It often seems like fastpitch softball players (and their parents) come to lessons seeking a magic bullet -- a tip or hint that will turn them from average to awesome. I wish that was a possibility, because if it was my teams would win a lot more games.
But the truth is that the only real "magic bullet" in fastpitch softball is hard work. And that isn't very magical, because it takes a long time and many correct repetitions to make the leap players are looking to make. It is possible in time, however.
This is a theme that's explored to great length in The Talent Code, an incredible book that every coach, parent and player should read. As I've written previously, it explores the myth of being born with "talent" and shows how the people we perceive as talented were actually just more single-minded in their pursuit of excellence. When others would normally quit to do other things, they'd continue on with borderline (or sometimes over the border) obsession.
Of course, those are the ones who are driven to the highest level of whatever they do. Not every fastpitch softball player aspires to play on a National Team or at a top D1 college. Many just want to play and be successful at whatever level they're at now. But you can't get there by showing up for a lesson once a week, or once every weeks, and then practicing either not at all or very little in-between.
The most successful players I've worked with do the same things:
- Come regularly for lessons -- usually once a week
- Put in two or more practice sessions between lessons
- Make time to practice, even if they have homework, school projects or other activities on their plates
- Work diligently at whatever it is we're trying to improve
- Give themselves the opportunity to fail now in order to succeed later
It's as simple -- and as difficult -- as that.
The other thing they do is give themselves time. They realize that while they can make small improvements over a short period of time, more long-lasting and better-impacting changes take time to sink in during game situations.
With the pressure on it's all too easy to fall back on old habits, no matter how hard you try not to. But given sufficient time you can replace old habits with better ones, so that's what you go to when the heat is on. And that's when real softball success occurs.
In my experience it takes about a year of dedicated effort for real, permanent improvement of a particular skill to set in. What about you? Do you agree? Do you think that's too long, or too short? Share your thoughts.
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