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Thursday's practice was the first practice we've had all season where I wasn't satisfied. The girls were not focused, would talk when I was addressing them, and just weren't in to practice.

Some days are like that, and as a coach you just have to muddle through. At the end of practice, I told them that this was their one warning, and that we'd be doing pushups next time we weren't focused. I told them that of course we want to have fun, and silliness can occur, but not at the expense of practice. They're a great group of kids -- I'm sure they got the message.

I was the only coach today, which isn't usually a problem because I can usually grab a parent or two to help out, but none of the parents stuck around to watch practice. So we worked on outfield and infield defense. It was OK for a first time, but I don't usually like running a team defense until we've worked on infield and outfield separately. Next week, we'll do that and then start putting our team defense together.


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Saturday practices are usually 2 hour practices (weekday practices are 90 minutes), but the High School clinic got rescheduled to today and it was supposed to start right after my practice was scheduled to end. Additionally, I knew a handful of girls were going to be absent as they are wrapping up their basketball and volleyball seasons, plus with Monday being a holiday I knew a couple of girls were going out of town.

We therefore had a light, fun practice. We worked on batting stations. For the first time this season, I saw things come together for most of the girls. They are all swinging hard and driving the ball. Even my newest player who had never had a bat in her hand until about 4 weeks ago hit a couple of line drives to the outfield. Two of our players did so well that I gave them a ticket each for their efforts!

Then we played softball-football, which is like frisbee football but using gloves and a ball. This is a HUGE favorite game for my girls who've been on my teams in prior season, and they've been begging me for a couple of weeks to play it. It didn't help that on Wednesday while we were at the batting cages, the 14U team that had the field next to us (and is coached by one of my assistant coaches from last year) was playing Softball Football. My girls were like, "HEY, THAT'S OUR GAME!!"

Then I introduced the girls to softball-golf, which incorporates long throws to targets. We had some fun with players who didn't shout "FORE!!" if they threw their ball near other players, admonishing them with "Bad form! Bad form!". Of course, if someone made a really accurate throw, we would all golf-clap for them. The etiquette of softball-golf is almost as much fun as the game itself!

Only sixteen 14U and 12U players went to the clinic, of which 5 were Smokey Smiles (including my catcher who is still on crutches but wanted the t-shirt). I was really pleased with that, but not really surprised. I think that, attitude-wise, this is the best bunch of girls I've ever coached. It didn't hurt that I brought free Gatorade for anyone staying after our practice for the clinic!


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Today was a great practice! We have every girl there except my daughter who's still nursing a bum knee. I'm losing a bunch of my girls this week as they leave for 6th grade camp tomorrow, so it was definitely good to see them all there.

We started off with batting stations (as usual), then moved to infield and outfield work. Usually, I work with the infield, but I let my assistant coach Dave take the infield while me and my other assistant coach Ray worked with the outfielders. This was the first time we've specifically broken our girls up into infield and outfield groups as we transition from fundamentals to reacting to game-type situations. From what I saw of our infield, we're going to be in great shape this season. Our outfielders looked good as well, but since they tend to be more inexperienced, we still worked on fundamentals with them.

Then we played the bunting game, and we are really getting good at bunting and running in game situations. My one critique that I passed on to the girls was that everyone's bunting well, but nobody is drag or push bunting, and I'd like to see us do more of that in the bunting game, because I'm definitely going to be calling for it in real games.

We finished by working on some base running drills. I was planning on timing the girls via video, but I forgot to charge my camera which ticked me off a little bit.

Definitely a great way to start the week!


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Batting cages today. We only had 6 girls show up, so we got a lot of good work in and still finished early. I taught my new slap hitter how to drag bunt (using the same exact footwork as slap hitting), and she picked it up pretty well. Hopefully she'll pick up drag bunting as quickly as slap hitting. For a girl who never played before, she's been pretty amazing slap hitting. She can put almost any strike into play.

Since we finished up early, we went to an empty infield and worked on base running for about 10 minutes. We focused on really getting a good start with the rocker start, including pumping your arms really hard. Then we worked on properly rounding bases, dropping the left shoulder, keeping your arms pumping through the turn, and using the base to push off for the next base. All the girls picked up on these things immediately after only being shown once. I *love* this team!!

After practice, one of the girls who pitched a couple of years ago wanted to try pitching. I think I've found my emergency pitcher -- she was throwing strikes with decent velocity, and even had a change up she could throw.

It's all coming together. If my catcher's knee gets better, all the pieces will be in place for a great season.


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Had 7 girls at practice last night. My girls who are at 6th grade camp come back tomorrow.

We did batting stations and for the first time we face real pitching. I put my emergency pitcher on the rubber and had the batters bat against her. My pitcher wasn't as accurate as the night before (facing batters is a bit different than just throwing off the pitching rubber), but threw enough strikes to strike out a couple of the batters. The batters themselves showed really good patience and made good swings at the strikes they got.

Then with just 7 girls, we did our standard defensive station rotation and finished up with infield practice. Now, most of my girls at 6th grade camp are my more experienced girls, so we had a lot of inexperience in the infield and it showed. The throws were wild, but more concerning, some of the girls didn't understand where to throw when.

I ended up bringing all the girls together and just talk about the very basics of the game. What a forced versus unforced runner was. When to throw to first versus trying to get the lead runner. Where to throw if you catch the ball in the air. Most of all, I talked about communicating. Everyone should be shouting where the play goes as a teammate fields the ball. Any time there is any question about who gets the ball, somebody call it.

Then we went back out there and looked a little better. Still shaky, but we still have over a week before our first game.

We won't have practice on Saturday, as our league is having a Hit-A-Thon to raise money.


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No practice on Saturday, as our league had its Hit-A-Thon, so we participated in that instead. 9 of my girls showed up (two had other events to attend, and one was sick) which was twice as many as any other 12U team, so I was psyched by that already.

It was a rainy day, and so the fields were soaked and it was tough to stay dry. Well, a rainy day for the San Diego area, so we got less than 1/10th an inch for the day, but it was cold enough and damp enough to not be comfortable. We were going to have a pizza party afterwords, but we postponed that for a better day.

I told our team at Thursday's practice that our season started with the Hit-A-Thon, and that we wanted to make a statement then and there about how good a hitting team we were. Mission Accomplished! We showed up about an hour after registration so that we could all hit together, and it was a sight to behold. Smokey Smile after Smokey Smile was just crushing the ball!

Most of my hitters made it into the top half distance-wise of all the 12U's competing, and all but two of my batters hit the ball fair at least 7 out of 10 tries. I had one coach wonder out loud why I always ended up with great hitting teams, and another pair of coaches kind of looked shell-shocked after we were done. It really could not have gone better if we tried. And two of my best hitters didn't even make it to the Hit-A-Thon!!

I picked up my daughter from 6th grade camp on Friday, very much relieved to see that she was off crutches and running and jumping around like normal. She went about 10 days without touching a bat before the Hit-A-Thon, but you would have never known it by her batting. She fouled the first two pitches off, then hit 8 in a row as hard as any girl, 12U or 14U, at the Hit-A-Thon. In fact, she hit the second-farthest ball in the competition (the furthest for a 12U player), and she had three other hits that could have placed her in the top 10. It was definitely great to see!

One week away from Opening Day. I think I have my lineup set, so I'll focus on determining who plays where this week.


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Good practice today, with all 12 girls present. The fields were waterlogged from our weekend of rain, so we had to restrict practice to the outfield.

We set up a diamond in the outfield grass, then set up our pitcher as one of the batting stations. Neither pitcher nor batters were particularly sharp today. I attribute our pitcher's inconsistencies to the fact that she was pitching on wet, soggy grass instead of dirt, and she was having problems with her drive foot following through.

Our batters weren't sharp because they've faced plenty of batting machine pitches, but this is only the second practice where they have face live pitching. We'll get them up to speed before too long, but may struggle a bit during our first game or two.

My teams typically start the season slow. Last spring we started 2-5 before going undefeated the next 8 games. In this past Winterball season, we lost our first two before winning the next 7 straight. While I hope we get off to a good start this season, if we don't, we'll make up ground as the season goes on.

There is just SO much to teach the girls to make them softball players instead of girls who play softball, that it takes a while to click. I told them today that we haven't even begun to get close to teaching them everything they need to know. I always fret at this time of the season because I know we're still a ways away from our potential. Sigh...

Anyway, we did infield in the diamond we set up in the outfield and got some good work in, particularly regarding communications, and I got to see most of the girls in the positions they'll play. Then we finished with some base running, and this time I had a fully charged video camera so I was able to get some time trials done as well.

We finished practice going over signs, which I generally keep the same from season to season. About half of my players I've coached in the past, so the all picked them up pretty quickly.




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Today is Thursday, so last night must have been Wednesday, which meant batting cages. We had 9 girls, so we were able to take about 5 minutes per station and still get done early.

We only have lights on one of our fields, but those lights are bright enough to illuminate the batting cages (right next to that field) with no problem. I was hoping that there would be enough light on the next field over so that my pitcher could pitch to batters, but alas, there wasn't enough light. I'm good friends with the 14U manager who had the field, and since I thought I'd have my pitcher working, I surrendered one of the two batting cages to him.

Bottom line, we didn't get as much done as I'd hoped. I did get a chance to work our soft-toss station (normally one of my assistant coaches work that), so I was able to make some small corrections on the spot for most of the girls to speed up their bats, which was good. After practice, one of my players asked me to work soft-toss more often because she felt like she got a lot of this session, so I'll have to man the soft-toss station more often in the future.

Because we were done in less than an hour, I was able to show the girls the video from our baserunning on Monday. A lot of them still aren't timing their lead-offs very well, so I was able to show them examples of good and bad lead-offs. Then, after the 14U team's practice was over, we jumped onto the fields and worked on lead offs using one of their pitchers.

Tomorrow is our last practice before the season starts, though they are calling for rain this weekend. I feeling like I do before the start of every season, that I wish we had a couple more weeks of practice, but I think we'll do well if we play. Keep us in your prayers!


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Well, they're calling for a ton of rain this weekend, so the games and Opening Ceremonies were rescheduled for the following week. On the one hand, I'm relieved 'cause we get another week to practice, but...

So we had a normal practice today instead of spending time going over our pre-game routine and lineup. Actually, it started off as a normal practice, but one of coaches for the 12U team practicing at the same time asked if we'd like to scrimmage for about a half an hour.

I am not a big fan of scrimmaging, as I generally see it as a whole lot of players spending a whole lot of time standing around not doing anything. But I figured for a half an hour, not too much damage to our routine would be done.

After Batting Stations and infield/outfield work, we headed over to the next field. Basically, we batted until all our players had hit (clearing the bases after 3 outs were made and starting over with 0 outs), and then we took the field. We were actually done in about 40 minutes, but all in all, I think it was a good thing.

First, we were facing the best pitcher in the league -- she almost single-handedly took the 10U All-Star team deep into the State Playoffs last summer. She struck out a few of our batters, but everyone was taking good cuts at pitches. There were only a few swings at balls out of the strike zone, and only one strike-out looking (by a girl who has played for me before and should know better).

We had 9 players at practice, and 5 of them put the ball in play (one for a base hit) and one walked. You could tell the girls were a generally little uncomfortable overall. We didn't steal nor bunt, and I'm pretty sure that if we did, we would have generated some runs. Bottom line though: we didn't score and there is a lot of room for improvement.

Then we took the field. They had all 11 of their players, so my pitcher got a little more work in. The good news was that their batters didn't look any better than ours, even though our pitcher was noticeably slower than their pitcher. The bad news is that our pitcher didn't look so great. She walked three and struck out a couple. One ball was hit hard, but right back at her and she made the throw to first. Bottom line: They got the bases loaded and didn't score, but we need a better pitching performance to make it through the season. Our defense looked good, though, and our communication was outstanding!

Now, my pitcher was on antibiotics so she wasn't feeling all that great, but she was also really nervous because the other team was coached by the 10U All-Star coaches. She was pressing to try to prove herself. She wasn't the only one on the team to feel this way -- my daughter (catcher) also felt that she had to prove herself. My daughter did hit the ball hard, but one right back up the middle that the pitcher was able to stop and get an out on the play.

After the scrimmage, I talked with my pitcher and my catcher. I pointed out to my catcher that she was the best catcher in Winter Ball when we were playing in a 14U division, and reminded my pitcher that she pitched a few innings in Winter Ball and struck out some 14U batters. I also told them that we're going to play this team 5 times this season, so there will be plenty of time for us to show them what we're about.

All in all, I'm glad that we did the scrimmage to give the girls a chance to work through some of this mental stuff. I'd still rather just practice (or play a real game) :-)


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It seemed like an awful long weekend without softball, but we needed the rain, so it's all good. Plus, softball season can be a grind, so taking an entire weekend off before the season starts is probably good for the girls. I know I enjoyed the time off!

I had my pitcher from last Spring Season come and pitch during our batting stations yesterday. She's a 12U pitcher, but has moved up to the 14U division for the season. My girls, who had trouble against last year's 10U All-Star pitcher at Thursday's practice, did really well against last year's 12U All-Star pitcher last night. Definitely put to rest some of my fears going into this weekend!

Then, we timed our base stealing from 1st to 2nd using the baserunner's new trigger point as discussed in my article from last week. WHAT A HUGE DIFFERENCE!! Now granted, the last time we timed the girls we had to run in the wet outfield and they were keying off the old trigger point, but still! Back then, we had 2 girls run from 1st to 2nd in under 3.5 seconds.

Last night, we had 7 of the 10 girls at practice run faster than 3.5. WOO-HOOOOOOOOOOO!! The clock started as soon as the ball was out of the pitcher's hand. I consider anything under 3.3 seconds as an automatic stolen base, and we had 5 girls run faster than that, including one girl who got to 2nd base in under 3 seconds! When you consider that the average time for a 12U player to reach 2nd base is 3.75 seconds, and that we only had one girl slower than that, you just know that we're going to be running wild on the bases this season!

The girl who ran 2.94 seconds last night is one of my daughter's best friends, and a GREAT athlete. Her heart is in basketball, which is fine, but she sure has a future in softball if she so desires. I've used video of her running to improve my daughter's form, and she ran a very respectable 3.19 (4th best on the team). Not bad for a catcher!

Then we worked on some infield and outfield. I was very pleased with the communication and hustle that everyone showed. Our infield was still in bad shape from the rains this past weekend, particularly around 3B, and so we had infield practice without our third baseman.

Our 3rd baseman went with the outfield group, which worked out well because I wanted to see how she did on long throws. I don't like her throwing form -- she throws mostly all arm and usually has a bit of a sore arm by the end of practice. Sure enough, long throws only exaggerated the flaw. I think I'll video her throwing and have her take a look at it so she can see what I see.

We then worked on run downs, particularly in limiting the throws and forcing the runner back to the base she came from or tagging her out. For some reason, run downs was not a skill that was taught, or taught properly, in the past to my players so it was slow going for a while. We'll definitely have to review this in a practice soon so that they all get it.

Since we couldn't really use the right side of the infield, we didn't have an internal scrimmage as we planned, but instead worked on outfield plays and relay throws. This is one of my all-time favorite drills: Put two outfielders in the outfield and hit the ball between them so that they have to communicate while fielding the ball, and then one of them throws it to the relay who throws it home. As with the infield/outfield drills, I was really pleased with the communication of all the players on this drill. As we rotated through giving everyone a chance at each position for about 20 minutes, the girls got a great workout yet kept hustling until the very end.

After practice, I introduced long toss to my pitcher. I wanted her body to get the feel of making a maximum effort with the pitch, so she started at the pitching rubber, and every time she threw a strike, she would start one step further back. I also had her walk into the pitch so that she could get every bit of strength behind her pitch. She got almost all the way to 2nd base, and then we started walking her back to the pitching rubber with each pitch. Then she pitched from the rubber, and there was a noticeable improvement in her velocity. She even hurt my hand a couple of times! (High praise from this old catcher...)

Last week, I felt like we weren't ready for the season to start and was thankful for the rain. Now, I feel like we're ready to rock and roll and hope we can get our games in on Saturday (they're calling for more rain this weekend).


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