I have spent the last five Labor Day weekends volunteering to coach the Queen of Diamonds Showcase South tournament at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. (2015 Moved to Spartanburg, SC and teamed up with Dot Richardson and Liberty University.) This is a one of a kind tournament that does not accept elite teams, only elite individual PLAYERS. (For more information visit theqsport.com.) Each team is made up of 11 players that have never met but have been hand selected through a lengthy application and selection process. The tournament brings girls from Canada to Florida to Alabama and every state in between to play in this select tournament for college coaches. This is my favorite weekend and here are a few things I learned from watching high school girls play that wish to someday play on the college level.
Lessons learned from players at the Queen of Diamonds Tournament
1. Ball on fence, you should be on third - This rule got one of my players 2 triples in one game and earned MVP of the game. This player is very quick and this is not a rule for slower runners.
2. Batters struggled more with placement pitchers over speed pitchers - At this tournament, there is a radar gun behind every backstop and very few pitcher actually crossed the 60 mph mark. But there were several girls dominating batters with off speed and backdoor pitches. If you are concerned with speed and do not have great movement pitches or a great change up, you may not dominate batters for more than one time through the line up.
3. Technique is more important than size when it comes to hitting with power- With the pitchers able to move the ball in every direction, technique is the only way to center up the ball to drive it deep. Here are the biggest mistakes I saw batter make.
4. Players are not being taught arm care - I talked to my team about arm care and they were clueless! I was not surprised when we had very sore and tired arms on the second day of competition. Catchers overall were not making good throws to second base on the second day. Long toss, band work, and arm circles are missing from every single one of my players normal routine.
5. Catch to release times are important for turning double plays - My middle infielders had decent arm strength but they had very quick catch to release times which helped them turn 4 double plays in 3 games. A good catch to release time is 0.6 seconds.
(Become a member and get access to my free download College Softball By the Numbers. Get all the stats and numbers you need to play at DI, DII, and DIII/NAIA levels of College Softball.)
6. Poor conditioning over the summer leads to torn acl's at the end of summer/early fall- 12 ACL tears in 30 days by athletes selected in this tournament!! Some coaches, parents, and athletes believe that playing every weekend is keeping them in shape. Fact is, when you compete in games, you are tearing down muscle with every movement. Adequate rest and strength training need to be continued as long as an athlete is competing. Not resting and allowing the body to heal will increase injury risk. Proper nutrition during competition season can prolong injury risk but the only sure preventive is balancing strength training and rest.
7. Almost zero athletes are taught proper nutrition - If your athlete fatigues quickly or does not play as strong on the second day as they did on the first day, then this can be a sign of poor nutrition. Most athletes understand hydration strategy but fueling and recovery meals are overlooked.
8. Hitters do not know how to read and layoff a rise ball - As a pitching coach, most girls were not throwing true rise balls that have late "jumps" but batters still can not layoff a rise ball/high fastball. The rule I use: If the ball goes above the pitchers waist, it will be over your hands by the time it reaches the batters box so lay off. To beat rise ball/high fastball pitchers, stand in the front of the box and swing for the top of the ball or get in the back and wait for something low you can drive.
9. Players are more relaxed when coaches have minimal interference with their game and they are allowed to make their own decisions - I was very impressed at the level of play the girls were competing. I played and coached 7 years in college and saw these high school girls do things that we had to teach at the college level. As a coach, I will make an effort to keep the coaching in practice and let the girls play more in games. Players usually take on the demeanor of their coach during games so being calm and relaxed helps the players feel the same way.