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Fastpitch Coaching Tip: Common Sense Coaching

The off-season is a great time to think of ways to improve our softball teams. Coaches at all levels of play are always concerned about maximizing efficiency in their practices. We all have a limited amount of time to prepare our teams and priorities are used to determine what areas of the game we need to devote most of our practices to.

One way to maximize the use of our practice time is to make a list of areas that your team struggled with the previous season and make specific practice plans to address them. Depending on the level of play and the amount of practice time that you have available, this list of problem areas can range from throwing out batter/runners on dropped third strikes for a 12 and Under team to various types of 1st and 3rd plays for a college team.

We've all seen situations that our teams didn't handle well in games. When those situations occurred, did we ask ourselves if that was something that we worked on in practice?

For example, one season I had a first baseman who had trouble making accurate throws to the plate trying to get the runner out who was attempting to score from third after a groundout. One of my assistants remarked to me, "She always has trouble with that throw." It dawned on me that it was not something we worked on in practice, so how could we expect her to make an accurate throw in a game situation? After that game, we added live runners to some of our infield practice to simulate the same situation in a game. As a result of that revelation, during games I have been making notes on 3 by 5 cards of troublesome game situations and specific skills that need to be addressed.

For example, if I notice that our centerfielder is not backing up a throw to second base, I'll make a note on a card. In subsequent practices, we address each situation, and our execution of fundamentals has improved dramatically.

Keeping notes on game situations can also be used to highlight situations that we handle correctly. For example, if your team successfully defended against a suicide squeeze, you'll want to mention it at your next practice. Applying this approach to your team will help you achieve your goals. Also, not only does it point out possible mistakes that need attention, but it also emphasizes the things that the team is doing correctly.