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High Performance Softball

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High performance softball is the strategies and tactics in softball at the High Performance level and how they may impact athlete or team performance.

The tactics and strategies at the high performance level for softball are much more complicated, require more experience and allow less room for error.  Strategies begin with scouting reports, history with the opponents and thorough understanding of your teams’ abilities and tenancies.

High Performance Softball Considerations

  • pick off plays
  • on a potential bunt situation, pitchout and pick off at 1st base
  • pick off at 3rd when a runner is being aggressive
  • 1 and 3 play (offense and defense)
  • fake throw to 2nd and throw to 3rd
  • 2nd baseman cut and throw home for the out or let it go for the out at 2nd
  • straight throw to 2nd
  • when there are 2 out or if the run is not important
  • bunt defenses
  • there are 3 to 4 different defenses depending on which bunt it is, where the runners are on base and how many are out, and the score.
  • the battery
  • different pitches for different batters based on statistics and tendencies
  • positional play
  • defensive alignment depending on the game situation and strengths of the defense

Game sense or knowledge is the most important performance factor that effects all strategies and tactics in softball at the high performance level. Knowing how many are out, the score, the inning, and the importance of the game will also have an effect on the psychology of the play.

Sample Softball Skill Referent Model

Skill: – Bunt Defense

Causes that can effect the skill

  • Lack of composure
  • Inexperience
  • nervousness
  • poor technique
  • lack of focus
  • anxiety

Initiation phase

  • knowing her assignments and under what circumstance to execute them
  • knowing where the runners are if there are any on base
  • knowing teammates assignments

Execution phase

  • executes correct assignment with good mechanics
  • does not cause confusion and congestion
  • stays focused on assignment rather than the runner
  • maintains composure

Post assignment

  • looks for the next play if there one
  • returns to position alert and ready for next pitch

Knowledge of the game

  • all assignments in various situations
  • when not to throw

Physical abilities

  • coordination
  • balance
  • speed
  • agility
  • strength
  • suppleness

Mental abilities

  • narrow focus
  • broad focus
  • confidence
  • emotional control
  • relaxation

Key Performance indicators / factors

What is the optimal way we are going to measure that outcome?

  • an out is recorded – lead runner if possible
  • any additional runners only advance 1 base if they advance
  • it is all done correctly whether in a pressure situation or a practice situation
  • the crowd goes wild as the third out is made and the game is won, athlete is happy and the coach gives 2 thumbs up for their performance.

How is the intervention made?

  • feedback after the event if in a competition
  • feedback during the event if in a practice situation

How will we measure the achievement?

  • video analysis
  • charts and graphs
  • design specific ones
  • how the athlete feels about the skill
  • end results of the skill

Causes and indicators of potential causes that impact tactical performance of athlete(s) in softball:

Lack of Knowledge

If you have not taught the athlete about a tactic they will not have the knowledge for the tactic. This would most likely occur with basic tactics such as positional play up until the Learn to Train Stage. Each stage after that should work towards a progressive knowledge of the intricate and at times complicating tactics and strategies of softball. The amount of knowledge obtained by the athlete is also somewhat dependent on their ability to retain information, the amount of information delivered by the coach and in what fashion it is delivered. We know that there are numerous ways that an athlete will learn best such as kinesthetic or manual manipulation, verbal or telling them how to do something, At the high performance level it is unlikely that lack of knowledge would be a cause of an incomplete or incorrect play unless it is a special play that the team has developed that is specific to the team.

Injury

An undisclosed injury can also effect the execution of a skill. Knowing the athletes well and being able to notice if something is not right is critical to managing the team. An athlete might want to play in a game but they need to understand the importance of the team success rather than simply the individual.

Fatique

A tired athlete will more likely make mental errors. Missing plays and losing focus can contribute to not only offensive and defensive errors but may also take away from team mates confidence in her.

Lack of Experience

A tactic is generally a play that is set such as positional play, relays, cut offs etc. These skills take some time and playing experience to learn well. Ideally a team will execute their tactics with precision due to experience gained through practices and then of course during competitions. Strategies can take some time.

Not enough Practice

Indicators:

  • Makes the incorrect play
  • Freezes during the Play
  • Asks many questions

Possible corrective intervention for key indicators that effect tactical performance in softball

Making an incorrect play would indicate that the athlete does not have enough experience and maybe has not practised the various situations in the game. The incorrect play could also be that the athlete was not aware of the runners on base or the game situation. We could start by first detecting the reason why the play was missed. Was the play missed due to lack of experience and knowledge or was there a concentration lapse where the athlete was not aware of the game situation. If it is due to lack of experience then a note should be made and the athlete should be made aware of what the correct play would have been. Team mates can also help by ensuring that the athlete knows what to do if the bal comes to them. If it is due to a lapse in concentration then the athlete should be made aware of it and she should be reminded to use her mental training skills to focus and to remind herself to check the situation before the pitcher pitches. Freezing during the play can be due again to not knowing what to do. The more likely reason would be anxiety and having to make quick decisions that could have negative consequences. Not thinking that a play can be made due to the speed of the runners would definitely freeze a defensive player who does not want to “throw the ball away”.

A possible corrective intervention would be to ensure that the athlete knows that everyone is in their place and an error cannot be made if she throws the ball like she would normally. It is when there is doubt that overthrows are very likely to happen. Another reason could be that the athlete has “zoned out” and is caught by surprise on the play. The only thing that can be done at the time is verbal reminders and perhaps visual cues that could assist the athlete in refocusing and not taking an error into the next play. During practice the play can be addressed and the athlete can rehearse strategies that can be used during competition. For an athlete that asks many questions it would depend on what type of questions are asked. An athlete asking questions about the opponents, rules and advanced strategies may simply be a constant student of the game and attempting to improve their game through knowledge and understanding. I would recommend printed material and encourage the athlete to make observations and even keep notes after games. If an athlete is asking questions about technical components and defensive assignments, that would indicate that she does not understand the fundamentals of the game and should be given written material and the coaches can spend individual time with her.

Measuring (notional analysis) individual or team tactics and strategies.

Defensive Tactics

Correct Alignment

Correct Timing

Correct Execution

Ability to React

Pick-off at 1st

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Steal of 2nd

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Pick off at 3rd

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1&3 to 3rd

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1&3 to SS

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1&3 to 2nd

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Bunt Defense

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Positional Play

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

 Tie Breaker

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Cut

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

  Winning run on 3rd

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Offensive Tactics

Game Sense

Correct Timing

Correct Execution

Ability to React

Stealing

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Taking adv. of def.

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Advancing Runners

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Count on Batter

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Situation Hitting

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Opposite Field

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Signals

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Analysis of tactical performance of own athletes and or opponents based on objective measurements to determine effectiveness of strategy or tactic for specific competition or over a period of time.

The common failure in tactical performance in the high level athlete is poor fundamental execution. This can be due to anxiety which results in rushing a play or “trying too hard” Yes there is such a thing as trying too hard. The tactical performance on my team during the summer games was for the most part well executed. I did have an athlete however who attempted to take the strategic outcome into her own hands which ultimately resulted in an out and taking away the momentum that we had in the game. After a thorough discussion with her, she fully understood the reasons why a coach will generally make most of the decisions with regard to base running unless otherwise indicated. Being that I was scouting our opposition and knew about them and their regular season level of play, I would have been the one to make important base running decisions for the runner who was new to the game coming from baseball.

Strategies and tactics that could be used to maximize performance in a competitive event. (i.e. Equipment, environment, selection).

The selection process would of course be the start to ensuring that the team has the best chance for success. Athletes that are experienced, knowledgeable and prepared to work their hardest to advance the team are crucial to finishing the season on top. One of the most important strategies after the selection process is mental training. Due to the fact that most errors are mental mistakes, if that can be eliminated or at least minimized, the chances of success are increased. Technical and physical preparation would be the next priority to maintain as they are the key components of any sport. Equipment is also a critical component to the game.

A competition plan for prioritized tactics or strategies in a competitive event, and/or a series of competitive events.

Playing an opponent who is fast and technically sound will require near perfect play to come out ahead. Outstanding error free softball will be the key to success in this instance. The correct positional play and knowledge of plays without hesitation is critical. I will need to know the athletes statistics very well and be able to put the athletes that will most likely play with perfection against the specific opponent. Having statistics on the opponents tendencies as well as my team’s abilities will be very useful in devising a game plan. For example, if the opponents are not the best at defending the bunt then we might bunt more often than average.

Tactics or strategies to implement in a competitive setting

The obvious strategies for success would be mental and technical/tactical softball skills. An athlete can get by on average physical skills in this game however if they lack in mental training skills and the ability to execute sound tactical and technical skills under various conditions, they will not be able to succeed in the sport of softball.

Objective measurements of key performance indicators that relates to the tactic or strategy being employed.

 Tactics / Strategy

No. Of Errors

Alertness

General Knowledge

Ability to React

 Mental Skills 

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

     
 Technical Skills 

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

 Tactical Skills 

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Competitive plan detailing how the tactic or strategy will be achieved in competition.

The refinement of these tactics and strategies need to begin at the beginning of the competitive season. By integrating them into practice and game situations early on, athletes can begin to monitor their own progress through record keeping and self reflection. Creating the various game situations in a practice setting will allow athletes to make any adjustments necessary. Participating in exhibition games will allow athletes to solidify their skills in time for the main competitions.

Practices aimed at improving one or more prioritized mental skills in softball

PlanNotesEquipment
  3:00 – 3:10 Warm Up- running / stretching / throwing- (while warming up, review
practice goals)
 This is the time for them to say hi to
teammates, and mentally prepare for
practice.
 – balls
  3:10 – 3:30 Throwing / Fielding- (work on focusing strategies)
 Use competition drills that
incorporate timing and speed
 – cones- balls- bats
3:30 – 4:20 Base running- watching 1st and 3rd base coaches- good lead off- stealing- 1st and 3rd base running situationUse distracting activities to work on
concentration and decision making
 – bases- balls- bats
4:20 – 4:40 Defensive Plays- positional coverage- where to throw when- bunt coverageWork on decision making strategies
under stress. Play a mini game.
 – bases- balls- bats
4:40 – 4:50 Cool DownReview practice goals – none
4:50 – 5:00 Progressive Relaxation  – comfortable spot

 

PlanNotesEquipment
3:00 – 3:10 Warm Up- running / stretching / throwing- (while warming up,
review practice goals)
This is the time for them to say hi to
teammates, and mentally prepare for
practice.
 – balls
3:10 – 3:30 Throwing / Fielding under various conditions- (work on concentration strategies)Use competition drills that
incorporate stress
 – cones- balls- bats
3:30 – 4:20 Hitting- place hitting- bunting / slap buntingUse distracting activities to work on
concentration and decision making
 – bases- balls- bats
4:20 – 4:40 Defensive Plays- runners on 1st and 3rd assignments- pick off at 3rd– pick off at 1stWork on decision making strategies
under stress. Play a mini game.
 – bases- balls- bats
4:40 – 4:50 Cool DownReview practice goals – none
4:50 – 5:00 Progressive Relaxation  – comfortable spot
Summary
High Performance Softball
Article Name
High Performance Softball
Description
High performance softball is the top of the game. National, state, provincial & college athletes with the experience & skills to play at the highest level.
Author
Publisher Name
Softball Tutor
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