Harmless quirks should be left alone by coaches

Former Major League shortstop Nomar Garciaparra constantly adjusted his batting gloves and tapped his feet at the plate. Current Oakland Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp wiggles his fingers just before a pitch. Former outfielder Moises Alou refused to wear batting gloves.

Professional baseball and softball players are creatures of habit, known for having quirks that they adopted early in their careers and simply continued doing deep into their playing days. In many cases, these actions have become second-nature and may actually help players establish the rhythm needed to excel at these sports.

One commonly observed behavior exhibited by softball pitchers, from youth players all the way up to Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch, involves players slapping their softball gloves against their legs as they complete their motion toward home plate.

Although some players claim that the movement helps them continue their momentum, no coaches at the college level actively promote slapping because most players have already developing a pitching technique that works for them.

"It's just a routine thing that pitchers do that they don't think about," University of Arizona softball pitcher Kristen Arriola told The Daily Wildcat. "I'm sure there are things I do when I hit or field that I don't think about. It's just something they've done all their lives that carried on until college."

Whereas college players like Arriola are already largely set in their ways, younger athletes are still learning proper techniques and may benefit from hands-on coaching to correct improper mechanics that could lead to injury or ineffectiveness down the road.

Coaches need to be able to distinguish harmless tics – softball players who slap their legs or baseball pitchers who flutter their baseball gloves – from those that interfere with an athlete's performance. Some of these actions, whether displayed by batters, pitchers or fielders, can still be adjusted at the youth level.