Are You Growing Your Skill?

While your body gets taller and stronger and you get smarter and more mature are you really using those increased talents to grow your softball skills?

Make sure you’re not using your grade school softball skills when you’re now in high school.

I first came across this idea from working with some college pitchers and watching them warm up doing the exact same things my 10-year old pitchers were doing. The exact same things! And yet, these pitchers were 21 years old! They hadn’t been 10 in 11 long years, and in those 11 years they’d grown taller and stronger and faster and smarter and more independent and better able to critically think and understand and move their bodies – and yet they were still warming up and practicing the same exact way they did when they were 10!!!!

While their bodies had grown up, their skill hadn’t. You see, that’s the downside of habit, isn’t it? It can become so much a part of us that we never change it. Softball players get into all kinds of habits, and while habits can be good for us (good habits we’re talking about), we need to make sure we change them to keep up with the changes we go through physically and mentally.

I’m using pitchers as an example because I think that pitchers, more than any other position, really get into habits during warmup and practice that they never bother to change. They start their warmups doing flips or snaps from about 3 feet away, and then move back to do some other series of part-pitches or animal named tosses, eventually almost running before pitching and finally to the actual pitching part. Their practice, unless changed by their coach, is usually the same as when they were a kid – and yet they aren’t a kid anymore.

growing players skill actual age orange arrow blue arrow

This is a picture version of what I’m talking about. The Orange arrowed line represents the Players Skill age. The Blue Arrow represents her actual age and the yellow dots are points along the way. You can see that this player learned to pitch at 8, she got a changeup around 10 (so her skill arrow goes up since her skill improved), then somewhere between 12 and 14 she learned different pitches (so the arrow goes up again), but after that, she really doesn’t change much about her skill or the way she does any part of it.

And yet, her Blue Arrow, or her actual age, increases every year. She’s more coordinated and stronger and smarter and has greater reasoning and coordination and problem solving abilities and yet this player has not dragged her skill along with her as she’s physically and mentally grown.

I’m not saying this player hasn’t gotten better as she’s gotten older, but just think how much better she would be if she applied some of her age skills to her softball skills?! Do you think as a 21 year old pitcher she still struggles with her flips (or snaps) like she did when she was 10 – of course not. So she needs to eliminate them from her warmup routine. As you grow out of a problem you don’t need to keep its solution within your routine – whether it’s warming up or practice.

So the next time you go out to the practice field pay attention to how you’re doing things. Are you really taking a mature approach to what you’re doing, or are you simply doing now what you did when you were 10? If so, you’re cheating yourself, and your skill!

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