Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Do Softball Pitching Machines help your Hitting?

Softball pitching machines offer a number of advantages to softball players who want to improve their hitting game. They provide you with a predictable pitch so that you can work on specific phases of your swing and perfect your timing. Having a pitching machine means that you don't need to rely on anyone else to practice. All you have to do is turn on the machine and get swinging.

Pitching machines also help you to break in composite softball bats so that you can get your new bat into the rotation as soon as possible. When you step into the batter's box, you want total confidence in your bat choice. Spending the necessary hours with that bat and a pitching machine helps to build confidence in your swing.

For younger girls just starting in the game, hitting off of a pitching machine is a great way to get used to being at the plate, preparing for the delivery, and decreasing their fear of the ball. If they were facing a live pitcher, the stress of trying to swing at a pitch could be overwhelming and cause them to be overly tense at the plate. The predictability and adaptability of the machine's pitching helps to overcome this natural reaction. So if you or someone you know is just beginning to play softball, choosing from one of the many softball pitching machines available to you could be a key to becoming a confident softball player.

Build Muscle Memory to Become the Best

Any veteran player can tell you that if you want to be the best you can and get the most from the game, you will need to build automatic reflexes and reactions. The only way to build the muscle memory that gives you the ability to react without thinking is through repetition. The ability to build that muscle memory through repeats at the plate and in the field is something that other softball equipment does not offer.

A pitching machine not only helps you with your hitting, but also with your fielding skills. You can set the speed, angle and direction of many machines to deliver fly balls, grounders, and line drives. This helps you to even further simulate the real conditions of the possible types of hit balls you will face during a game. Through this practice you can isolate your weaknesses and do the required drills to improve upon the and turn them into strengths.


Whether you are looking for softball gloves or bags to carry all your gear, a visit to the Longstreth store will give you the personalized attention that you deserve. You have developed a passion for the game and the skills necessary to do your best on game day. Let Longstreth help you to continue to build your love for the game with service and products that are specially selected for your needs.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Which is better - A Softball Pitching Machine or a Batting Tee?

Softball pitching machines are a much larger investment than a batting tee, so is it worth it for you to have a pitching machine or is a tee enough for your needs? If you have new softball bats to break in, hitting off a tee may be enough, but if you really want the flexibility and adaptability to do the greatest variety of drills, you want to have a pitching machine.

Of course there are many ways to effectively use a tee to improve your game. You can focus on improving your weaknesses by adjusting the tee height and placement. You can also do almost limitless repetitions, depending upon the number of balls that you have in your practice bucket. But every drill that you can do with a tee you can do more effectively and more realistically with a pitching machine.



Make Your Practice Conditions Match Game Day

When game day comes around, it's not just you and the ball that face off. There are a huge number of factors that can not be replicated by using a tee. Beyond all of the variables that pitchers send your way, you also have to consider wind and humidity, both of which can alter how a pitch reacts as it comes towards the plate. A pitching machine accounts for these factors, while the static nature of a tee does not. Plus, you will always face an element of unpredictability from a pitcher. Working with a pitching machine can help you to build nerves of steel at the plate and focus on perfecting your swing phases with an active softball.

Another training benefit of pitching machines to consider is the range of fielding drills that you can perform. Whether you want to improve your ground game or focus on pop-ups, a pitching machine can help you. For your new softball gloves and softball cleats, you want to break them in and be comfortable using them before you step onto the field for a game. You can set up realistic drills using your machine to run, pivot, dive, and catch in a realistic way. Not only will this help you to refine your skills, but it also helps you to find weaknesses in how you customize your cleats and gloves for different conditions.

You put in hours on the practice field with your team and training partners to perfect your softball skills, but if you want to take it to the next level and have the ability to practice hitting and fielding on your own, a pitching machine is essential to your continued development. Check out Longstreth's range of machines that they have personally selected for your benefit. At the same time, you can find all the other equipment that you need, from bats, cleats and gloves to the softball bags to carry all of the equipment to your next practice or tournament.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Is it Time to Replace your Field Hockey Ball?

It is always a good idea to have a number of field hockey balls around; both practice balls and regulation game balls. Even if this essential piece of field hockey equipment takes a long time to break down, there still does come a time when the ball should be replaced with a new one. 



The hockey balls that you use on game day have to undergo a strict series of testing to make sure that they play evenly on a number of surfaces, and that they conform to a bounce test, among other standards. They must also be a specific size and weight. So, if you notice while playing that the game ball is marked, dented, or otherwise damaged, you should request that the umpire change the ball. A damaged ball could affect the game's play, and put you and your team at a disadvantage.

For the practice balls that you use, they will generally be hollow, and are often plastic, making them susceptible to breaking and cracking over time. In a study published in 2008 in The Engineering of Sport, various tests showed that at low speeds, the greatest impact on field hockey balls is to the plastic covering. As the ball is hit harder and faster, the materials that make up the ball have a big impact on if it will deform or break. Since practice balls usually have a hollow core, this makes them more likely to break down over time when compared with the field hockey balls that you use on game day. This is also one reason why practice balls have a lower price.

So when should you replace the ball? Just like on game day, if you see that a ball is dented or cracked, remove it from your practice collection. It could split or crack further, and create a dangerous situation where pieces of the ball come flying off. Without eye protection, there is the possibility of injury due to this type of damage, so play it safe and grab a new ball.

Remember to keep in mind that the temperature also affects the durability of field hockey balls. Cold weather play makes the plastic of a practice ball and the polyurethane cover on game day balls more brittle and likely to crack or break. You want to have the peace of mind to know that when you deliver your strongest drive, the ball you are using will not break apart. Take a little extra time to inspect the ball when the temperature is below 60 degrees.

When it is time to replace a lost or broken ball, you can rely on Longstreth Sporting Goods to have the type of ball you want, from a brand that you trust. That goes for all field hockey equipment, from the store that focuses on your specific needs as a female athlete including the best and the most durable Field Hockey Sticks!


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How to Decide on the Length for your Lacrosse Stick?

Lacrosse sticks should be a length that is legal for play, and the right length for each player's position and preference. Here are is a guide to help you to find the perfect length of for you. 


The length of a stick is officially measured from the lacrosse heads to the end caps. Using this, the stick must fall into a certain size range depending upon regulations that shift as players get older. NCAA regulations for women state that the stick must be a minimum of 35 1/2 inches, and a maximum of 52 inches. If you are unsure of your leagues's regulations, check with your coach or a league official to be sure that your stick length meets the rules of play.

Beyond regulations regarding stick length, there are many other factors that you should consider when choosing the length of your stick. These include your height and the position that you play.

In general, young players should opt for a stick length that feels comfortable for them. While STX does offer a stick that comes with a shorter shaft, all sticks are able to be customized for your preference by shortening the stick with a normal household hacksaw. However, if you do so, be sure to remove the end cap before cutting, as it can be quite difficult to remove the end cap after a cut has been made.

The majority of lacrosse players want to adapt their lacrosse equipment to the position that they play, and with sticks this is especially important. In general, defenders choose longer sticks, midfielders choose a stick length that allows them to play both defense and offense well, and attackers usually have close to the shortest length stick allowed under regulations. Goalies usually prefer to have a stick length comparable to those of a midfielder.

Defensive players should choose a stick length towards the maximum length allowed by their league. A longer stick allows a defender to increase her reach, and make passes that can not be defended by offensive players from the other team. This aids in clearing the ball and advancing it up the field. A typical length for a defender's stick is around 43-44 inches.

Midfielders need the versatility to play as defenders and attackers at times. A stick length that is neither too long or too short allows a midfielder to develop this ability. Because of this, most midfielders in high school or college choose a stick length around 40 inches.

Attackers choose to have the shortest length sticks allowed under regulations, and this usually means that an attackers stick measures 36 inches. This shorter stick allows them to make sharper passes, maneuver around defenders more easily, and take precise shots at the goal.


No matter what your needs and preferences, Longstreth has the sports equipment that you need to take your game to the next level. From Lacrosse to Softball to Field Hockey, Longstreth is the sporting goods store that provides you all that you need to keep playing the game that you live for.

Friday, April 22, 2016

5 Ways Parents can help their Young Softball Player

One of the best things that you can do for a young player first lacing up the softball cleats is to build their love of the game. You will help to teach them core values like teamwork and dedication, while giving them the gift of a positive environment and healthy habits that last a lifetime. The benefits of playing a team sport like softball are nearly too many to list. Here are five ways that you can help your beginning softball player to improve in the sport.

1. Keep it Fun

Remember that team sports, especially for young girls, should be positively motivated. Even if you or your spouse was a star player, that doesn't mean your daughter automatically shares the same love of the game. She will have to build this over time. The best way to do this is by encouraging her to enjoy the game. You may encounter coaches or other parents that put a lot of pressure on young players. Try to counteract this by always encouraging your daughter, and modeling good behavior in front of her teammates.

2. Get the Right Gear

To help your daughter develop as a player, you don't necessarily need to buy the softball equipment that you saw at the College World Series last year, or have a softball pitching machine in your backyard. However, make sure that she has a glove that fits and that she likes. Be sure to offer her softball bats that will help her to develop a correct swing. The last thing you want is for her to suffer an injury, so make sure she has softball cleats, or even some great beginner's catcher's gear, if that is her position. Then, encourage her to properly care for the investment in equipment that you have made.

3. Reward Hard Work

Once your daughter starts to really enjoy the game, continue to reward her dedication. If she takes the initiative to join a summer league or train in the off-season, sacrifice a bit of your time and resources to make sure that she can make practices. If she shows dedication, you should too. Reward hers with upgraded bats and other equipment, your praise, and support.

4. Keep Calm During Setbacks

For every young athlete, there are setbacks, losses, injuries, and struggles. Lead by example by correcting problems when they can be fixed, and encouraging her to learn from the difficult times of the game. Let her take a break from the sport if she needs to. If she really loves it, she'll return to it, but in the meantime encourage other healthy habits that build an overall winning attitude.

5. Find Positive Influences


You could be the best softball player in your city, but your daughter would still need other coaches and parents to give her a balanced approach to the game. Find other role models for her to follow besides yourself, and encourage her to learn from them. Often your local Softball Store will be able to connect her with such local support system. Whether that's a local high school pitching star that is willing to share her experience, or a coach that really knows how to motivate young players, she will need many people to help her develop the skills and habits that make a great young player. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Alloy vs. Composite softball bats - What should you be using?

You want every hit coming off the softball bats that you choose to be accurate and hit at the distance that you want. Sometimes that's right out of the park.  Sometimes it means the perfectly placed sacrifice bunt. So which bat should you be using to make sure that you make the most of every opportunity, every time you're at the plate? There are so many choices available to you now, but you have too main choices in materials. Whether you choose an alloy or a composite softball bat depends on a lot of different factors. 



Price
If you need to watch your budget, and many younger players and their families do, alloy bats have a big advantage over composite bats. You can easily pick up two or three great alloy bats from big name brands like Easton or Louisville for the same price as one of the top composite bats. If you're still learning the game, it can be a big advantage to have a few different bats available to you with different weight balances. Choosing to go with alloy as your bat's material offers you this possibility. 

Performance
When it comes down to performance on game day, almost all top level players now choose a composite bat. Companies like DeMarini, Worth, and all of the other big names in fastpitch softball bats constantly innovate and improve their designs, offering you some truly incredible options. When the first composite bats appeared in the 1980s, they performed very poorly, but with advances in materials, composite bats now easily outhit alloy bats, featuring a much larger sweet spot. You may also notice more "pop" coming off the bat with every hit. 
Composite bats do have one disadvantage in performance. When you first purchase a composite bat, you need to break it in before you will see the best performance from it. With an alloy bat, the first time you use it to hit you will be able to see its full potential. It will take a couple hundred solid hits with your new composite bat before it is properly warmed up and ready for its game day debut.

Durability
Composite bats do have one more negative when compared to alloy bats. The same carbon fiber that makes these bats lighter and easier to swing, also makes them vulnerable to damage. Especially during your early springtime games, you may want to choose an alloy bat, because cold temperature make the composite material more likely to crack. 
If you do some minor damage to an alloy bat, it is very likely that you will be able to keep using it without danger or reduced performance. An alloy bat can suffer a dent or two and keep its reliability. Composite bats, once damaged, are not useful anymore and can be dangerous for you and your teammates if you continue to use them. 

The Final Score
The type of bat that you choose depends upon your needs and preferences, along with restrictions that some leagues place on bats allowed for use. In short, if you want a less expensive, more durable bat that delivers reliable performance one season after another, alloy bats may be for you.
If you want a top of the line bat with the most advanced materials available and have the budget to pay for it, go with a composite bat. You will be able to hit more accurately, and will feel more comfortable because of the lighter weight and reduced sting from these bats. No matter your choice, Longstreth offers you a wide variety of alloy and composite softball bats, as well as all the other Softball Equipment you need.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Field Hockey Goalkeeping Essentials List

As a field hockey goalkeeper, you are the last defense against the opposing team. You need the right field hockey equipment to protect yourself and the goal. Your team relies on your skill and performance to give them the chance to make their goals count. Even better, the thrill of recording a shutout performance awaits you if you can combine your practice and skills with the equipment that works best for you. Here's a guide to the most important equipment from head to toe. 

1. The Head and Neck

The most important part of your body for you to protect is your head. The hardest drives can put the ball speed well above fifty miles per hour, so a high quality helmet is essential to help you maintain your focus. Beyond basic protection, today's helmets from top brands like TK and OBO provide well-ventilated comfort to help you keep a cool head. Add in a throat guard as well to keep your neck and throat protected.

2. Upper Body

The main piece of field hockey equipment here is the chest and shoulder protection, which comes in one piece. Entry level pieces even have attached arm guards, although more advanced protection keeps these two separate for increased mobility and faster reaction times.
Your hands need protection too, and you will need a left hand blocker along with your right handed goalkeeping glove.

3. Midsection and Lower Body

Your goalie pants are hidden under your game shorts, and may have a pelvic protector included in their design. If they do not, you will need to purchase this separately. Most beginner's pants have this included, but if you are ready for the next level of mobility and protection, the pelvic protector needs to be a separate piece.
You protect your lower legs and feet with leg guards and kickers. The type of foam that these are made from is an important factor to consider, as lighter foam helps to deliver bigger rebounds. This gives you the advantage of clearing the ball further from the goal, though it is a more advanced product and may cost more because of this.

4. The Stick

Your stick is incredibly important, and while it does not serve the added purpose of protecting your body like the rest of equipment, your stick choice greatly affects your performance. Invest in the best one that you can, so that you can quickly reject any drive that comes your way. While Longstreth recommends goalie sticks, your stick can be a field player stick as it is not required to be a goalie specific stick.

5. Bag and Accessories

While you may have a team jersey that is assigned to you, you will need some an extra or two for practices. Wearing all of the goal keeping equipment generates a lot of heat and sweat, so make sure that you have a couple clean jerseys on hand. You will also want a way to carry all of this equipment around. It is a lot to keep track of, and a goal keeping bag helps you to stay organized so that you can focus on your performance.

No matter what you need as a goal keeper, Longstreth is THE sporting goods store that has it for you. Come by our retail store today and get fitted for your goalkeeping kit today from the experts. We know how hard you work, and we put the same effort into making sure that we have all that you need to perform at your best. We also carry the largest selection of Softball essentials and Lacrosse gear.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Field Hockey Sticks - all you ever wanted to know!

Field hockey sticks come in a variety of lengths, shapes, and materials. Familiarize yourself with the different options you have in stick choice, and your game will benefit from it. If you're just starting out in the game, there are some key characteristics of field hockey sticks that you should pay attention to. And if you're looking for a left-handed stick, you can stop now. Field hockey sticks are only right-handed.




A good place to start is with trying out a few sticks from a teammate or coach. Find out what they like and dislike, and get a feel for what type of stick is comfortable for you. There are a number of options to choose from.

Parts of the Stick

There are three key components of the stick: The handle, bow, and head. The handle, also called the grip or shaft, is the part that is held. It is covered with a grip or tape that helps you to keep control of it while using the stick. The bow refers to the curve of the stick. By regulations, this bend cannot be more than 25 millimeters. Finally, the head can be divided into three parts. These are the heel, toe, and scoop. The heel is the bottom part of the stick, which connects to the toe, or the striking surface of the stick. The scoop is opposite the heel, and has a small groove that is used to help handle the ball.

Toe Types

The toe of the stick has four different options for you to choose: Hook, Maxi, Midi, or Shorti. The majority of players will choose the midi style because it has the greatest versatility. It's also best for beginning players because of this. In general, defensive players choose a hook or maxi-style toe, while those on offense go for a shorti.

The Bow

As mentioned before, the maximum bow of a stick is 25 mm, but this bend can be at different places in the stick. The regular bow is an even, centered curvature that is best for beginning and intermediate players, because its balance allows for better overall play. For advanced players, the control bow moves the bend in the stick closer to the toe. This increases power and allows for greater control, but requires more skill. At the elite levels of the sport, late and extreme late bows allow for even greater power and control. These field hockey sticks take even more skill to control.

Materials

Most beginner sticks are made of wood. These sticks help beginner and intermediate players to develop their skills with a more flexible, lightweight and comfortable feel. Composite sticks cover a whole range of skill levels and materials. In fact, many wooden sticks are even composite, give that they are covered in fiberglass to improve durability. 

Fiberglass sticks help to keep that light, balanced feel of the wooden stick while offering many of the advantages of an elite stick, with a lower price tag. At the highest end of the materials range, carbon fiber sticks offer greater power and control, but are harder to control. They tend to be used by elite players.

Stick Sizing

Sticks can be up to 40 inches long, but most sticks used are going to be in a range between 32"-38". The following sizing chart gives a good starting guide to finding the right stick:




Finally, you want to choose the stick based upon which skills you want to enhance, rather than entirely by position. No matter what your level of play or playing position, Longstreth has the sticks, Field hockey balls or other field hockey equipment for you.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How the right Lacrosse Equipment can help you Improve your Game

At any skill level from junior high school beginner through Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and National Lacrosse League (NLL), the right lacrosse equipment can help you improve your game. Five attributes in equipment—head shape, sidewall, center piece, stringing and handle weight—can amplify your existing skills and help you gain new ones.
Head Shape
By far the biggest impact on player performance from lacrosse equipment comes from the shape of the lacrosse stick head. Head width comes down to two opposing needs:
  • A narrow head increases passing accuracy and improves ball handling
  • A wider head helps with catching
With a narrow head, the ball does not rattle or shift around much in the head. This narrow design is the goal for any beginner: take advantage of the wide head to learn to catch the ball accurately, then move up to a narrower head providing greater control.
How do you know when to move up? As you improve stick work, becoming more comfortable with the ball, gaining confidence in your ability to handle and pass accurately, moving the stick around your body without losing the ball, you will feel the need to have tighter control and a narrower head. What was once the welcome wiggle room you needed to catch the ball becomes a deficit as you feel the ball needlessly rattle in the head.
Sidewall Design
In lacrosse equipment, a head’s “sweet spot,” the area just below the lower, U- or V-shaped shooting string, is the ideal position for cradling, passing and shooting the ball. You get a quicker, more powerful release, trusting your teammates to handle the higher speed and reducing the time the ball is not in your team’s control.
You get that sweet spot when your stick has a dropped sidewall. This lowers the pocket, allowing for a deeper pocket for improved cradling. A stick with a dropped sidewall design is critical in achieving good ball control. It positions the ball nearly automatically in that “sweet spot” and frees your mind to concentrate on strategy and your team, not the ball.
Center Piece
Different center pieces, and different materials used for the center piece, will adjust to the ball in different ways. The STX Precision Pocket, for example, uses no synthetics. Extra woven string provides a pocket that needs very little break-in time. It does, however, require more maintenance than a synthetic center and needs a little TLC after play in wet weather. Other options include injection molded rubber (the deBeer Gripper Pro Pocket) and synthetic center pieces.
Stringing
Keeping the pocket shape is important for consistent ball control in lacrosse equipment. You need to know the muscle memory you used one game will get the same results the next game. Leather is preferable to nylon because leather holds the pocket shape better. You can throw with confidence every time.
Handle Weight
With lacrosse equipment, handle weight and strength is directly related to player position. Defenders should consider a stronger handle than offensive players. Stiff metals and alloys such as titanium, scandium, or a scandium-titanium blend (Sc-Ti), will be helpful here. These lighter but strong materials help defenders check harder and handle aggressive groundball pick-ups that might damage a composite stick.
A light handle makes the stick easy to maneuver, speeding up dodges and increasing power in shots or passes.
Also consider the player size and ability. A smaller-framed beginning junior high girl may tire faster than a collegiate level athlete 75 pounds heavier; light handles decrease muscle fatigue.
Longstreth is the “sweet spot” to get real and honest answers to your questions about not just lacrosse equipment, but also everything about women’s Field Hockey and Softball Essentials. Contact us today.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Simple Tips to Improve Your Softball Hitting


Great athletes have a natural beauty and rhythm to their motion that makes everything they do seem effortless. The control they have over their game, like a good softball hitter with her softball equipment, separates them from the average athlete. Softball hitting can be broken into six distinct steps, each one of which you can practice mindfully.


Box Position


Step into the batter’s box with your feet in line, greater than shoulder width. To give yourself more time to see the ball, stay toward the back of the box; to catch the ball before it breaks down or away, move up in the box.
Flex your knees, keep your elbows in, and ready yourself for the pitch. Generally, think fastball and adjust your bat speed down for other pitches, but be open to advice from your hitting coach or manager.


Grip


Grip the bat lightly to give your hands quick muscle movement. Start with the bat on the second joints of your fingers, curling your fingers around. Keep the bat handle out of the palms of your hands. Wrap your fingers of both hands around the bat and line up your second knuckles, eight in a row. If that is uncomfortable or feels unnatural, you can rotate your grip so the third knuckles of one hand align with the second knuckles of the other (a box grip).


Swing


The largest muscle groups in your body are in your legs, so use them to power the bat around and send the ball 300 feet. Push off with your legs to connect. Your legs, though, are the sturdy foundation for movements elsewhere:
  1. back foot turning
  2. hips rotating
  3. shoulders turning into the swing
If everything is moving into and through the swing, you should end up with your body loosely and comfortably twisted, watching the ball streak away with your feet still on the ground.


Contact


Contacting the ball with the bat differs by pitch:
  • Down the middle—make contact straight out from the leading hip
  • Inside pitch—must be hit more in front of the center of the body
  • Outside pitch—contact is made from the body’s center to the back hip
Contact should be level, so you are hitting the ball as close to its center as possible, even if your intention is to drive it up or down.


Follow-through


Follow-through means full arm extension, then continuing your swing around. Wrists roll and the swing ends with both hands near the front shoulder, your head aligned to your back shoulder (your chin is above the shoulder).


Attitude


Finding your comfort zone with hitting means practice and more practice. You are honing your swing and stance so that everything feels loose and easy as you step into the box.
Avoid over-thinking the whole choreography of hitting. By training repeatedly, you condition your muscles and gain instinctive proprioception (awareness of body position) so on game day you can step in, assume your proper stance, and swing away without consciously thinking about any of it.



Once you have matched the right softball equipment—helmet, gloves and bat—to the player, your bat becomes an extension of your body. For the finest in fastpitch softball bats and player equipment, step into Longstreth, and we will help you step into the batter’s box with confidence.