Olympic Gold Medalist Michele Smith Shares Tips, Expertise in Series of Little League Softball Clinics
The first of these clinics for Little League softball managers and coaches was conducted at the Eastern Region Headquarters in Bristol, Conn., on Jan. 8, and the second was Saturday at the Southern Region Headquarters in St. Petersburg, Fla.
A heralded pitcher for the U.S. Olympic Softball Team, Ms. Smith helped Team USA to back-to-back gold medals in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She also was a member of the 2002 U.S. national team that won gold at the U.S., and Canada Cups, and the International Softball Federation (ISF) world championships.
The one-day event in Bristol was greeted with enthusiasm, as nearly 120 Little League volunteers participated. Ms. Smith shared her views on how to improve a local league’s softball program with attendees traveling from leagues in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut.
“The East Region is extremely grateful to Michele for her dedication to the Little League softball program,” said Corey Wright, assistant regional director for the Eastern Region. “It was certainly a pleasure having Michele with us for the day.”
More than 40 volunteers from Little Leagues in Florida took part in the St. Petersburg clinic.
Teresa Willis, assistant regional director for the Southern Region, said, “The participants walked away feeling they had strengthened their knowledge of the basic skills of softball.”Little League Baseball and Softball, and Musco Lighting, the official sports lighting system of Little League, are sponsoring four more softball clinics featuring Ms. Smith. The other clinic sites and dates are: Southwest Region - Waco, Texas, Jan. 29; Western Region - San Bernardino, Calif., Feb. 19; Central Region - Indianapolis, March 5.
Each of Little League’s five regional centers in the United States will host these one-day events that are open to all Little League managers, coaches, and league officials. Each clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with an admission fee of $25. More information can be found at: www.littleleague.org/media/smithclinics2005.asp.
In attendance at the Bristol clinic was Bob Lang, a coaching coordinator and softball vice-president for the George J. Hummel Little League in Seymour, Conn.
“I was very impressed,” said Mr. Lang. “I’ve coached softball for 30 years, and been to a lot of clinics over the years, but I knew this clinic would be worth my while to go.”
Mr. Lang said Ms. Smith had a good rapport with the participants.
As part of her presentation, Ms. Smith allows time for individual instruction and goes at a pace that allows for questions to be asked at any time.
“Michele took time out of her schedule to sign softballs for all attendees, and offered one-on-one instruction,” Mr. Wright said. “She also answered inquiries from various managers and coaches.”
Kenny Walters, a member of the Orange City (Fla.) Little League board of directors, and a softball coach in the league, said he went to the Ms. Smith’s clinic at the Southern Region complex to learn the finer points of softball.
“I just wanted to get some higher knowledge on how to teach my kids,” said Mr. Walters. “I’ve been all baseball, so I wanted to know more on the softball side of it, because there is definitely a difference.”
Faron Tidwell attended the clinic from Pinecrest (Fla.) Little League. Mr. Tidwell has been a softball coach for eight years, and has coached both 9-10 and Major Division tournament teams, yet he felt this clinic helped him broaden his coaching philosophies.
“I wanted to learn all I can to help the girls, and I wanted to check to see if what I’ve been teaching has been right,” said Mr. Tidwell.
Mr. Walters and Mr. Tidwell agreed a softball-only clinic, taught by an experienced and diverse player like Ms. Smith, benefited all who attended.
“This is good,” Mr. Walters said of the clinic. “(Ms. Smith’s) experience and success at the different levels of play show she’s obviously done something right, and I can learn from that.”
“Ms. Smith has done a really good job for herself and has a lot of knowledge,”
Mr. Tidwell said. “We need to have things like this in Little League because it’s more personalized.”
“When Michele physically puts the managers and coaches through the skills she is teaching, it enabled them to be more prepared for the instructional process with their players,” said Mrs. Willis. “Little League is extremely fortunate to have the support of someone as talented and proficient as Michele to help grow our softball program.”
Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program, with nearly 2.7 million players and 1 million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and scores of other countries.