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Playing Multiple Sports Doesn't Mean Ignoring Softball

It’s the old debate about whether student athletes should focus on one sport or instead turn themselves into multi-sport athletes. More and more are choosing to play year-round, according to Bob Loshek, in his eighth year as the softball coach at Park High School in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. He also started coaching his daughter as part of Midwest Speed Softball.
Softball season is in the spring and throughout the summer. But plenty of clubs have made this sport available in the fall and winter seasons, too.

Perhaps the biggest and obvious benefit is seeing “tremendous growth in the game,” Loshek said. All that work and all those reps working on hitting, throwing, pitching should result in an improved player. There’s no denying that, Loshek said.

While these options might sound great, to play the same sport year-round and constantly work on improvement, it can be a catch-22. The Park High School athletic department encourages students to play other sports, too, “to try to prevent burnout,” Loshek said.IMG_1236.jpg

“If you love your sport, you’re concerned with burnout,” he said. “That’s No. 1. You don’t want to see kids burned out.”

It’s never a good thing to see athletes so excited about softball in middle school or early high school years start to lose the passion by junior or senior year if all they’ve done is pick up a softball and a bat. The hope is that they’re playing because they love the game, Loshek said.

There are also the injury concerns, specifically with the back, rotator cuff, or labrum if they’re not picking up other sports to do different movements.

They can still train and prepare for the softball season while they play basketball or hockey during the winter, working on muscular development, stretching, and coordination. Focus on the main sport that’s in season, then if there’s time, take a few swings with the bat or toss the softball around. 

“That mixed bag is the best way to go,” Loshek said.

Then maybe there are some players that only play softball but don’t focus on that sport year-round either. So if they’re not focused on any particular sport in the offseason, they should try running, a little hitting, throwing, and strengthening exercises for the rotator cuff and back muscles. 

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Strength, flexibility, nutrition, and staying in good shape are a few key things to focus on during the offseason. Weight training isn’t just about bulking up either. There are also some lightweight exercises for athletes to do that can keep them strong.

Practicing some with a ball and bat will help, of course, but the main thing is staying in shape. There will be plenty of chances to work on softball skills once the season starts. Creating the game atmosphere is tough during the winter as well, especially in the northern states. Just getting outside at all to work on anything can be tough.

“Everybody feels the winter blues,” Loshek said.

Getting those high fly balls or working on grounders indoors is challenging, especially since many facilities don’t allow practice with real softballs. Focus on the things you can work on. Throwing development is always a good thing, to focus on good technique, according to Loshek. That’s probably the most important, he said.

No matter what route a softball player takes in the offseason, this is typically the time of year that even club organizations will give players a bit more rest. The spring season will be here before we know it.

From GameChanger and Heather Rule.

Softball, Softball Player Development, Softball Tips & Drills