Cat Osterman Experience

Cat Osterman Experience
2010 COE

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fastpitch Softball Is Not Baseball

By: Scott Hamilton
Fastpitch softball is not baseball. Fastpitch softball is action packed, a surprise at every pitch, strategy at every breath…..this is fastpitch softball. Players, coaches, and fans must pay strict attention or they will miss the action.
Coaches relay signals at every pitch. Signals to the pitcher telling the pitcher the type of pitch and the placement of the pitch. Signals to the batter, telling the batter to swing or not, to bunt, to hit and run. Signals to the base runners, telling them to steal a base, to draw a throw. Signals to the fielders, telling them where to place themselves, or where to concentrate the defense. The coaches even use signals to indicate whether or not to use the signals! This is done to make sure the signals are not intercepted so that the opposition may gain advantage.
Fastpitch softball is so fast that teams can devise strategy to win even if they are over matched by superior pitching. This strategy is called “small ball”. This strategy involves bunting at nearly every pitch. This forces the defense to move in and is necessary because the bases are close together, only 60 feet, and can be reached rapidly by the runners. If a small mistake is made (a ball bobble, or a slow throw) the runner will be safe and opens the game up for more like strategy.
The difference between winning and losing can be very small. The equipment used by the players and coaches is key to success. Players and coaches can network to offer advice to one another to ensure that the best equipment is being put to use. These ideas can be shared at www.lets-talk-softball.com
This web site was established for fastpitch softball participants so that advice can be shared freely. Please visit the site and share your experiences with other so that they may become better.

Softball Pitching – Effective Off-Season Workouts for In-Season Wins

By Cheri Kempf, Club K
Winter off-season training for pitchers should include drills and workouts that enhance and improve the pitcher’s repertoire or ammunition and will have a direct effect on their performance from the outset of the season opener. Too often, pitchers and coaches have a goal to maintain abilities through the winter and try to ensure that skills do not decline through the decreasing number of total absence of pitches. Off -season training is prime-time to make corrections and improvements in form and pitches while also increasing strength and stamina in preparation for a demanding spring and/or summer schedule. The following are focus points of off-season training.
Form Adjustments and Corrections
Throughout the season of competition, pitchers will often times pick up bad habits (as a result of fatigue or pressure situations), that will stick with them. To prevent these bad habits from carrying over into another season, the pitchers and their coaches should do a slow-motion video analysis to check form and look for areas that could improve efficiency and/or speed.
To improve or correct form after identifying weaknesses – Start slow and close with warm-up focusing on troubled area(s) and make sure correction is obtained before progressing further or faster. Sometimes this will take an hour and sometimes weeks, but the pitcher should continue to incorporate the correction into the warm-up. Eventually, it will stick into the full-speed pitch.
A good drill that will reflect form problem is “distance pitching.” To distance pitch, the pitcher should start at normal distance and gradually back up. The catcher should stand up and receive a chest high pitch at about 75% effort from the pitcher. Average distances are: Ages 7 – 9, 50’ to 60’; Ages 10 – 12, 60’ – 70’; Ages 13 – 14, 70’ – 80’; High School ages 80’ – 110’; College ages 110+. If form problems occur such as tight follow through, lagging drag, or posture change, the ball will not carry the distance. Distance pitching is also a good warm up drill.
Control Work
A pitcher’s biggest asset is to be able to throw the ball where she needs to. Off-season is the perfect time to polish and perfect location pitches without the pressure of game situations. It is important that the control become a habit, so by spring when the pressure is on, it will not affect accuracy. It is important to note that most pitchers overestimate their abilities in accuracy and fail to give ample attention to improving.
To improve control, use stationary targets such as 8” X 8” taped targets on a wall or net so that a hit or miss is not in question. Set a specific group of targets such as up & in, down & in, and down & out and have the pitcher throw 10 to each target. Once a week or once every two weeks have a “target test” and check for improvement. Pitchers should be 80 to 90% accurate at each target. Pitchers should practice target pitching 3 – 5 times/week. Catchers can be used in the practice sessions also.
Another control drill that is helpful is to place a dummy batter (ie football dummy, plyometrics box, or Lisa Fernandez cardboard stand-up) at the plate in different batter locations and work tight and away pitches depending on location of batter. This builds confidence without the risk of hitting a live batter with a mistake.
Movement Pitches
Going into the off-season workout, a pitcher needs to evaluate each pitch and its effectiveness last season. (For instance: Did the change up work? Did it get hit? Did it get hit hard? Could it be thrown for a strike? Was it a strike-out or go-to pitch?) An honest evaluation by pitcher, catcher, and coach should show clearly what pitches need work and what that work should be. Also, it is a great idea to try and add one useful pitch to the repertoire. This requires skill work in mastering the basic form and technique of the pitch as well as development to the point of use in a game situation. The development of a new pitch or improvement of an old one requires a good steady commitment by the pitcher.
To improve or add movement pitches, the pitcher should first understand totally what needs to be accomplished. With rise, drop, or curve, the spin is the first area to master. Pitchers should start close (2 – 3 ‘ from catcher) with a taped ball – or better yet, a Spin Right Spinner from Club K! – at any distance. If necessary, start learning to spin even without the arm circle, using a gentle rock back motion. With the rise and drop, there are also posture and weight shift changes to master. These should be practiced through shadow pitching without the ball. With the change-up, the emphasis in off-season should be on perfecting the mechanics as well as matching the pitch effort and form to the effort and form of the most thrown pitch.
Speed Work
It is always nice to pick up a few miles per hour over the winter. This can be achieved through a proper and effective strengthening program, but also requires the pitcher to push herself harder within the speed improvement area of her workout to call up the newly developed strength.
To improve speed while pitching, the pitcher should block 10 – 15 minutes towards the end of a workout when they are completely warmed up, and focus just on increasing the speed of the arm circle and body together. This part of the workout should leave the pitcher physically tired (ie sweating, out of breath, etc.). If the speed workout is not physically demanding, the pitcher has not pushed herself and consequently has not called on extra muscle recruitment. “Speed Drills” are an excellent way to achieve this “push.” During speed drills, the pitcher should pitch (full form) a pitch and quickly return to the rubber in position to catch a quick throw back from the catcher. She then delivers again as quickly as possible. The speed drills can be done in sets of 10, 15, or 20 pitches and should total between 60 – 80 pitches. The total number should be based on the pitchers tolerance. If timed, the sets should average three seconds per pitch ( For example, a 10-pitch set should average 30 seconds).
Effective off-season workouts are crucial to the growth and improvement of a pitcher. This is the preparation for the performance and will directly affect the stamina, health and success of a pitcher.

Friday, March 4, 2011

5 Things Coaches Don't Want to Hear




By: Stacie Mahoe
"I can't": This gets old very fast. If you insist that you "can't" day in and day out, then why should your coach keep you on the team? Plus, keep in mind that your body does what your mind tells it to. So if your mind says, "I can't do this or I can't do that" how is your body ever going to do those things when it's constantly being told it can't?

"I forgot": I am still baffled by how often players say, "I forgot my shoes" or "I forgot my socks." Be responsible. You know when practices and games are scheduled. It's not as if these events are sprung on you at the last minute. Be prepared. Be ready! Don't just rely on your parents to make sure you have everything you need. This is not their team, this is not their practice, and this is not their softball season. It's yours. Even my 5 year old daughter is responsible for having her softball things ready day in and day out. I know you can do it too!

You talking while they are talking: When your coach is talking, your focus needs to be on them and only them. It is very rude and disrespectful, not only to your coach, but to your team if you are talking while your coach is talking. I know listening to your coach can be boring sometimes and you may be wondering when they are going to stop saying the same thing over and over again. But if you're paying attention and your coach knows his/her message is getting through, then may not feel the need to talk so long or to repeat things they've already said.

Excuses: Make it a point to get the job done. Don't let excuses get in your way. The other team is playing on the same field as you with the same umpires in the same weather. Don't blame these things on your bad performance. I'm not saying that these conditions don't make your job more difficult, but complaining and grumbling doesn't make the rain go away, doesn't make the umpires like you more, doesn't make the field easier to play on, and doesn't make the sun stop shinning in your face. Instead of making excuses, focus all of your effort and energy on playing your best despite the conditions. Since it is tougher to get the job done, you certainly don't need to be wasting any of your energy or focus on grumbling when you really need it all to make the plays that need to be made.

"Why is she playing?" You may not always agree with your coach's decisions, but questioning his or her choices in front of your teammates does NOT help the team. When game time comes, you are most helpful supporting and encouraging all of your teammates no matter what; especially if they are playing in the game. Asking why a certain player is playing is not helpful to that player. It does not show confidence in their ability and does not help team unity. If you are bringing a player on your team down, not only are you affecting that one player, but you are hurting the entire team. If that person starts making mistakes in the game it does not only affect them. It affects everyone. Therefore, it's very important that you do and say whatever you need to in order to help every player do their best, whether you feel they should be playing or not. Remember, softball is a team sport. EVERYTHING you say and everything you do either helps your team or hurts your team. There is no in between. With every action and every work, you're either helping your team get closer to their goals or you're bringing your team down. Make sure that everything you say and do helps your team instead of hurts it. If you do have questions about your coach's decisions, then you need to set up a time to talk to your coach one-on-one so that your issues can be addressed by your coach himself.

Coaches like team player with positive attitudes. Do a self check and see if you hear yourself saying any of the things mentioned above. If so, see how you can change and become a player coaches love to have on their team.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fastpitch Softball Drills for Defense


VARIATIONS
Throw the counter-clockwise: instead of throwing to 3rd base, then 2nd, then 1st, and back home, go the other direction. This is a different pivot, requiring different footwork.
Follow your throw: Have players follow their ball to give players more of a workout during the drill. So when the player at home starts the drill off by throwing to 3rd, they will then follow their throw and run to the back of the line at 3rd base.
More balls: add in another ball or two to speed up the drill and make it more challenging

4 One-Hops: instead of a regular throw, have the players one-hop the ball to each other. It's easier to have them make it a LONG hop instead of a short hop. Have them focus on giving a good hop to their teammate while the receiver is focusing on good fielding technique and footwork.

2 One-Hops: you can also do the one-hop drill, but have the person fielding the one-hop make a regular throw to the next base so that they are fielding the ball and making a throw. So you'd have the person at home one-hop the ball to 3rd, the person at 3rd field the ball and make a regular throw to 2nd, then have that person throw a one-hop to the player at 1st and that player fields the one-hop and makes a regular throw home. I would highly suggest having player follow their ball in this one so everyone gets a chance to field the one-hops and make a throw or simply alternate what you do first (i.e. start with a regular throw between home and 3rd, then go with the short hop between 3rd and 2nd).

Obviously you can use these variations in combination with each other or even all at the same time (go counter-clockwise, have the players follow their throw, use an additional ball, and do one-hops). WOW!
My Own Fly Ball
Here's one you can incorporate right into your daily throwing warm-up.  After the players are warm, have one line back-up so everyone is throwing farther than the base path (*note: adjust the distance for younger age groups).   Start all the balls with the players lined-up on the foul line. 
Have one player call out a "Ready, Go!" or some other indicator to start.
One the players call, the entire line throws their ball up in the air over their own head to simulate a fly ball.  In other words, they are throwing a pop up to themselves.
When the ball comes down, the catch it and fire it over to their partner.

Things to look for...
Proper catching technique:
Don't allow players to basket catch the ball or catch it down by their stomach.  Everyone should be catching the ball up above them and out in front.  Encourage the use of two hands on the catch.

Proper Positioning:
Players should throw the ball up high enough to allow themselves time to get into proper position for the catch.  If they need to move back or forward, make sure they are moving their feet and not just staying planted and reaching for the ball behind them or out to the side. 

All players should be stepping to the ball with their glove foot on the catch.  They should not catch the ball with their feet next to each other or with their throwing foot forward.  Catching the ball with feet side by side or the wrong foot forward will result in a slower, weaker transition into the throw.  The step with the glove foot should land just before the catch is made.  Just as a player should step to the ball on a regular catch (throw being made to them), they should step to the ball on a fly ball or pop-up catch as well especially if they have a throw to make immediately following the catch. 

Proper Throwing Technique: You may also looking for proper throwing technique after the catch, but this drills is primarily to give the players reps catching fly balls/pop ups with correct positioning, footwork, and catching technique. Encourage players to keep the ball down on their throw, not throw it way up in the sky as younger players may tend to do.  Again, depending on skill level, you may want to focus on one aspect at a time and not bombard your players with feedback on EVERYTHING at once.  
The Triangle Drill
Split your fielders up into 3 even groups and put them at the points of the triangle.
Coach stands at point #3.
Coach hits the ball to fielder at point 1.
Fielder at point 1 throws to player at point 2.
Player at point 2 catches the ball and throws to the player standing next to the coach at point 3.
Players follow their ball after they make a throw. (player standing next to the coach will run to point 1 after receiving the ball from point 2 and giving it to the coach).
Repeat until all players back into their original spots.  Of course, you can make them go more than one round if you wish.
For the drill described above the ball will go in a clockwise direction around the triangle. You can also reverse the direction and have the player practice their footwork for getting the ball around the triangle in the counter-clockwise direction.
You may also vary the distance of the players.  Bring them in closer for practice with quick short throws.  Move them away to practice footwork for longer throws.
Ball First
This softball drill is basically to get the girls focused on stopping the ball when it's coming to them.  In this softball drill, eliminate the throw entirely so that their only focus is stopping that ball.  Make sure they are approaching the ball well.  Make sure they are using proper fielding technique and footwork. Emphasize these things and most of all, emphasize stopping the ball!
You can't do anything on defense unless the control the ball.
Since the players won't be making a throw, they can concentrate fulling on fielding technique.  Then simply have them run the ball over to a bucket and run back in line to field again.
Of course, where you place the bucket is up to you.  If you only have a few players in the drill you'll probably want to keep it close so you the flow of the drill isn't interrupted by the players having to run over and drop the ball off.  If you have more players you can move the bucket further away to keep the players moving and make the drill physically challenging.
Teaching the Relay
Before putting your team through this drill explain:
  • What a relay is
  • What the purpose of a relay is
  • When a relay is used
Show them and teach:
  • What the role of each part of the relay is
  • How to properly execute each part
Split your team into 3 groups.  One group will be in the outfield, one group in the cut position, and the other in the receiving position at the end of the relay.  Remind each player what you expect in each role.
Hit the ball to the outfielder and have your team relay the ball in.  Each player in the each group should get a chance to execute their role (outfield/cut/receive) before you rotate the groups.
Things to Emphasize:
Outfield role: proper catching/throwing technique, accurate throw through the cut
Cut role: getting lined up, proper body position and calling for the ball from the outfielder, getting into proper catching position upon catch, moving to get the ball if necessary, making quick accurate throw so receiver can make a tag on the runner (keep the ball low, chest high is not where we want this throw).
Receive role: help cut line up, call for the ball, proper positioning on bag and for making the catch, quickly apply a secure tag on the runner, moving to make the catch if necessary

College Recruiting Tips for High School Student-Athletes


Tip#1 - Grades Matter - I don't care how much talent or skill you have, you're no good to a college coach if you can't stay eligible academically. Why should they waste a scholarship or a spot on their team with a recruit that will never smell playing time because of academic ineligibility? It's in your best interest to prove, during high school, that you can take care of academics as well as athletics. Taking care of business in the classroom helps open up more opportunities during the recruiting process. All else being equal, having better academics than another recruit just may be the factor that sets you apart from other student-athletes. Grades are important. Don't slack in the classroom.
Tip #2 - Attitude Counts - If you think attitude goes unnoticed by college coaches during the recruiting process, think again. Just one player with a bad attitude can infect the entire team. Most coaches I know would rather have a team full of decent players who work hard, play together as a team, and know how to pull together when it counts than a team full of all-stars incapable of playing together to reach their team goals. Demonstrate your ability to work hard, support your teammates, and be coachable!
Tip# 3 - Test Early - If you plan on going to a school that has SAT/ACT requirements, try to take these tests during your Junior Year in high school (if not earlier). Often times College Coaches will offer scholarships in the fall of a recruit's Senior Year in high school, sometimes even sooner. If you've already gotten your tests taken care of and they know you'll be able to get into their school, it's that much easier for them to decide that you're a recruit they want.
Tip#4 - Send Information - Too many student-athletes mistakenly think "If I'm good, someone will find me". Don't make this mistake! Guess What? College coaches can't recruit you if they don't know you exist. Put together a video, if possible, and send it to programs of your choice along with an athletic "resume" highlighting your achievements. Include stats, awards, high school transcripts, information on SAT/ACT scores, and letters of recommendation from coaches and teachers. Don't forget your contact information!