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NFCA Coaching Tip Of The Week:

The purpose of this article is to open up dialogue and discussion on the controversial issue of who should call the game. Should the coach, the catcher or the pitcher be responsible for deciding which pitches should be thrown and when? My intent is to present some ideas on this issue and explain my own philosophy on the subject, and how I make decisions about this for my team. I hope that others will contribute to the debate by writing an article which presents a different philosophy or opinion so that everyone, including myself, can learn about alternative methods.

I must admit I have tried all the different methods for calling the game. When I have a catcher who has not had much experience calling the game, I have taken the responsibility on myself. Likewise, when one part of the battery is new to the program, I have taken the responsibility and pressure of deciding which pitches to throw out of their hands. When I have a solid catcher behind the plate and a pitcher that does not want some of that responsibility, the catcher and I work closely together. When I have had a very experienced pitcher on my staff, I have let her call her own game. My decisions have varied with the personnel I am working with.

At times, my decisions have differed from my philosophy on the subject. Basically, I believe that the game should be played on the field with players making intelligent decisions. I have trained my battery in recent years to work together on calling the game. During preseason workouts, the pitchers and catchers get to work extensively together and the catcher can thus learn the strengths of each pitcher. In setting up drills such as "challenge," where the pitcher and catcher work to set up hitters, they learn to trust each other, teach each other and work with each other on making decisions. I do the majority of my teaching about setting up batters during this phase of the year. Once the season gets underway, I like to let the catcher call the game and give ultimate veto power to the pitcher. Both the pitcher and catcher may have a pitch in mind that will work in a particular instance. The pitcher generally throws the pitch called unless she vehemently disagrees with her catcher. I let the pitcher have final word because the ball leaves her hand and it is imperative that she believes the pitch will work. This philosophy works well for my team because they want the responsibility for making pitch decisions and I feel that they should make the decisions.

But what happens when they make poor decisions? What happens when a coach feels they can do a better job? A lot of coaches will take the responsibility away. Many coaches call the game because they know the hitters better than their pitcher and catcher. These are all valid reasons. When I have scouted a team we are playing, I make sure the pitcher and catcher have access to my notes prior to the game. In addition, if I feel strongly about a pitch that should be thrown, I will signal the catcher to call that pitch. I donÕt relinquish total responsibility, but I do constantly monitor and make sure their decisions are well thought out and correct. It is easy to figure out when they are not the right decisions. I am more comfortable teaching the battery how to set up batters and make good decisions. I enjoy collaborating with them on this important aspect of the game. I also think it is imperative that the pitcher and catcher work closely together and giving both of them the responsibility helps foster a better working relationship.

I encourage other coaches to contribute to the dialogue on this subject by submitting an article that offers a different point of view.