The age-old motto in sports is, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
This season, the softball team is focusing on the process of last year’s World Series run through a new gradient system created at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga.
The system, designed by Valdosta State Assistant Baseball Coach Todd Guilliams, is divided into four 10-game marking periods that measure offensive and pitching statistics, and relates them to wins and losses.
Head Coach Deb Pallozzi said the gradient system allows the team to understand how big innings unfold.
“We’re not always going to focus on whether the player gets a hit or not,” she said. “It’s more about quality at bats that move runners over into scoring position.”
Senior third baseman and pitcher Allison Greaney said the new grading system helps the team realize the little things it must do to win games.
“Softball is a hugely mental game, and to take the chance to focus on those exercises makes everything come full circle,” Greaney said.
The offensive portion of the grading system sets a standard of four runs per game. When Pallozzi plugged in last year’s numbers, she figured out the Bombers were 25–1 when they scored four runs or more but were 9–14 when scoring three or fewer. Looking at the opposition, Pallozzi found the Blue and Gold went 32–6 when they allowed three runs or less. When the Bombers allowed four or more runs, however, they were 2–9.
The team also utilizes a point system to evaluate productive outs that move runners over, with numeric values assigned to each situation where the ball is put in play.
The Bombers, in addition to the new gradient system, have weekly sessions in Hill Center classrooms as part of their preseason training program.
Senior pitcher and outfielder Britt Lillie said the time in the classroom is used to teach the team’s values.
“It’s good to have tangible work that you can see on a piece of paper to remind yourself of what you’re representing and what you’re supposed to be holding yourself to,” she said.
Lillie said the team watched a video montage of quotes from Will Smith movies during a recent session for inspiration. She said Muhammad Ali’s quote that Smith performed in the movie “Ali,” “I’m not afraid to die on the treadmill,” was one that resonated with the team.
Freshman catcher and third baseman Sydney Folk said the South Hill squad made specific references to John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. Folk said each player was assigned to define one of the 15 characteristics in the pyramid and share them with teammates so the underclassmen recognize players who personify these traits.
“It’s going to be good to be able to put a face to what it means to be enthusiastic and what it means to be a team player,” Folk said.
Pallozzi said the preseason program makes it easier for players to spot and correct their weaknesses.
“If a player has a rough start, then that’s just her baseline,” she said. “If she sees that she did well during the next grading period, she can figure out what adjustments she made from one block of games to the next and feel good about herself.”