Taking a Break from Fastpitch

It’s December, and for many of us – this means that weather and cooler temperatures put a damper on our fastpitch fun.

As teams, we end up scrambling for indoor facilities to use (which are both expensive and booked solid), and as players and parents – we finally get the breathing room it takes to recharge our batteries, making us realize just how much we LOVE THIS GAME!

Recently, a reader posed a question to us asking us about whether taking a break from the game – the mechanics – the hitting – the drills – the throwing – the hitting – the pitching, in other words all the things that make good players was a good idea.

And as much as we hate to admit it – we, at SIFG believe that taking a little hiatus if you will, is definitely worth it. In fact, we actually believe that using the off-season PROPERLY can make your team and your player BETTER!

This doesn’t suggest that the balls and bats and gloves should be filed away until April – but it does mean that toning down the training for a few weeks won’t mean your player (or your team)  has to start all over with her skill set come the first springs of green grass. In fact, you might be surprised at how much your team grows mentally and physically over the off-season.

For one thing, these girls are still growing.  All the throwing and hitting and running – can cause repetitive use injuries. Many girls today who are deeply involved with fastpitch begin suffering from overuse injuries at the end of long seasons. And while stretching, and proper mechanics are important to minimize injuries – the reality is that a little rest can often be the best remedy. In fact, instead of throwing and batting- stretching and building up muscles via weight lifting and strength training can be a good way for players to improve over the break.

It’s fair to say, that players today are being conditioned younger and younger. Continued use of muscles, ligaments and nerves without rest can lead to long-term damage and injuries. Even with proper technique, a girl who has strained a shoulder muscle or pinched a nerve during the season will revert to bad throwing techniques, which only adds salt to the wound. Today, physicians are seeing players barely into high school benched and retired from the sport because of overuse that started too young, too fast and with too much pressure.

Strength training and stretching with weights during the off-season (focus on the BOTTOM HALF AS WELL) will make for stronger hitters, faster runners and healthier arms and shoulders, which aids in throwing. And this can all be done without a ball.

softballworkoutAnother good idea for training during the off-season, is to do cardio and CORE exercises. Instead of booking a batting cage for your team, book a gym or exercise studio, or use someone’s garage and start doing a work out program.

One, that we would recommend for young folks is Insanity or the T25 Focus program.  <—-(YOU can ORDER at the link. Its expensive BUT WORTH IT for your TEAM!)

If you tried to implement these programs during the IN season – your girls would be extremely sore on game days which would affect both their technique and performance. But these programs BOTH focus on strength training, and will help keep your players in shape.  Again, without a bat or a ball! You can also focus on running drills – both distance and sprints to improve the speed and agility of your team. Plyometric videos are also great for elongating and strengthening muscles, AND ARE beneficial for young athletes.

We will go out on a limb here as well – and ask that you introduce your player or your team to some sort of yoga or meditation during the off season. Sure, they may laugh at first – but softball is 85% MENTAL (and emotional for girls), which means that mental and emotional strength is a huge part of your players/teams success.

Another benefit to taking a break is mental. There’s nothing quite as fun for a fastpitch player as taking infield and hitting. However, the reality is that a break – a vacation from the game, helps to restore interest and excitement for playing. It gives them a chance to recharge their mental batteries and to appreciate their time on the field. If you constantly work your team to death – they burn out, and take fastpitch for granted, and can become injured more easily. It can become more of a chore than fun, which totally defeats the purpose.

All of that being said, hitting the batting cages should be encouraged. The off-season is a good time to enroll in lessons for girls that are struggling, because they will have time to implement the changes being made without affecting their game performance. The off-season is also a good time for pitchers to learn new pitchers and work on TECHNIQUE.  While you daughters wont forget how to hit or pitch, those are two elements of the game that need consistent (not daily) attention. And, if they are working on strength and overall health, and cardio and keeping themselves in shape – chances are they will be better athletes when the season begins than they were when this season ended.

Yes. Take a break. Don’t become a couch potato, but use the off-season to focus on overall areas of fitness. Well rounded softball players are healthy, and agile all around – and these two things come from exercise in general and a respect for fitness and physical well-being.

So how do you keep your team/player in shape during the off season?

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