Sometimes, I ponder questions when I’m traveling (which is constantly). No, I don’t mean questions like why is there a letter “T” at the end of Home Depot when it’s pronounced Home Depo. I mean questions regarding pitching and the instructional business.
Without question the hardest part of being in the pitching business is the ‘business’ side of things. For me, it’s very hard to balance my love for the game with the financial side of it. Some would say the sport gave me everything I have in my life and it’s great that I try to put something back into it. While on the surface that’s true, I have been extremely blessed with the opportunities softball has given me, I would never say the sport “gave” me anything. I worked at pitching. Day and night, when others were out playing Cowboys and Indians, I was pitching softball. 10 yrs old and begging my father to let me play in a league somewhere. But, there was NOTHING for boys in the world of fastpitch where I grew up. So, I had to wait to the ripe old age of 12 to play against grown men in a league. I remember being jealous of the girl next door who played in a youth fastpitch league and wishing I could play. I wonder if the ACLU or other organizations would’ve helped me sue so I could’ve played for a girl’s team and maybe pursued a college career in pitching? Realistically, how could Mike Candrea discriminate against me based on my Gender if I wanted to try out for the softball team? If females can play football and wrestle, then could I have played collegiate softball? Now obviously, any college could’ve cut me for not being ‘good enough’. Whether I would be good enough or not is irrelevant. People are cut from teams all the time who believe they are good enough but are disliked by the coach or something. However, I wonder.. could they’ve kept me out because of gender? If Michelle Wie can play in the PGA because, unlike the LPGA, it’s not gender specific… then could a male try out for the US Olympic softball team? That doesn’t have a gender listed, does it? Male softball is not offered in the Olympics, so it’s not like I’m choosing to play with girls instead of boys. Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm.
Early in my life, I made a decision that softball was what I wanted to do. I wanted to do NOTHING else in my life than play ball. While at a young age, I was a multi-sport athlete, there was absolutely no question where my heart was at. Yet, today… the most talented pitchers I come across for lessons and at clinics are multi-sport people. While I think it’s wonderful that there are soooooo many opportunities for kids to play sports, there comes a harsh reality that many never want to admit to: You cannot achieve your potential without dedication. I was lucky enough to realize, not only, where my heart was at but also what I was going to be best at. No way was I going to make it to the NBA, NHL, NFL, or MLB. So, I gave my blood, sweat and tears to softball. And it’s paid off. It would’ve never occurred to me to play another sport that would’ve detracted from my pitching and practice. In many cases, this is what separates “Good” pitchers from “Great” pitchers. A time will come where they have to decide what they want to do. The sooner the better.
There are some pitchers who simply don’t want to be “great”. They are happy with playing a little softball in the summer, volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter, etc. Softball isn’t in their blood and it’s not what drives them to succeed. It’s something to do to kill time in the summer. For them, a little softball is enough. Unfortunately, the majority of exceptionally talented kids fall into this category. But, that’s another topic for another time.
I have ABSOLUTELY no problem with kids like this. They don’t have the heart for it, then I hope they find what they want and pursue it to their fullest. But, one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever experienced is the kids who don’t work at it, don’t think about pitching except at their lesson, then get frustrated and cry when they don’t progress and get better. You see, pitching is something that you will get back whatever you put into it. Putting 1 hour a week into pitching at your weekly lesson isn’t enough to make a good pitcher. It takes passion and committment unlike anything else. Why are some of the world’s best at any sport (Cat Osterman, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, etc) so good? Sure they are talented but, they also put the most work into it. It takes uncompromising commitment.
Every pitching coach, regardless of who they are has had students like this. Ones that do not put the time in yet can claim to be a student of “John Doe”, the pitching guru. Sometimes it’s not fair to attach too much recognition, good or bad, to a pitching coach when you see a youngster pitching. It’s hard to know if that kid REALLY puts the time in or not. Moreover, the really really great pitchers are probably getting their help from multiple sources.. not just one. This is another sign of uncompromising commitment. As my grandmother used to say; “learn everything you can, it never weighs you down”.
Multiple sports are great. But just remember, they will only get out of pitching whatever they put into it. The choice is yours.