When we think of softball positions, the first positions that often come to mind is the pitcher and catcher. That of course is because many believe that these two positions are the most important on the field and without filling them with very qualified players, success is not possible. Well, their importance to the team definitely important, however similar focus and attention needs to be given to the rest of the positions on the field as well because as we know, without them it does not matter how good your battery is, depending on your competition, success is not consistently possible.
The field positions are divided into three sections of the defense, the battery (pitcher and catcher), the infield and the outfield. Where each player fits in best in these positions depends on their athletic abilities, knowledge of the game and of course their desire. Not all players are suited to play the position they want to play and depending on the level of your team, it may or may not be possible. A recreation team that believes in equal opportunity (which they all should in my opinion) will move players around and give them the opportunity to play where they want to at least some of the time at the beginning of the season..
Some positions however can be dangerous. For example, a player wanting to play first base might have a hard time focusing on catching the ball when there is a runner coming at them while people are yelling. There is an answer for this type of player. If you have a player that really wants to play a position that they are not naturally suited for, or one that could be dangerous for an inexperienced player, put it back in their hands. If the player spends extra time and shows that they are capable in numerous competitive situations, then they can play at that position during a game. This makes it easier when you need to set the softball positions and someone who is not capable and has not spent extra time practicing wants to play a specific position.
Many competitive teams will recruit a player specifically for a position. If their shortstop graduates or leaves to go to another team, that position needs to be filled. When recruiting in this way, it is a good idea to make sure that the player can play other positions as well. Your decision may depend on what positions have been depleted. If a player that you are wanting to recruit does not fill your defensive needs, find out if they are willing to learn those positions. This will make your decision easy.
The Utility Player
Every team needs to have at least one utility player. The one that can play any infield or outfield position and maybe even pitcher or catcher. This type of player needs to have game time in all of the positions that she plays. The tendency is to have her stick with two or three positions and then call her into other positions only when something happens to cause the need. Throwing this player into a position she has only played 2 times for the season might not bring the expected results because she is rusty. By giving her an opportunity to keep up her skills at least during practice, they will be there when you need them.
Every coach has a theory on starting softball positions. Many of the most competitive teams have a set starting position until someone consistently has a bad outing or gets injured and is out for a while. This is a bit of a game stopper for a lot of teams though because the substitutes or non starters rarely see any playing time except maybe in the beginning of the season. I can not imagine how demoralizing that might be for any player and especially for a new arrival on a team.
Here is how I would approach it. I would have players play more than one position through the season. Each player should be good at a minimum of 3 positions by the end of the season when it counts. At the beginning of the season, I would let the players know that even though they might have a preferred position, it is not guaranteed that they will play there in the final tournament or in important tournaments as we approach the end of the season when the final preparations are being made for the playoffs.
There would be evaluations in the middle of the season and maybe in the start of the last quarter of the season where the final positions would be set. During that time, the team would have starting positions based on the findings and the team would then start preparing for the playoffs using sound tapering methods. This would enhance team cohesion because everyone knows what the parameters are, and have an equal opportunity to earn a spot in the starting line up.
It is hard to keep everyone happy when setting positions and training for the final tournaments of the season. If players believe though that they have had an equal chance to be in that starting line up, they will feel more a part of the team and be able to cheer on their team mates that did make the cut. When picking up players for a tournament I would recommend that you find a way to get them in the lineup. We wonder why the sport sometimes seems to be decreasing in participation, this is definitely one of the reasons.
When playing for a world championship, Olympic gold or state trophy, it is understandable how players might not get into a game, and the players are often made very aware of the situation. We need to be aware thought that Young players who are beginning in softball, need us to be encouraging their development rather than curtailing it.