The Catcher's Resource Library
received an e-mail some time ago asking me to elaborate on those web
sites and other sources which I felt were indispensable and
authoratative, which no fastpitch player or coach could do without.
Rather than returning the e-mail with a comprehensive list, I
decided the best approach would be to write more about each, one at a
time. Today's article is about one such resource. This
one is for catchers, as well as parents and coaches of catchers.
Monday, July 02, 2007
The resource to which I want to point you is CatchingCamp.com,
the web site of the New England Catching Camp run by coach Dave Weaver.
Notice that I didn't say the "web site I want to point you to."
That's because the web site is only the beginning.
There's more to it than that.
One the web site, you'll find not
only some good articles about the art of catching, but also information
about the camp run by coach Dave and a DVD video which you can
purchase. The DVD is entitled "A Coaches Guide to Training Catchers."
I've had no personal experience with the camp itself but I think
you can see, by watching the video, that this is a place where you
might consider sending your budding catcher for a week.
that, from what I can tell, the camp involves half day (4 hour)
sessions, mornings for 12U and afternoons for 13 and up. Dave
tells me that while there are just a few fastpitch players in the
younger, morning sessions, almost half his campers in the older
division are female. Also, the camp is apparently not a
sleep-away so you'll have to figure out your own lodging if you're from
out of town. The camp itself is about as inexpensive as any
local camp run by recreational leagues or high school coaches in the
off-season but appears to me to be far more comprehensive. If I
had a catcher in the family, I'd definitely be sending her there very
soon. Heck, I may just send one or both of my daughters next
year in order to round out their softball experience!
I'm high on this camp is because I found Dave's video to be
outstanding. I like his coaching skills. I like his
attention to detail.
Dave sent me a compimentary copy of the
video so I could review it. Having looked at just over an hour
of it, I'd gladly pay for it. I've seen a large number of
softball/baseball training videos and most of them are not very good.
They do go over the skills they claim to teach but they do so in
an almost disinterested, cursory fashion, then skip to drills you can
use to reinforce what wasn't taught. They go over the skills but
they forget to really teach them. The same is not true of the
Howard Kobata's defensive softball series which is excellent.
And, in all honesty, the New England Catching Camp's DVD far surpassed
This video is the best training aid I have ever
viewed. I strongly urge you to fork over the approximately 40
bucks asked for it and then spend hours and hours reviewing it.
You'll need hours and hours since it is very long. Many softball
videos are only about half an hour in length. Some are as short
as 20 minutes! This one spends more time than any other video I
have paid a similar amount for just going over the catcher's stances!
shows you exactly how a catcher should position herself to give the
pitcher signs, receive a pitch when there is nobody on base, and
prepare for runners who might be stealing. I do not think any
one particular element of the stance is missing. Many videos
move quickly past positioning and into the next phase without ever
really explaining how one should start, let alone transition into the
next stage. It would be easy to claim they are for more advanced
players/viewers but this catching video covers at least as much
advanced ground as the others. And if you never have something
to reinforce the fundamentals, you almost always mess up something with
the more advanced stages of a skill.
The element to Dave's
teaching which first caught my attention was his dislike of what we
often call "framing the pitch." Dave doesn't even like to use
the term "framing" unless he is explaining why he doesn't like it.
That's not to say he does not understand the need to properly
display the pitch so the umpire can call it a strike. He most
certainly does understand that and he explains the proper technique
better than anyone I have ever heard try. In Dave's words, it
isn't about making a ball look like a strike. It is about
showing the umpire that the strike was indeed a strike.
told you that I believe "framing" as it is commonly taught is
condescending to the plate umpire and may get you more unfavorable
calls than favorable ones. I once sat through a clinic run by
our local high school team which broke into positions including
catching and instructed young players on how to make a ball look like a
strike. I've seen the team play many times and there are about 4
bad ball calls for every time there is a pitch outside the zone that is
called a strike! Framing, as it is most often taught, does not
work for you and can often work against you at the wrong moment.
I got past the initial attraction of believing in any catching coach
who understands "framing" or displaying the pitch as well as Dave does,
there were other elements of his teaching which solidified my seal of
approval. During the course of our first game this year, a coach
from the opposing team approached our catcher and told her point blank
that she should keep her throwing hand behind her butt at all times,
including when there were runners on base. He worried that she
might get a broken finger from a foul tip. Maybe he really
wanted her to not throw out their baserunners but when I stopped him,
he scolded me for being something less than a responsible coach because
I taught my catchers to play that way. I told him, flat out,
that he was greatly mistaken. Catchers should keep their
throwing hands behind the glove when there are runners on base.
They should make a fist and enclose their thumb inside it. The
fist should be placed behind the glove near where the index finger and
thumb of the glove are. They should NOT keep their hand behind
their butt or shin guard. Coach Dave explains why, better than I
do, and shows you the proper position in perfect detail.
one of the things which draws me to coaches is an attention to detail.
Every action causes an equal and opposite reaction.
That's true of every motion a human being makes. That's why
hitting coaches, for example, spend so much time observing posture and
working on the initial stance. If you leave something out of a
skill, that usually causes something else mechanical to later go wrong.
If you start with your feet very close together when hitting,
most likely you are going to take a big step and cause your vectoring
of the ball to be off a couple inches as well as start your hands too
low, not to mention mess up everything which follows the initial step.
Coach Dave spends a lot of time going over the most minute
detail of proper catching technique in order to avoid subsequent
Finally, it is easier to know why someone
should do a skill this way or that, tell them, and then correct their
mistakes, than it is to explain why they should do something a
particular way. Many coaches leave out the "why." When
asked, they often reply with the old standby, "trust me" or "you have
to understand that I've been doing this a long time." They don't
explain the why because: 1) the reasons are so deep within their brain
that it is painful to retrieve them; 2) they do not believe the student
can understand them quickly and they feel the need to get immediate
results; 3) they have no idea what the reasons are but they are
teaching exactly the way they learned the skill; or 4) they are merely
mimicking what they observed another coach tell a student. This
last cause is far more prevalent than you might expect.
going to pay a coach to teach my daughter, I want him to work a bit for
the money. That includes dredging the inner recesses of his mind
for the whys. I'd also rather they didn't feel rushed and
thereby cheat my kid and me from understanding what it is going to take
to perfect the skill. I don't just want to know how they learned
the skill unless they are that good - maybe played professionally or at
least at a high level. And I do not want a coach whose
experience is limited to having watched a good coach a few times.
I want my player to fully understand why she is doing something
and if the coach doesn't understand why, I guess I'm gpoing to need
another coach. Coach Dave Weaver does an outstanding job of
explaining why you should do skills a particular way. He
demonstrates his understanding (which is substantial) as well as any
coach I've ever seen.
I recall a discussion I once had with the
father of a young fastpitch catcher who had recently attended private
catching lessons with a division one head coach. The coach
suggested to the daughter that before she would teach her movement and
actions behind the plate, she would need to work on her brain.
She needed to instill the right mindset and philosophy before she ever
got into mechanics. That may be the right approach but I think
it is important for catchers and those involved with catching to
approach the position with fresh eyes before trying to perfect catching
mechanics. You don't walk into a lesson and have the coach teach
you how to throw out runners at second. I believe every catcher
should gain a full understanding of why she is doing everything she
does behind the plate including her positioning and posture.
This web site begins to scratch the surface of that. The video
shows you lots. Somehow, I think the camp would show you more.
are so many misconceptions about what a catcher's responsibilities are
and skillset ought to include. We look at a bigger girl and
think, she can block the plate or provide a great target for our
pitchers so she is the logical choice to fill the position. We
also make a corollary mistake which is to decide that the bigger,
perhaps slower afoot, less athletic girl, who can hit, needs to find a
position and, since catching requires less running around, she ought to
give it a try. This is why, historically speaking, bigger kids
have often been pushed into catching from an early age.
similar mistake many make is to take the kid with the best arm and
force her into the position without really getting her consent or
providing any sort of instruction. We figure the throw to second
is a long one and since so many runs score as a result of aggressive
baserunning and/or bad plays made in reaction to it, the best approach
is to take the kid with the strong arm and make her into a catcher.
I know this happens because it happened to me as a kid. I
had the best throwing arm on my baseball team and as soon as we started
real stealing, around the age of 13, the coaches stuck me back there
without so much as rudimentary instruction. They checked to see
that the equipment more or less fit and said, "go to it!"
elements which I think are most important to becoming a successful
catcher include some size and strength but they also include an
overwhelming desire to apply oneself to the most difficult, least
natural position on the field. In other words, work ethic is as
important to becoming a successful catcher as is a decent arm and some
strength, not to mention athleticism. The untrained eye watches
a good catcher at work and doesn't pick up on at least half (probably a
lot more) of what she does in order to be successful. As in all
other endeavors, we need a catching expert, a skilled eye, to point out
the things we have missed. Dave Weaver is such an expert.
Check out his site, buy his video, and if you can, go to his camp.