Coaching is difficult and there is a big learning curve for new coaches. That is why we came up with 10 of our least favorite things to do when coaching a softball practice. We absolutely would never recommend you do the following and really hope you never see your softball player practicing these things. I’m serious, don’t do it. Don’t even think about doing these things, they will not improve your Softball or sports performance one little bit, in fact you might become worse at playing softball from practicing them.
1. Teach Softball Players to Drop their Shoulder While Hitting
Dropping your shoulder in softball leads to a damaging batting average filled pop-ups, fly outs, and strikeouts. A softball is pitched at an upward angle because it is released from the bottom of the pitchers wind up, unlike baseball. Based on the pitch a softball can drop off the table for an amazing drop, rise above your hands, curve away, screw, etc. This means a batter has to read the ball and have an extremely short swing. Short and quick swings lead to line drives, home runs, and RBI’s. for your team. In order to create a short and quick swing you absolutely must not drop your hands or your back shoulder. This action results in a “Scrunch.” You might have seen this in your athletes or yourself, the softball players back should dips down, the hands drop to the waist, and the batter is left scrunching down on their back side. This “Scrunch” results in a long and upward swing. which will not create a good bat plain for your swing to the ball.
2. Coach Quiet Softball Players
Have you ever watched a softball game and it was absolutely silent? If so, it’s wrong! There should always be field chatter among softball players. Not because it just sounds good to say stuff, but because you are actually instructing and passing on information to your teammates on the field. It is very common for coaches to forget to teach their softball players this important part of softball and it can often lead to multiple errors on the field. To prevent errors and encourage synergy for a winning team. Coaches need to make sure each player knows their position and responsibilities during situational play. To do this a team must run through multiple situations and build repetition with each player talking, whether they are lining up cuts from the outfield, telling a pitcher to back up home, letting another player know they have the bag on a steel, etc. These are all very important examples of why softball players must talk and be heard on the field. Coaches running a practice with situational play requires extra players for runners, and time. You must take your time and not assume your players know what they should do on every situation. This is a teaching drill that is great for young athletes, but I warn you it takes patience.
3. Catch With One Hand
We have a saying we love to ask our softball players after they miss a ball because they tried to catch it with one hand. It goes something like this:
Coach: How many hands did it take to miss that ball?
Player Response: One
Coach: Next time use two hands.
Our softball players have been drilled to use two hands over and over again, however this is something many players struggle to do. Almost every catch should be completed with two hands. This is especially critical to catch fly balls, and throws from other players. How can you encourage players to use two hands? Run through multiple small game drills, throw short fly balls to your softball players and ask them to catch the ball and pause after every catch to ensure they are using two hands. This is a very easy drill, your main goal is to build muscle memory. Another great two hand drill is by throwing lead passes to your players over their shoulder using a football. Footballs are tough to catch and cannot be caught using just one hand. This drill will require your softball players to catch with two hands and catch it cleanly. P.s. you don’t need a glove for the football drill, use your bare hands.
4. Turn Your Back to a Runner
A runner is a threat, almost like a rattle snake. You will get bit if you turn your back to it. Softball players should always keep their eye on runners. This means players must always be aware of all runners on, before the play, and have an idea of where these players will move to after a hit. Softball Pitchers are one of the worst offenders of this Softball rule. They often catch the ball from their catcher and never glance at the runner. Resulting in a delayed steal by the offensive runner. This is especially apparent in young softball players and must be addressed by coaches. Teach your pitchers to glance back at players as soon as the receive the ball. They don’t need to spas out, just look the runner back as they enter the circle. It is important to teach this to young athletes so that as they advance in level of play they don’t get delay steals on them.
This is my pet peeve! Softball players should never walk on the field, this shows laziness. Softball players should run to their positions as soon as they leave the dugout, they should also hustle to:
- Shag Balls
- To Rotate Hitting Stations
- Between Drills
- Get Water
- Change Positions
Coaches, if you let your players walk during practice you are training them to walk during game play, walking will not get them a scholarship. Make your players stand out by teaching them to run EVERYWHERE!
6. No Top Hand
A team has to be able to field a ball cleanly, and get an out. This means no bobbling, or errors. The less errors the more likely you will win. To get those 21 outs in a game you have to field using your top hand. We like to teach our 12U Travel team by telling them to put their hands out like an Alligators mouth. The top hand should always hover over the glove and be ready to “Love” the ball in. Using a top hand to field a ground ball will decrease errors, protect the fielder from a shot to the throat or face, and can decrease the time it takes to field and throw the ball. How? When using a strong top hand you are able to grip the ball as soon as you catch it, instead of catching the ball in your mit with tossing up the ball to your hand and trying to feel for your grip.
7. Talking Back
Okay, so this can be a touchy subject. As a coach you probably have a couple of players who like to talk, or should I say talk back? They always have to say something back to you after you tell them to do something. It is up to you to teach them to take criticism and learn to be “teachable.” Take it from me, someone who has been to college and played, and also played on many top traveling softball teams. Coaches don’t like players who talk back. They are extremely hard to coach and require a lot of time from Coaches, which most coaches will not give. They will simply move on to someone who will listen. Start teaching players this fact early and you will help them in the long run.
8. Forget to Back Up
Backing up throws and playing situations is extremely important. We define “Back Up” as someone who is there if a teammate needs them, they are also the last line of defense. If a ball is over thrown it is up to the back up to save their bacon. They must knock down the ball at all costs. This means you should teach your fielders to back up plays from a safe distance that they will be able to cover enough ground that the ball won’t fly past them. You should also teach your players to bury the ball, by dropping to a knee, and putting your body in front of the ball they will stop the ball. Do not teach your back up to run up a foot away from where the play is, they will not have the time they need to react to a wild throw.
9. Lazy Pitchers
Pitchers are a different breed, I have pitched, my sister pitches, and I have known many pitchers. They are all different. Each one has their own personality and quarks. However, they have all had one thing in common, they usually forget to back up plays once in a while. It is important to remind pitchers that after a ball is hit they have another job, they need to be aware of situations and know where they should go. A great example of this is when there is a passed ball by the catcher. A pitcher is responsible to run in to the plate and cover in case a runner from third tries to score. Another example is when there is a ball hit and the play is at third, the pitcher should be backing up the throw to third base. If they don’t back up and there is an overthrow then they could cost the team a run. Coaches need to pay attention to pitchers and make sure they know situational defense.
10 . Forget Fundamentals
Many coaches and teams forget that the fundamentals of softball are extremely important. I guarantee if you went to watch any college softball team or pro softball team that they would practice the fundamentals of catching, throwing, and hitting. After coaching a 12U softball team I have realized that most players are never taught the basic fundamentals, or if they were taught them it was briefly and the repetition that is needed to instill those fundamentals in a player were lacking. It is important when coaching young athletes that you remember their age, and capacity for memory. Working on fundamentals one practice in the whole season won’t cut it. Basic fundamentals should be repeated daily, and at every practice. The goal is to build enough repetition that muscle memory takes over. When this is accomplished errors will decrease, and athletes will increase performance.
The ten factors listed above are very important. Coaches and parents need to make sure good habits are being created over time, and that bad habits are diminished. Start teaching good habits at your practices and you will build a winning softball team that is full of athletes with promising softball careers.