Coaching Management VOL. XII, NO. 9
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HEADING FOR HOME Teaching Successful Base Running
Working With Your AD
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Coaching Management Softball Edition, 2005
Vol. XII, No. 9
Bulletin Board . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 ASA tests new softball bats … Field disparities prompt Title IX suits … Division II closes its season with a Spring Sports Festival … NCAA modifies its rules on lines … Coaches Academy builds skills … NFHS to require batting masks … Fairleigh Dickinson gets a home field.
Assistant Editors R.J. Anderson Kenny Berkowitz David Hill Greg Scholand Laura Smith
Production Manager Kristin Ayers Asst. Production Manager Kristi Kempf Prepress Manager Adam Berenstain Prepress Assistant Steve Rokitka Ad Materials Coordinator Mike Townsend
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Heading For Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
Good Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
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Associate Editor Dennis Read
ADVERTISERS DIRECTORY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Editor-in-Chief Eleanor Frankel
Smart, aggressive, instinctive base running can make the difference between victory and defeat. Here’s how four coaches train their players to make the right choices on the base paths.
New England Small College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Kris Herman talks about the keys to her successful transition from Tufts to Williams, her experiences overseas, and the benefits of coaching in Division III.
Publisher Mark Goldberg Circulation Director Mark Shea Art Director Pamela Crawford Art Assistant Dina Stander Business Manager Pennie Small
No matter what your communications system, your athletic director is a person you want to hook up with.
A Strong Swing
Michigan State shares its exercises for reducing injuries and developing explosive power among its softball players. Softball Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 Grabbing the Gold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 Hitting & Pitching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43 Team Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46
IT Manager Mark Nye Production Assistant Jonni Campbell Special Projects Dave Wohlhueter Administrative Assistant Sharon Barbell
Web News . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48 More Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52 Performance Apparel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51 Uniforms & Apparel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .50
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The Coaching Management softball edition is published in October by MAG, Inc. and is distributed free to college and high school coaches in the United States and Canada. Copyright © 2004 by MAG, Inc. All rights reserved. Text may not be reproduced in any manner, in whole or in part, without the permission of the publisher. Unsolicited materials will not be returned unless accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Coaching Management is printed by Banta Publications Group, Kansas City, MO. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Coaching Management, P.O. Box 4806, Ithaca, N.Y. 14852. Printed in the U.S.A.
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bulletin board ASA Tests New Softball Bats Coaches now have a year with the new bat standards under their belts, but the issue of how high-performance hitting equipment affects competition and player safety isn’t going away. Manufacturers continue to tweak their designs in hopes of making the most powerful bat on the market, and engineers continue to refine the science behind bat standards. The NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations have chosen not to change their rules regarding bat standards for 2005. “I think we’ve got it about where we want it right now,” says Marjorie Willadsen, Head Softball Coach at Buena Vista University and Chair of the NCAA Women’s Softball Rules Committee. “We’ve toned it down a little bit to make it a safer game but still keep the excitement.” The only bat-related issues addressed by the NFHS for 2005 were editorial changes to the rulebook, permitting oval handles and handle grips or wrappings that don’t cause the handle to become flush with the knob. “We had some umpires saying the grips were legal and some saying they weren’t,” says Mary Struckhoff, NFHS Assistant Director and Softball Rules Editor. “So we tried to clean up the language, saying that as long as the knob and handle are not flush, they’re okay.” While there are no changes in bat standards on the immediate horizon, the NCAA is not standing still on the issue. The association has commissioned testing to make sure the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) standards are appropriate for the college game. In setting its standard, the ASA commissioned Lloyd Smith, professor of mechani-
cal engineering and materials science at Washington State University, to fire softballs from air cannons at stationary bats and measure the rebound speed. Those results were combined mathematically with average swing speeds to get an exit speed. Bats of different ages were tested, rated, and compared to the exit speed—98 mph—of bats from an era when the ASA believes safety and offense were properly balanced, according to Smith.
posite bats, where you have a barrel made out of concentric cylinders, which allows the barrel to be softer but just as strong.” This is not news to coaches. Next season, Mark Wilkinson, Head Softball Coach at Noblesville (Ind.) High School,
they pitch to a particular hitter can be adjusted based on the bat she’s carrying. “The speed of those balls coming off the bat is certainly a concern among coaches,” says Wilkinson. “I know how hard the sanctioning bodies try to keep that under control,
The calculations used the average swing speed of male slowpitch hitters, but Smith believes the numbers are still valid, because what matters is relative speed. In other words, the faster pitch in the college and high school game is balanced by a slower bat speed than that produced in men’s slowpitch. But to help confirm that approach, the NCAA commissioned its own test, using college hitters during the Division I Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City this year. High-speed cameras recorded the bats’ rotational speed, swing height, and forward motion. Results are expected in late fall. “We collected between 50 and 100 megabytes of data for each swing,” says Smith. “We had 35 players, and they each swung a bat 30 times. That’s a tremendous amount of data.” Testing will continue with developments in technology. Bat makers seek out materials and designs that will absorb the energy from the bat-ball collision and return it to the ball—creating the trampoline effect. “If you get a stronger aluminum, you can make a thinner barrel and the aluminum won’t yield,” Smith says. “Manufacturers are now using composite materials for the same reason—they can deform more and they’re stronger. And they’re using multiple walls, in aluminum and com-
The NCAA and NFHS have chosen not to change the rules regarding bat standards for 2005, but to wait for additional test results from a study commissioned by the ASA. expects to have a player on his team who was hit in the face while pitching in an eighthgrade scrimmage this past spring. The hitter’s bat was legal for high school use under the ASA 2004 standard, but the injury prompted discussion locally about the power of modern bats. Wilkinson copes with the bat technology arms race by teaching his pitchers and infielders to note what bats opposing hitters bring to the plate. He tells corner players to back up when a strong hitter comes up with a notoriously powerful bat. Pitchers, of course, can’t do that, but how
but they’re fighting against companies that want to create the hottest bat out there.” Molly Feesler, President of the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association and Head Coach at Pickerington North High School, welcomes the rule as a proactive safety measure. While the pitching vs. offense issue isn’t as contentious at her level as it is in college, she can see the change coming if bats are not regulated. “Five years down the road we could be in the same predica-
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bulletin board ment,” Feesler says. “Our kids are getting stronger and stronger every year as they do a lot of off-season training and weightlifting. As the kids become stronger and the game gets faster—as in any sport—you’re going to run into more issues.” Coaches cope through communication, says Feesler. Players and parents need to understand that only stamped-asapproved bats can be used in games. “They know that it’s a state rule and a National Federation rule, not my rule, and that helps,” she says.
Field Disparities Prompt Suits When Alhambra (Calif.) High School administrators decided last year to spend $900,000 upgrading their three-field baseball complex, they included state-of-the-art electronic scoreboards, a warning track, enclosed batting cages, and bullpens. They paid attention to every detail except one: How would the new construction affect gender equity at their school? That omission has landed the school in court. Without access to a comparable softball field, Alhambra softball players have sued under Title IX.
Former Alhambra Head Softball Coach Tom O’Dell, Alhambra
The Alhambra suit is one of several high school Title IX cases recently initiated over disparities in softball and baseball facilities. Other cases have been settled in Tennessee, Alabama, and Washington. In the late 1990s, a single suit in an Oklahoma school district led to 13 additional cases in nearby districts. And in Kentucky, more than 70 new softball fields have been constructed after a lawsuit prompted the state high school association to review all of its members for Title IX compliance. Still, Solomon points out, the majority of Title IX cases have been brought at the college level, making each high school Title IX case important. “High school suits are hard to bring because the girls are so young,” Solomon notes. “High school girls often don’t label inequities as discrimination, even though they realize they aren’t being treated the same as the boys.” That means high school coaches must be vigilant and advocate for their athletes, Solomon says—particularly softball coaches, since their sport is one where schools have typically lagged behind in Title IX compliance. “Softball coaches are on the front lines of Title IX enforcement right now,” Solomon says. “They are often the only people who can see from a broader perspective that discrimination is occurring.” When a coach believes his or her team is the victim of gender discrimination, it is essential to make a formal complaint and document it in writing, according to Solomon. “Make sure you state in your written com-
At Alhambra (Calif.) High School, a $900,000 renovation of the baseball facility (top) has prompted a Title IX suit by softball parents claiming that the school has failed to provide a comparable softball facility (bottom). plaint that you believe this is a violation of Title IX,” she adds. Claudia Center, Senior Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center in San Francisco, which also represents the Alhambra athletes, agrees. “A water cooler conversation with your athletic director doesn’t work,” Center says. “You don’t have to be confrontational—in fact, simply expressing your concern and asking for help usually works best. But to make sure your concern is taken seriously, put it in writing and mention Title IX.” Coaches who are not able to get relief from their school should contact an attorney,
Solomon says. Since coaches do not have legal standing to sue the school over discrimination against their team, they will need to work alongside parents, who can sue on behalf of their minor children if a lawsuit becomes necessary. One reason glaring inequities still exist at the high school level may be that coaches are afraid that speaking out about discrimination will put them at odds with their administrators, Center says. However, a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court may provide greater assurance that if a coach makes a Title IX complaint, his or her school cannot retaliate. The plaintiff, Ensley (Ala.) girls’ basketball
“While the baseball program is playing on these fantastic new fields, girls’ varsity and junior varsity softball are playing on back-to-back dirt fields,” says Nancy Solomon, Senior Staff Attorney at the California Women’s Law Center and one of the attorneys representing the softball players. “If there’s a hit into the outfield in one game, play in the other game has to stop.” In their complaint, the student-athletes also allege that the softball field is littered with trash, receives no maintenance, and is dangerous.
parents, and student-athletes complained to the school board and administration without result, Solomon says. Parents of the student-athletes then filed suit on their behalf.
Request No. 102
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bulletin board coach Roderick Jackson, alleges that he was fired for raising Title IX concerns. A decision is expected by June 2005.
In the meantime, as the Alhambra softball players’ case goes
D-II Celebrates With Festival During the second week in May, nearly 600 NCAA Division II athletes—including eight softball teams—con-verged on Orlando, Fla. The reason? To take part in the inaugural Division II Spring Sports Festival, a new idea in NCAA
Request No. 103
Angelo State celebrates after defeating Florida Southern in the Women’s Softball Championships, which were held as part of the first NCAA Division II Spring Sports Festival.
Request No. 104
RYAN MCKEE/NCAA PHOTOS
High school Title IX compliance could also take a step forward if Senate Bill 282 is passed in Congress. The law would require high schools to collect annual data on Title IX compliance and submit reports to the federal government, as colleges are currently required to do. “At most schools, discrimination is the result of years’ worth of cumulative decisions that don’t take gender equity into account,” Center says. “A law that requires high schools to examine their gender equity each year is a huge step in the right direction.”
forward, Center and Solomon are hopeful that schools across the country will take notice. “We’re hoping that schools will say, ‘We don’t want to end up in court, so we’re going to examine our programs and make sure we’re complying with the law,” Center says. “And we’re hoping that this case will prompt more athletes and coaches to speak up if they see inequities.”
championships. After six days of competition, teams were crowned national champions in six sports: men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s lacrosse, and softball. The national championship for softball was won by the Angelo State University Rambelles, led by first-year Head Coach Travis Scott. “It was a dream ending for a dream season,” says Scott. “It was exciting for the kids to have other athletes around and know that we were all competing for a national title.”
NCAA Modifies Rules On Lines, Sportsmanship Revisions to the wording that governs the placement of feet within lines on a softball field top NCAA rules changes approved for the 2005 season. The rules changes will most significantly affect play in and around the batter’s box.
Under the new rules, players who are required to position themselves within a line—primarily batters and catchers—will be allowed to extend their feet to the outside edge of that line, as long as they don’t reach beyond that edge. Players and coaches who are required to position themselves on a line—primarily pitchers, who must keep one foot in contact with the pitching plate while delivering a pitch—may extend one foot over the
Scott says his players also enjoyed the opening ceremonies, which were held at the Hard Rock Café and featured Dot Richardson as one of the speakers. “When you can get big-name people to be a part of a Division II championship, it’s a special opportunity,” he says. “It really gave our players a taste of what DI athletes are around all the time.” Another taste of the Division I experience came fromchampionship games televised nationally—a first for Division II softball. With the games televised on the Sunshine Network, Rambelle fans who couldn’t make the trip were able to watch the games on a pay-per-view basis. “And that probably wouldn’t have happened had our sport not been a part of the Spring Sports Festival,” says Scott. According to organizers, the festival succeeded in achieving its two main goals: enhancing the student-athlete experience and creating more exposure for Division II sports. “Overall, we felt the festival was a huge success,” says Joan McDermott, Chair of the Division II Championships Committee and Athletic Director at Metropolitan State College of Denver. “There are some issues that need to be dealt with to make it better in the future, but all in all, it went very well and we want to do it again.” There were some first-year difficulties in keeping all the festival’s events close to campus, and some conflicts with scheduling—including the softball championship game, which was held at the same time as the festival’s closing ceremonies. But McDermott says that the post-event student-athlete surveys were very positive. “Our hope is that four years from now, we’ll do another spring festival,” says McDermott. “And we want to have it every four years after that.” Request No. 105 COACHING MANAGEMENT
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bulletin board edge, as long as that foot maintains contact with the line.
they believe the infraction has occurred. ■ Batting gloves are to be worn only on the hands and are not permitted to be carried while a player is running the bases.
Whether they’re required to stand on or within a line, players and coaches will not be allowed to have either foot completely outside that line.
■ A pitcher who brings a resin bag to the mound is responsible for removing it at the end of each half inning after she pitches.
Other rules added for 2005: ■ Misconduct penalties will be assessed for any player or coach who leaves a team area (dugout or bullpen) to initiate or join a fight.
Coaches Academy Builds Skills
■ Appeals, such as when a coach believes that the opposition has batted out of order, may be made after the third out in the half inning after
Under the new NCAA rules, hitters will be allowed to position their foot on the line of the batter’s box, as long as it doesn’t extend beyond the outer edge of the line.
LaTaya Hilliard-Gray had been thinking about going back to school for a graduate degree. Lately, though, she’s decided to stick with coaching. For one thing, she’s been having some success—in 2004, she led the Winston-Salem State University Rams to their conference’s western division title
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■ If an ejected player or coach communicates with opponents or umpires or has any subsequent rules violation, the game will be forfeited.
in just her second year at the helm, then was named league coach of the year. And she attended the second annual Women’s Coaches Academy. “If you ever have a chance to attend this coaches’ academy, do it,” Hilliard-Gray says. “It changes your whole view of things. When anyone asks me what I got out of it, I tell them it inspired me and gave me more motivation. An adviser, a mentor—you can get it all there at the academy.”
PLAY IT SAFER!
The Women Coaches Academy is the work of the National Association for Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA) with a grant from the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics. Twentyfour coaches took part June
3-7 at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and 19 were at the University of Denver June 19-23. The first Academy was in 2003 at Bryn Mawr College. The Academy’s ultimate mission is to raise the number of women coaches. “Our goal is to motivate, and there are three things we try to do,” says Celia Slater, Executive Director of the Academy and Special Projects Coordinator at NACWAA. “The first thing is to provide women with the skill base that will help them in their day-to-day challenges, from teaching methods to communicating with their AD, student-athletes, and staff. We’re trying to give them a relevant skill base that goes beyond X’s and O’s.
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“Number two is to provide them with an opportunity to create a network with other women in athletics they can call on for support,” Slater continues. “Many women feel isolated in their athletic department. Often, they’re the only woman in the department. We want to build a network of women who’ve been to the academy, and tie them to the women who’ve been pioneers in the field. That’s the third thing—to inspire them and help them see their value in the world of women’s athletics.” Attendees come from all NCAA divisions, sports, and career stages, from two years in the field to 22. The academy addresses some of the most common reasons some women don’t enter the profession and others choose to leave. Those reasons, Slater says, include
the increase in other career options, the 24-7 time commitment of the profession, and, for some women, the feeling that their view of athletics isn’t valued in their setting. Among the provocative class titles at this year’s academy in Wilmington were “Change is Good—You Go First, Mary,” “How to Coach Yourself in a Losing Season,” “Networking and Internal Politics,” and “Title IX: Facts and Friction about Gender Equity.” Other topics included public speaking skills, communication strategies, diversity, ethics, and motivational strategies. Learning better ways to communicate with her supervisor, staff, and student-athletes was the greatest lesson for Hilliard-Gray. “Today’s student-athletes are different
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bulletin board from when I was playing,” she says. “I have to let them know that I’m here for them no matter what, as a friend, as a coach, as a mentor.” Plans for 2005 are in flux, largely because NACWAA isn’t sure how large the NCAA grant and other funding sources will be, Slater says. This year’s costs were $1,400 per coach, but the entire program could look quite different next year. Administrators are exploring an advanced session for academy graduates
Details and applications are expected to be available shortly on the academy’s Web site, www.coachesacademy. com/home.htm.
and a formal way of applying attendance toward continuing education credits. NACWAA is talking to other organizations about creating a similar program for high school coaches, Slater says.
NFHS To Require Batting Masks Catchers and umpires have worn them for years. Soon, hitters will join them behind protective masks. Beginning in January 2006, the National Federation of High School Associations will require fastpitch softball players to wear approved faceguards on their batting helmets. “Earlier this year, NOCSAE released the first standard for softball faceguards,” says Mary Struckhoff, NFHS Assistant
Director and Softball Rules Editor. “With a standard now in place, we decided it was time to make the rule.” The low cost of the faceguards, and a recent ruling by the Amateur Softball Association requiring them for Junior Olympic players, also factored into the committee’s decision. “The impact on a school program won’t be more than a couple hundred dollars, and we’re providing almost two years for implementation,” Struckhoff says. “It’s a safety issue that we can address at minimal cost.” During its annual meeting in June, the NFHS Softball Rules Committee also changed its definition of obstruction, ruling that a player who blocks a base or the plate must have the ball before impeding a
runner’s progress. This change will take effect in 2005. “The previous rule said that you could block if you were in possession of the ball or about to receive it, and it was very inconsistently applied,” says Struckhoff. “Now we’re saying, ‘If you don’t have the ball, you can’t obstruct.’” Another rule change removes the phrase “not higher than the batter’s head” from the definition of both a foul ball and a foul tip. “Our existing rule says a foul tip occurs when the ball travels sharply and directly to the catcher,” Struckhoff explains. “In that case, the ball is not going above the batter’s head. But a foul ball can travel sideways and the catcher can lunge for it and catch it. We felt that should be an out, so we
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