to the ball, field it, stand up, and then throw. You should learn to do it by staying low as you field the ball and then make a low, “soft” throw to the catcher by using an underhand toss or backhand flip. The key is staying low as you field and then make the throw. If you stand up as you field and then make the throw, you lose time and the ball may be overthrown.
You should also work hard on the “run through” throw or toss. Simply put, you charge the ball, field it and flip it all on the run. Takes practice, but it makes for a nice, soft toss which the catcher can easily handle, even if the throw is a little off target.
4) “Yes, but….”
Now, don’t tell me how good you are at covering the plate. The way you are doing it will get you a nice trip to the emergency room. Personally, I would rather have no outs than an injured pitcher. In other words, try to stay healthy during and after the play. Good pitchers are tough to replace.
In general, you loaf getting to the plate. When there is a runner on third, you must soothsay that every pitch will be wild and you should be prepared to break for the plate immediately, not tomorrow. The run to the plate should be a sprint. Go as fast as you can go and get your body under control as you reach the plate. Keep your feet to the inside of the baseline, giving the runner the back part of the plate. Bend your knees, get your rear end down and prepare for a bad throw (yes, a bad throw) and then make the tag as a sweeping motion, after which you must immediately get your feet out of the way by moving to the inside of the diamond. Be prepared at this point to throw to another base if there are other runners meandering about.
Common sense will tell you that a one-handed tag is better than using both hands. If you tag with both hands, the throwing hand is exposed to injury form all sorts of demons, principally spikes. Don’t think this little fact is unimportant. College runners use metal spikes and they make nasty wounds. While it is true using this method will cause you to drop the ball occasionally, I guarantee that you will return to the mound as the healthy pitcher.
I will have to lay the blame for poor fielding pitchers on those who teach pitching. They simply do not teach the fine art of fielding. Ignoring this facet of the game is the biggest disservice one can do to a pitcher. It is a wrong which must be corrected if kids are to become fine pitchers. Most think you just go out and pitch.
“Sounds too complicated for me.”
Felicia, it isn’t. It’s basic stuff. If you do not field your position, there is a monstrous hole up the middle. Keep in mind this is where good batters are trained to hit. If you aren’t there, no one else will be and woe to your ERA. Yes, you are not only a pitcher, but an infielder, as well. In fact, you are the fifth infielder.
|Whose Fault Is It When An Error Occurs?
By Dick Smith
Head Coach – University of St.Francis
Suppose we have a player who drops a fly ball, boots a ground ball, drops a throw, or otherwise does something which is not the tradition of softball. Suppose the team just isn’t hitting. Suppose the “error bug,” heebie jeebies, jitters, or just plain chaos strikes suddenly during a great game. Or perhaps they occur at the onset and remain for the duration. Suppose our pitcher can’t find the strike zone and when she does, the ball meets the opposing bats with tremendous force.
It is Smitty’s law that during these spells bad things will happen to the outcome of the game, unless, of course, the other team has the same villainous deficiencies.
Let’s examine some of these miserable conditions which seem to crop out at the most inopportune times.
Well, the other team may be so overwhelming tremendous that we have no chance and probably should not be on the field in the first place. Is this a given?
Once I had a very powerful teener team way back when. A close friend who had a not-so-powerful team want to play a doubleheader. I tried to discourage him, but he persisted.
We played and won by two lopsided scores. He wanted a second chance. “You’re nuts!” said I, but he persisted, and we went at it a second time. This time we won, but only by one run in each game. Wonder of wonders! His team had improved.
Thinking back, I remember that during the two-game catastrophe which befell his team, my friend was constantly coaching his team. When we hit our “gappers,” he used the opportunity to teach his team all about relays. His shortstop had to field rockets and his pitcher had to duck after every pitch, but after each inning he was busy explaining what had to be done to overcome their various problems. The “dirty rat” had used our first doubleheader for practice! He used us to show his team what they had to do to be winners. He used the loss, the errors, the strikeouts, and the talks not as negatives, but as positives to learn by. Then, after the game and before the next doubleheader he showed his team more fundamentals and, wonder of wonders, practiced them.
So, what usually happens after a sound beating! Not the above scenario, but a royal chewing out. After the game the team is called to a huddle and there they sit through yak, after yak, after yak. Don’t we realize that the kids know they played poorly, did poorly, and then after the first few minutes of our crazed “speech” they aren’t listening? They don’t hear us! We are wasting our time!
But why do we spend time yelling at them after a poor performance? Sometimes they need it, for sure. Most of the time they don’t. What they need is instruction, not destruction. To be told how bad you are time and time again…you have no intensity…you don’t have your head in the game… to be asked over and over, “What’s wrong with you?” …to be told that you didn’t come to play…on and on and on and on. Yes, it’s YOUR fault!
Sometimes I wonder whether coaches who do this know what to do to correct the situation other than talk. Talking replaces teaching fundamentals. I guess, for it is another of Smitty’s laws which states very clearly that talking will not win games, but correctly practicing fundamentals will!
There is a reason a player strikes out. Perhaps the opposing pitcher is very, very good. This explains much. But most pitchers can be handled. If a player strikes out, it is incumbent upon the coach to determine the reason. Is it a one-time thing or is the player doing it regularly? If the later, then the coach must find out the reason and correct it.
If a team does not hit on regular basis, there is a reason. Perhaps a hitting coach is needed, or perhaps a new hitting coach is needed. A one or two game slump is not reason for worry. Consistent performance at the plate is.
If a shortstop boots a ball, there is a reason. It might be a bad hop, poor glove work, head coming off the ball, general incompetence, fear, or just plain bad luck. All of these things happen. It’s up to us coaches to find out why.
Why does the pitcher’s control go suddenly “ape”? The pitcher may be tired. She may be injured, stressed out, overworked, or just plain outgunned. She may not have practiced the way she should. Reasons abound. Coaches must work hard to understand what is really happening in a game and try to overcome the problems.
Why does a nine-year girl consistently drop a pop-up? Because no one ever showed her the proper way to catch one, or if they did, then there was no consistent practice of the skill.
Why can’t our team bunt? Because we either have a lousy bunting coach or we don’t practice the art.
Why is it that we have practiced this play or that play on a regular basis, and yet, when we get into the game, we louse it up? I would hazard a guess that the team is either uptight or the fundamentals of the play were practiced incorrectly.
Why is a team uptight, nervous, scared, or otherwise mentally unprepared to play? The word “unprepared” says it all. Quite often, the reason is that the coach is pretty much responsible.
Yeah! When the opponent’s centerfielder makes an outstanding catch of our “gapper”, we can say, “Our hitter hit the ball the right way, because we taught her the right thing, in the right way, and it was practiced correctly.”
We can even give credit to the opponent’s fielder for a great effort, including giving her high fives as she comes off the field. Ever done this, Coach? Have you sulked over your bad luck? Or have you blamed your hitter for failing to hit the ball two more inches into the gap? Sure! We coaches are so adept at teaching the art of hitting that our batters can be trained to hit the ball exactly where the fielder won’t catch it. I guess that’s why we have so many 1.000 batting averages.
So, in the vast majority of these cases, we as coaches should not be concerned with laying blame. Worry should be concentrated less upon fault and more on practicing the fundamentals of the game correctly. That way, when things go awry, we can often chalk it up to some of the above circumstances, and fault becomes moot.
The surprisingly difficult life of professional softball players
Emma Johnson’s 13-hour workdays as an auditor for Ernst & Young are common for a young professional like her who is fresh out of college and trying to make it big in the business world. Little sleep, lots of caffeine and a career-first mentality make her life typical for a 23-year-old.
But what isn’t so typical about Johnson’s life is that she’s also a professional softball player—a pitcher for the Pennsylvania Rebellion of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)—during the three-month season, which goes from the end of May until the end of August. Johnson, a 2015 graduate of Kent State University and two-year veteran of the NPF, pulls double duty in the offseason to maintain her skills. After work, she spends her nights at the gym, often ending her workout at 10:30 p.m. following a one-hour pitching session with whomever she can convince to catch her.
“It feels like there’s not enough time in the day to work as hard as I want to on softball when I have a full-time job,” Johnson told Excelle Sports. “So I have to ask myself, what do I want to give up? Do I have to give up some sleep or hanging out with friends? It’d be nice to work more than part time in softball.”
Emma Johnson (Photo by Jade Hewitt, courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch)
Johnson’s plight is familiar to most players in the NPF. With average player salaries ranging from $5,000–6,000 for the duration of each season, most of softball’s best are often forced to hustle to make enough money during the nine months they spend away from the playing field in order to pursue professional softball in the summer. While most players find day jobs during the league’s offseason, a fortunate few snag endorsement deals and/or sign lucrative contracts to play overseas.
“I know those players [who play overseas] have that advantage over me, so I have to figure out a way to overcome that advantage and just work harder,” Johnson said. “But I don’t resent them. I would love to have that.”
To continue reading...http://www.excellesports.com/news/npf-softball-offseason-professional/
Women’s Softball Needs the Olympics
It’s not a “female version” of baseball, but the sport’s inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Games is a victory for gender equality in athletics.
CHELSEA LEIGH HORNE
As athletes settled into the Olympic Village and the torch drew ever nearer to Rio de Janeiro on August 3, the International Olympic Committee was already making big decisions about the next four years. That day, it voted unanimously on a proposal to add five sports to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games: karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing, and baseball/softball. The first four sports are new, whereas baseball and softball—treated as a single sport—are reinstatements. It’s not uncommon for sports to be added or removed from the program, but the return of baseball and softball is noteworthy since they’re the world’s most followed sports currently without Olympic status.
Softball is seen as much more than an athletic endeavor; it’s evolved into a symbol for women’s progress.
But the IOC vote also represents a major victory for female athletes, specifically for its reintroduction of softball. Unlike popular male-dominated sports such as basketball, “women’s sports” like softball can benefit dramatically from the Olympic spotlight. As the head of the Tokyo Games’ organizing committee Yoshiro Mori said, the Olympics are “the world’s greatest sporting stage.” For many female competitors in particular, it’s the biggest and most meaningful platform available to showcase their talent.
Researchers and critics have long noted the wide gender gap between men and women’s athletics when it comes to ticket sales, media coverage, endorsement deals, merchandise revenue, and overall attendance at events. While the reasons for this disparity have been debated, it’s clear that women’s professional sports teams tend to languish in resources and attention compared to their male counterparts.
The prestige and global scale of the Olympics can help make up for this gap. The Games tend to fuel spectator excitement, create awareness around sports, promote new role models, and encourage participation at a more local level—crucial opportunities for underfunded and underappreciated female athletes.
Continue reading here http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/08/why-womens-softball-needs-the-olympics/495065/
The Myth of the Sports Scholarship
By Brad WolvertonNovember 20, 2016 Premium
T.J. Kirkpatrick, Redux for The Chronicle
Since she was 7 years old,
Allison Goldblatt has spent most mornings and afternoons carving through the water. Would her years of hard work be enough to pay for her college education?
It can happen to any parent whose kids play competitive sports — that moment when you catch a glimpse of athletic greatness in your child and let yourself wonder: How far could her talent take her?
For Tina Ellerbee, the first time that happened was 10 years ago, when her daughter, Allison Goldblatt, participated in one of her first swim meets. She was just 7 years old and had only had a few lessons. But she beat every kid she raced at that meet and posted the second-fastest time of any girl under age 8 that day in Northern Virginia, a hotbed of swimming talent.
After that, says Ms. Ellerbee, a former college swimmer, she and her husband prioritized their daughter’s swimming. They enrolled Allison in a year-round training program and slowly increased her practices, from three a week to more than five.
Before long they had organized their lives around the sport, waking up at 3:30 in the morning to get her to practice on time and traveling across the country to watch her compete. They stopped taking regular family vacations, instead spending thousands of dollars a year on her swimming.
The attention paid off. By age 11, Allison was beating her mom’s best college times, and a few years later, she qualified for Junior Nationals. It was then that Ms. Ellerbee realized that her daughter could swim in college. And not just any college: Even though she was only in eighth grade, her times were already good enough to earn a spot on a top-20 team.
Last spring Allison, now a high-school senior, began exploring her college options. Many of the schools she was considering, including Ohio State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, cost more than $40,000 a year. For a middle-class family with three kids, including one already in college, they were going to need all the help they could get.
Despite her talent, Allison is not a lock to receive athletic aid. Nearly eight million kids played high-school sports last year, the highest number ever. But just 170,000 athletes — about 2 percent of those who compete in high school — receive a sports scholarship, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Many colleges award millions of dollars in athletic aid, touting individual scholarships worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the vast majority of athletes get nowhere near that much. For families expecting a return on their investment in their children’s sports, they are in for a surprise.
This fall, as Allison began visiting colleges, she felt anxious about her prospects. Who was going to give her family what they were looking for? And how much money was out there?
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When Softball Began to Play Hardball
Devised as an indoor sport for amateurs, softball has diverged into two different games—one slow, and one very fast.
By Erica Westly
June 7, 2016
Millions of people will watch the Women’s College World Series this year. The championship has been a big TV draw for decades, but the softball that draws viewers has little to do with the slow-pitch version played at work outings or church picnics. This is fastpitch, and it is fast—60 feet between bases instead of 90 in baseball speeds up the base-running and fielding; a shorter distance between pitcher and batter also means hitters have less time to react. But the pitching itself is usually the main attraction: Fastpitch softball’s underhand throwing delivery allows for a wide range of hard-to-hit pitches, including some, such as the upward-moving rise ball, that aren’t possible with baseball’s overhand pitching. Pit a professional baseball player against a top fastpitch pitcher, and he’ll most likely strike out, as hitting legends Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Mike Piazza all did when they faced fastpitch pitchers at charity events. Fastpitch, at its highest level, is also a sport played almost entirely by women, although this wasn’t always the case.
Softball’s history is long and convoluted. It was invented as an indoor game in Chicago in 1887, several years before basketball and volleyball, America’s most famous homegrown indoor sports, were developed. A group of men had gathered at a local gymnasium to follow the Harvard-Yale Thanksgiving football game via ticker tape; Yale won, and afterward, one of the Yale fans men supposedly celebrated by grabbing a boxing glove off the floor and tossing it in the air, to which one of the other men, a Harvard fan, responded by smacking it down with a broomstick. George Hancock, a sportswriter who was with the group, suggested using the boxing glove and broomstick to play indoor baseball, and the game we now know as softball was born.
Within a few decades, the ball had gotten smaller than its boxing glove-sized namesake, and people were increasingly playing “indoor baseball” outdoors. By 1933, when softball made its official national debut at the Chicago World’s Fair, fastpitch, which featured competitive, hard-to-hit underhand pitching, was the main form of softball. Slowpitch, which involved gently lobbing the ball to batters, existed but was primarily seen as a children’s playground game.
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3 Myths that are Destroying the Youth Sports Experience for our Kids
Every year, I travel throughout the US, Canada, Asia and Europe, and give well over 100 presentations to parents and coaches. I speak to tens of thousands of people about youth sports, coaching, and athlete development. Every time I do a live event, I get asked the following question:
“If you are presenting all this science based evidence about how to raise happy, healthy and high-performing athletes, why don’t most coaches, clubs, schools and parents follow these protocols? Why do I see the exact opposite happening”
What a great question!
So many parents I meet are extremely frustrated these days, because youth sports has changed so much since their childhood. There are no longer seasons, just year-long commitments for kids. The costs and travel distances have gone through the roof. And the pressure on parents to keep up with the Jones’s has become astronomical.
Many parents are simply trying to sort out the myths and facts of athlete development. They are told what to do by other parents and coaches if they want their children to have success in sports. Yet the path that so many children are following, and in many cases are forced to follow, is not the best path to develop as an athlete, nor as a human being.
In fact, their chosen path does just the opposite.
It leads to high rates of injuries and burnout (70% of kids quit youth sports by the age of 13).
It leads to a variety of psychological issues by attaching ones identity to sport success.
It robs children of their childhood.
It turns youth sports into big business that ties advancement to financial means (the haves vs. the have not’s) instead of ability (the can do’s vs. the can’t do’s).
It professionalizes and adultifies youth sports by taking the emphasis off of enjoyment, development and play.
Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation out there. There is a lot of ignorance of the facts. In my opinion, this is driven by three pervasive youth sports myths.
Click here to continue reading http://changingthegameproject.com/3-myths-that-are-destroying-the-youth-sports-experience-for-our-kids/
October 12, 2016
You’ve probably seen her — decked out from head to toe in team schwag. She’s the first to volunteer to be the team mom. She’s the odd one who has a snack duty template at the ready in Excel. She packs a mean SUV and she shuttles her kids from one field to the next with the skill of an Indy car driver. She’s committed the rule book to memory and could go head to head with any “Blue” out there. She’s never without her backpack — you know, that oversized beast of a bag that contains enough medical supplies, feminine products, Advil, blankets and cocktail mixers to triage the wounded and then throw a small party. You know her…she’s a softball motha!
Little did I know, when my 5-1/2 year old daughter decided to attend a tryout one early Saturday morning, that I was destined to become one of her ranks. I was a complete novice. I watched in amazement as she and her counterparts volunteered to be Team Mom, handling uniforms, snack detail, opening day costumes, first aid, scorekeeping and, damn, if they couldn’t also make a mean bow. If this wasn’t intimidating enough, at the end of the season All-Stars happened. Let me just say, I was certain they were all certifiable for giving up every weekend all summer to cart their kids to some godforsaken field in the middle of Armpit, CA in pursuit of softball hardware (aka: a giant plastic trophy drenched in shiny golden something or other that would eventually become a dust bunny playground). Thank God my daughter didn’t make All-Stars that year because I was ready for a motha of a break.
Then, a short twelve months later, she did make All-Stars. Good-bye summer! If that wasn’t enough, after a whopping 45 days off it would then be time to sign up for Fall ball. (break over)
It’s all well and good when your kid shows promise in this sport until you realize that to take her skills to the next level you’ll need to make the jump to travel ball. We took the leap in 10’s and I can tell you, travel ball makes All-Stars look like a walk in the park. (really should have appreciated how good I had it then)
With travel ball comes a whole new set of rules, parents, coaches, egos, equipment, lessons and, well, ‘travel.’ I thought two out-of-town tournaments was bad in rec ball…ha ha ha foolish girl! Little did I know I was about to embark on a cavalcade tour of every softball field from here to east of the Mississippi. (A word to the wise…bring your own toilet paper)
Rec Ball parents tend to get overly excited and fiercely competitive during games and tournaments. Funny, but it’s usually more about them than the kids. And sadly, bad behavior, bad language and poor parental sportsmanship is more common than not. Don’t get me wrong, not all parents are like this…but there are quite a few. In travel ball a strong coach sets clear boundaries and parents are no longer in charge. And, if you can’t follow these new rules, you can take your kid and go! NEXT!
To continue reading click https://confessionsofaprofessionalmom.com/2016/10/12/like-a-softball-motha/
What kind of Softball Parent are you? by Ashley Van Boxmeer
First, this is a repost from Father’s Day last year, and I have rephrased for both Mom’s and Dads, so PARENTS! As the softball seasons gets underway, I thought it would be appropriate for a friendly reminder. Before you scroll down and read, I totally acknowledge I am not a parent yet so I can’t speak for you. What I can do, is speak for my experience as an athlete and a pitcher. As well as, for the thousands of athletes I have coached, and the parent child interactions I observed. This stuff is a big deal and has the potential to make or break your kids success.
Softball gives one of the most precious commodities of all, time with your daughters. Softball lets you be a part of your daughters life in a special way. It is a great way to connect and make memories together. For some, however, softball can be detrimental to a parent and daughters relationship. Like anything in life, becoming a great softball parent takes practice and time. Be thankful for the opportunity that you get to be a parent. And not just any parent, but a parent of an aspiring athlete. Reflect on all the awesome moments you have experienced with your daughter and softball.
Always think about her feelings first.
Girls instinctively want to please their parents. When your daughter runs off the field at the end of practice or a game, she probably feels either proud of herself or terribly defeated. She wants you to be proud of her. Don’t crush her by telling her all the stuff she did wrong. Always compliment her on a few things she did well during the game or practice. Even if its little things, like hustling down the first baseline when she grounded out. Simple things like that will give her positive feelings and build her confidence. Softball is a game of failure, and it is perfectly ok to fail. Its how we handle it that matters most.
Unless she asks, don’t go there.
I am sure at one point you have all heard about or experienced the hated car ride home. Or sometimes, it might even be the car ride to practice, a game, or lesson. Even I as a coach, can feel the tension as a parent and daughter walk in for lessons if something has happened in the car ride over. Parents only want to help and make their daughter the very best they believe she can be. As she buckles her seatbelt she mentally prepares to hear about every thing she is doing wrong, and all the areas she needs work. Parents, if you think your girls are listening, let me tell you they aren’t. They are blocking you out, and not listening or remembering. The slightest hit of criticism aimed their way will go in one ear and out the other. The only part that will remain with them is tension and frustration. Both on their game, and your relationship. If she wants your help, guidance, or advice, let her ask for it.
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One of the most frequently asked questions is, "What kind of bat should I get?" My answer has changed several times over the years. When you search the web for fastpitch softball bat reviews or top fastpitch softball bats and find articles you'll find there are no shortage of opinions. There are comments written by parents, coaches and players on many softball bat resellers web sites and softball forums too. Those comments typically range from, "I love that bat! Glad I bought this bat!" to "That bat is terrible. Don't buy it. Buy this bat instead."
You're in for a shock if you are new to the sport and have never shopped for a bat before
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