Tuesday

5 Keys to Make Her Stand Out From the Crowd

Whether your athlete's next level is college, high school, travel or all stars like all parents you want her to stand out from the crowd; to be noticed and given the opportunity she deserves.

I have been an all star and travel coach evaluating players for over a decade and there is no question certain athletes stand out from the pack. I have also spoken to numerous high school and college softball coaches about what makes an athlete stand out for them.

Here are the 5 Keys to Make Your Athlete Stand Out from the Crowd:

1. Hustle - a given but not seen as often as you'd think. Nothing peaks a coach's interest more than maximum effort. When an athlete hesitates or holds back it is an indication that she does not trust herself or she's simply afraid --not endearing traits to a coach. And to a coach effort is always a choice, so if a player "chooses" not to give 100% in a game or tryout I watch I'm going to wonder if or when she will ever do it? Hustle demonstrates commitment to the team.

Here are specific things your athlete can do to demonstrate hustle:

a. Diving for balls...get dirty and make a play!
b. Sliding at every base
c. Running out every ball as hard as possible
d. Running the bases at full speed
e. Hustling on and off the field every time
f.  Using her voice to call balls or help teammates on the field and in the dugout

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2. Attitude - this may be a tough key to measure in a limited exposure scenario, which is why college coaches prefer to evaluate a prospect several times. As one top 10 coach told me, "We can teach them how to hit but we can't teach a good attitude." Again, attitude is a choice that like hustle is easy to notice.

Here are specific things your athlete can do to show she's got a great attitude:

a. Smile - it may seem simple but coaches love a kid who loves the game and shows it
b. Encourage teammates
c. Be vocal in the dugout
d. Be the first one to grab equipment after the game, or clean the dugout
e. Be respectful 100% of the time to her coaches, umpires, teammates and parents (believe   me...the college coaches ALWAYS watch this to determine attitude)
f.  Body language - don't slump the shoulders or kick the dirt after a strike out or error (a killer)!

3. Intelligence - yes, softball IQ is really easy and quick for a coach to judge. A player that demonstrates questionable decision making will not stay at the top of the list very long. Certainly your athlete's grasp of the game is relative to her experience and quality of coaching she has received. However, when a player shows superior intelligence in making the right decisions on the field all coaches write down a "plus" next to her name...I guarantee it. face it...dumb plays lose games, it's that simple.


Here are specific things your athlete can do to demonstrate her intelligence:

a. Make quick decisions - holding the ball and not knowing where to throw it on defense is a huge black mark.
b. Understand the strike zone - know the count and don't swing at bad pitches, particularly when she is ahead in the count
c. Understand the game situation - know what her job is each at bat, whether it is to advance the runner or drive her in
d. Know how many outs there are - it looks really bad when the pitcher or any player on defense (or on the bases!) forgets how many outs there are. That's an immediate cross off the list move!
e. Know the game situation - where are the runners and what will she do with the ball if hit to her?

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4. Concentration - this is HUGE for coaches. Softball is a game won or lost based on a team's ability to execute simple tasks successfully. If your athlete can't execute a simple sacrifice bunt or spaces out fielding a routine grounder (see Key #3) due to a lack of mental focus she's not going to make it to the next level. If she can't summon 10 seconds of concentration for each pitch maybe she's playing the wrong sport.

Here are specific things your athlete can do to demonstrate her concentration:

a. Execute...make plays!
b. Battle when down in the count. A seven or eight pitch at bat gets a coach's attention.
c. Play consistently, particularly when fatigued or playing in adverse weather.
d. Coming through in the clutch. This takes tremendous concentration and is a guaranteed "top of the list" key.

5. Overcoming Adversity - because softball is a game built on failure and adversity every coach will evaluate whether or not your athlete can rebound from a "smack across the face" in the form of a strike out, poor at bat, error or tough inning in the circle. This is where body language comes in. A player that demonstrates an ability to frame adversity as a learning opportunity and a challenge excites all coaches. Conversely a player who takes a bad at bat into the field, or an error in the field to her next at bat does not demonstrate the mental toughness top coaches are looking for.

Here are specific things your athlete can do to show she can handle adversity:

a. Run back to the dugout after a strikeout (as opposed to the slow moping walk)
b. Show determination to come back stronger the next time
c. Exhibit positive body language (coaches all look for this after adversity hits)
d. Never argue with an umpire's call (a killer)
e. Work harder in practice to get better in the areas she needs help (college coaches will ask travel or high school coaches about a prospect's work ethic during practices)

So there you go...five keys to make her stand out from the crowd, from a coach's perspective. It's time for your athlete to get to work!

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