TIFTON — E.B. Hamilton sports complex was alive Monday morning.
State recreation tournaments for baseball and softball are taking place this week and the day’s sounds reflected that. Fields were being prepared and the American national anthem could be heard during a test of loudspeakers.
In the corner of the complex was a gathering of youth, boys and girls that might one day be the players in the state tournaments. That future became more possible by their being there Monday and Tuesday. These athletes were bettering their game at the Higher Ground MVP softball camp.
The camp, which takes place annually, sometimes biannually, is led by Bobby Simpson, a man with a wealth of knowledge involving batted sports. Simpson has coached locally, collegiately, for the Major Leagues and internationally, with teams spanning the Tifton Tomboys softball program, to Florida State, to the Kansas City Royals to women’s softball teams in the United Kingdom, Greece and beyond.
Simpson’s aides included Abby Shiver and Nancy Anderson Mark. The former plays for Crisp County High. The latter won five state championships at Tift County and also has international coaching experience.
Eight girls and three boys made up this camp, a number that seems small on the surface, but was one of dedication. Simpson said three players drove over from Columbus for the camp. The players in attendance were also a rambunctious bunch, full of energy.
Monday’s activities included moving defensively without the ball and body positioning while attempting field balls.
Simpson described body positioning as six outs, starting with “move out” and ending with “throw out.”
“You have to get to the ball to catch the ball,” he said.
Mental development is important.
“You have to get your brain cleared out,” he said.
Simpson’s camps work on skills in every department. Higher Ground is an MVP softball camp, the letters standing for mental, visual and physical in regards to players’ development. One series of exercises was unique for mental skills. Simpson asked players to bother one another.
Distractions are a part of sports. Simpson asked campers what bothered them on the field. Answers included gnats and other teams chanting. He then turned around the language on distractions, referring to them as “Only inappropriate attractions”; players paying attention to the wrong things.
“You get rid of distractions by focusing on the right things,” said Simpson. He led them through a series of exercises where they had to be distraction themselves. One camper had a ball, either in hand or was tossing it in the air. A partner was to yell, make funny faces or gesture to try to create a break in concentration. Similar techniques were used for batting, with campers being as noisy as possible while another hit from a tee.