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motivating 12U girls to exercise

Dec 12, 2008
Albany NY
I have a group of girls with a lot of potential for success this coming spring. We should be one of the better 12U teams in the area. This Sunday, I want to introduce them to the concept of getting stronger, more fit, more explosive as we head toward the dead of winter and then spring (we're in Albany NY so we won't be outside again until April.)

They are all currently participating in a weekly 2 hour clinic run by a local softball guru, so they are getting a lot of softball reps. We are also going to start bi-weely indoor team practices in January. But, thanks to Marc Dagenais, I want them to attack fitness - become faster, throw harder, etc. to get a big advantage by spring.

We have purchased Marc's 700 page 52 week fitness program, but we are concerned it's too much too soon. One thought is to design a workout that for the first month builds good habits so that working out becomes part of their routine - how much is too much for 12-13 yr old girls - I don't want them to be overwhelmed and do nothing...
Aug 4, 2008
Just my two cents. 12 and 13 year old's are way to young to play one sport this much. I have a 14U and she is involved with three sports. Do we still find time for softball . Yes. I have seen some good softball players, not play softball in college, because parents burnt them out at an early age. Kids need to be Kids and very few go on to play college softball.
Dec 12, 2008
Albany NY
To clarify - most of the girls on the team are involved in another sport, and certainly in other activities. The core of this team has been together for 2-3 years and have seen where they can potentially go. They've also had ups and downs against other area teams who have added an exercise program in the winters. I struggle with how much time they can or should put into one activity - I've told the parents that I am willing to commit to the team to the level they are, but I am sensitive to "too much" from the girls point of view to. Anyway - my thought is that exercise will help them not only with softball, but other sports and general health anyway. I think Marc's program looks great, but is too much for them to start with - Marc are you out there??
Dec 28, 2008
I think that all we can do is help them get a glimpse of their future dreams, and help them corelate the hard work with future success. "What are you willing to do today that Amy Beth isn't willing to do so when that college coach has 1 scholarship left you get it instead of her?" Some will be willing to work hard, but at the end of the day while they are athletes, they are still people and unofrtunately you can't FORCE, COERCE or BEG girls into wanting to work hard. Adults won't do it to save their own lives so it should be no surprise that some girls aren't going to care about doing the core training to make themselves stronger or faster because the current pain is far greater in their minds than the later reward.

With that said though about the best advice I could give you to help in the process is measure their improvements on a regular basis. Instead of saying "this will make you stronger and faster" which is just abstract you show them quantitatively in short cycles. "Ok girls we've measured your times from home to second. I'm so convinced that if you really work hard on this conditioning for the next month and do all of the speed ladder, agility, crunches, planks, squats and jumps that we are asking you to do daily I'm willing to put my face on the line for you. On February 1 we are going out to the field and I will have 12 cans of whipped cream, 12 pie shells and my stop watch. If as a team we lower our total time by 12 tenths of a second (.1 per girl) everyone gets to put a pie in my face." Then you blow up a picture of a whipped cream pie and you email it to each one of the girls on the team in mid January. "Amy Beth I hope you are doing the work you are supposed to be because I LOVE the taste of whipped cream." The pies will probably work with your 12 year old team, but probably not an 18U team. The idea isn't as much about the pie as it is associating a near term goal and reward with the work. You can keep track of the times on your clipboard and if they are even close you can just announce that as a team they improved by 13 tenths or something.

Then you start expanding the time line and associating the work with the games themselves. "Great job girls half of me is bummed that I'll smell spoiled whipped cream in my nose for the next 3 days, but the other half is so incredibly proud of you for the work you put into the conditioning this past month. We have 1 month to go before we start playing games. Are you willing to keep going?" "Yes." "ARE YOU WILLING TO KEEP GOING?" "YES!!!!!" "The reason we want to get faster is so that we can run the bases more aggressively. So here is the deal as soon as we've stolen 12 bases we will do the pies again. That doesn't mean that we take the other team's gifts on passed balls and wild pitches, I mean we have to really steal the bases even though the catcher catches the ball and makes the throw." Then you make a big old chart with 12 cleats on it or something and you start bringing it to every practice, or email it to the girls again. You bring it to the first game and you have the girls start coloring in the cleats after each and every steal.

Instead of it being a career goal it is short term goal with incentive. You then have tied the conditioning to something that they can see and feel good about in themselves and you then tie it to the game so that they can start seeing the rewards in the game. By setting the goal in a way that allows for 1 or 2 girls to fail you never place any of them on the spot if they come up short. But by having the goal you also encourage all 12 to step up either from 6.5 to 6.4 or 7.3 to 7.2, and you encourage every girl to want to be aggressive on the bases.

Hope it helps,

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