Today we are going to talk about using your softball bench to have success in games. Many teams have at least 12 players on their roster but only 9 can be on the field at one time. How do you use your bench? As coaches, we need to think of the bench as an extension of the field. Often what happens is the starting line up is set and then either it stays that way for the duration of the game or there are changes made mid way through the game.
Softball Bench Utilization
Let’s talk about setting a starting line up and keeping it that way for the entire game first. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that….. if you only have 9 players or you have 10 and the 10th player is injured. It may also happen during a championship game however I still believe that there are always ways to bring someone from the bench in for a hit or to pinch run or you can have someone hit for a defensive player who struggles at the plate.
It may also depend on the level of ball that your team is playing. A young team who is in the developmental stages will not benefit from having a starting line up with the others not playing in the game. The less time they play in the game the less experience they are getting and the less they will learn about the game. It is standard for teams to play more games than practice so it is important for all of your players to be involved. Especially at the younger levels because how fun is it for little Rebecca to be sitting on the bench watching her friends play. If that is why she was on the team, she could have done the same thing for free in the stands with her parents watching her friends play. So my argument for that is…. and why do we have kids dropping out of sport? That’s another podcast.. lol.
A high level team is more likely to keep the starting lineup in because there might be more on the line. You would be doing your team a disservice though if you didn’t use they players on your bench as a tool for success. You might not use a pinch hitter or runner early in the game because then you burn that substitution for the defensive player. Once a starting player is substituted for she can only re-enter one time. If she is substituted for again, she can not re enter the game.
You also don’t know yet how the game is going to go when you have many more outs to play, so using a pinch runner or hitter might not yet be warranted. In the 6th inning though it might be more important for you to get that extra run or to tie up a game when one of your hitters has been having difficulty at the plate all game.
When would you use the bench during a championship game? The early part of a game is not necessarily a time to make a substitution unless a player is having a really tough time. You might also use a pinch runner in the first innings of the game if you know it’s going to be a tough task to get runs from your opponent. It is totally dependent on your history and the way you think the game is going to go. A team that you have not had a problem with before, you might wait to use your bench. A perfect example of the use of a pinch runner early is when Patti Gasso, the Oklahoma Sooners coach used a pinch runner in the beginning of the game against the Auburn tigers at the College World Series because she knew that runs were going to be hard to get. And they were.
The basic goal should be to get as many players in the game as you can at some point or being sure to maximize your softball bench utilization. Never leave minor players sitting on the bench for an entire game and use your substitutes as your competition level dictates. No one wants to be a benchwarmer for more than a game and especially for an entire tournament which yes I have seen. One of the ways to keep kids in this sport is to let kids play this sport. Period. It just takes more planning and coaching to maximize playing time for everyone. If you think someone is not good enough to be in the starting line up at the beginning of the year it should be your goal to make her good enough by the end of the year. That’s just my opinion.