As you may or may not know, softball is a team sport, and in
order to play any team sport you should have a team game plan.
Check out these ideas for creating a solid softball team with a winning attitude.
- Develop your team philosophy, such as: "We do what we do best, all of the time."
- Be a role player and stick to it.
- Know your limitations.
- Experiment with hitting occasionally (maybe 15-25%) during
practice, not in games!
Find out what kind of pitches you like to hit, where you hit best, and learn to do it well.
Being aggressive is important, but not so important that you end up swinging at pitches that you're not good at hitting. Don't be afraid to take a pitch.
If being selective ultimately means a higher batting average, then striking out 1 or 2 times is surely acceptable.
An out is an out (see section on "good out and bad outs"). It is very possible that your batting average may be poor due to swinging at too many pitches. Your hitting concept should be designed in a way that will maximize benefits to the team. Your hitting concept should be long run-oriented and should not be changing from game to game. A .650 hitter with 0 home runs may be just as good, or better, than a .500 hitter with 20 home runs.
- How many players do you know that get mad when they are walked? They mumble things like "pitcher's chicken" and "afraid to pitch me, huh?". A walk is, most of the time, as good as a hit. Almost never can it be said that a walk lacks merit. If the pitcher walks you intentionally, often you earned it somehow during or prior to the game (it's called "respect"). If he walks you unintentionally then you still earned it. The team philosophy concerning hitting states to "hit pitches you are good at hitting" which are basically strikes. By neglecting to accept a walk by swinging at pitches outside the strike zone is contrary to the team philosophy.
- Don't hit balls where....
- you stroke the ball without authority
- you have difficulty positioning the ball consistently
- you must telegraph where you are hitting (unless of course this is where you hit best).
- Keep your philosophy basically conservative. This is mostly
dependent on the ability of the defensive team. Let's take extra
bases when we can, yet there is no reason we should not have faith
that our own players will bat us in (if they are doing their job).
Softball is a hitter's game. If the team is hitting well, we should
not have any problems running conservative bases. Aggressiveness on
the base paths should be inversely related to how good the team is
hitting. EX: you won't see any of the best teams playing the game
today stretching many doubles into triples. When we make base
running mistakes we take the bat out of our hitter's hands. Let's
let the other team make the mistakes.
- Observe the other team. Who has a strong arm? Who has an accurate arm? How well does the other team's cutoff system seem to be working? How long is it taking them to get the ball in from the outfield? These are just some of the questions a good base coach will be attempting to answer as the game progresses (as well as the rest of the team, you never know when you will be base coaching).
- Remember that as long as the ball is in the outfield nothing can be done to prevent runners from advancing. The quicker a ball returns to the infield, the sooner we can prevent such advancement.
- The best pitchers are those who can throw a strike when they need to. An effective pitcher is often one who throws many balls, but has few walks (it's called "challenging the hitters"). On the other hand, a pitcher who has no walks may be suspect of throwing too many strikes. This may suggest he is not challenging the hitters. Allowable limits for walks: 0 to 2 walks per game and walks with no one on base. Unallowable limits for walks: walking the 9th , 10th, or 11th batters, walks with 1st base occupied. or walking in the winning run (these are called "untimely walks").
- Keep the umpire on your side. Don't ever argue with an umpire. It doesn't do a bit of good. It only hurts you and the team. An umpire may consciously or even subconsciously get back at you and the team. And the umpire's subconscious is a key factor for influencing. For example, when you are batting and the pitch is a marginal strike or ball, an umpire may unknowingly look for clues as to whether the pitch was a strike or not. The split second you decide you are not going to swing at the pitch, stop looking at it. If you watch the pitch all the way past the plate as if you possibly wanted to swing, you just told the umpire you thought the pitch was worth swinging at (at least it was worth looking at!). If there was any doubt in the umpire's mind about the pitch, there isn't now because you just made up his mind. If you are one ball away from a walk with no strikes and the pitcher likes to throw deep, move up in the box. Some umpires call the pitch where it lands, others call where it crosses your body, and others, well that's another story.
- Observe the umpires and how they seem to make decisions. Take advantage of their faults. And don't ever let them know when they make a bad call in our team's favor. When they make a bad call against us, let them know. But be so subtle that no tension is created. Simply shake your head in awe and disbelief about how Mr. Umpire could possibly be so stupid. The more you argue, the angrier you get, the angrier the umpire gets, and the more embarrassed you teammates become. And this is totally contradictory to the team philosophy of maximizing our chances to win!
- Have good attendance. Softball is not our lives. If it were, we would be getting paid to play. Too often practice and games are scheduled around the coach's ability to attend. And then the coach doesn't understand when a player can't make it. If you can't make it, fine. Just make sure the coach knows as soon as possible. And you don't have to make up some story about how your great-grandmother died and you have to go to Russia for the funeral. When you feel you have other priorities, simply notify the coach that you won't be there as soon as possible! On the other hand, you are expected to be excited about playing. Habitually missing practices and games shows a lack of interest. This only hurts the team. There will be no other choice but to find a replacement player.
- Be dedicated. Only you can make yourself a better softball player. Besides, you owe it to the team. "Softball is a thinking man's game", states Ron Gordon, expert on softball philosophy. You must be able to think and play by instinct simultaneously. Our instincts can only be improved with repetition.
- Have players who have been with the team the longest always
start. Unless that player decides to sit out the game, he can plan
on starting the game. However if this player is having a bad game
he will be subbed out.
- Have good coaches! Its a game and everyone should be having fun.
- Team rule on base running: When in doubt, slide. In fact, it is excellent practice to always slide unless you are being waved on the next base. Almost always slide when scoring at home. How many times have you seen a runner get tagged out 1 step before reaching the next base because he did not slide. This is pure nonsense. On a close play the runner will usually be called safe if he slides and out if he does not.
- Remember that every game changes inning by inning. You must also be ready to change, but don't forget to let your team in on all changes.
- The coach is a not god. He makes mistakes. But what is a mistake? A good coach will make decisions that will benefit the team as a whole. Not all individuals can be treated as so. Softball is a team game. Concessions must be made.