Having college softball on TV is a great way to both increase the visibility and to help younger players and coaches see what top softball players look & play like. But it comes with some traps, so make sure you know the 5 things to copy when watching college players.
Should you imitate everything you see softball players do on TV? Knowing what to copy and not copy gets tricky, so let me help you figure it all out.
It never fails, each time I work with a pitcher they’ll have something just a little bit different about their motion and the cause is usually a pitcher they recently watched on TV. Now trust me, I LOVE having so much softball on TV and can’t thank ESPN enough for their aggressive commitment to softball. But it takes a trained eye to watch players doing a super-fast skill like hitting or pitching and imitate that skill correctly.
We imitate what we actually see, which means it’s easy to imitate the beginning and the end of a pitcher’s pitch or a hitter’s swing. That’s why you’ll see a lot of younger players with exaggerated hitting stances or pitching windups – smaller versions of something they’ve seen on TV. Imitation is a SUPER powerful teacher so the more we can let our young softball players watch the older ones playing, the better.
But, what we want to avoid is watching the end of a skill – like pitching – and then teaching that as a MUST DO to all pitchers. The immediate example is when pitchers are told to “punch the sky” with their follow through, or in other words, finish with their hand jabbing upward after release.
I can only imagine this started when some coach saw some pitcher throwing either a riseball or screwball and that pitcher finished her follow through with her hand facing up. Ok, great. A specific pitch with a specific spin that resulted in a specific follow through. But, that same pitcher didn’t finish that same way on all of her other pitches – and yet pitchers are constantly taught to “punch the sky” every time they throw every pitch. What?! It makes no sense.
To the right you’ll see 4 extremely successful pitchers (Monica Abbott, Lauren Haeger and Hannah Rogers) and none of them are “punching the sky” with their follow through, either because they never do, or, the particular pitch they’re throwing in this picture requires their hand to move in a different direction.
Remember, in any skill the follow through is simply the result of the force and direction earlier within the motion (either the throw, the pitch or the hit).
So instead of imitating how great players begin or finish their motions or swings or throws, there are 5 things you should be looking for when you’re watching college players. I’m including my list below and think it’s a great opportunity for you to give your team some “softball homework” – have them pick any college softball game on TV and they’ve got to write down examples of how the player at their position (on both teams) shows these 5 traits.
Here’s my list of 5 Things to Copy When Watching College Softball Players on TV:
- Their Concentration – Watch closely how college players take a little extra time before every play to make sure they’re ready for the next play and finished with the last one. They never appear to rush between plays, but instead seem to make the game slow down to allow them time to “get ready”. Not only are they getting ready physically, but they’re making sure their focus and concentration is back on their next play instead of lost on the last one, or the TV cameras, or somewhere in the crowd. This takes focus & concentration so look to find examples of both players and coaches as they concentrate.
- Their Determination – Determination means you don’t quit or let anything get in your way. So watch how college players and coaches show their determination…are they squinting their eyes, or smearing black paint on their faces, or yelling support or simply staying calm and fighting hard? Watch closely for how your favorite team or players show their determination and inability to quit.
- Their Ability to Shake Off Mistakes – Believe it or not, mistakes happen in college softball! I say this because I see too many players and coaches at the younger levels getting SOOO mad when mistakes happen, and yet they happen on every level. It’s not the mistakes that will hurt you but your reaction to them. The next time you watch a college game watch how the players and coaches immediately put a mistake behind them and move on to the next play. If you carry mistakes around with you from play to play pretty soon you’re bummed out mentally and you’re playing like crap. So learn from the college players and coaches and shake off the mistake and get yourself ready for the next play!
- Their Ability to Not Look Upset – College players and coaches excel at this one. It’s not that these players don’t make mistakes, they make lots of them, but what they don’t do is pout and throw a fit. Instead, it almost looks like they don’t care because they stay so calm-looking. Oh trust me – they care! But they also work VERY hard not to carry their mistakes around with them. They shake them off quickly and get ready for the next play!
- Their Support of Their Teammates – Softball is a TEAM sport which means it takes everybody on your team to support each other and work together in order to have a chance of beating your opponents. College players are terrific at hiding their disappointment at not playing while getting on the dugout fence to yell and cheer for their teammates who are. One of the compelling things about college softball on TV is how supportive the players are of each other – it comes across on TV and it really resonates with fans. People enjoy watching others do what they wish they could do and we all wish we could be great teammates. Hats off to all the college players who visibly support their teammates every single game!
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For your own copy of our “How to Copy College Softball Players” infographic – click here