Tina Buck Featured on Upper Hand Sports Podcast

Tina Buck-Harth , Buck Fastpitch Owner and Pitching Instructor, is a former college NCAA Division II college pitcher at the University of Illinois-Springfield. She has been a pitching instructor for the last 8 years and preaches a pitching philosophy that builds on that of her lifelong coach/mentor and Midwest legend, Jim Greiner. She stresses the importance of velocity+good mechanics + balance= consistency.

Tina sat down with the Upper Hand sports podcast to discuss the importance of enjoying the game while finding that competitive drive along with other key takeaways from running Buck Fastpitch Academy. Hear more about her recommendations for knowing the sports industry and the market competition before diving into building a training business, as well as some background on her critical work with the BASE foundation, working to revolutionize how youth athletes approach baseball and softball.

You can read an overview of the interview with Coach Tina Buck or listen to the podcast below for the full interview.


Q: Tell us a little about what you're working on at the moment at Buck Fastpitch Academy?

A: So I started this two years ago and it kind of sprung out of the demand for more girls fastpitch instruction in the area. We are located in central Illinois and I realized pretty early on that there just wasn’t a lot of opportunities for girl Softball players and so we really decided to come up with a concept that I think is really unique in terms of what we offer. I think most baseball and softball academies are more of a collaboration between baseball and softball… and we really focus primarily on girls fastpitch.

We have a team of six female instructors and we predominantly only work with girl athletes. It’s kind of a really neat dynamic and I think people have really been very receptive to the idea. And they love the fact that we all played college softball together and so we have a really unique dynamic between all the instructors as well...

We offer pretty much anything from pitching, to catching, to hitting, to fielding, to speed and agility training, to mental training. That’s something that we really focus on. We do a lot of work with the Baseball and Softball Educational Foundation (BASE). (Hear more about the BASE Foundation in Tina’s full interview above.)

Q: Tell us a story about one of your proudest moments in your coaching career?

A: ...I would say overall I think when I see my girls go on to play at the college level, or I see them even just reach whatever goals they have for themselves both athletically or academically, or just in life when I see them go on to succeed at all those levels it just makes me very proud, and also it’s extremely rewarding to know that you had an influence and impact on an athlete’s life, in so many ways other than just sports. And I know for me personally, my coaches growing up had such an impact on me and I still look at them as being so much more than coaches. But they truly did impact my life both from a career standpoint and from a softball standpoint...

Q: Who has been your biggest inspiration in your coaching/sporting career?

A: I would definitely say, hands down my dad was by far my biggest inspiration and he was pretty much my coach all the way through, from the time I was 6 years old until I was 18. He coached every team I ever played for and he just had such a positive way about him and I think so many coaches now really lose themselves in the competitiveness of the game, and I think can make this game so much more about winning than it is about learning and about having fun. And I think every athlete that’s ever played for him would agree that he was tough and he pushed you to be the best you could be but at the same time he made it fun and he made this game enjoyable and he made you want to work harder, for yourself, not necessarily for anyone else or for him but because you loved it. And I think that was something that he really instilled in me this work ethic but then also this joy and passion for the game that I don’t think I would have learned from anyone else.

Q: What do you think has been the key to your success that other coaches could learn from?

A: I think that something that our academy really values is personal relationships. We really make it a point to get to know our athletes on such a deeper level… I think the more that you can build those personal relationships with people, especially with young players, where they’re so impressionable, I think that if they see that you are truly invested in them as people, and not just as players, or not just as clients, I think that not only are they going to have more respect for you, but they’re going to want to work harder. They’re going to want to perform at their highest level because they know how much you care, and they know that you care about so much more than just their athletic success.

So, I really think that’s the key and that that’s what a lot of our parents really value. When they send their kids to us they know that they’re entrusting their child to us because we’re going to take a vested interest in them and really help them succeed at so many different levels. And so I think that’s really the key to success for coaches. And a lot of the time you learn to coach better when you understand where these kids are coming from, and you understand their family structure, and you understand that every kid is different and that you have to coach every kid different. So I think that the more you get to know them, the more you can understand how to adapt different coaching styles best for their needs.

Q: Do you ever see challenges with that? Where maybe you have an athlete that is more closed off, and how do you go about approaching that?

A: I definitely think that’s one of the more challenging things… But I think the key is to make it a place where kids feel comfortable opening up - where they don’t feel intimidated. I’m not a yeller. I’m not somebody that’s going to ride you or get on them about this or that. I’m a lot more laid back and I think creating an environment that really breeds openness and allows kids to just be kids, and have fun, and not make it this space or this environment that they dread. I think that a lot of the times you see it where, a lot of young athletes they dread going to practice, they dread going to lessons…

Q: What wisdom have you picked up over your years of working in the sport industry?

A: You see coaches who have coached for 20+ years and they have a coaching philosophy and they’re kind of set in their ways. And you know the game is always evolving, and I think it’s important that we realize that our philosophy is not the end all be all. And while we all have our unique way of teaching, or we have our unique mechanics or techniques that we teach, it’s important that we’re constantly adding to that and we’re constantly enhancing our coaching style and our mechanics and techniques because the game is constantly evolving. So I think as coaches we have to realize that we must evolve too. The way I coached  8-10 years ago is not the way I’m coaching now. I’m always picking up on new things. I’m always trying to learn from leaders in our sport...

Q: How do you think technology is changing the way you work and coach?

A: I definitely think technology has helped in so many ways. I mean when I first started off coaching, really the evolution of just text messaging. There were people who did text, but there were very few parents that texted and so, from just a scheduling standpoint it would take me multiple hours to call people and to try to set up times for lessons. And in doing that I really limited myself to the amount of hours of lessons that I could even do, because I was spending so much time on the administration side of things. So it’s allowed me to really expand my reach and really expand the number of lessons that I take on because I no longer have that communication barrier. So that has certainly enhanced the way I coach, because I’m able to coach more people...

And then obviously using Upper Hand has helped tremendously with our ability to host more clinics. Something that a couple years ago that I said was, I was really limiting the number of clinics and camps we were doing, just because we weren’t able to hold these large scale events because it was so much time, and so many people that we had to respond to through email and phone, and having to compile these registration sheets. It was just so time consuming that it became just really not worth it for us to put them on. Now, with having the Upper Hand software we’re just so easily able to schedule a clinic and easily have people register online. And it just kind of takes us out of the whole administrative process. So that’s helped us a lot, especially with being able to reach more people regionally...

Q: What's one piece of technology you can't live without when you're coaching, and why?

A: Definitely my phone. I mean if my phone is even dead for an hour I’m just so lost because I have parents and athletes that are constantly texting me and reaching out to me for either advice or trying to get in for a lesson, or giving me updates on games and different things. So it’s just a constant flow of communication. So if I didn’t have that I would not be able to have the personal relationships that I do with my athletes and their parents and so I would definitely say that that is probably the most important to me. And now that the Upper Hand app is out I’m able to access my entire database from my phone very very easily. It’s very accessible now. Really without my phone I wouldn’t have any of the apps that I use on a daily basis for my scheduling and video analysis. So I would say that is definitely the piece of technology I could never live without.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring coaches who are just starting out?

A: I would say really evaluate the demand in the area. I think that, as many of us know, a lot of these facilities are popping up all over the country. I think in some areas it’s becoming a little over saturated. So, I was lucky enough the Springfield is a pretty medium city. It’s the capital of Illinois. And we have a pretty big population and so I think it was a great market to start in because there were really barely any competitors and we had a huge demand for girls softball…

I definitely think that analyzing really what the market is like in your area first, prior to, you know really moving forward with any type of business model to create your own academy or your own facility. Just because you really want to have a good sense of what your competition is and if there even is a demand. In some areas just, the sport is not big enough or there aren’t enough people interested where you’re going to be able to be sustainable. So I definitely think that would be the place where I would start is to just do a full market analysis of your area...

Q: What is your favorite "success" quote?

A: "When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you'll be successful." - Eric Thomas

 Q: Where can athletes and trainers find you and reach out to you (i.e. social media, email)?

A: Buck Fastpitch Academy website:  www.buckfastpitchacademy.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/buckfastpitchacademy


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