DiamondZone Hits a Home Run with their Newest Online Classes

DiamondZone’s baseball and softball athletes long to see the field, but they are still getting a taste of the game with the organization’s new online classes!

The DiamondZone (DZ) baseball and softball facility, located in North Haven, CT, is among the many nonessential businesses that have been forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without access to the establishment, DZ’s athletes were left wondering how they would be able to continue working on their skills. The coaches at DZ, however, turned to technology to resolve this issue.

Until the week of April 30th, softball coach and co-owner of DZ, Mr. Brett Bradanini, is hosting virtual classroom lessons for DZ’s baseball and softball athletes. Classes are taught using Zoom and take place on the Monday, Thursday, and Friday of each week. Each day consists of two 45 to 60 minute classes, which normally run at 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm, respectively. It is important to the DZ staff that they continue to prepare athletes for gameplay despite the limited accessibility to resources. Coaches want to have a better understanding of what needs to be done and why when athletes can return to the field.

The lesson plans for each Zoom class are constructed exclusively by DiamondZone staff. The classes cover a variety of topics including softball/baseball IQ topics, social media tips, how to be an effective person, emotional intelligence, and more. “We originally started with softball/baseball items, but we are diving into some more personal growth stuff now based on emotional intelligence, Dale Carnegie, Sandler Training, and Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” says Coach Bradanini. “We are also including as much relevant research as possible bringing in current Major League Baseball employees to help with mental toughness and sports psychology.” DZ has expanded beyond the horizon of game skill in its lessons to ensure that athletes get the most out of this virtual learning experience.

Being a DZ athlete, I have been given the opportunity to take part in these online classes. They have allowed me to stay connected to the game and enhance my skills while being away from the field. Personally, I feel that I have grown my mental game from these lessons. Specifically, the game scenario lesson and the pitch choice lesson have given me insight that I will use when I return to the field. I have seen the program have the same positive impact on my fellow teammates as well. Haile Ebert, DZ 18u softball athlete, was excited to participate in the virtual classroom lessons and feels it has been a beneficial experience. “It [DZ’s program] has helped me understand certain things in the game because I haven’t really ever gotten the chance to learn with a picture and a screen. It was mostly ever just visual on the field,” says Haile. Gioia Segui, DZ 12u softball athlete, was initially a bit skeptical about the concept of online softball instruction. However, the comforting learning environment that the DZ classes create for athletes has helped her adapt to this change! “I know that I can say anything like where the ball goes on a cut and not have to worry about being judged if I get it wrong. I also know I have the support from my coaches to help me see why I got it wrong and they would make sure I really understand it before they move on,” Gioia shares.

I have reaped many benefits from DZ’s virtual classroom lessons, though it has been difficult for me to grasp certain concepts through the online instruction rather than the normal physical instruction. The coaches at DZ understand the difficulties athletes face with not being able to physically interact with instructors, though they are doing their best to make the most out of the athletes’ experience with online learning. “It is a little bit more challenging as we feel most athletes learn through repetitive movements. We do our best to provide feedback where they can feel; however, it is challenging,” Coach Bradanini shares. “In person, instructors are able to get multiple angles with multiple movements. Video has its limitations, but if we did our job early on, our athletes should be able to know what feels right vs. wrong.” Using the Zoom software has been a learning curve for the DZ staff, but they feel it is something they will likely implement into future programming.

The Zoom lessons are not the only way technology is being used for athlete instruction at DZ. Brianna Sawicki, head coach of DZ’s 12u softball team and one of DZ’s pitching instructors, claims that she utilizes FaceTime for a majority of her one on one lessons with athletes. Coach Sawicki also noted that she uses Zoom to meet with her team, and she also receives daily videos from her pitching students, which she in turn breaks down for them. Despite typical frustration from some athletes about not being able to get physical instruction, Coach Sawicki believes the use of online instruction has been a great experience for her athletes. “All in all, it has been a pretty seamless transition,” says Coach Sawicki. “It’s a good way to keep the kids going [...] The kids have gained a higher softball IQ because they are forced to actually think about situations and why they are doing things, and why certain movements work and why other movements don’t[...]They are [also] learning to self-correct.” As a pitcher, I have also used methods like video recordings and FaceTimes to interact with my coach and obtain feedback while my lessons are temporarily paused. I do prefer face to face instruction, but this new change has allowed me to grow as an athlete, by forcing me to analyze and fix my mistakes on my own.

When the DiamondZone staff first began their virtual classroom lessons, they were unaware of the great outcome it would have and the positive feedback they would receive from athletes! The brisk transition from physical to online instruction has resulted in an effective learning method that DZ plans to incorporate into their program in the future!

Video clip from DZ’s “Swing Analysis” Zoom lesson. Coach Brett analyzes the hitting mechanics of a DZ athlete.