Championship Coach's Corner

Championship Coach’s Corner

with Lindsay Diehl,

Clarke High School Softball

Clarke Champs

I have been fortunate to work with Coach Lindsay Diehl and Clarke Softball for two years now. They have been excellent to work with. After the first year they were able to make it  to the state finals and fell short in the championship game. Their mission was to get back and win it all. This is their story and I know you will be able to gain some great insight into a championship program through Coach Dielhl’s responses.

What is your baseball/softball background? Resume? Talk about your program.

I played ball at Clarke High School myself and graduated in 2000. I continued my playing career at Indian Hills where I really learned what it felt like to be a part of a powerhouse program and to believe you were going to win every time you laced up your cleats. Both seasons at IHCC we played in the National Tournament and had great seasons. I then went to Western Illinois University and played softball during that time. As a team captain at both stops, I learned how to lead a group of people and be a positive energy giver. I also coached at Clarke for four seasons in between my college playing career.

Upon graduation I landed an assistant coaching job at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. A program that had only won six games the previous season. Along with a new head coach, Rick Sandquist, the program was turned around quickly. Coach Sandquist taught me a lot about how to treat kids and how to get them to “buy in to” what you are doing.

This is the start of my sixth season back at Clarke and prior to taking over, they also had won just 6 games in the previous season. The group of seniors that just graduated were my 8th graders when I first came. That group and the group prior to them were the ones that set the bar for the expectation of a Clarke Indian softball player. They worked hard in the off season, played together all spring, bought in and believe in the mental game and finished as State Runner-Up in 2013 and won a State title this summer because of those things. Now they help me as I work with kids down to 2nd grade on fundamentals and all of the other little things we do here at Clarke.

What are some of the biggest factors in your success last year?

Becoming 1 pitch warriors and believing in the mental game was a huge factor in our success. It was a process to get them to buy in the mental game but staying the course and continuing to talk about it made a big impact over time. They starting believing that every time they put on their cleats, they were going to win the game. This year we came from behind in the regional final to make it back to the state tournament, we won big in round one with our pitcher throwing the 13th state tournament perfect game, played at midnight after we were on a rain delay for  4 hours and then won a championship after letting a team back in the game. We controlled the controllables and became comfortable in uncomfortable situations, all of that is mental.

What role has the mental game played in your success? How have you implemented the mental game in your program?

The mental game has been a difference maker for the Clarke Indians, the talent was there but putting the mental game to use was what took us to the next level. The first year we started talking about the mental side of the game we weren’t completely all in because when things got tough, we reverted back to our old ways and beliefs. In year two I asked Justin Dehmer to come talk about the mental game, that year we starting applying mental techniques and using verbiage much more. We focused on the process over the outcome and we amazed ourselves with what changes happened.

Every player has a role whether they are on the field or in the dugout mob. We chart Base2, keep a mental brick and toilet in our dugout as reminders to release mistakes, we hang signs to be visual reminders to play one pitch at a time as well as have each other’s back in every play. 

How have you created a program of excellence? What advice can you give to others about making those strides from good to great?

I sometimes wonder how I get so many kids to show up and want to be a part of this program because I am tough on them. I have a high level of expectation in everything they do. I call them out on things I don’t approve of, keep track of what they do on social media, expect them to volunteer to be a part of our future athlete’s success and stay in contact with them year round. They joke about how the thought of “what would Coach D think” runs through their head before they make some decisions. I think having put as much time in to them as they do the program has gone a long ways. Knowing that we are willing to put in the time together to get better and truly caring about them and what they have going on gets them to invest and work hard towards our goals. 

My advice would be to show up and care. I have learned that when kids know you really care about them and not just winning, they will run through a wall for you. Also getting involved with the youth of your program is a key for longevity. I am fortunate enough to be the elementary PE teacher at our only elementary and put my former college recruiting skills to work on kindergartners. I also coach one of my youth spring traveling teams to instill fundamentals and a mindset prior to becoming one of my high school players.

What are the things you love most about coaching? What keeps you motivated? 

I am just as involved in my kid’s lives in the offseason as I am during the season and being a constant role model, teacher, motivator and having the ability to make a difference on a daily basis are the things I enjoy the most.

I love the game of softball but I love the kids I work with even more. Coaching gives you the opportunity to have an impact on the field as well as off the field. Softball fundamentals are something I hope to instill in my athletes but for them to learn to play together as a team, help develop their character and to see them learn life lessons while being involved in a sport is what I hope they take away at the end of their career as a Clarke Indian. I spend a lot of time working with my future athletes of all ages. Over the years I have watched my older kids become leaders and coaches themselves through these opportunities and it transfers over to the softball field and helps them develop confidence on and off the field.

The kids keep me motivated. When I think I need a break from the game, someone will always call me and ask me to come work with them at the field. Seeing them want to work so hard for something inspires me. We won a state championship on a Friday afternoon and I received a text message that night when we got back home from a player asking me when we could start working again. That kind of stuff gets me out of bed in the morning.

What is your favorite practice technique, drill, or game that you use at your practice that others can use right now within their program?

 I love a drill I call “Big League BP”. You split the group in to three smaller groups.

Group 1 is working the cage/drill work with a coach. (Make this a specific thing that needs improvement in a game i.e. outside pitches and have numerous stations focused on improving at that).

Group 2 is hitting on the field off of live pitching with another coach- hitting 5 rounds.(hitters that are waiting are on defense in their position, shagging with 1 on deck hitter)

Round 1: Sacrifice bunt

Round 2: move a runner from 2nd

Round 3: Score a runner from 3rd

Round 4: squeeze bunt

Round 5: free swing

Group 3 is the base runners. They rotate around 1st, 2nd and 3rd reacting off of the hit with a coach watching. They don’t have to run non-stop if they need to take a quick break they can so they are 100% when they get their lead off and react. I love the base running aspect the most because it is hard to create game like base running situations and this is great because they get so many reps in this drill. And base running is so important but not practiced enough in my opinion. 

I wanted to thank Coach Diehl for her time, responses, and the opportunity to work with her program.

If you have any questions for Coach Diehl you can contact her at:

ldiehl@clarke.k12.ia.us

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