A conversation with a parent

By Kim Gwydir – Founder FastpitchOnlineShowcase.com

Recently I had a great conversation with a parent of a player entering her senior year. His daughter plays on a solid travel team and has received phone calls and emails from college coaches of schools she wants to attend.  They now want to “take the next step” and narrow down her choices and make final visits. The father had some great questions that parents, and players alike, will be interested in. Please keep in mind this player and her family have done their due diligence and have been communicating with college coaches on a regular basis and had a good skills video that they have already sent to the college coaches.

 

Question #1

We were hearing a lot for a certain school during the summer but have not heard anything in the last month. What does this mean? She really likes the school and it is one of her top 5 choices. What should we do?

 

If you have not heard from the coach in a while it may mean they have filled their need. Most coaches will tell you they have moved on but some will not.  The best thing to do,as the parent, is call the coach directly. I suggest the parent rather than the player as this is late in the recruiting process and I believe players get overwhelmed by the recruiting experience. Since this is a school she is very interested in, I think the parent makes the call and finds out if the coach is still interested. As a parent they can judge the coach’s  interest level. Just be honest with the coach and say you have not heard from them in a while and you are trying to narrow down your daughter’s choices and want to see where she stands with that coach at that school. My feeling is you do not want to wonder and should go directly to the source for closure.

 

Questions #2

We have 3 or 4 college coaches who have been contacting my daughter that she is interested in attending. The schools have not discussed scholarships. What is the correct best way to bring this up to the coach?

 

Again, I think the money issue needs to be addressed by the parent. As I always say, “your daughter is going to school but your money is too”! As a college coach, I felt it was important to have the money conversation with the parent. Kids do not understand long term debt and loans yet. They are caught up in the recruiting experience. I think the parent puts in a call to the coach and asks in a polite and unassuming way about the financial plan the coach has for their daughter.  Try to sound like you are not demanding a scholarship but rather trying to plan financially for the family. Often times the coach will ask if financial aid will be an option for the family. Be honest with the coach if you think you will qualify but if a coach is talking financial aid only then in a way he/she is giving you a clue to their interest level. As a recruit, if the coach is offering a scholarship of any kind then you are higher on their list of recruits than someone they are just talking to about financial aid.

I believe, it is important for the player to continually work the recruiting process and talk to coaches but I also believe parents have to take a role. When it comes to money parents should be involved. The later it is in the recruiting process the more it is “Ok” if a parent has a question to call the coach. Coaches understand that this is a family decision and parents will be involved. Rule of thumb, as a parent if you have a question – ask it. Phrase it in a polite way but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the coach. You are trusting your daughter to this person for 4 years so you should be able to call them.

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Can we talk? Can you and should you talk to a college coach

 Can We Talk?

Can you and should you talk to a college coach

By Kim Gwydir – Former Division 1 College Softball Coach

and Managing Partner of FPOS

This past week was a big week on the recruiting calendar. It is the “Colorado week” where many travel teams make the trip to the Boulder/Aurora, Co area where 3 of the largest recruiting tournament of the year go on. Hundreds of college coaches from all levels will be there. It is the biggest recruiting week of the year.

 

In the last two weeks, I have given numerous recruiting seminars and the question most asked is – “Can I talk to a College Coach?” Actually, I think there are two questions – “Can I” and “Should I?”

 

Can I Talk to a College Coach?

 

The NCAA rules

 

Division I: A college coach cannot call or return a call until July 1 after the athlete’s Junior Year in high school.  Starting July 1, coaches can call once a week.  In terms of a face to face meeting, a college coach can contact an athlete or her parent’s off-campus (meaning off the college coaches campus) no more than 3 times after July 1. College coaches cannot talk to a player until they are released by their coach from the tournament.

 

So, you can call a DI coach any time but they cannot call you until July 1 between the Junior and Senior year. In addition, a coach is not being rude when they do not speak with you. There are NCAA rules governing how often they can do it so do not be offended when a coach does not speak with you.

 

Division II: Has similar rules but can start contacting recruits on June 15 after the junior year (instead of July 1) and after June 15 they can make an unlimited number of calls to recruits and have an unlimited number of contacts.

 

 

Division III: There is no limit to the number of calls or when they can be made. The issue is most DIII schools have high admission requirements so most DIII coaches wait until after the Junior year’s grades come out to talk to prospects so they can see if they have the grades to make it at their college. In terms of the in person, off campus contacts – a DIII coach can have contact with a prospect after the Junior year.

 

NAIA and JC: Can contact a prospect as often as they wish with no time restrictions.

 

This is why Colorado is a big week. Coaches from DI schools will wait around for a prospect to get knocked out of a tournament and either talks to them after that game or schedule to meet with them at their hotel.  Remember, they must wait until the coach releases them after that last game (meaning finishes speaking with them after they play their last game).

 

Should I Speak to a Coach?

 

Keep in mind at the NCAA has rules for when a coach can speak with you and in some cases how often. So the answer is no, you should not go up to a coach during a tournament.  If the coach has interest in your daughter then they will come to you.

 

What should you do?  Call coaches and email them to gage their interest. The later you are in the recruiting process (meaning the closer to the players senior year) then the more aggressive you should be. There is nothing wrong with a parent calling a coach who has shown interest in a player and asking the coach where they stand. In my opinion, it is hard for the player to do this – they are intimidated and do not have the savvy to really understand if the coach has interest or is just being nice to them.

 

If your daughter is interested in attending an NAIA or JC school – then by all means talk to the coach. Also, if they have interest in a DIII program and they have the grades – talk to the coach. These coaches will appreciate knowing that the player has interest in attending their institution.

 

Remember, Division I coaches often have a long list of players on July 1 after the Junior year and start whittling that list down. They may get a commitment from a player or just go in another direction. If you stop hearing from a coach there is a pretty good chance they have moved on in one way or another, but if you have any doubts – call the coach and ask. It is better to know then to always wonder.

 

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Do I need a skills video?

Do I Need A Skills Video?

By Kim Gwydir - Former Division 1 College Softball Coach

And Founder of FPOS

I am often asked “Does my daughter need a softball skills video?” or better   ”My travel coach says I do not need one”.

 

As a former NCAA D1 and D2 coach I used video as a key component of my recruiting process. Video helped me decide who I would spend travel funds and valuable recruiting time on to see play live at a tournament.  There were a few times in my coaching career where I offered a scholarship solely based on video because I liked what I saw but was not able  to see the player live. So, based on my experience let me give you some tips about skills videos.

So who needs a skills video?

 

It is actually easier to explain who does not need the video. If you are a Sophomore in high school and college coaches, representing schools that interest your daughter are already making it known that they have you on their list  (they can legally do this by talking to your coach and asking them to relay that information to you) then you may not need a video.

 

I used to say if you want to go to college locally that you do not need a skills video but I have changed my mind. Having a short inexpensive video like the “mini skills” that FPOS does at all our recruiting camps is a very helpful tool to send to local colleges.  This gives them the opportunity to evaluate you before they come to watch you play in a tournament. Also, a short highlight video that you can produce yourself would be acceptable for this type of situation. Doing an expensive, edited skills video may not be necessary in this case. A shorter, less expensive video can help do the job and  bring the coach of the local school to attend the event and watch you play.  Additionally,  they may have already seen you the year before or they have heard of you already through the local media.

 

Here are some keys

 

1. The farther away from your home you are looking at colleges – the more important the skills video.

 

2. If you believe yourself to be a “blue chip” talent then you will need a skills video earlier in the recruiting cycle. Recruiting is happening earlier and earlier – it is not unheard of for a college coach to get a verbal commitment from a 10th grader – this means they identified their talent in the 9th grade! In this situation, it is important to get a skills video to college coaches early so they can identify you and make arrangements to see you live.

 

3.  Many college coaches, as well as myself, suggest a few short videos instead of one long one. A skills video and a highlight clip are ideal. I did a blog article earlier this year about an iPhone app called iMovie that lets you create an edited video using footage taken using your iPhone. This is an easy inexpensive way to create great highlight video.

 

If you have not already selected list of colleges to target by the end of your sophomore year it is extremely important to get a quality video done at the end of the summer before your junior year of high school. It is highly suggested that you update this video as your skills improve. An inexpensive way to get a quality video is at an FPOS recruiting camp as all of our recruiting camp events include some type of video.

 

If you have any questions that we I can help you with, contact me at info@fastpitchonlineshowcases.com.

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She has a dream…..

This is a familiar story – a high school player has a dream to go to college away from home – far, far away from home – and her travel team does not leave the immediate area. What does she do? Is her dream even a possibility? The answer is yes but it will require some extraordinary effort on her part. Keep in mind a college coach wants to see a player perform before they recruit them. If your team is not playing in a tournament in the area of your dream school what can you do?

 

Step one in this process is to get good video done on your softball player. A quality edited skills video is a great introduction to any college. But in this case, we need to go further; you should consider creating game highlight videos as well. In a past article we explained how to use your iphone and a $5 app to create a highlight video. However you do it, getting game highlights will help a college coach who will not see you play often (if ever)  to feel more comfortable making an assessment of your skills.

 

Step two and here is the hard part – if your team does not play in a tournament in the area of your dream school then look to be a guest player on a team that is playing in a tournament in that area. Many of the top showcase tournaments provide a “players looking for a team” service where players provide their name to a list and teams in the tournament can contact them to play for the weekend. An example of this is the TCS Rising Stars Tournaments in Davie, FL. If your dream is to play softball at a college in Florida then it may be worth the cost of travel to get there and play. If you do take this leap then make sure you contact colleges ahead of time and tell them you are coming and who you are playing for and your dream to play softball in that area. Send them video ahead of time as well so they can see if you will fit their recruiting needs.

 

A good rule of recruiting is the farther you want to go from home the sooner you need to think about the recruiting process. Be proactive and don’t be afraid to dream. Just be willing to put the work in ahead of time.

 

For more information on recruiting – go to www.FastpitchOnlineShowcase.com

 

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Stop the chop- the proper hand path in hitting.

In teaching hitting, I often find young players developing an improper hand path where they hit down on the ball. This path results in many ground balls and not as many line drives.  I believe there is a misconception as to what the correct hand path should be. I also believe many coaches have a misguided hitting philosophy.  Let me explain.

 

It is a fact that the top hitters in the world do not chop down on the ball. Actually what you will see is not the hands starting the bat but instead the back elbow starting down and the front elbow initially starting upward. The hands are the last thing to be delivered to the ball. Good hitters do not commit their hands until the last possible second so that they can take a pitch if it breaks out of the strike zone. Many young hitters make the mistake of starting the bat improperly with either their hands going down and/or their front shoulder opening.

The second issue I see is that many coaches believe that hitting ground balls is the correct goal. While it is true that at the younger levels, a team that hits a lot of ground balls will probably win a lot of games I just cannot agree with limiting a player to being a ground ball hitter. College coaches want players who have swings that can drive the ball into the outfield (unless of course they are fast kids who are on the left side). By teaching a young player a downward hand path you are creating a muscle memory that will be hard to change in the future. What gets the player more excited – a ground ball or a homerun over the fence? I think we know the answer.

 

In short, teach players to hit the ball hard up the middle. Promote swing mechanics that lead to line drives off the batting T in practice. Remember, ground balls do not go out of the park.

 

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RELENTLESSNESS -I Will Give My Best Effort No Matter What; I Will Compete

All coaches are looking for signs of leadership and toughness from their players.  They’ll see these signs when their athletes truly understand what it means to give their best effort one pitch at a time.  So often, unfortunately, athletes allow the situation to keep them from this lofty goal.  Many don’t truly max out their effort until it’s perceived to be a particularly important game, opponent, or audience.  Some “gamers” coast along early in the contest and truly put out their best effort only when they fall behind or it’s close in the late innings.  Many push at the start, then coast if they get a lead.  Others quit working hard when way behind, subconsciously thinking that a comeback is too unlikely to deserve their best effort.  Most have a natural letdown when the opponent is perceived to be weak.

 

Coasting is not the only reason athletes fail to relentlessly give their best effort one pitch at a time. “Normal” competitors have trouble staying confident when things aren’t going well, and they don’t perform as well when they’re not confident.  Some athletes become negative when it’s too cold, too hot, too bumpy, too far, too dry, too wet, or too dirty — even though they know they give a better effort when they are positive and having fun.  Many lose intensity in particular situations, like a 3-0 count, 0-2 count, 2 outs and none on, or hitting with none on base (RBI lovers).  Some stop putting out their best effort when they perceive (whether it’s true or not) that the umpire, a teammate, or a coach is putting out less than his or her best effort.  Whatever the situation, all of these examples represent a lack of mental toughness, a lack of leadership by example, and a missed opportunity to practice giving another best effort performance.

 

Hopefully athletes learn the dangers of letting an inferior opponent hang around, the risks of taking any situation lightly, and the joys of walking through the door that the other team left open for a great comeback.  Hopefully athletes learn to compete one pitch at a time.  Ultimately, relentlessness is about controlling the controllables, and you can control giving your best effort one step at a time, each step of the way. When you don’t do this, your self-esteem suffers a little hit. When you do, you feel like a success regardless of the things going on around you that are outside of your control.

 

What about relentlessness at practice?  Andrew Carnegie said, “The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world tips its hat to those who devote more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.”

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GOALS

We all have goals, whether we realize it or not. Some simply act to avoid pain. Others move towards pleasure. A select few systematically set and use their goals to navigate themselves towards exactly what they want in life. Well-stated, monitored, and adjusted goals will help direct attention appropriately, provoke physical action on this focus, improve time management skills, and increase persistence. These goal directed behaviors are not always normal, so if where you’re headed isn’t normal or average either, actually writing down well-formed goals will help you achieve the EXTRAordinary.

 

Short-term (under a year) goals should have six characteristics. They should be SMART and controllable. That is, they should be [S]pecific, [M]easureable, [A]ttractive, [R]ealistic, [T]imed, and Controllable.  It will not, in and of itself, help me to say that I want to be great. I need to define greatness specifically, in controllable and measurable terms. Then I must choose a level that is both attractive and realistic, and a date by which I will reach this level. For example, a softball hitter may commit to having quality at-bats two-thirds of the time by April 1– where a quality at-bat is one where she sees each pitch well, makes all good decisions about whether or not to swing, and then either gets a base hit, advances a runner (when trying more to advance the runner than get a base hit), or hit the ball very hard.

 

Short-term goals must be monitored and adjusted. This is what separates the goal setting process from setting New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are usually set on January 1 and forgotten about by January 15. Adjusting goals so that they remain both attractive and realistic is critical to maintain motivation and prevent frustration. This monitoring process will also keep goals relevant and help increase awareness of what controllable factors (behaviors) are working and should be repeated, and which are not and should be changed. Key point: goal setting is an ongoing process, not a one-time thing.
Formal daily and/or weekly goal setting as described has been consistently shown to increase the quality of a person’s behavior and outcomes. This is true across the board, plus this process is particularly powerful for people who have or had Attention Deficit Disorder. Despite this, following this procedure is rare. If you decide to invest the time into goal setting and commit to your goals (rather than just being interested in them), give yourself a pat on the back. If you want some forms to make this monitoring process easier, email Coach Traub at aaron@CoachTraub.com and he’ll send them to you – free (or buy his book – it’s in there).

 

Aaron Weintraub has been coaching athletes for 19 years, 13 of which he spent as a college baseball coach. He is a disciple of the late, great Harvey Dorfman, who wrote The Mental Game of Baseball and other books.

 

Weintraub published his own book, Coaches Guide to Winning the Mental Game, in 2009 and added An Elite Athlete’s Manual for Training Mental Skills in 2011.

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Friends don’t let friends “squish the bug!”

In teaching hitting, one of the most common teaching cues I hear coaches of young players using is, “squash the bug”.  What the instructor wants is the young hitter to rotate on their back foot during the swing in a motion similar to how you would squash a bug under the ball of your foot. I want to, once and for all, state that “squashing the bug” is NOT a good hitting mechanic.

 

I understand why it works at the younger age levels – young hitters are usually weak in the upper body and coaches see this technique as a way to increase strength (and bat speed) especially off the hitting tee.  When a player squishes the bug their hips get involved in the swing and generate more power. The problem is that this method of early hip turn can happen before the front foot is completely planted and the full stride is taken.  This can be limiting for their development long term.  In fact – if you are “squishing the bug” it means you still have a substantial amount of weight (and energy) on the back foot before your hips are used.  In “squashing the bug” usually the player lands their front toe, turns their hips and then lands the heel of their front foot. Do you know what this causes? It causes a player’s front shoulder to open prematurely and then we yell at our hitters, “Don’t pull your front shoulder out”, which is exactly what the result of “squashing the bug” is – just try it. Get in a batting stance – take a stride but don’t transfer your weight – now squish the bug with your back foot and low and behold your front shoulder must come out early and we all know that is bad mechanics!

 

See the pictures below, and I can find hundreds more, of major league ball players and high level softball players and you will not see one hitter “squashing the bug”.

 

So if the concept of “squashing the bug” with the back foot is incorrect, then what should you teach? Think front shoulder to the pitcher longer and have your hitters land their front heel before they get aggressively engage their hips. Have players focus on hitting balls back up the middle of the field rather than pulling everything.   We will cover more of the correct mechanics to teach in future blogs.

 

There are a lot of hitting philosophies out there and I have seen a lot of hitters with “bad mechanics” get hits.  But, as the competition gets better the best possible mechanics are my goal. Do you teach your players to be average, or do you want them to be the best? Strive for mechanics that give your player the best chance of success at the highest level.  Remember, we want to take the bugs out of our hitter’s mechanics not bring them in.

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To Play or Not to Play, High school softball that is!

By: Kim Gwydir – Former D1 Softball Coach and Founder FPOS

 

I am often asked a couple questions about the importance of playing high school softball.  The first question is generally, “How important is high school softball when it comes to recruiting?” The answer is – not very much. College coaches, unless they are from local area, do not go to high school softball games because they are normally in their own season.  Also, college coaches now that high school statistics are considered unreliable and can be inflated at times by coaches wanting their players to get end of season awards.

 

I will say, as a college coach it would raise a flag if I did not see a player, that I am recruiting receive an end of year award(s) such as Offensive Player-of-the-Year, Pitcher of the Year,  All-County or  even All-State. I want to believe I was recruiting one on the best players in the area, so in a small way it does matter. The next question is, “If it is not that big a deal should my daughter even play high school softball?” To me the answer is, yes, they should.  Every girl should play softball for their high school.  It raised even a bigger red flag when a player did not play high school softball because I would begin to question if this player could have a lack of leadership or socially has trouble getting along with other players. In my mind, high school softball is meant for the players who will not play in college, as it is the highest level they will reach and probably their last softball experience.  However, players who plan on playing softball in college need to use the high school season as an opportunity to become a better leader and make the other players around them better.  You have a chance to be a role model for younger players aspiring to play in college and demonstrate to them what being a leader and team mate is about.  As well, there is the factor of pride and playing and representing your high school in the best possible way.  Yes, playing in college can be the end goal, but, remember that even at that level you are playing for the university or college you attend and the pride of doing so should be very important.

 

I am also asked, “Do you think there are reasons not to play in high school?”  Yes, I do.  I have heard some horror stories of the treatment of players where I can totally understand why they wouldn’t want to play in high school. It is one thing to be a tough coach but there is a line between trying to get more out of your players and being abusive. Each family has to make their own decision in this case.  The important thing, when asked, is that a player has to be able to articulate why they are not playing.

 

Another reason I like high school softball is because it is one of the few opportunities players have today to compete for something.   What I mean, is that even though travel or select teams playing in the summer are playing to qualify for their national tournament, there is a “showcase mentality” that can set in – this is where players are guaranteed a certain amount of games in a weekend and it is more about your own statistics than whether the team wins. In high school you play every game to win.  There is district, conference, state championships and there are elimination games.  Reaching these goals as team are important as players grow and understand the team concept.  These accomplishments and the chance to win a state championship are experiences players will not forget no matter what they do in the future.

 

Ultimately, it’s your decision to play or not to play, but consider all the positives that can be learned from the experience.

 

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“Speed Kills – slow speed that is” – The Most Under Used Pitch in Softball is the Change-up!

The Change-up is the most under used pitch in softball.  I am not disagreeing that speed is important. The focus at USA Elite Training LLC is getting our young pitchers (13 and under) to throw 50 mph with command as soon as possible.  As much as speed is used as a benchmark for developing our pitchers so is the development of an effective change-up.  Before our pitchers learn any movement pitches we require that they have an effective change-up, which they can throw in pressure situations.   Based on my experience, it is more difficult for an older pitcher (high school age) to develop the change-up later in their pitching career.

 

Unfortunately, many of our younger pitcher lack experience in throwing change-ups, as the pitch is not called frequently enough for them to develop consistency or confidence in the change-up.  Too often, the coaches will not call the change-up after it gets hit once.  My question to them is, “Does the fastball ever get hit?”  When the only pitch the young pitcher has is the fastball coaches are forced to throw it. Coaches love speed at the youth level as it does dominate.   But in order for the pitcher to develop confidence the change-up must be used.  My focus on the change-up is toward the future development of the pitchers.

 

With the use of pitching machines, batters are able to practice hitting speed and become less intimidated by speed.   Ask the great hitters, at any level, even the professionals, what pitch they fear most, it’s the change-up!  The change –up throws the batters timing off.  In addition, speed differential, the appearance that speed is extremely different, occurs once the pitcher throws the change-up.  On the next explosion pitch following the change-up, it appears to be 3-4 mph faster than it normally would be to the batters eyes.  My favorite saying during the game is when the coaches on the opposing team start telling their players, “watch out for the change-up.” This is music to my ears, as the pitcher has now mentally placed a question in every batter’s plan.  For the hitter, their focus has shifted from concentrating on the positives of hitting the ball to the negatives of don’t get suckered into swinging at the change-up, or not to be paralyzed by the pitch and let if float over the plate for a strike. The batter is now becoming a defensive hitter verses an offensive hitter.

 

I encourage coaches to utilize the change-up more in their pitch calling.  The change-up should not be called only when the pitcher is a head. Call the change-up when it is least expected.  On a full count, as a first pitch, or when the pitcher is behind in the count in my opinion are great times to throw the change-up. Too often, the calling of the change-up is very predictable, used only when a pitcher is a head of the count and then it gets hit.  A pitcher also gains confidence in the pitch when it is called earlier in the count, or when least expected, because they know they can throw it for a strike.  If your pitchers can develop the confidence in an effective, deceptive change-up at an early age you have developed a lethal weapon for years to come.

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