Softball Training Facilities Find Ways To Adapt During Lockdown

Softball Training Facilities Find Ways To Adapt During Lockdown

ProSwings Stephanie Best and S2 Breakthrough's Krista Stoker share how they're staying connected and training with their athletes during the lockdown.

Apr 21, 2020 by Stephen Kerr
Softball Training Facilities Find Ways To Adapt During Lockdown

When Stephanie Best founded ProSwings in August 2013, she initially wanted to create a platform that allowed pro players to stay connected with the game. Best, who played and coached at Central Florida and spent five years playing for several NPF teams, soon began to realize there was a need for something greater that extended to players of all ages. As the company evolved, she developed a model that focused on teaching the art of hitting to athletes from age eight to the pro level.

“I got a group of people together that were pro players, (and) they happened to also coach in college,” Best explained. “Organically, it turned into a college exposure event by accident. The rest is history; we just kept going with demand through our events.”

The facility, located in Florida’s Seminole County, offers tournaments and camps run by top-level coaches, many of whom lead major college softball programs. Like other small businesses around the country, ProSwings has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis that has forced the closure of on-site training facilities in all sports.

“It’s a challenge for sure, one we’re trying to embrace and figure out what we can do for our clients so used to seeing us all the time,” Best admitted. “We’re in the same boat as everybody else.”

Krista Stoker also had a vision that went beyond traditional player development. In 2014, the former outfielder and team captain for Washington University in St. Louis started S2 Breakthrough in Orland Park, Illinois with Ashley Sunshine, a former pitcher at Emory University. They set out to build a training facility and travel organization from the ground up. Over the past two years, S2 has evolved into a complete development experience players and coaches at all levels can utilize.

“We do assessments, strength, and conditioning, we use technology, we talk about sleep and nutrition,” explained Stoker, who received a law degree from the University of Chicago and worked as a corporate associate for an insurance and financial transactions firm before turning to coaching. “(We give) a whole picture of what it means to develop as a player and a person.”

Like Best, Stoker and her organization were preparing for the spring and summer season when her state ordered that non-essential businesses shut down. Since S2 could not offer in-person training or practices for its travel teams, Stoker, who also manages and coaches the Orland Park A’s travel club, turned to virtual technology. S2 utilizes the Traq system, a program interface created by Driveline Baseball, to help athletes and facilities record and track training data. Stoker and her staff hold Zoom calls for athletes who may have questions or are struggling with an issue.

While remote communication has its advantages, it does present a new set of challenges when the convenience of meeting face-to-face is completely removed.

“We value our relationships with our athletes,” Stoker said. “It’s not as easy to have that impact across a screen or on a Zoom call. We’ve always done remote training, that’s not new for us. So we did have the ability to provide our athletes opportunities to keep up.”

Fortunately for Best, Florida didn’t go into lockdown mode until early April. Once the order came, she wouldn’t allow her mind to dwell on the possibilities of a lost season, or even how her business would survive financially. Her first priority was to check on how her athletes and coaches were dealing with the downtime emotionally, offering them support and encouragement.

“We stopped the conversation completely about training and development, and switched over to, “How are you doing? Are you OK”?” Best said. “We spent that first week not rushing into a new business plan and trying to compete with everything going on.”

Best and her staff then set about preparing remote lessons and consults. Players sent videos of their swing and received feedback they could use while practicing on their own. Through a partnership with Tennessee Mojo and other travel organizations, ProSwings is rolling out customized programs, something it wouldn’t have had time to implement during a full season of camps and tournaments.

Players and coaches also communicate through a Facebook group. Instead of the usual banter pertaining to skill development, members are asked specific questions, such as what softball means to them. The responses have been surprisingly revealing. Players of all ages are opening up about how much they love the game and their teammates. In one video, a college coach spent several minutes telling his players how much he loved them, and how blessed he was to coach them.

“It was very special, unreal,” Best said. “I have literally not been able to get away from my computer because we’re trying to be there for our kids.”

While camps and tournaments are crucial to the survival of facilities like ProSwings and S2, the emotional bond between them and their clients has been a tremendous boost in ways that can’t be measured financially. Stoker has a link on her company’s social media pages for those using the remote training to donate if they wish. But she and Best are both confident that if they stick to the core values of their respective models, the rest will take care of itself.

“For us, it’s about engagement,” Stoker explained. 

“The more people that we bring together in the softball community, the better this time frame will go for everyone. We’re going to be stronger, more united when we come back from this.”

- Krista Stoker, S2 Breakthrough

Best believes the prolonged downtime is an opportunity for the entire sport to take stock of itself and its overall business model.

“The kids were playing too many games,” Best said. 

“This forces us to slow down. It forces us as tournament directors to be more thoughtful about the events we’re putting in place. There’s a space for everything. There’s a time for a national championship tournament. But I think the overall quality of the events… It’s a good time for us to be thoughtful of that.”

- Stephanie Best, ProSwings

Softball instructors/trainers who offer online/virtual training:


S2 Breakthrough

Wasserman Strength

Nadia Taylor

The Hitting Vault

If you offer online/virtual softball training email