Softball coaching can be intimidating especially if you have not been a coach before. Some softball coaches have not even played the game before. This is not a bad thing. The good thing about it is that you do not have any bad habits that you may have picked up along the way. Another benefit often is that you might be more open to learning new philosophies and techniques.
It is important to seek out good information and to refrain from being pulled in many directions with the newest technique or one that might have worked for someone but maybe not you. You will find a lot of information here and it is important to contact your local softball certification programs to get the most sound and up to date information. I offer you my experience and tools that I found useful for me. They may or may not be useful for you and that is ok. Be sure to check out the Resources page for downloads.
Following are a few ideas that might help you along the way.
We as coaches can not possibly consider coaching while not considering the importance of participation itself. Regardless of what the level is, what the sport is, and regardless of the skill level of our players, we need to be the pillars of positive sport and provide the most supportive and encouraging environment for everyone involved including parents.
The majority of softball players are involved because they want to have fun fun in activities besides school and household chores. Some end up on the field because their parents feel that being involved in sports is important to developing character, confidence, dedication to something, drive and commitment. If you ask any of the players, you might find that those reasons have nothing to do with why they play. Having fun and playing with friends is a huge attraction for at all ages and skill levels.
Benefits of Sound Softball Coaching:
- self confidence
- positive self image
- goal setting skills
- working with others
- commitment and dedication to something
- an outlet for different types of positive and negative energy through exertion
- sportsmanship and fair play
- building healthy image toward sports and activity
- development of hand-eye coordination
Practice Planning Tips:
- always arrive at the field with a plan in hand
- be prepared to improvise
- decide on what the team would like to accomplish for the season
ie. – basic fundamentals of softball (fielding throwing catching batting pitching)
- team goal setting
- create a positive environment
- build practices around a season plan
- recap on previously learned skills before working on new ones
- it is better to know a few basic skills well than many skills not so well
- focus only on a few skills per practice for new players
- always include a water break
- end the practice with a mini-game if possible
- make sure that fun is the main goal for all practices
Some ideas for team operation:
- allow the team to assist in setting the team environment
- there is no such thing as too positive
- always be open to questions and be prepared to respond or let them know you will get the
answer if you do not have it
- letting people know what you are going to do before doing it is useful when communicating with players and parents
- work to create an athlete centered environment
- try to keep open lines of communication with players and parents
- conduct team goal setting for the season
- make sure the goals are attainable
- have the players complete their own individual goals for games and practices
- work with the team to establish team rules and procedures
- be sure to carry out all consequences with all players
Conduct with Parents:
- always be open to hearing their concerns
- always know that they are only concerned for their child and not always questioning your
- they too would like to enjoy the experience
- be objective as possible when parents are not happy, consider it a professional environment and you are the only person between them and their child so you will be the one to hear their displeasure rather than the child – it’s a good thing
Softball is one of the toughest games to keep kids interested in due to the lack of continuous activity. Soccer for example (a great competitor to softball) is one where everyone is busy all the time on the field. In softball we spend most of our time waiting for something to happen. In a 2 hour game, each athlete spends approximately 15 minutes total of activity as compared to the 45 minutes for a soccer match. This makes it hard to keep players focused for one full inning let alone a full game.
Following are some common challenges for new players.
The Beginning Players (youth)
- What is softball?
- How do we play?
- What’s that?
- Which way do we run when we hit the ball?
- How do we score?
- Where’s mom and dad?
- When do we get to do the base race?
I can not say how important it is to only focus on very basic fundamentals when we are teaching young players about softball.
It is much more productive for players to develop less skills more efficiently than many skills at a mediocre level. As the skills are solidified, then we can add more
As the players gain experience and knowledge about the game, the plans and practices change. The focus moves toward improving the basic fundamentals and incorporating more advanced strategies. As they improve, the players look more for a challenge and to see that everything that you have been teaching up until then is working. This means that the fundamentals still need to be a priority during practices, while slowly adding the more advanced strategies such as pick-offs, runners on 1 and 3, and new baserunning strategies.
Skill acquisition and correct execution is one of the most sought after results in sport. It is these two ingredients, along with the physical and mental training that will often bring the most “success” in softball. The way we teach the skills from the beginning will determine each players progress as they grow in the game.
It is for this reason that it is important for all coaches to:
Move with the athletes
- try not to get ahead of them in teaching
- try not to expect too much from the players
- lead the team with their abilities rather than what you want to see
prioritize the skills from most important to most helpful ie.:
- fielding ground balls
- fielding fly balls
- running through 1st base
- rounding the bases
- leading off
- bunting (sacrifice)
- sneaky bunt
- running slap
The Mental Game
One of the most neglected areas of the game is the mental aspect of the game. The are also one of the most useful tools that players on especially as the skill levels increase. Once the play has begun, the last thing we want players to be thinking of is things that have nothing to do with performance. When the team plays, we want the minds to “PLAY” rather than think about things such as:
- this is a very important game?
- what if I miss the ball?
- what if I don’t throw it right?
- what if he/she doesn’t catch it?
- what are my mom and dad going to think?
- what if the coach pulls me?
We want the players to be relaxed, ready, calm yet focused on the task at hand. This requires some sort of practice just like when they practice skills like throwing and batting.
A sound mind is a focused mind which is a comfortable mind that has fun. Softball coaching is an important part of this success.
Softball coaching is not just about directing a bunch of kids during practices, games and tournaments. Coaching is about teaching, leading and guiding them through a sport process which is meant to be fun and entertaining yet competitive. We are leaders in our communities and need to take responsibility for our roles in the young people’s lives.
There is so much that we can gain from being coaches such as:
- our own character building
- the pride of being a part of a team
- the enjoyment of participating in our community to assist young people in having
an outlet for their energies
Some things to keep in mind.
- have patience with athletes and parents
- fair play and sportsmanship are important in any game
- treat others as you would like to be treated yourself
- make sure you have fun too