We sat down with University of Washington Softball coach Heather Tarr to learn more about how they have successfully integrated Blast technology into their program and the improvements in communication and player development they have seen from the implementation. Here’s what Coach Tarr had to say:
“When we integrate new things into a program, we’re very careful about what we bring in, and we don’t just try everything. This holds true in how we incorporate technology, whether that’s video, teaching through visual cues and visual aids, or sensors on the bats or on your arms.
We found Blast to be a helpful tool from a technology standpoint. I think we can see the bigger picture of where we can go with specific small things like PCR and metrics that the swing really needs to be able to get the right feedback. As coaches, we pride ourselves in thinking we know what we’re saying about the swing. But when data can reveal what the swing is actually doing, that’s where Blast has really helped us hone in on almost a less-is-more approach. You almost kind of stop talking and let the data speak for itself.
Any time you integrate technology, you need to take care with asking, “Is it really helping us win? Is it really helping us get to the next stage?” I think for us, we believe that Blast is helping us do that, more of in a bigger picture. We’re working through how the technology’s going to grow our program, and I think one of the biggest things I like is the housing of the information in one spot.
We see a bigger space for Blast to help us with recruits. From the time we start working with a recruit, we’re able to have a profile in our database that allows for following and tracking with a Blast sensor. Because of this, we’re not just feeling like we’ve developed a player or feeling like that player’s had good growth, but the player can actually see her marks from the time she was in 10th grade, 11th grade, to the time she maybe goes on and plays pro or plays on a national team.
We do a really good job with player development, and I think we take a lot of pride as coaches trying to really stay ahead of what matters most to us. And I think we do a good job of bringing our players opportunities to see how great they can be on a daily basis, but also understanding that it’s a process, and it’s going to take time. We want to see growth. We want to see these players as good as possible.
This definitely takes time. Especially with rookies and young ones, this takes time for them to understand. You have four years to become as good as you can become, not just one season or one fall.
I love developing players. I love seeing our freshmen grow. I love seeing players like Ali Aguilar and Courtney Gano come back into our practice environment as national team players, as pro players. Danielle Lawrie, one of the Canadian national team players, is able to come back here and work with us still and help continue to develop the team as players. That just fires me up. I love that part of what I do.
Communicating with Blast
Motivation is such a big part to learning and improving. So many of us are motivated differently: intrinsically, extrinsically, auditory and/or visual. As a coach, I have to use them all. I think Blast addresses different learning styles very well, but I have to be the one that filters them. For example, for an analytical person, how do they engage with the information? Analytic types need to see something; they won’t physically change until they actually see the numbers and see angles changing and impacting that in the moment. I think that’s something that we’re on the cutting edge of—using the Blast technology to be able to help address different learning styles in different ways people are motivated.
Creating a common language through the swing is also really important. All of our players come from different environments that had different languages. And to be able to continue to think about how Blast could maybe align teaching from the use levels on up to the college levels and beyond, that’s kind of cool. You can actually think that when you say “Connection,” you don’t have 20 different meanings. Instead, they say, “I understand what Early Connection is. I understand Connection at Impact. I understand what is Rotational Acceleration.” Blast helps merge everybody’s language; I think that could be a game-changer, not just for our program but the game in general.
Training with Blast
We’re trying to find the best way to use the technology and not get too caught up in the numbers, rather looking at the trends throughout time. We’re really trying to stay more month-to-month or period-to-period. Hopefully one day we can get the sensor approved for in-game use. How awesome would that be to compare real game data to practice data? That’s where all teaching really comes to light in learning.
Using Tech to Push Forward
Because softball doesn’t necessarily have yet a professional entity like baseball has Major League Baseball, I think technology has gotten into our game maybe later than other sports. But I think as a coach, if you’re not trying to seek the competitive edge, whether that is through technology or that is through looking from the inside out asking, ‘What are we doing and how can we do it better?’, I think you’re going to always fall behind.”
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