Sunday, December 30, 2018

What Comes First, Confidence or Success?

As a college head coach I would often ask my team during an early fall meeting this questions, "What comes first, Confidence or Success?".  Typically, one of the players would quickly say confidence.  "The athlete would say, you have to have confidence before you have success".  I would then say, "Isn't confidence without success unwarranted?  Isn't it being arrogant or even wishful thinking?  How can a person have confidence that has never had success?

Then, of course, one of the players would say, "success".  I would then say, isn't success without confidence just luck?  I mean, if the player doesn't have confidence and succeeds that has to be considered luck and not success. 

Now, obviously, they are all confused.  I would then say, "It is a trick question".  The actual answer is, "Preparation" comes first. 

Only with Quality and Quantity Preparation can the athlete have success.  As the athlete learns to better prepare based on the proper evaluation of her performances then she will begin to see success and then build her confidence.  Preparation is the foundation of confidence and therefore success.

Below is my "Cycle of Success".  More about each in future Blogs!

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Top Three Ways to Schedule a Softball Hitting Lesson With Holly


To make it easy and quick to schedule a Lesson With Holly, the following options are available:

  • Go to our Schedule Portal by clicking here.  This is probably the most efficient way to schedule a single lesson.  It shows only my available time for lessons so there is no back-and-forth emails/texts to find the right date.
  • Email/Text Me.  Although this isn't the most efficient it is still a pretty good options.  Just email me at holly@lessonswithholly.com or text me at 502-262-9195 and give me some days and times that would work for you.
  • Call me.  This is the "old fashioned" way but still is a really good way to schedule a lesson.  My phone number is 502-262-9195.
Email/Text/Call me if you want to schedule recurring lessons.

If you have any questions at all, please contact me.


SOME LINKS OF IMPORTANCE



Wednesday, December 19, 2018

National Diamond Academy Announces Two Virtual Indoor Pitching Showcases

It is really difficult, okay actually it is impossible to get recruited by a college that doesn't know you exist.  That is why you need to attend one (or both) of our National Diamond Academy Pitching Showcases.

Here are some features of our Pitching Showcases:
  1. They are indoor.  Both pitching showcases will be held at the King Louie's Sports Complex at 600 N. English Station Road | Louisville, KY 40223.
  2. You have two options of which to attend.  The first one is Saturday February 2nd from 12:30pm to 2:30pm and the second is Monday March 18th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.
  3. All participants are added to our Diamond Directory which is the most powerful softball recruiting database on the market.  So, even if a recruiter doesn't attend this showcase, they can find you on our directory.  
  4. Every athlete in the Diamond Directory has the ability to send a profile link to college programs of which they are interested.
  5. Pitching velocities metrics of your pitch repertoire will be added to the Diamond Directory AND each coach in attendance will receive these metrics.
  6. It is Virtual!  Yes!  If this isn't the first Virtual Pitching Showcase it has to be one of the first.  What we mean is that the athlete will be on live video of which any college coach/recruiter will have the ability to view on their computer, tablet or phone.  
  7. The cost is crazy reasonable.  We try to keep all of our costs down where we don't want any athlete to not receive important services because they can't afford them.  How much?  Well, it depends on a few things.  Click here for details.
  8. Recruiting Video Production.  The recruiting video is extremely important in the recruiting process and each pitcher has the option (additional cost) to have a pitching video.  All of our recruiting videos are linked to the athletes profile but each athlete has a link to the actual video (YouTube) of which they can share.  More about our Recruiting Video Services.
  9. Our Registration Process is easy.  Click here to get started!

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Difference Between Bat Speed and Bat Velocity

It is crazy how the diamond sports world of softball and baseball is falling in love with metrics.  There is exit velocity, spin rate, launch angle....so many metrics.  Let me say two things about metrics.  I also love them for one.  They tell me a lot about the hitter but there are many components that go into the ability to be a very good hitter that can't be measured.  Always has been and always will.

With this said, let's talk about two metrics that we now have the ability to measure and are very important to the success of a hitter.  Bat Speed and Bat Velocity.  First a general definition of each:

Bat Velocity:   Many call this bat speed.  I like to refer to it as bat velocity since it is measured in miles per hour.  That is it.  It is how fast the bat moves through the hitting zone from the launch position to the contact point.

Bat Speed:  This is how quickly the bat moves to the contact point and is measured in seconds, well, in split seconds.

When measuring moving objects that are traveling the exact same distance both will be the same but in hitting, the distance the bat is traveling is not the same.  One swing can be longer than the other, so knowledge of both are important but understanding the difference is equally important.

Not until recently, could we accurately test our hitters in these two areas but now there is very effective technology available.  We, at the National Diamond Academy, use Blast Technology to test these two metrics as well as other metrics.

We conduct the testing by placing the device on the bat and the hitter hits 10-12 swings ball off the batting tee.   We record the top velocity and speed in our Diamond Directory.

BAT VELOCITY AND POWER
Bat velocity has a direct relationship to power potential.  The faster the bat moves, in MPH, the higher potential for the hitter to generate power.  As important as this is, it doesn't help if the hitter doesn't make quality contact.  "Middle of the ball with the middle of the bat".  

BAT SPEED AND WAITING AS LONG A POSSIBLE
The phrase we use is "knowledge of the strike zone" but it is really more like the application of this knowledge.  Most of us "know" what the strike zone is, but knowing YOUR strike zone and then applying this knowledge as to how you approach the at-bat.  This is huge...in fact, this may be IT.  

A hitter can have an amazing swing and crazy physical skills but if she swings at pitches that is not in HER strike zone, she just simply will not succeed.  We can talk about this topic all day and, well, we will but now we are talking about bat speed and velocity.

Bat speed is the tool in which it allows you to wait as long as you can before you decide to swing or not.  The quicker your bat speed is, in terms of split seconds, the longer you can wait and hit YOUR pitch.  Simple concept but takes a lot of work to develop.  Bat speed is improved through a shorter swing but the bat velocity is also very important.  It is a balance of both.  This is one of my main focuses as a hitting instructor. 

Important note about bat speed.  The beginning of the bat speed is when the bat begins its forward path.  Bat speed does not include the load and the load can be a long time in terms of split seconds.  A lot of hitters are LATE because they have a late or long load.  Again, this is another topic for another day.
SCHEDULE YOUR TEAM METRICS TODAY!

So, bat speed and bat velocity are very related but there are some differences.  To be a high-quality hitter that generates production at the plate, both are needed.  (Unless you are just a pure speed player/slap hitter then bat speed is much more important than bat velocity)

A topic for another day?  Yeap.  

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Lessons With Holly




Friday, July 13, 2018

Why Does She Miss The Ball So Often?

Is she actually missing the ball or is it the glove?  If the ball is going "in" the glove and then popping out then not "finding" the pocket or the webbing of the glove most likely.  If the ball is completely missing the glove or is hitting the sides of the glove, then that is more of a problem.  Here are some things to consider for your daughter.

The Glove is too Stiff or the Hands are too Small or too weak!

This happens a lot.  In fact, I think it happens to most of the younger and/or more inexperienced players.  There are a few ways to determine if this could be the problem.  

One is, just watch her and watch where the ball goes when she attempts to catch the ball.  Is it going "in" the mitt (either the pocket or webbing) and then comes back out?  

Another trick is to put the ball in her glove and then have her turn her glove upside down where the opening of the glove is toward the ground.  Have her shake the glove rigorously.  If the ball falls out then she will have a difficult time holding on the ball from a throw or a hit ball.

If this is the case, she is actually "catching" the ball but she just isn't able to hold on to it.

Solving this problem...

Break in the Glove.  New gloves come very stiff and they need to be broken in even for the most mature fielder.  Here is a Youtube video about how to break in your glove.  As you progress as a player you will develop a certain way you like your glove but this is a good starting point.

Breaking the glove in will take a while but it is very important for the fielder to ensure they have the best possible opportunity to catch the ball and hold on to it.


Glove Type and Size.  I debate on the glove size for younger players.  A small glove has a very difficult time holding on the ball, especially the 12" ball but is easer to control.  A larger glove is harder to control and is harder to close but has a larger pocket/webbing for the ball to enter.

Honestly, I would suggest an inexpensive glove that is more of a medium-sized glove.  Not small or large.  The reason I like an inexpensive glove is that it will be more flexible as the expensive gloves take a lot of work to break in.  

Two Hands!

When a Diamond Player gets to the HS level and beyond, quite honestly the two hand method is not near as important to help the fielder catch the ball.  The glove is designed to be effective with one hand.  I need to make sure I am clear about this statement.  I believe strongly in using the two hand approach for most situations but it is even more important for the young fielder as it does help her hold on to the ball.  It does not help her catch the ball.  Again, it just helps her hold on to it after she catches it.

see a lot of young fielders put their hands "behind" the glove or behind the webbing.  This actually isn't doing much to assist the fielder holding on to the ball.  You want to use the second hand to close the glove around the ball.  This video shows this pretty well.  (Video Disclaimer:  I don't like that he ran to the ball with his hand touching the glove.  You need to learn to run to the ball and THEN, as you get ready to catch the ball, put the throwing hand on the side of the glove.)  Other than that, this is a pretty good video describing how to use two hands.


The bottom line...play catch...a lot.  The amazing thing about throwing and catching is that the more you do it the better you get.  You don't have to be really tall or really fast or really athletic.  Just do it a lot.  This will improve your arm, improve your ability to catch and it will break in your glove.  I just love win-win-wins!

This blog is written by Holly Knight.  Holly owns National Fastpitch Academy, Lessons With Holly and National Softball Prospects which all are LLC under the umbrella of the National Diamond Academy that she also owns.


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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Participating in Sports in the Heat

I actually remember practicing in the middle of the summer in the Ohio Valley area with high levels of humidity and heat and our coaches wouldn't let us drink water during practice as it was common knowledge and practice that it would cause problems such as cramps.  Pretty much the same myth they said in those days you had to sit for an hour before you got in the water to swim.  I hated that rule!  Today, of course, we know both are just myths and the lack of water during practice is extremely risky. 

But, it does make me think.  Why didn't people collapse in those days as much as they do today?  Was it because we didn't have a billion ways to get news today and in "those days" we were just not aware?  That could be it but I have another thought. 

So, back in the days of Babe Ruth and I think even into the 60's, baseball players played games in wool.  Yes.  Hot Wool!  Also, until the first major league game played in the lights in 1935, all games were played in the middle of the day.  These athletes were in the sun and heat of the summer in the middle of the day playing in wool uniforms.  They not only survived but excelled.  Were they stronger than today's players? 

So, I have a theory on all this.  Air Conditioning!  In my childhood it was rare for anyone to have air conditioning.  If they did, it was in the bedroom for sleeping.  So, on hot days, we actually got outside.  It was rare to have a car that had air conditioning and most schools did not have air conditioning.  We existed all the time with the heat. 

Human beings have an amazing ability to adapt and over the years, we just aren't used to the heat since we are in air conditioning almost everywhere.  Then, when we have to go to a ball game as a player or coach or fan, we just can't adapt that quickly so 90 degree's feels unbearable...and actually is dangerous.  Those players of the 30's weren't stronger but was simply used to the heat.  Their bodies were used to 95 degrees temperature and today's athletes aren't.

I will add that the heat doesn't bother me as much as it does a lot of my friends.  I played or coached in some capacity most every summer my whole life.  I like doing things in the middle of the summer and I don't want the heat to stop me so I do as much outside as I can and I try to stay out of air conditioning as much as possible and when I do I try to not have it run cold.  This does make it easier for me, even at my age, to exist in the heat.  So, my first suggestion for you Diamond Athletes, get outside as much as possible.  Stay out of air conditioning as much as possible.  Make your bodies accustomed to the heat. 

Now, with this said.  We aren't in the 1930's and we do have air conditioning everywhere and it is almost impossible to avoid.  So, we have to prepare for playing in the heat in other ways.  Here are some recommendations:
  • Get Acclimated:  As advised by Dr. David Geier, "Take 10-14 days and gradually increase training in the heat to prepare for the first full practice or competition. Likewise, work to improve your cardiovascular fitness in the months prior to the start of the season to better prepare your body for the extreme heat."  Link
  • Drink water in between games and practices.  Your body needs hydrated and if you just wait for the time you are outside it is hydrating your stomach more than it is your body.  
  • Of course, have water with you to drink when you are participating.
  • Drinking a sports drink with electrolytes, especially sodium, to properly rehydrate is a good idea.
  • Avoid caffeine.
Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time, especially with prolonged periods of exercise. Possible heat exhaustion signs and symptoms include:
  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure upon standing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache
When to see a doctor
If you think you're experiencing heat exhaustion:
  • Stop all activity and rest
  • Move to a cooler place
  • Drink cool water or sports drinks
  • Contact your doctor if your signs or symptoms worsen or if they don't improve within one hour. If you are with someone showing signs of heat exhaustion, seek immediate medical attention if he or she becomes confused or agitated, loses consciousness, or is unable to drink. You will need immediate cooling and urgent medical attention if your core body temperature (measured by a rectal thermometer) reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher.

High Hands in the Stance Can Be Trouble

Yes.  I usually do not focus too much on the stance as truly it matters much less than the "Launch Position".
This hitter's hands are pretty much as high
as they should be.  In fact, this is a really
good Launch Position in all aspects.
The Launch Position is the phrase many use for the "loaded position".  This is the position the hitter is in when she begins her swing.   
There are seven components to the whole swing:

  1. Pre-Stance (some hitters have a little bit of a pre-stance where they are essentially standing and waiting before they get in their stance)
  2. Stance (usually static but sometimes has a little movement)
  3. Load (is a movement to prepare for the approach)
  4. Launch Position (at the end of the load/beginning of the approach - see the photo to the right)
  5. Approach (the forward movement of the hands. 
  6. Contact Point (where our body is positioned at contact)
  7. Followthrough (after contact)

The loaded position is much more important than the stance so I usually don't worry too much about the stance as long as the launch position is good.  However, a hitter that has high hands in her stance. (I would define high hands where the bottom hand is higher than the ears, but ideally, the bottom hand should be about the level of the back shoulder).

The problem with high hands in the stance is that they must "load" downward and this is counter-productive to power as we would rather load backward (toward the umpire).  Even more of a problem is if the hitter load is late, this will cause the hands to move faster than it should and faster than it usually does and the momentum will take the hands really low and creating a huge arc or uppercut in the swing.

So, if you are hitting well with high hands in your stance, then don't change where your hands are but if you feel you are late to contact or you are rolling over more than you should or popping up too much...consider changing your hands to a lower position.  Changing your hand position is really an easy fix and can actually fix a lot of things. So, if you aren't hitting well and not sure what the cause is and you have high hands...start with lowering your hands in your stance.  It might help a lot more than you think!

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Some Crazy Things about the Diamond Game

THE Game...The Diamond Game.  Softball and Baseball....some differences but most things are similar.  Some of the crazy similarities of the Diamond Game...


  • The pole down the left and right field lines are called the Foul Poles but when the ball hits a foul pole it is fair?
  • The same as the foul lines.  Hit a foul line and the ball is fair?
  • A hitter can hit the ball really hard with a near perfect swing but get out.
  • A hitter can have a horrible swing and barely hit the ball and get a hit.
  • It is possible, and does happen, to strike out three hitters in an inning and then give up a run after the third strike out.
  • It is possible, and does happen, for a hitter to strike out in the at bat and not be out and then score.
  • A pitcher can throw a no hitter and lose the game.
  • A pitcher can give up a ton of runs and still win the game.
  • The softball isn't really very soft.
  • Is a left handed glove or a right handed glove...is it what hand you wear it on or what hand you throw the ball with?   
  • A left handed hitter hits the ball on the same side of the field as the right fielder.

This is all I have for today.  You have any?

Coaches Tip: During Game Instruction

Years ago a friend of mine was telling me something that he heard after a game one day.  My friend was a former college coach but moved into scouting for the San Diego Padre's. He was scouting a game in Iowa and just happened to hear the losing coach talk to the team after the tough loss.  Instead of "getting on" his team he simply said something like, "we just need to work on these things in practice".

This made an impact on me early in my coaching career.  I was, probably like most, a lecturer after the game.  Especially after a loss.  I would get mad and tell the team what they did wrong.  This story I heard made me realize that simply telling them after a game is really just a waste of time and can be a bit damaging to your team.  I adopted the philosophy to only confront things like a lack of effort or some behavior issue that CAN be solved in a "lecture".  I would probably say some things like, "beginning this Monday we really need to work harder on fly ball communication...for example.  

This made a big difference in my coaching.  I will give you another example.  I was a head college coach for a total of 19 years and I was blessed to have outstanding catchers in most of those 19 years.  To me, your catcher is the most important single player on your team other than the pitcher, of course.  In those early years, I bet I yelled at my catchers every day to block the ball.  Then the light went on.  I knew they wanted to block so it wasn't a matter of desire so yelling at them was not going to help at all.  

I realized that day that it wasn't a matter of effort but a matter of habit.  So, I stopped yelling at them and, instead, designed a routine for my catchers to work on blocking every day.  They just had to spend about 5-10 minutes working on blocking by throwing each other balls "in the dirt".  Soon, our catchers became much better at blocking balls in the dirt.

These are just a few examples.  I think this approach can work on almost every single aspect of the game.  Our job as coaches is to teach our athletes good habits and good habits are rarely developed by just saying some words.    

In fact, talking to your athletes during competition can even be harmful to their success.  Let's take the hitter.  Giving advice to the hitter during her or his at-bat that involves a mechanical change is usually not going to work out very well.  To succeed in a game as a hitter we must be able to focus on the ball 100% and, unless the pitcher isn't very good, we can't think about where our hands are or what we are doing with our stride AND focus on the ball.  

Giving instruction while the hitter is hitting is usually best when giving encouragement and, at most, saying "see the ball".  If your hitter needs to make some changes, make a note and work on that with your hitter at practice or ask your hitter to work on it on her own.  

The teaching aspect of our coaching is best when we approach teaching as developing good habits instead of just telling them.  I don't know how many times I have heard a coach say, "I have told her over and over again and she still ___________ (fill in the blank)".  Telling or yelling or lecturing isn't going to get the job done.  They need repetition on a regular basis to create good habits so they will just automatically do it "right" in the game.



Monday, May 14, 2018

Welcome to National Diamond Blog

The Mission of the National Diamond Academy is to help each athlete achieve her or his Diamond Goals.  Although we at NDA focus on Softball there are too many similarities to the two sports.  So, we might post some baseball stuff along the way as well.