My biggest pet peeve in the technical skills of this game is the number of “experts” that are teaching our athletes about …. 20 different ways to do 1 thing. This is the way softball analysis creating paralysis can prevent learning. Also referred to as paralysis by analysis. The worst is when young softball players are going to different hitting, fielding and pitching coaches and receiving different theories on how to execute the skill After spending a few sessions with the new instructor, the players are sent out onto the field to play with their coach giving them even more instructions on the same skills. Does that sound confusing to you? I would think it would be.
How is Softball Analysis Creating Paralysis?
I am sort of a sports purist and believe very strongly in the science of sports and using the biomechanical principles of softball. This theory means for example, that there is one most effective way to maximize the power that you put on the ball with the bat. Did that make sense? Yes there are different ways of doing things and everyone will develop their own idiosyncrasies for execution, and coaches need to take that into consideration. The example I use though is that if everyone batted like Ricky Henderson the very successful major league baseball player, I would bet a dollar that the success rate would definitely not be the same.
That said. I believe that what needs to happen with softball players, when they are 13 and over, is a matter of refining the batting success by taking the strong points and building on them. According the the Long Term Player Development Model, the most ideal time for skill acquisition is between the ages of 9 and 12. That doesn’t mean that new skills cannot be learned, or that skills can not be improved when the are older. However the ability to retain the amount of information relating to a specific skill is not as strong as when they are younger.
Preventing Softball Analysis Creating Paralysis
Plan your Approach
If you are heading to practice and you are going to work on batting, a skill that is notorious for paralysis by analysis, plan how you are going to approach the skill. There are many components to hitting and by focusing perhaps on only the upper body for example, it is easier for the player to understand what you are talking about and they can spend time learning about a smaller aspect of the skill rather than all of it which could include many different instructions.
Minimize the areas of focus
We will use hitting again as an example. By minimizing the area of focus or amount of change, the player is not constantly hearing instructions about different parts of the swing every time they swing. It also offers more opportunity for success because they are only trying to get part of the skill right. You can then move to another section if you are using stations and focus on another part such as the lower body. Often we have them at the batting cages or at the plate and we are calling out adjustments covering the whole body. This can be debilitating. Especially for new players and young players who can not consume that much information at the same time. Keep it simple.
Stay within the learning abilities
Before adding a running slap bunt to the offensive skills of your team, make sure they know how to track the ball from the pitcher and hit it. We often introduce advanced skills when our team is not yet ready for it. Yes we want to make sure they are able to compete with our opponents but it should not be done at the risk of being able to execute basic skills. By giving players more to think about when they are still trying to focus on the basic skill execution, this is another level of paralysis. It is not necessarily by analysis but it has the same effect.
Communicate with the athlete
Talk to the player as you are working with them on their skills to make sure that they understand what you are referring to. Ask if they can feel the movement kinesthetically to give them a better understanding of the way their muscles and skeleton feel as they move through the skill.
Resist Analysis during games
It is so tempting to try to change mechanics during games. While up to bat many coaches are relaying instructions to the batter about how to hold their bat, facing the pitcher, how their feet should be in the batters box. This information should be discussed at practice when the player can practice what you are wanting her to do.