How this Pandemic Can Improve Your Softball

I can’t say I’ve ever written that title before, or even thought about it. But these are unprecedented times we’re all facing. We’re united in our fears and precautions and yet isolated from each other due to a little unseen virus that packs a very powerful punch. As we all face separation from our teams and teammates, lets look at some ways we can continue to grow and improve our softball skills:

(1)    Take a Break – I know this might sound stupid and counter-intuitive, but breaks are helpful for our minds to grow. Breaks are like naps, they can energize you for what lies ahead. Just as our bodies grow and heal while we sleep, breaks allow our brains to process all the stuff we’re learning. Whether you’re talking academic schoolwork or softball skills, our brains can benefit from a break, and whether we want to or not, this covid-19 has forced us all to take a break.

(2)    Become a Student of Your Skill – whatever position you play, go on YouTube and find a college softball game. Then watch your position during that game and take notes:

a.       How does your position approach each pitch on defense?

b.       How does this player visually respond after making a mistake?

c.       What type of a teammate do you think this player is simply by watching her play – and what behavior does she show that makes you think that about her?

d.       How supportive is she of her teammates?

e.       What is the defensive skill she uses the most (get as detailed as you can). Is it charging balls, catching backhands, fielding bunts, throwing the ball, framing pitches, blocking balls, throwing a changeup, throwing a strike? Look as detailed as you can for the thing this player does the most on defense.

f.        Now do the same thing on offense. How aggressive are her swings? How many times per each at-bat does she swing the bat, is she usually swinging at strikes or balls, does she approach each swing in the same way – if so, what is that way. Look as close as you can for as many details as you possibly can notice.

g.       Now look at your list – you’ll have a TON of things that you can practice by yourself. Most of the things you listed while watching you don’t need another person in order for you to imitate. You can imagine you’re that player and go out and practice your ready position on defense, or handling a bunt, or taking an aggressive swing, or throwing a tremendous changeup. Imagination is a VERY powerful tool that you can practice anywhere and anytime.

(3)    Play Another Sport – While this is something most of you already do in Europe, it’s sadly very uncommon here in the U.S. Playing a sport other than softball (or baseball) will do a lot to improve your physical movement skills, but also your space awareness. Go out and play some football against a wall and notice how you anticipate where the ball will go and how fast it will go there – that’s exactly what you do on defense in a softball game, and also when you’re up-to-bat. Whatever your favorite sport to play is (other than softball), go play it and figure out how it relates to softball or how it has similar skills to softball. The closer you look the more you’ll find.

(4)    Teach Someone to Play – Since you can’t be around your softball teammates this is a terrific chance to get better by teaching. Teach one of your family members how to play softball. You don’t have to teach them the entire game, maybe just how to throw, or pitch or hit. If your only family member is too old to play, then sit down with them and explain the strategy of softball to them. No doubt they’ll have lots of questions and through these questions you’ll discover better ways to communicate, how to explain a complicated concept in a simple manner, and how to have patience – which are all things that will make you a much better player and teammate when you are able to re-join your teammates.

(5)    List it Out – Split a piece paper in half by drawing a line from top to bottom down the middle of the sheet. Create a list of the skills you feel confident in or comfortable with on one side. Get as detailed as you can, separating them by Offense and Defense. Then on the other half of the paper list all the things you aren’t as comfortable or as strong in. Again, separate them by Offense and Defense. Don’t be too hard on yourself but be realistic. When you complete both lists you’ll have things on one half of the paper (the things you do well ) that will make you feel good about yourself and improve your confidence as well as a list of things that you can spend this time practicing to help make yourself better.

We tend to practice the things we’re good at since they’re easier for us and they make us feel better, but we also need to improve some of our weaknesses. These are harder to practice since we can get frustrated easier simply because we aren’t as good at these. So give yourself a break. Keep practicing your better skills so you keep your confidence high, but work in those things you can get better at.

Know that this is a difficult time for everybody. Most of us don’t do very well in the unknown, and this is a time filled with unknown. Softball is something you know so let it give you some comfort in an otherwise uncomfortable time. Be sure to wash your hands after you touch your glove or ball or bat, but mostly, use this time to build up your attitude, your belief and your outlook. Find ways to help others who need it and you’ll be amazed at how much you end up helping yourself.

We’ll all get through this! If you’re looking for more help with your softball skills SOFTBALL EXCELLENCE is a tremendous resource packed with tons of online learning!!

Good Luck – Cindy Bristow!