Since graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2009, Jen Schroeder has created a catching empire.
Her website, Jen Schro Catching, says what she’s all about: “Cultivating dreams and changing lives beyond the white lines.”
It's all the more impressive considering she didn’t even start catching until her latter years of high school.
“I was a corner player and was recruited to play the corners. One of our corners in travel ball went down and they asked if anybody wanted to catch. I said I would do it and wore a batting helmet with a facemask and used my infielder’s glove,” said Schroeder. “I caught six games in one day and it was awful and exhilarating at the same time. My hand hurt so much, I didn’t know what I was doing but I felt like I had more control of the softball game than I ever had before.”
When Schroeder was being recruited, schools looked at players as a hitter or a pitcher, and not necessarily for a specific position. UCLA signed Schroeder as a hitter.
“I think I’m so passionate about it now because there was no instruction for me. I had to be self taught and just learn from watching who I thought was a good catcher.”
Schroeder was a top recruit but struggled when she got to UCLA. The adjustment from high school and travel ball to the college game wasn’t easy. She suffered multiple injuries and never lived up to the offensive power she was supposed to be. So she went to work trying to set herself apart defensively.
“I had to figure out a way to get past that because for so long I was known as an offensive player, so I called every single pitch whether I was behind the plate or in the dugout,” she said. “That’s what I love about catching, how you can impact the game from a distance.”
Schroeder left her mark as one of the best catchers in the game and has used that to build an incredible clientele.
At the 2016 Women’s College World Series, she trained six of the eight starting catchers. In 2015 and 2014, she trained five of the eight.
“It’s staggering, the lack of pitching instruction and I have been very lucky to have very talented and dedicated people that I train. They perform on the big stage and I think it comes from giving them a sense of pride in their position.”
The Packaged Deal
Once Jen Schro Catching went online, it spread like wildfire. People were sharing links to videos and soon asked her if she would come out and host a clinic. The size of the clinics became overwhelming so she asked her younger sister, Katie, to help.
Schroeder brought her group together and The Packaged Deal was founded in 2014. Now a foursome, they travel the country putting on softball coaching events for a variety of groups.
As an instructor and a coach, Schroeder not only works on the physical aspects of catching like blocking, throwing, and transfers, but also puts an emphasis on the leadership skills.
“I teach my kids how to talk and I give them handouts of what they should look for with batters and how to adjust. Knowing that game behind the game so they can take initiative.”
Something interesting that Schroeder has noticed while on the road with The Packaged Deal is that if any position has a problem, the issue occurs throughout the region.
“It’s very evident that there is no standardization in our sport. It’s clear that there are either individual private instructors or coaches who are all teaching the same thing in that specific region. From the catching standpoint they don’t focus on the fundamentals enough.”
All eyes are on the catcher and they have to trust that the work they put in Monday thru Friday is good enough for game day. Schroeder wants catchers to believe in that trust.