Pocket Radar Helping Softball Players Get Recruited From Home
For softball players Addison Tyler and Emilee Watkins, having the Pocket Radar logo attached to velocity figures in videos of their at-home workouts was enough to land them coveted roster spots on the likes of Heartbreakers and Oklahoma Impact Gold Premier, respectively.
“Coaches from all over the country that I didn’t even know about started following me and reaching out,” says the 17-year-old Watkins. “I posted one video and then the videos following really kickstarted my recruiting process and conversations with schools.”
Steve Goody, Pocket Radar CEO, has seen the growth of his company over the last 10 years rise to the point that Pocket Radar is now used across collegiate softball so that the Pocket Radar logo on velocity numbers basically serves as a certification seal. “We have heard this a lot now,” Goody says. “It is a certified measurement you can do from the backyard. It used to be that you had to pay a lot of money to go to a showcase to be certified.”
Pocket Radar offers a portable and affordable radar gun on par with or more accurate than the larger, more expensive models. “Now when athletes like Emilee send the clip to a college coach, in all likelihood they have our product in their pocket,” Goody says. “Many of the college coaches and in pro baseball, this is their tool of choice.”
Goody says that as softball players have been forced to train at home, the awareness of Pocket Radar and its ability to not only track velocity in both throwing and hitting (exit velocity, for example), but also to capture it in shareable videos has only increased. The tool has been helpful in both recruitment and remote coaching, as players can send clips to their coaches and set up a virtual session to facilitate remote coaching with the needed visuals and accurate metrics.
Watkins is a pitcher and uses the Pocket Radar device both in games and during training. She uses the Smart Coach feature to embed speed in the video so “everyone watching knew the numbers were legitimate,” if they wanted to know how fast she was throwing. “Having the radar and knowing what my numbers are has made me more competitive and work harder to get my numbers up while still working on keeping my movement and control where it needs to be,” she says, adding that it has become a game-changer for training and feedback after a game.
The rise in the use of exit velocity as a quantifiable and important metric in the last few years—Goody says he’s been calling for its use for 10 years, but credits MLB adding it to Statcast and broadcasts in giving it the awareness it deserves—has given Pocket Radar a new way to be a tool for both those throwing and those hitting.
As the pandemic has placed restrictions on training for all softball participants, the only real way for many to showcase their talent is through virtual sessions. Using Pocket Radar to quantify their skills has proven crucial for players to get in front of recruiters, even if the video comes from a backyard.
After missing some time in 2019 with an injury and then the pandemic ending any new opportunities for in-person recruitment, Watkins needed a way to get her abilities in front of coaches. The Smart Coach videos, coupled with Twitter, really gave her that. She posted a video and within 12 hours had coaches from across the country following her. “My coach said that his phone was going crazy with interest from D1 and Juco schools,” she says.
During this time, she continues to work on her regular strength and conditioning, but also the small mechanics in her pitching. “I was doing pitching drills and trying to keep track of what my speed was doing, but I also focused on exit velocity and hitting,” she says.
As players across the country look for ways to train smarter, having metrics attached with drills is crucial, Goody says. Just as a student can train to improve a GPA or SAT score, softball players can also train to improve velocity numbers, whether as hitters, pitchers or even fielders. Having those numbers early on in a career also helps athletes understand where they stand compared to their peers and allows them to see the value of coaching, training and workouts.
“It is neat that there are these measurables,” Goody says. “If you have a deficit as a 14-year-old, you have time to fix it. I’m delighted how a lot of athletes are being helped early in their lives to target measurable objectives, things they can work on.”