I never set out to focus on data-driven softball player development. When Ashley and I formed S2 Breakthrough in 2012, the boldest thing about us was that we 1. were women! 2. took a seasonal focus and 3. offered strength and conditioning. But what drew (and continues to draw) me and Ashley together is our absolute obsession with being the best and making our athletes better.
Year after year we saw the flaws in our game take their toll on our athletes and their families. The egos and money at the youth level. The ever-growing mental health issues. The star 12-year old reaching desperation at 18U when she hadn’t reached the expectations everyone around her had set that she would continue a perfectly linear track upward until she walked onto a Top 5 program and won a World Series. Athletes injured. College careers cut short.
We sat in the middle of this, often with the athletes we were coaching, and felt helpless. We went to fields and watched our athletes unable to translate anything we had been working on in the cages. We went to softball clinics, bought courses, anything to try to do right by our athletes but it felt like we were hitting dead ends. We took over a travel organization, determined that through cohesion and the right personalities we could change the game.
Finally, we looked over to baseball and saw so much KNOWLEDGE. Technology, science, and SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE. And so, without having any idea what it was, we bought a Rapsodo hitting and Rapsodo pitching unit. We started going to baseball facilities. We borrowed biomechanics sensors. When we tried to look to others to see how to use them, how to help our athletes, we realized the information didn’t exist in softball. And without information, how can you truly be sure that you are helping your athletes?
This led us down the path of filling the void for ourselves and ultimately seeking to share that information with the softball community. It turns out, player development, the kind that is rooted in the absolute desire to make your athletes better through the obtaining and ultimate education of information is the way. What do I mean it is the way?
The term “give the game back to the girls” is thrown around a lot these days. Often it’s in the context of youth National Championships, flashy marketing, and other things that do very little in the way of truly giving the game back to the girls. I believe that the way you truly “give the game back to the girls” or, in other words, have an athlete-led system, is to build them up through player development systems that 1. work and 2. allow them access to the information.
This is what we have set out to do at S2 Breakthrough as we changed course to being data-driven. We brought on Dr. Laura McDonald from academia and we set out to LEARN, BUILD SYSTEMS and EDUCATE. It is the only way to truly empower our athletes, it’s a true athlete-led player development system.
- ASSESSMENT: Here is your full objective story.
- PLAN: Here is your full individualized plan – what AND why.
- MEASURE: Track key metrics – what AND why.
- REPEAT: Repeat forever
I hated math and science when I was in school. If you had told me I would spend my days in front of graphs and data, I would have never believed you. But, good information is power. We have to have good information to make our athletes better. And then the good information cannot solely live in the hands of the coaches/organizations/colleges. It must live with the athlete. THAT is giving the game back to the girls.