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#564621 - 11/15/09 05:01 PM December 2009 Team Journal
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
"God help me, I love it so." Gen. George Patton


Just when I was figuring I was done with Softball for the year, some parents approached me about managing a 12U team for a tournament in Glendale, Arizona. How could I say "no"? Even though I was looking forward to some time off to recharge, there's plenty of time to rest after I'm dead, right?

So the first thing to do was hold tryouts to determine if there was even interest in going. Phoenix is about a 6 hour drive and the tournament is the weekend that Christmas break starts. Additionally, parents would be footing the bill for tournament registration, lodging, food, etc. Long story short, we had 9 girls show up, plus 2 that contacted me before tryouts because they couldn't make it but were interested in the team.

Fortunately, the most of the girls who showed up were the girls I was hoping to pick for the team (I didn't even make a single phone call!!), so even though only 11 girls showed an interest, it still was about the strongest team our league could have put together for a 12U team.

I'm nervous and excited. I've never taken a team out of state before. Heck, I've only taken a team out of town overnight once or twice. So getting the logistics together is going to be a challenge. Plus, we've only got a month to prepare for the tournament -- Yikes!!

I'm excited because talent-wise, this is the best team I've coached to date, and there's not a bad apple attitude-wise in the lot. A lot of these girls will end up on the 12U All-Star team next year (which I will hopefully coach), so this is a great opportunity to build some cohesion early, and get these girls used to the voodoo I do.

Practice starts Monday. Wish us luck!
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#565544 - 11/18/09 07:53 PM Re: December 2009 Team Journal [Re: Don -- Softball]
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
Two practices so far, and I like what I see. We're still in evaluation mode -- it's a lot of money and a long way to go with a team that isn't very good. I think we're "good" now, but how "good", I'm not sure. We'll probably have a final "go/no go" check with the parents and coaches at the end of the week. Worst case, we decide to not go, and the girls got a week of good practice that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

I am, at this point cautiously optimistic that we'll do well in Glendale.


If you followed along with my Winter Ball team (The amazing Tiny Titans [who make you extremely jealous]), you know I hate first practices. We had a lot to go over with the parents, which took 45 minutes. The girls were in batting stations during that time, then I went over an exercise to help them understand the speed of the game. I want them to judge distances via time so that they can make better decisions on the base paths by themselves. It was an exercise I'd not done before, but I liked it.

Then we finished up with about 20 minutes of defensive fundamentals and we were done.

Yesterday, we did batting stations and got all the girls through in about 25 minutes, then we did one of the best practice activities ever: practicing diving catches. The girls just LOVE this -- we lay out some cardboard over the grass and toss balls that they have to dive to catch. We'll do that again today (assuming I get to practice on time -- I'm at a work conference "down the hill" right now), and maybe again on Thursday. The girls won't get a chance to earn tickets during games since we'll have just one tournament, so giving them the tools (they always get a ticket if they dive in practice) to earn tickets during practice seems like the right way to go.

We also started teaching them drag bunts and push bunts. With the speed on this team, executing the bunt consistently gives us a great chance to get on base. We also taught them 2-handed bunts, which are so easy to do and give the girls better control over the bunt that I don't understand why other coaches don't do it.

During defensive drills, girls were diving and flying all over the place. It was beautiful!

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#565724 - 11/19/09 04:01 PM Re: December 2009 Team Journal [Re: Don -- Softball]
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
Looks like Wednesdays are going to be light turnout days. Two of our girls have travel ball practice, one girl goes to her batting coach, and one girl has travel soccer practice. That makes me 4 girls down on Wednesdays.

Then last night, 3 other girls missed practice (One's brother had a school play, and 2 were dinged themselves during diving practice -- nothing serious, and they'll be at the next practice), so we only had 4 girls at practice.

We spent almost an hour with batting stations (2 batting machines, soft toss, powerstick with little whiffles), then reviewed time and distance, demonstrating why its so important to charge the ball and keying off the 3rd baseman for bunting.

Then we finished up with rundowns. It was starting to get cold, and the girls had gotten enough work, so we finished 15 minutes early.
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#565925 - 11/20/09 01:42 PM Re: December 2009 Team Journal [Re: Don -- Softball]
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
Had everyone minus our two travel ball players, so we got a lot of good work in. Normally we have 2 hour practices, but we only practiced for an hour and a half last night because my coaches and I had to go to a Board meeting.

We did batting stations, then diving practice, then started introducing our bunt defense to the team. Tomorrow, we play the bunting game -- my favorite practice activity of all.

I also got the parents together and told them that I will be calling them after Friday's practice to get a final "go/no-go" decision from them. We only have 11 players (including my youngest daughter who wants to be an alternate), so we're only 3 injuries/flus away from not being able to field a full team. Plus, we have no idea what the competition is going to be -- we could match up well, or we could get stomped and mercy-ruled every game. Plus it's a lot of money for everyone right before Christmas.

Basically, if one family says that they don't think this is a good idea for them, we're going to pull the plug on the team. At least the girls would have gotten a week of practice that they ordinarily would not have. Most of the parents asked if we could keep practicing even if we don't have a team -- they already see improvements and their girls are having fun.

I of course told them I'd be happy to have informal practices if they're interested if we don't go forward. Any day on the softball field is a good day for me!!


Edited by Don -- Softball (11/20/09 01:50 PM)
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#566289 - 11/22/09 04:33 PM Re: December 2009 Team Journal [Re: Don -- Softball]
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
Friday, we had about half the team show up. There's just so much going on with other sports, other activities, the holidays, and that we were kind of a last-minute thing that the days when I have a full team are going to be few and far between. I'm going to have to keep track of who was at practice when so that I know who's learned what.

Guess that's why I get paid the big bucks.

So we worked on batting stations, working on Quick Throws and backhand/forehand/shorthops, then bunt defense. We finished practice with cookies for the girls -- a tradition on the last day of the first week of practice.

After practice, I called the parents for a final "Go/No-go" decision. We are still the only 12U team registered, so we have no idea what our competition is going to be. If one parent said, "No," then we would have pulled the plug on the team. Fortunately, everyone is on board, so onward and upward!!
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Don McKay, Softball Editor
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#566388 - 11/23/09 01:36 AM Re: December 2009 Team Journal [Re: Don -- Softball]
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
Saturdays are voluntary practice days. "Voluntary" mean voluntary -- if girls want to show up and get some work done, I'll work with them. If nobody shows up, then I get to go home early. My feeling is that if even one girl shows up and gets some work in, it will ultimately make the team better, especially in a condensed season like this one.

So I had one girl, my youngest, show up yesterday for voluntary practice. She couldn't throw very well, couldn't bunt very well, and could hit, but couldn't hit the ball hard. We worked about an hour and a half, and by the time she left, her throwing was about 100X better, and she could bunt and drag bunt comfortably. We still need to work on her hitting the ball hard, so I sent her dad some weight transfer drills to help her get her hips into her swing. All in all, a very productive practice.

We actually had a bunch of work done by team members this week, even though only one girl came to voluntary practice. A lot of my girls participated in the SDSU Softball Clinic this weekend, and my two travel ball players had practice all weekend -- next weekend they'll be in Vegas for a huge tournament. So I think we're in better shape than we appear if you only count practice attendance.
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Don McKay, Softball Editor
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#566752 - 11/24/09 02:59 PM Re: December 2009 Team Journal [Re: Don -- Softball]
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
We had 6 girls for practice last night, and we got a lot of good work in.

We started with batting stations. I'm a little worried -- about half the girls on the team haven't had me for a coach, and they're just not getting "Hit Strikes HARD!!" We don't have a couple of games for them to get it either; this entire season is a 5-game tourney and we need to hit the ground running when we get there. I think it's time for a T scrimmage where the girls hit the ball off the tee and try to get to first.

We then worked on 1st and 3rd situations which evolved into a run-downs practice. The girls were intense and focused, and having fun to boot! We'll probably have to revisit 1st&3rd again and again, but they got how I like to execute run-down situations pretty quickly.

We finished with a live-ball scrimmage. We've got 3 good pitchers on the team, and two were there yesterday (both were my primary pitchers during "Silver" All-Stars this summer). Both pitchers looked pretty sharp, and most of the batters looked pretty rusty (which I expected).

One challenge with this team is that it looks like I will not have all the girls at any one practice, so I need to track who was at which practice so that I can make sure all the stuff we need to cover is covered for everyone. Definitely a challenge. "Don't worry," I keep telling myself, "we'll get there."
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Don McKay, Softball Editor
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#566946 - 11/25/09 01:58 PM Re: December 2009 Team Journal [Re: Don -- Softball]
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
7 girls made it last night for our last official practice of the week. We'll have no practice today or tomorrow, and then voluntary practices on Friday and Saturday. Hopefully next week, attendance will be a little better as my Travel Ball players are back from their big Vegas tournament.

I videoed the girls' swings during batting stations and will email the video analysis to them over the holiday break. Hopefully with a few tweaks these girls will be hitting the ball HARD -- probably the biggest concern I have overall. We have good-to-great pitching, our defense seems pretty solid, and we've got decent speed overall, but we're just not driving the ball like I'd like to see.

I'm also a bit concerned with our bunting. We played the bunting game yesterday with live pitching, and at first nobody could bunt anything fair. We usually have one bunting station off the pitching machines every practice, so it was disappointing to see such poor bunting given how much we've worked on it. I think there are also some players who don't take bunting seriously because they think they hit too well for me to call on them to bunt. I'll have to show them the error of their ways...

Finally, I'm concerned about the tournament itself. We are STILL the only 12U rec team signed up. If there aren't, say, 4 more teams signed up by the end of next week, I think we're going to have to pull the plug on this team. I'm afraid that they might start pulling 12U travel ball teams into our bracket, or make us compete against 14U teams, or do something else crazy just to keep our money. We've worked too hard to end up playing against unfair competition.
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Don McKay, Softball Editor
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#567766 - 11/29/09 03:14 PM Re: December 2009 Team Journal [Re: Don -- Softball]
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
Had voluntary practice Friday evening, and had two girls show up. We worked on throwing hard at a target, then really worked on batting mechanics and hitting the ball hard. It was a good practice, but more work needs to be done in these areas for both players.
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Don McKay, Softball Editor
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#568378 - 12/01/09 11:29 PM Re: December 2009 Team Journal [Re: Don -- Softball]
Don -- Softball Offline
Shark

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 377
Loc: Ramona, CA
We had 6 girls at practice yesterday. We had some MUCH needed rain over the weekend, but it takes a few days for our infields to dry out, so we stayed on the outfield for practice.

We did batting stations with live pitching (2 of our 3 pitchers were at practice), then worked on relay drills. We specifically worked on getting our footwork going as we were catching the ball. Then we worked on communication between 2 outfielders, hitting the ball between two stations and having the girls at each station work together on whom would field the ball.

We finished up with Over-the-Line. I was liberal with tickets, so just about everyone earned booty for the day.
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Don McKay, Softball Editor
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