It Does Not Just Happen!

I am often asked by players and parents:

  • What can they do to become better players?
  • Why doesn’t (Name Here) bat higher in the lineup or play XYZ position?

Vipers Softball will make every one of you better and we teach all positions…I stand by that 100% and there is endless proof of that over the past 10 years.  Players learn how to play all positions on their Viper teams here with the exceptions of pitching and catching.  Although we do not teach pitching (windups, motion, etc…) we do teach how to be a pitcher, how to field the circle, hitting locations, dealing with tough umpires, etc….  We also have preferred relationships with many of the area top pitching coaches that we refer our members to who want to learn either how to pitch or how to get better to a higher level (that is a whole separate subject).  We are also in the midst of a 6 week series of catching clinics that is open for all 10u-14u players who want to learn how to become catchers or get better at catching.  Some to begin at 10U and some who are entering the 14U level and want to start next year on their HS teams.  The Vipers provide the forum & platform for practices, games, clinics, open hitting sessions, mental preparation, mechanical adjustments, game situations and building a softball IQ along with many other things.  We teach our kids how to compete, and they learn from both success and failure.  That is something we drive home to our coaches too…there will be failure and we need to learn and get better from it.  We provide camaraderie, a team approach and probably most importantly, we have sparked long lasting friendships way beyond our walls.  Mostly, we strive to instill a love for the game and tap into a player’s desire to be as good as they can be.

We absolutely 100% teach all of our players how to play infield, outfield, around the bases, how to make tags, etc….  We do not ever guarantee positions.  Players develop at different speeds and some are better equipped to handle certain positions than others, or may be a better fit in a specific rotation identified by our head coaches.  Player development & evolving as a player is not a sprint and we do not expect any player to be perfect.  Players will slot themselves on positioning, pitching time, batting order, etc… +/- 98% of the time.  Coaches may miss something here or there but their judgment and decisions are usually directionally right.  Very, very rare is there an outright miss.

Some coaches and parents recently approached me about the importance of private lessons and training.  How important are they?   Are they necessary?  Should we require them?  Our program, the way it is structured, allows for about 1.5 hours of practice per week and competitive weekend play (Fall, Spring/Summer) &/or about 3 hours of practice per week in the winter.  We are able to do this by having relationships throughout Bergen County for field access and having our own facility.  We are not reliant on indoor training in winter only or at varying times due to rental availability like some of our competitors.  We are very predictable and reliable in our practice slots.  It is the combination of practices, organizational clinics and competitive play our players do get better…in many cases much better.  Having said that, I do believe players need to re-enforce our practices and the fundamentals we teach on their own, either via private lessons or working on their own at home.

Our 18U Premier team has been successful throughout their tenure here.  From 10u, this core group has won repeatedly and competed at the highest level(s) any Viper team ever has.  They have achieved our greatest successes to date and are adding more each time they play.  We are very fortunate to have kept the core of this team together since 10/12u…this is/ was immensely helpful as we build each year on what was done the year before and do not have to start over.  If any of our members/ players believe it is good to move around and change club teams, look no further than this team to see that their success is predicated largely on their stability, learning to trust each other and their own work ethic.

We never have and never will force players to take private lessons or budget money for that…it is 100% a personal choice.  Having said that, there are very few things you can become really good at and not practice regularly on your own.  Each case is its own, but I do point out that regardless of how it is approached, individual work must happen to be successful.  I have seen success using both private lessons and working at home.

If you want to work your way up the lineup, into a different position, up in the pitching rotation, hit for more power, make more contact, get more accurate on your throws, improve your arm strength, etc…, wishing or wanting it to happen will not make it happen.  You need to work on it…for hours and hours.  Please know and understand that is what this game is…it is not easy.  It is up to each individual to determine what is the best way to work and how it benefits them.

I have a saying I use all the time…practice scared.  Not to be scared of failure or competition, but scared that someone else is outworking you.  This should not only apply here for the Vipers, but in all that our players do.

While I am pointing out the 18u girls below…please note that we have very committed kids at each and every level,  10u is just starting to see this, 12u is building and similar to 10u in many regards.  They are in the midst of the most challenging season of their careers.  14u and 16u understand perfectly where I am coming from, and see that as you go up in age and level, only the best players remain.  The need for you to be your best is table stakes.

I watched the 18’s turn a double play this weekend: 1st and 3rd, ground ball to 3rd.  The 3rd baseman fielded, checked the runner back to third, threw to first for the out; the runner on 3rd took off on the throw (but had to retreat first when checked back…that is key); our 1st baseman took the throw at 1st, came off, turned and threw home…our catcher was up the line a step, dropped the knee and tagged the runner out at home.  Double play, out of the inning, other team deflated…Vipers buoyed.  That play was taught, coached and constantly hammered on for 3 years practice after practice after practice…fall, winter and summer.  That is how hard that play is and how long it takes to become intuitive.  To expect those things to just happen would be ill advised and unrealistic.

As just shared above, our Premier team’s on field success does not just happen.  It results from hard work, commitment, learning from success and failure, repetition after repetition, trusting their teammates, trusting the process and staying the course.   I asked our 18u Premier players to share what it is they do… how they train and what message would they give to their younger self?  Here are some of  the responses we received…I am proud to share for all Vipers to see.

Savannah NowakSenior, Ramapo HS.  Vipers 12u- 14u, Present (18u)

  • Training: I have a hitting and catching lesson usually once a week, and then I hit on my own almost every other day.
  • Message to my younger self:  never be satisfied and try to outwork everyone else
  • Committed to University of Rochester

McKenna Lont: Junior, Ramapo HS.  Viper 10u-present (18u)

  • Training:  I have one hitting lesson and one pitching lesson a week and two one-hour long workouts a week with a personal trainer. I also go to the field on an off day and hit in the cage or field at least once or twice a week. Then, when I do not have workouts I would normally work out in my basement for a little while.
  • All Bergen County Player, 1st Team, Freshman Season

Raegen GermanoJunior, NV/Old Tappan.  Vipers: 10u-present (18u)

  • Training: 2 pitching lessons per week all year.  CrossFit personal training 4 days per week in off-season.   2 days or Practice/ games per week.   Throw on selected off days
  • Message to my younger self: Appreciate my dad more and know that it is ok to have an off day.  Off days will happen.  You need to know what it is like to get through a game not having your best stuff.  That is what makes you better, knowing how to make adjustments to what you have that day.  Grind and win when your best stuff is not there.
  • Bergen County Championship Pitcher, 2019 (2nd freshman in tournament history)

Savannah Ring: Junior, Ramapo HS.  Viper 10u-present (18u)

  • Training: 2 practices per week, hitting lessons, batting cages on my own and workout/lift twice per week
  • Message to my younger self:  Always keep your head up; not to let one bad at bat or error define the rest of the game.  Have a short memory when it comes to mistakes.  .
  • All Bergen County Player, 2nd Team, Freshman season.

Cara Kochakian: Junior, IHA Viper 12u-present (18u)

  • Training: I have a fielding lesson once a week, catching lesson once a week, hitting lesson once a week and another day dedicated to tee work in backyard.  I then have Vipers practice and games on weekends
  • Message to younger self:  Work hard and always do everything 100% because in the end it comes down to how hard you work individually
  • State champion & starting shortstop as a freshman, IHA

Julz Koch: Senior, Clarkstown South.  18u-present (18u)

  • Training: As far as my training goes outside of practice and games I go to the gym 4-6 times a week, go to a hitting and catching lesson once a week and try to hit every day using all the opportunities I have.
  • Message to my younger self: Make sure you are having fun but still work as hard as you can… don’t stop doing as much as you can ever, and take advantage of every opportunity.  Be a good teammate and a player
  • Committed to SUNY Cortland

Olivia Cataldo: Junior, NV/Old Tappan.  Vipers: 10u-present (18u)

  • Training: Aside from team practices I have two lessons a week to work on fielding/hitting. I also work out at Varsity House during the fall and winter 4 days a week to work on strength training,  speed and agility. When I have time at home, I am hitting off my tee or doing simple fielding drills I can do myself. If you want to play and want to play well, you have to put in the work. You cannot wish to see results when you are not working to improve.
  • Message to my younger self: 1 game or 1 play does not define you. You are going to have so many opportunities during your softball career, and if you make that one mistake, or you strike out, it doesn’t define who you are. However, you should take that as a lesson, and see what you need to improve on as a player.
  • Bergen County Champion…led team in hitting as a freshman

Emma Mercadante: Senior, Midland Park HS.  Vipers 12u-present (18u)

  • Training: Pitching lessons 2-3 times per week plus pitching on my own another 2-3 days.  Viper practices and games on top of that
  • Message to my younger self: do not get so upset over messing up because mistakes are going to happen.  It is how and what you learn from the mistakes that matters
  • Starting varsity player since freshman season, league champion.  College commitment about to be announced (we just cannot say yet)


Bob Germano, NJ Vipers



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