Wether you’re working with a team or an individual, many fastpitch softball coaches struggle with where to start. There’s so much to learn in our game that it can be quite overwhelming. This is where coaches can take a cue from the business world — in particular the “funnel” approach used in sales. Most sales organizations have it down to a science. They know that if they’re going to close X number of sales, they need to X number of customers to come to the website, which means they need their promotional efforts to reach X number of people in total. In the case of coaching, it works this way. Start with the big things, get those happening first, and then work your way down into the details. Now, that may seem rather obvious but you’d be surprised how many coaches try to get to the detail parts too quickly — or try to teach everything about a skill at once. What usually happens is the player becomes so overwhelmed by information that she doesn’t learn much of anything.
Let’s take hitting as a good example. As you’ve no doubt seen on the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, those who get into hitting often really get into it. They will spend hundreds of hours or more looking at video of top-level players and analyzing everything down to the way their eyebrows twitch when they’re waiting on the pitch. That’s fine as an intellectual pursuit. Where the problem comes in is when they try to impart all that vast knowledge to their players.
If they don’t prioritize in a way that creates success for the player, it’s likely that the player will become frustrated and simply give up. In hitting, as in all athletic skills, there are some core things that have to be in place, and then there are nuances that build on those core things. For example, keeping the hands up rather than dropping/looping them is a pretty important skill and needs to be a priority. The exact angle of the bat at a particular point in the swing, on the other hand, is more of a nuance. It’s something to work on further down in the funnel.
The funnel doesn’t just apply to skills, either. It can also be used in teaching the game itself. Understanding when to tag up and when to run is a core skill that can make the difference between winning and losing a lot of games. Learning to steal a base on a changeup or a ball in the dirt, while valuable, is more of a nuance that can come later. Again, there’s a lot to learn in our sport. Trying to take in too much at once is like trying to drink out of a firehose.
Remember the funnel approach — start with the core things then move into finer and finer areas when your players are ready for them. You’ll find it works out better for everyone.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
Marc Dagenais, MHK, CSCS, is a softball peak performance coach that helps players and teams hit with more power and be more dominant on the softball field. To get tons of great FREE softball drills to boost your game, visit us at: http://www.softballperformance.com/softball-drills