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5 Tips for Taking Great Leads and Putting Pressure on the Defense

by Stacie ~ November 17th, 2014.
Filed under: Softball Tips, Softball Training, To: Softball Players, Youth Softball | No Comments » |

fastpitch softball baserunning tips
As a player, I loved running bases. It’s so super fun to push your limits, make your opponents sweat a little, and take extra bases any time the opportunity arises.

Good baserunners give defenses something to think about. They’re always a threat. They make things tough for the opposing defense and add pressure to otherwise “routine” situations and plays.

All this distraction on the bases often takes focus off the batter. It can also open up holes for batters to hit through.

When you…

  • take extra bases every chance you get
  • put added pressure on the defense
  • open up holes in the defense 

You give you team more chances to score!

And all of it starts with a great lead :)

With that in mind, here are 5 tips for making sure your leads are on point…

#1 Explode off the base as if you’re going to steal
Exploding off the base not only disguises actual steal attempts, it gives the defense one more thing to worry about on any given pitch. Everyone must stay alert and work to get bases covered. Pressure is on the pitcher not to throw any wild pitches. Pressure is on the catcher not to allow any passed balls. No one can just kick back, relax, and enjoy the feeling of being in complete control.

The other benefit of exploding off the bag on every pitch is the great jump start you get if the batter actually hits the ball. That jump could mean the difference between breaking up a double play or allowing the defense to get two outs on a routine ground ball. It could mean the difference between scoring from second or being held up at third. These are BIG differences that YOU can make happen just by taking a good, strong, explosive lead on every-single-pitch.

#2 Make sure you can get back to the bag with just “a step and a dive.”
Once you take your explosive lead, you must be in position to get back to the bag safely. This means being just ONE step and a dive away from the base so you can beat any pick off attempts. Get too far away and your aggressiveness off the bag may actually hurt your team instead of help it.

For me, taking two hard, fast steps then turning toward home put me in the right position.

#3 Don’t be late, get a good jump
This is one of the biggest problems I see in lead taking. Players don’t get a good jump. Especially those using the rocker start! The whole point of that style of lead taking is to give you an advantagesby building up your momentum before actually leaving the base instead of starting from a dead stop. But that doesn’t do you ANY good whatsoever if you’re taking your lead too late!

If you don’t have the guts to start your lead BEFORE the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, DO NOT use the rocker start.

No matter what style you choose, you CAN get a good jump. The main thing is GOING on time!

One of the best ways to figure out if you’re on time or not is have someone video you taking leads in a game (or even in practice). Now days with all the smart phone technology out there, this shouldn’t be difficult. Both you AND the pitcher must be in the video. When you watch it, you should be able to see exactly where you are when the ball comes out of the pitcher’s hand.

Slow the video down. Stop it on the frame where the ball is leaving the pitcher’s hand. Make note of where you are. Are you too early? Or too late? Maybe you’re right on time!

Remember, if it’s tough to tell whether or not you’re leaving early in slow motion, it’s tough for umpires to make that call too. So don’t panic if sometimes you’re a hair early in slow motion.

#4 Look for the hit, wild pitch, or passed ball
This is another common mistake baserunners make. They take a nice lead, then have no idea what’s going on with the ball. This is a HUGE problem! If you hear your teammate make contact THEN have to pause, find the ball, and figure out where it is before you make your next move, you just wasted everything you gained by taking that great lead. Plus, you’re dead meat on any line drive because you probably won’t even see the catch!

When you take your lead, make sure you take a peek in toward the plate. If the ball looks like it’s heading toward the dirt, either on the way to the plate or after your teammate hits it, GO!

Right now! Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate.

If you do this right, you will be in continuous motion from the time you start your lead. There will be very little slow down and definitely no complete stop.

#5 Stay athletic
Whatever you do, once you take that fabulous explosive lead, don’t get lazy! Stay athletic, ready to move either way. Again, NOT doing this can cause your aggressiveness to do more harm than good. A good catcher/pitcher will pick you off the moment you get out of an athletic stance.

Even if you’re NOT playing against a good pitcher/catcher, DO NOT get lazy! Stay athletic.  Practice good baserunning habits every chance you get. After a while, good habits will become so second nature you won’t even have to think about it anymore. You’ll just be a rockstar baserunner!

To your baserunning success!  May you cause lots of chaos for your opponents and make them shake in their cleats ;)

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Why you need to compete less

by Stacie ~ November 11th, 2014.
Filed under: Coach Softball, Softball Hitting, Softball Pitching, Softball Tips, Softball Training, Youth Softball | Comments Off |

If you want to get ready for competition…

Compete less, train more.

You don’t get better at competing by just competing more. You get better at competing by TRAINING.

Effective learning, and development of skill work and technique, requires training under conditions where “results” don’t matter.
You must be able to focus solely on HOW you’re doing what you do. Not what the actual result is. That’s what training is. Time for emphasis on process and technique.

When you’re trying to improve a particular part of your swing, you probably won’t feel comfortable with it at first. Because of that, you won’t perform well consistently. You likely “fail,” or mis-hit the ball, more often until you get familiar with the new way of doing things. During any learning process you must expect, and accept, taking a step or two back before you really move forward.

That acceptance gets lost in the pressure to compete.

This is why you must avoid loading up your “off-season,” or even your “pre-season,” with too many scrimmages. If you’re constantly “testing” instead of training, you SLOW progress down.

No one wants to feel uncomfortable with their swing, or anything else, in a game situation.  This causes you to go back to your “old way” of doing things instead of sticking with developing new habits.

The more you go back to your “old ways” when trying to engrain new habits, the longer it takes to improve.

When you’re constantly competing, it’s tough to get into a mindset where results don’t matter.  This is the big problem with jam packing your schedule with scrimmages. It’s also the problem with playing year round instead of taking time off from competition to work on technique and strength and conditioning.

Granted, practice alone isn’t the optimal way to get game ready. But competing as much as, or more than, you train is just as bad, if not worse!

Take time to TRAIN, not just compete.

 


If you’re looking for some kick butt off-season training to do this winter, check out my friend Barry Lovelace.

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Best of all, Barry is giving you 30% off through Friday, November 14th.

Use coupon code stacie at check out to claim this discount.

Everything gets easier when your stronger, faster, and in better shape than your competition. Give yourself that advantage with training that gets results fast. Click here to start now because 2015 will be here before you know it.  I want you to be ready!

Take time to train, not just compete

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Does strength training make you slow?

by Stacie ~ November 3rd, 2014.
Filed under: Softball Tips, Softball Training | No Comments » |

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softball strength trainingIt’s a common misconception that strength training slows athletes down. I used to believe that was true. After all I’d seen players add weight lifting to their training. Yes, they got stronger, but they got slower too.

Slower in running. Slower in pitching.

Slow is not a goal in softball training.

When I went to college, our strength and conditioning coach had us to “lower weights” and “higher reps” in the weight room. My understanding was that we stayed “light” on the weights since speed was important in softball.

This experience caused me to equate lifting heavy to being slow.

But I changed my mind about that!

I once had a softball dad ask me, “Will lifting weights hurt my daughter’s softball performance?”

Here was my response…

Strength training done right can only help a softball player. I firmly believe that.

Some think you must sacrifice speed for power. However, I did not see that at all when my daughter added weights to her training.

Not only did she get noticeably stronger, she got faster too. What a win-win!

Her training increased her strength, explosive power, AND speed!

That’s useful for ANY player, especially pitchers.

Good strength and conditioning coaches recognize muscle imbalances in athletes they train. Working these areas and reducing these imbalances helps reduce chances of injury. A good coach can also tell where a player needs mobility work. Addressing those areas helps prevent chronic pain (commonly in the lower back and arm/shoulder for softball players) and injuries as well.

After seeing my daughter reap the benefits of strength training, I saw an article that supported the idea that strength training actually INCREASES SPEED.

“…research findings  indicated that strength training does increase base running speed. More specifically, they reported a strong correlation between the training of large lower body muscles like the quadriceps, the buttocks, and the hamstrings and the increase in running speed.”

Then I came across another article that mentioned…

“…you need STRENGTH to get FASTER…To be an elite and a dominant softball player, you MUST lift.”

The first article mentioned working areas like the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.  Later it goes on to mention exercises like squats and deadlifts.  Squats and deadlifts, in the weight lifting world, are known as power lifts.  Most people don’t think of powerlifters as being fast.

Most people don’t understand powerlifting.

I now have 3 daughters who competed in the sport of powerlifting.  One puts up world record type numbers for her weight and age.  Another set an American squat record for her age and weight.  All three hold state records.

I, personally, never powerlifted.  I don’t coach powerlifting.  I know having kids that do something doesn’t make you an expert.  However, because my girls got into it, I did a bunch of research.  What can I say?  I like to read.

Anyway, what I learned from research and from seeing my girls train, is that powerlifters train for speed and explosiveness.

Louie Simmons owns a well respected powerlifting gym and trains all kinds of professional athletes, including sprinters. When asked what holds most powerlifters back he said

“Number one is speed work.

All sports, including powerlifting, require speed.”

Plain and simple.  ALL sports require speed.  Even the guys and ladies in the business of being as strong as they possibly can need speed.  Great ones train for speed as often as they train heavy.

That’s why I said, strength training done right benefits softball players.  Good strength training builds strength and also addresses ,and trains, SPEED.

So, does strength training make you slow? 

No.

Not unless you’re doing it wrong ;)


Mahoe sisters Powerlifting
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