Well, just as I had threatened a while ago… a 2nd newsletter in the month of December. For those who sit on their seats anxiously awaiting the monthly arrival of my newsletter, consider this second one a Christmas present. For those who don’t like them, consider this a lump of coal to you. Ho ho ho.
I had a very unique honor and privilege recently, I got to be a speaker/presenter at the annual NFCA convention in Las Vegas. The NFCA (National Fastpitch coaches association) is comprised of coaches from all over the place. Travel ball teams, High school teams, National teams from around the world, and every kind of college program in the country was represented. As my business has evolved over the past couple years, I’ve gotten more and more into doing coaching clinics. But, speaking to an audience of 1200+ people which included some of the finest softball coaches in the industry was a bit overwhelming.
Now the session in which I spoke was a “Pitching Debate” and it featured 2 other coaches, Tori Nyberg of Northwestern and Theresa Wilson of Texas Tech. The object was for each of us to be given 5 minutes per topic and give our beliefs, opinions and ‘tricks of the trade’ for it. This was a unique challenge because finding the most important things to discuss in just 5 minutes is very hard. Our topics consisted mostly of the critical points of throwing particular pitches: rise, drop, change up, etc. There was also a segment on the mental aspect of pitching which I think all of us could’ve taken an hour of on our own to discuss.
The real difficulty for me was that I am such a hard/fast believer in right and wrong regarding pitching. I am unwavering in that and many think it’s arrogance. I don’t think so, I simply ask anyone who disagrees with me on the point at hand to either SHOW me how to do it personally or show me an ELITE pitcher who does that particular thing. And the simple reality is, nobody is going to get correct riseball spin on the ball (for example) if their mechanics are wrong. It’s not my rule, it’s just how it is. A lot of people don’t like hearing that and would rather think I’m an egomaniac for saying it. And establishing how much EVERYTHING is required to be right in order to throw pitches, was extremely hard to do given the time constraints.
The second and even more problematic situation for me is, I prefer to demonstrate what I’m talking about instead of just standing up and saying “do this” or “do that”. The ability to demonstrate it and show what happens if the mechanics aren’t right is invaluable at the clinics I do. While it lets people actually see what I’m talking about it also adds instant credibility to my words. Unfortunately, there was a short stage with a podium and no real way for me to demonstrate the pitches and mechanics. For me personally, this was the biggest disappointment because nearly anyone can just stand up and talk about pitching but, putting those words into action is something I think everyone enjoys seeing. Naturally, after being done speaking I thought of 10,000 things I wish I had said or mentioned but there just wasn’t the time to do it. It’s my greatest wish that I will get another opportunity to present at an NFCA convention and in a forum which is more conducive to my normal routine.
Still, it was a great event. Tori Nyberg and I were very similar in our approach and belief and I was truly amazed at Theresa Wilson’s approach. While I think I disagreed with her more than I agreed on most things, it was an amazing experience to hear both sides of the pitching ‘debate’.
If you’ve never been to an NFCA convention or are unfamiliar with the organization, I highly suggest you look into it. There were coaches there from Russia, Taiwan, Netherlands, New Zealand and all over the country. You can hear speakers like Mike Candrea, Sue Enquist, Lisa Fernandez, etc. all in one location. There is an exhibitor show with over 100 companies displaying products and state of the art training tools. It’s really an amazing event. Having it in Las Vegas never hurts either… although next year is somewhere in Florida which isn’t bad either! The social hours at night allow everyone to mingle and it’s a giant Meet/greet. It’s a great opportunity for anyone from any small town to get to meet their softball idol and to interact with them.
One of the major topics was, of course, the 2008 Olympics being the last year for softball. Naturally everyone is behind the ISF’s campaign to get softball reinstated. I still get a small chuckle when I hear so many people saying that softball was removed because of “American dominance” in the sport. While I’m not sure what happened and why softball was REALLY removed, I don’t believe that was the case. But to understand why I think that, you should know a little background.
I have played quite literally all over the world. I now work for softball federations around the world and conduct clinics/camps in various places. In an alarming amount of the world, the same person is in charge of that country’s softball and baseball federations. So, Mr Joe Blow from country XYZZZ is the head of the XYZZZZ softball/baseball federation and he’s most likely also a ‘political appointed’ person. So, in many cases, it’s not like they grew up living and dying for either of these sports. Instead, his brother in law’s cousin is probably the Prime Minister and he was given a comfy job. Just take a look at the websites of the softball playing nations and see how many combine their softball and baseball offices. It’s the vast majority, trust me.
Anyway, I can tell you from first hand experience that other countries around the world did NOT want softball to be eliminated just because the Americans won. Far from it. Instead, take a look at how many countries are hiring coaches from around the world. An amazing amount of softball federations are hiring coaches to train their pitchers, hitters, defense, etc. So, instead of getting rid of the sport, they are doing everything in their power to get their team better! Which is the way it should be, right? So, it makes no sense that these countries would do all these things to enhance softball in their nation, then turn around and wish it out of the Olympics.
But, here’s the problem… many nations which hold Olympic votes like Mr Joe Blow and his country of XYZZZ have their softball/baseball offices together. And your average person in country XYZZZ doesn’t even know what softball or baseball is! Other countries are NOT like here in the USA where they can watch baseball anytime they want. Far from it. In the a country like Denmark for example, there are no games on their TV system, no scores in the paper, it’s not really played in schools, so in the majority of cases; a first time player in Denmark is often 18 yrs old and is dragged out by their friends to try it! I’ve been there.. I’ve seen it! You ask what side handed are they and they say “Right handed” So you give them a glove and they try putting that glove on the right hand because they’ve never seen it and they don’t know any better! Sounds ridiculous huh? How about asking the average American where someone would be standing if they played the “slip” position in Cricket. They would look at you cross eyed. But it’s common knowledge in Pakistan where the Slip position is. Anyway, I’m off subject.
More than anything in the world, the IOC and Olympic body wanted to eliminate baseball from the games. Why? Ask Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Andy Pettite, and the Mitchell Report. There has been so much buzz and bad publicity about steroids in baseball that the IOC wanted to disassociate themselves from that all together. So, MLB made the World Baseball Classic (which I thought was kinda neat). Anyway, in many non-softball playing countries the average person didn’t realize that softball was COMPLETELY different from baseball. They just thought softball was ‘females playing baseball!” and by eliminating baseball.. they could also eliminate softball and wipe the problem clean.
So, I think it was ignorance not anti-Americanism. To me that’s people thinking with too much of their patriotism getting in the way. We all want it in the Olympics even the teams who finished dead last. To us, softball is the greatest game. Just as to a cricket playing person, cricket is the greatest and they cannot understand why THAT is not in the Olympics! If the bottom line wasn’t always about money, then every sport would be in.
But one thing is for sure, the USA women’s team had better be praying nightly for the reinstatement of softball. When they see how their funding is cut because their game is out of the Olympics, they will get a dose of reality. The women’s team is funded the same way as the US Men’s team, by the USOC. And with women’s softball an Olympic sport and their success being so great, they get a lot of rewards. When that is no longer in the Olympics, they will be on their way down the ladder in terms of funding and their importance to the USOC.
Perhaps we should all hope and pray softball gets reinstated, not just the National team. And while we’re at it, lets put men’s softball in the Olympics too since baseball is out!!!!