Softball Tip: Are You Putting Your Socks On Right?About a week and a half ago, one of the all-time coaching legends, former UCLA basketballcoach John Wooden, passed away. He was known both for his success — 10 Division Onecollege championships — and the class with which he conducted himself. One other thing hewas known for was his focus on doing the little things right. Thats a lesson that cuts across allsports at all times. In our sport, attention to the little things is critical because so much of it ismental, and so much of it has such fine detail. Softball is often called a game of inches; thatmakes every little detail important.Think about softball hitting. Theres only a fraction of an inch between a line drive and a pop-up, a hard-hit ground ball through the infield and a soft roller back to the pitcher. For pitchers itsjust as fine. The plate is only 17 inches wide. If youre trying to catch the edge of it, an inch hereor there is the difference between a ball and a strike. But thats just the visible part. The realsmall stuff comes in your approach to the game, either as a player or a coach. For players itstaking ground ball after ground ball so that the mechanics become automatic. Its working onbackhand and forehand techniques to make sure you know exactly how to position the glove toget the ball to bury itself right in there. Its pitchers working on their spins and locations untilthey know how to put that ball on or off the plate when the circumstances require it. Its alsolearning when to throw each pitch, how to set up a hitter, and how to recover from a mistake. Itsoutfielders learning to track a ball off the bat, learning to slide or dive on balls they can get to,and learning when discretion is the better part of valor, making it time to pull up. Its firstbasemen learning to stride out at precisely the right time to get the proper stretch, shortstopslearning to come across second properly, and third basemen learning the quickest way to field abunt — and get rid of the ball.Coaches are not exempt from the small details. Its learning a little bit about each of yourplayers — enough to know what motivates them, what they need to prepare for a game, whenthey need a kind word and when they need a kick in the behind (figuratively speaking of course).Its learning to see what your players are doing and where they need help. Its keeping up with thegame, its strategies and techniques, and not being afraid to change when something better comesalong. When a new crop of freshmen would come to UCLA, one of the first things CoachWooden would do was teach them how to put on their socks. Understand that these were 18 to19 year old young men who presumably had been dressing themselves for a long time. ButWooden felt it was important to show them how to put their socks on the UCLA way.One reason was to minimize blisters. But the real reason was to demonstrate the importance ofdoing the right things the right way all the time. For Wooden knew that championships arentbuilt by doing the big things. Everyone does that. Its those willing to do the small things betterthan everyone else who put themselves in the best position to come out on top, inning afterinning, game after game, year after year.Anyway, thats the way I see it.