Two years ago, I was giving a hitting lesson to a talented high school softball hitter. Before I began working with her, she was already an All-Area selection, but it was obvious that she had much more potential. After our first few workouts together, her bat speed was improving and her increased power was becoming evident to me. However, she wasn’t feeling the progress, which caused some frustration on her part. Instead of assuring her that she was on the right track, I decided to use an analogy to make my point.
I told her working on her hitting mechanics is like watering bamboo. Anyone who has cared for a bamboo plant knows that you don’t see daily or weekly growth like you do with other plants. Some plants bloom and grow quickly right in front of our eyes, but then fade away after reaching a certain size. Bamboo plants grow slowly, and with the proper care, continue to grow. If you look at a bamboo plant every day, it is difficult to see any growth. But, if you compare the growth over a long period, it can be astonishing how much the plant has actually grown.
I encouraged this hitter by assuring her that she may not see the improvements in her swing after each lesson, but over time, it will be obvious to everyone, especially opposing pitchers. At our next workout, this hitter brought a gift for me…a small bamboo plant (pictured above). I thought it was the coolest gift. More importantly, it was an acknowledgement by her that she was going to be patient with herself and with the new hitting mechanics I was teaching.
Over the next two years, both this hitter and my bamboo plant grew. She displayed more power, consistency, and confidence than ever, and my bamboo plant grew vertically and sprouted new shoots. The only problem was it appeared that both were reaching their potential in their respective environments. My hitter played on a very poor high school team, which was challenging for her. Even though she had a great attitude about her team and teammates, that environment was limiting. Playing with her summer travel team helped, but it was obvious she needed a new environment to grow her hitting skills.
My bamboo plant also was not growing very much at this point. It was still green and looking healthy, but it was clear that something was limiting its growth. I am not a gardener by any means, so I consulted with my wife and Wikipedia for some suggestions. What my bamboo plant needed was a bigger pot. I went to the store, bought a much larger pot, added new soil, and started watering my bamboo plant again. The early results were discouraging. The plant seemed to be going through some trauma and stress, as some of the shoots and leaves turned yellow. I kept the faith and continued to water the plant in its new home, and now it is green again and growing to new heights.
My hitter went off to college this past fall. I was hoping this new, larger, and more challenging environment would help her grow, just like my bamboo plant. Like any college freshman, she experienced the emotions of moving away from home and the normal doubts about competing in softball at the college level. Slowly, she became more comfortable with her new environment and the rigors of college softball. During the fall exhibition games, she made an immediate positive impression on her coaches and new teammates through her powerful hits and her first college home run.
I titled this post “Watering Bamboo–Part One”, because my plant and this hitter have just begun their new growth spurt. It will be difficult to measure their growth every day, but I am confident they will both flourish in their new environments. If I am patient and continue to water my bamboo plant, and if she is patient and continues to work hard on her hitting, the sky is the limit.