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Friday, May 15, 2009
Updated: May 18, 12:16 PM ET
Tools to help you improve on the field

By Garland Cooper
ESPNRISE.com

Every athlete and coach has her favorite gismo and gadget to help elevate her game.

ESPN RISE asked the top coaches and athletes in the country what tools they used to improve. Here are five of their favorites:

Scout Tracker

Steve Harrington
Steve Harrington invented Scout Tracker to help El Modena softball.

To gain an edge, coaches often scout, chart pitches and monitor the opponent's every move. What if you had all of that information at your fingertips?

El Modena (Orange, Calif.) coach Steve Harrington says he has all the information he needs and a plan for every game.

He came up with a tool called the "Scout Tracker" that allows coaches and players to track the progression of a game. It can be used to chart your own team's pitches, scout another team's or chart an opponent's pitching. Hitters can even use it to see how a pitcher has been throwing to them throughout the course of a game.

"The book is a softball tool for coaches, players, parents or anyone," stated Harrington. "It is very flexible in its approach and who it caters to because it is a template that provides information during games or when scouting opponents that adapts to any coaching style."

Harrington, who has been coaching for 15 years, had always kept charts on his own teams and other teams. Over the years, the charts had evolved and he was able to create something that works for any style of coaching.

"If a coach has his own system, this caters to that," he said. "This is a useful, multi-purpose template for not only softball, but baseball as well."

UCLA, Arizona, Cal State Fullerton, Chapman, and Mt. Sac Community College are among the colleges that use Scout Tracker. At the high school level, ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 8 ranked Norco (Calif.), Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), and JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) have adopted the tool as well.

RightView Pro

The RightView Pro is a digital system that helps players and coaches analyze video of pitching and hitting. RVP offers baseball and softball athletes an efficient way to improve their game by breaking down mechanics and explanaing how to correct existing problems.

"Nothing replaces hard work, fearlessness, adjustment and attention to detail. After that, we use RVP among other things," said professional athlete and UCLA Assistant Coach Lisa Fernandez.

The Spinner

The Spinner is a softball pitching tool that helps pitchers and fielders understand and recognize the movement the ball makes. This training aid is used to help pitchers see spins and rotations in order to teach correct mechanics.

It was developed at Club K, a training center for fastpitch athletes, and it enforces correct movement and prevents injury by forcing athletes to throw correctly.

Jennie Ritter, a former National Team member, Women's College World Series champion and All-American, says the Spinner is the best tool for a pitcher to use.

"It's instant feedback for every single pitch you throw. For example, a drop ball spin must go end to end, and the spinner (looks like a hockey puck) should roll on its side from end to end. If it's not the right spin, it will either roll away from your catcher (right or left) or fall flat and not roll at all."

With arguably one of the deadliest drop balls ever seen in the game, Ritter would know the effectiveness and importance of such a tool.

Tee Stackers

This is a device for hitters. It turns a regular tee into a dynamic hitting tool. The Tee Stacker gives hitters the ability to stack two or three balls on top of each other on the tee. This mimics different locations of pitches and allows the hitter to focus on pitches coming in at different levels in the zone.

From there, the hitter swings through the top ball. If her swing is accurate, the other balls should remain in place, and ready for her to hit. If she has swung incorrectly, the other balls will fall off the tee, letting the hitter know that her swing was not technically sound.

This hitting device gives instant feedback to hitters on every swing and forces them to focus on the pitch they are hitting. This can be used alone, which is great for hitters who want to put in some extra work after team practice.

Zone In

Zone In is a lightweight and portable target that can be used for pitchers, infielders or outfielders of any level to measure accuracy.

For pitchers, the Zone In has a basic model that shows the entire strike zone of a batter and a more advanced model that cuts the zone down into more specific locations. This is great for pitchers to improve focus and work on commanding their pitches. The ability to hit spots is a pitcher's most important skill, and practicing with the Zone In allows pitchers to work on hitting specific spots without the use of a catcher.

This also can be used for infielders and outfielder to work on throw accuracy. It would be especially helpful for athletes who have trouble throwing in certain situations. For example, if a shortstop has problems throwing after backhanding a grounder, she can practice fielding and throwing from that position into the Zone In..

Garland Cooper covers high school softball for ESPN RISE.