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Four Ways Contact Rate Helps Players Take Strong Swings in Life

Contact rate is a statistic that naturally translates beyond the diamond to the real world. Just like at the plate, to have any success in life, you have to be willing to take a swing. Whether you're brand new to the sport or a long-time fan, it's important to remember that stats can represent much more than just a number.

Lisa Skelton is very familiar with that philosophy in her time as head softball coach at Northgate High School in Newman, Georgia.

Under Skelton, Northgate captured state titles in 2007 and 2011, due in large part to focusing on contact rate. It is a simple stat, but one not usually found on the back of a baseball card.
 
So how do you calculate it? Take a player’s at-bats, subtract strikeouts, then divide by at-bats. Players with higher contact rates typically post higher batting averages.

Skelton has been at Northgate for 15 years and has coached 27 years total at the high school level. She says contact rate is the reason Northgate won it all in 2011, despite being the No. 4 team in the region that year.

“We just got better as we progressed,” Skelton said. “Because we were able to go back and see where our weaknesses were based on our contact, we were able to get it done.”

Skelton described four key on- and off-field lessons a player can apply from contact rate. These are things parents and fans can help their young players focus on, no matter what the level or age.

Perspective

“The main thing is that they’re making good contact with the balls. Even if they don’t get a hit, it’s that they’re putting the ball into play a lot more. It makes them approach splitting the plate in half and being able to see what type of pitches and what side of the plate the pitcher seems to be hanging on.”

Resourcefulness

“We try to use that as a way to show, ‘Hey, you might not be getting hits but you’re putting the ball into play.’ Anytime you put the ball into play it makes it live and it puts pressure on the defense. That gives us the opportunity to show them how they can better develop their eye and to pay more attention to what the pitcher is actually throwing so you can have good contact.”

The point here is to make sure young players believe in themselves and take chances.

Self-awareness

“Sometimes in a game you might only get two or three at-bats. Each time you want to get better after each at-bat. So, when we get into the cages, we look at their contact and how many balls they’ve put into play. I just look at how can we use their time in the cages to where we can break it down. By looking at the contact rate, I can actually see where that has occurred. So their mechanics develop because we’re focused on that one area.”

Critical thinking

“It’s just like with anything: you have strengths and weaknesses in whatever you endeavor to do. Some people have better people skills and some people do better behind the scenes to where they don’t want to be recognized. In real life, you can use your strengths to develop your weaknesses. If you can look at your percentages and see that you have developed really well and then you can go back and look at that and say, ‘OK, how can I use that to do better with anything?’ It can be your studies, it can be your job, it can be just how you associate with people. By looking at what you do well, you can go back to see how you can change to do the weakest part of your life skills and make them better.”

From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa

Softball, Baseball, Softball Fan Corner, Baseball Fan Corner

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