I've been brainstorming lately on how I can connect with bigger numbers of softball players and help more folks. It's tough because I'm located in one area, and many of my followers are NOT there. I have a podcast called The Krunch Factor (available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and GooglePlay) which is a great resource, but I'm going to test the waters with some blog writing to see what you all think.
DID YOU KNOW... I'm offering a few shirts right now- you do NOT have to be a student of mine to purchase! Check them out HERE - if you’re tired of throwing meatballs and HERE if you want to show your love of pitches
Today's topic is a good one (shouldn't they all be?):
TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO NOW TO BE A BETTER PITCHER (that cost $0):
1. Show up.
I don't mean just be a body. Whether it's a skills lesson, a game, or a practice, be PRESENT. Listen, I get it. We live in a crazy world where our cell phones bombard us with notifications constantly and we're frequently interrupted. You are there to learn, to better yourself, and, hopefully, to enjoy it. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have given pitching lessons where the student is clearly not engaging. She won't answer how something feels, she won't give effort, or she tells me she doesn't have goals. Why bother coming at all? If you're committing to this sport, SHOW UP.
PLEASE. Hydrate and eat food that is going to help you. Hydration does not mean Mountain Dew, and nutrition doesn't mean a donut. Again, if you're committing enough to attend lessons or play for a high-level travel team, do yourself a service and find out what foods GIVE you energy rather than take it away. This is in NO WAY saying to avoid sweets, etc., just a suggestion that they might not be the best source of energy before a game, lesson, practice, etc.
3. WARM UP.
This one comes up SO MUCH. I want to be crystal clear here- STATIC STRETCHES BEFORE THROWING OR BATTING OR PITCHING are PROVEN to be more harmful. A static stretch is when you hold a pose -- think left arm across right side held in place with right arm or when you grab your right foot behind you to stretch you quadriceps-- you MUST warm up these muscles before you stretch them. So, let's do DYNAMIC stretches. Arm circles, leg swings, and more at a LOW to MODERATE intensity to start are great. (episode 4 of The Krunch Factor is a phenomenal resource). Another great thing to do before any of this is to foam roll- this will start the process of releasing tight muscles -- one of those hurts so good kind of things.
4. COOL DOWN.
NOW is the time for static stretches. After your activity, static stretching will take your already warmed muscles and elongate them, thus beginning the recovery process. Even a few minutes of this is better than nothing. If you have long-term high-level goals, I highly encourage you to adopt these habits. See also episode 4
5. DREAM BIG. AND THEN BIGGER.
You are welcome to play a sport just to play a sport; however, if you have bigger dreams of playing on, you should set some goals. Episode 8 of my podcast breaks down how to set goals in a way that's realistic and manageable. Dream big, and decide how you're going to accomplish this. Most important thing: it's what YOU want. Not a parent, not a coach, not a friend.
For REAL. I know- it's hard. School gets you up early, homework keeps you up late, and when are you supposed to have a social life? However, this is a crucial time for growing and developing.. and many of you REALLY need the sleep in terms of physical recovery. Aim for 8 hours... yes, I'm serious. If that's not possible, AT LEAST aim for 8 hours before a game or tournament. If you're not rest, you're mind will not be there, you'll have a higher risk of injury, and, in general, it's probably going to be pretty miserable. Episode 15 is a great resource for helping you sleep more.
7. ASK FOR HELP.
Bodies can seem complex. In terms of pitching, I'm asking you to perform quite a number of functions while maintaining stability- this can be daunting especially when you consider that most humans today have a difficult time performing a basic squat without weights. For my local friends, you can get a FREE mobility assessment courtesy of Cora Physical Therapy. If you're not local, SEEK IT OUT. Find a physical therapist or movement specialist who can give you a functional screening. If you're not able to perform basic human movements, your athletic journey is likely to be complicated. Don’t forget about chiropractors, massage therapists, and more!
8. PLAY FOR A TEAM THAT CARES ABOUT DEVELOPMENT.
This one may be tough. A lot of time, I'm seeing that there's a big focus on MORE. More practices, more hours, more games, more communication at all times of the day.
Repeat after me: MORE IS NOT BETTER. BETTER IS BETTER.
Playing games 3/4 weekends in a month is not better.
Having 3+ hours practices multiple times a week during peak seasons of other sports is not better.
Playing games YEAR ROUND is not better.
Friends, your body and mind need a break. This is not meant to be a year-round sport. How can you look forward to your next game when you know there's always another one the next week.. for the entire year?
When can you be human? When can you just play? When do you get to be with friends outside of the sport?
I see this obsession happening earlier and earlier -- even younger than 12U leagues, and it's absolutely crazy.
Find a team that cares about DEVELOPMENT. Not about the W right now, but long-term wellness and sportsmanship.
This is one I could go on and on about and may evolve into a new post.
9. EMBRACE YOUR TEAM.
Your team is your family. You aren't going to “take someone else’s position,” you’re going to earn it, and it’s not your decision to make. You're there to be your best you and to encourage that of your teammates. If someone is down, PICK THEM UP. If someone is up, CHEER THEM ON. Be the teammate that you NEED. The ballfield is not a place for drama-- it should be an escape from it. If you have an issue, communicate appropriately and learn from it.
10. APPRECIATE & RESPECT THE GAME.
You will very well likely look back years from now on your time spent playing softball and think that you would give anything to go back and get one more chance to play. The friends you've made, the personal successes and lessons you've gained, and the pure wonder that we get an opportunity to come together on the field and play our hearts out are feelings that you really can't imitate. Enjoy the now and don't catch yourself wishing it away.