We generally strive for perfecting technical skills for a perfect outcome. Softball game skills periodization is the preparing of athletes to best execute those skills with the perfection that they are seeking. Perfecting skills does not only prevent errors, but it also creates an efficient use of energy which will be helpful in recovery and regeneration.
Technical skills need to be trained based on biomechanical principles that will have the most ability to effect the skills positively. Too often coaches and trainers use mechanics that were successful for other athletes and expect that they will work in their own situation. The basic scientific principles are what will work for everyone and should include characteristics that are a part of each athletes physical traits.
Softball is a sport of complicated technical skills. Although the skills do not necessary rely on physical training for good execution, it is physical training that will determine the potential of a softball skill. For example. Even though good mechanics will allow a player to have a good hit, good mechanics with good strength and power training will allow a player to have a great hit.
Teaching Technical Skills
For a new softball player, it is recommended that basic skills should be the main focus when teaching. Too often coaches want to introduce advanced skills when the team is not yet ready. A new player could be an 9 year old boy or girl new to the sport or a 34 year old man or woman just entering the sport as an adult.
Basic skills include:
- receiving the ball
- basic positional play
- basic bent leg slide
Advanced skills include:
- transitional skills
- bunting – slap bunt, running slap, drag bunt
- directional hitting
- sliding – hook slide, fade away slide, pop up slide
There are many factors that will determine the speed and efficiency of learning a new skill including age, cognitive abilities, athletic abilities and disposition (psychological readiness). The one element that will have the greatest effect on the athletes ability to learn though, will be the delivery method used by the coach or trainer to teach the skills.
Tactical Skills Training
Most would agree that softball is a very tactical sport. Tactics are sometimes thought of as strategies and positional play which is done through the use of technical skills. They are not strategies. Strategies are overall plans that will affect the season using tactics and skills among other things such as mental training and of course physical training.
Positional play is a tactic, as is a double play, the cut and defensive plays with runners on first and third base. When and how you introduce these tactics will determine the effectiveness. As with technical training, tactics should be introduced to the team as the team is ready. For example a double play should never be introduced if the team can not yet execute near perfect positional play.
The Psychology of Tactics in Softball
This game happens quickly and with many distractions that can affect the outcome of a play no matter how good the skills are. The anxiety that an athlete may experience during a play will affect their neuromuscular abilities which could not only affect the technical execution of their skills, but also the psychological abilities which will make their execution of the “correct” tactic more difficult.
Use exhibition games and scrimmages to refine this component and give your team more familiarity with the events to lower the potential for anxiety. If you have a starting line up, insert subs into the line up periodically during regular season games so that the rest of the defense can make adjustments to the new player.
Over competing can be a detriment to the development of softball players. For maximum development and retention in softball, the practice to game ratio should follow the Long Term Athlete Development guidelines.
Softball Game Skills Periodization
The periodization of game skills needs to be a consideration when designing your annual training plan. Fundamental skills need to be the focus of the preparation phase of the year. Also known as the pre-season. As you get closer to the beginning of the season, if the fundamental skills are solid you can introduce more advanced game skills that you will refine as you move through the regular season and into the competitive phase of the year.