Becoming a softball coach starts with three simple items: 1) a basic knowledge of fastpitch softball 2) a desire to teach and inspire through effective communication and 3) a commitment to leading your team to the best of your ability. Building a positive culture and relationships with individual players and staff members is also critical to success. Notice how we haven't even mentioned X's and O's yet? Coaching fastpitch softball is a lot more than just understanding skills and drills and creating practice plans, it's about taking a group of young women and teaching them life lessons through sport.
If you're new to coaching softball, you've come to the right place. It can be overwhelming to lead a team when you have limited experience. Maybe you have a young daughter who wants to play (and wants you to coach), or you got hooked watching the fast-paced sport on television, or you played baseball but you want or need to make the switch to softball. Most people think 'coaching is easy' and it sure can be….from the bleachers. But as a first-time coach, on the field, in the action….well you learn very quickly it's not as easy as it appears. This is where that "constant drive to learn" comes into play and knowing where to find accurate resources, practice plans, playing rules, and drills is very important. Connections are also important. Understanding the areas in which you feel confident in - and those areas you might not - will help you formulate a plan of "where to start" on your coaching journey. We would recommend evaluating yourself in these 3 key areas to start:
Moving from player to coach (or parent to coach) or just starting out in your softball coaching career brings your organization and leadership skills to the forefront, quickly. How will you lead a team of roughly 10-25 players and get them to move in the same direction toward a common goal? What will be your non-negotiables as a coach? What life lessons do you wish to instill from the game itself? As you think through these questions, here are a few free resources to get your thoughts flowing:
In sports - and in life - there's a saying that "one bad apple can spoil the bunch." Who you allow onto your team - both players and coaches - will often determine your success before any softball skill gets involved. Recruiting and hiring are big pieces to the puzzle of being a softball coach. As you build your list of non-negotiables and life lessons to teach, you'll want to look for people who embody these characteristics. Remember, you don't need (or want) to surround yourself with "yes" people - those who agree with everything you say - in fact, healthy disagreement and thought challengers can breed huge success in the long run. But you do want to find individuals who have the same morals, values and a similar compass as what you embody, and what you'd like to teach. And once you build your team, effective communication with players, assistant coaches, and parents is critical to success.
Give these podcasts a listen as our guest speakers talk about their coaching staff dynamics, and how they recruit to build their teams:
Okay, we know, now we can talk about the game! What part of the game will be your area of expertise? Do you want to work with the hitters? Defense? Pitchers? A little bit of everything? Your answers to these questions will help narrow your focus. But keep in mind, being the head coach also means lineup management, practice plans, fundraising, alumni relations, paperwork, and much more. This is where hiring comes into play, too, as you need to be able to trust other members of your staff to deliver (and excel) in some key areas of the game. Thankfully, the NFCA has a variety of resources to help in the softball skill department - including but not limited to -
Tip Tuesdays (Softball Drills & Skills) - a weekly "tip" on social media surrounding all aspects of the game, from a variety of different coaches & divisions.
Digital Education Library - a member-only benefit of drills archived by skill set (pitching drills, anyone?)
Webinars - another member-only benefit that features in-depth discussions on a variety of different topics
Coaches Clinics - the NFCA offers 8 annual coaches clinics in the winter. Five speakers from different schools come together to present on a wide-range of topics, including a Q&A panel and a networking event for fellow coaches. It's an incredible, two-day "immersive" experience that any softball coach is sure to benefit from.
The career of being a softball coach - or even just starting out by helping your daughter's team - is a never-ending journey. Staying on top of the game is one thing, but continuously building your leadership skills is a part of the game that is often neglected. Being called "coach" is one of the greatest honors - we encourage you to work to earn that title each and every day.
Remember the NFCA is here for you all year round. As a member of the NFCA you'll receive access to one of the largest databases of softball education in the world (including videos, drills, webinars, podcasts, speaker session recordings and more), awards, practice plans, mentoring programs, event discounts, and everything in between. Join today and you can also sign up for the "Quick Out of the Box" new head coaching class, offered once a year to new head coaches.
Here's to you and your new team, Coach. We'll see you on the field!
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