Coaches and leaders are engaging in some form of performance analysis at all times. Whether it is simply observing skills or videotaping a game for review at a later time. The key in successful analysis is not only in utilizing tools for analysis but actually using the data that is collected in the softball skills training.
Often we know exactly what needs to be done to improve but have a difficult time prioritizing or providing opportunities for our athletes to improve. The best thing is to set a plan. Just like when we are planning our season, we need to plan our analysis methods and then integration of results.
To wait until just before our major competition to evaluate is too late. By then there is little time for improvement and you are competing with the stresses of competition to come. Mental training and maintaining physical and technical gains should be the priority by then.
Setting monitoring points a few weeks apart during the season from the beginning in the preparation phase right through the competitive phase and then reflecting in the transition phase will keep you on top of any adaptations and refinements that need to be made. You may even find that some more advanced tactics need to be taken out of your program all together if the team is having difficulty executing successfully.
Softball Performance Factors
Knowing the game of softball technically and tactically inside out will give you a solid list of factors that you can evaluate and refine. It is important to evaluate the entire sport rather than simply the areas that you are most familiar with. This includes all physical, mental and technical/tactical components of the game.
Using physical testing is not only important to monitor gains but also to monitor fatigue. If you see that gains are decreasing and fatigue is obvious, you need to look at the volume and intensity of your program.
As you get into the competitive phase, you may see fatigue more often as athletes are juggling the maintenance of physical gains with competition and perhaps other factors such as travel, nutrition and other activities.
Technical / Tactical Performance
Using a referent model for softball will give you all the information you need for your evaluation tool. Following is a tool that you could adapt for every technical and tactical skill in softball. Although it can be a lot of work, it will be very useful in ensuring that you have done everything you could to to maximize your athlete’s abilities when it counts.
A Starting Point:
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Softball Skills Training and Psychology
The psychological game is still not held in as high regard as it should be globally. What coaches and trainers need to know is that it will be the mental training abilities that will separate the good from the great. That said, this component is not an easy one to evaluate. I have created an assessment questionnaire that you might find useful.
Questions for Athlete:
- Best Performance
- Worst Performance
- Preferred Changes
- Current Preparations
- Preferred way to feel
- Preferred way to focus
- Preferred coaching approach during training
- Preferred coaching approach during competition
These answers will tell you if your athletes have a plan that they are using for their psychological state before, during and after competitions. With your answers for this, you can use the following recommendation guidelines.
- Key components to maintain
- Key components to refine
- Key components to develop
- Attaining IPS – development of skills to create their own
- Maintaining IPS – development of strategies
You may or may not find this tool helpful. It is something that I designed as an overall indication of how my athletes were doing and what I could do to assist them in improving or maintaining their mental skills. This could be done once the competitive phase begins then again about a month later and then about 3 weeks prior to the main competition, at which time they should simply be maintaining their mental skills and focusing on relaxation techniques to manage the stress that often comes with the event.
The ability to see the full picture of the game, and the contribution of the various components will allow you to schedule and prioritize your training and yearly training plan. As you are getting to the main event you can view the information at a quick glance to see where you and your athlete(s) are at respectfully.
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Utilizing the information and data that you collect through the year is of no use if it is not put into practice. Keep an open dialogue with your athletes and discuss the process as you are evaluating and refining so that they can not only feel a part of it but can also contribute to its success. You are a team after all.