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Coaching Softball – How to Run a Bad Practice

By Coach Marc

I’ve got to vent. Bear with me.

Have you ever driven by a park and saw a softball practice run by a well-intentioned but rookie, untrained coaches most often at the recreational level?

IT’S SOOOOOOO BAD! They are textbook examples of how NOT to run a practice. Their practices are…

– boring
– unproductive
– NOT fun
– don’t teach much
– a waste of time

These awful practices are the perfect recipe to send kids to soccer instead of keeping them in softball.

It’s no wonder that softball is losing ground to soccer!

I just can’t stand it anymore.

I have been in softball almost 20 years and things are just not getting any better despite ALL of the resources being available!

That makes me mad.

Plus, I hate soccer.

But serioulsy, you have seen these awful practices where coaches place 9 kids on the field in each of the position and there is 1 kid taking batting while the other ones are “waiting forever” to field a ball?

They might as well take a nap – it would be more productive.

We should fire those coaches. They do more bad than good to the game by making kids run away from it from boredom and feeling incompetent because they can’t play the game.

I know. I know. Every coach is well intentioned and deserve a chance. I also know that volunteer coaches are hard to recruit.

But seeing that kind of ineffective, unproductive, and boring practices just drives nuts!

Each coach MUST have a minimu level of competency to make practices:

– Fun
– Productive
– Effective
– Focus on learning the basic skills

Plus.. they must be planned and prepared AHEAD of time. Too many coaches “just do whatever” when they show up for practices with no plan in mind to begin with. Just bad, bad, bad!

Sorry – I had to vent on this. I feel better now!

Comments on Coaching Softball – How to Run a Bad Practice »

June 6, 2008
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Coaching Softball - How To Run A Bad Practice - Part 2 @ 11:56 am

[…] See my first post about that topic: Coaching Softball – How to Run a Bad Softball Practice […]

candy @ 4:23 pm

Re: bad practices/coaching… hey Marc, apparantly you must have driven by my daughter’s practices this season in a rec league. Awful… These two dad coaches had each girl play in one position all season long so if you were right field day 1, you played right field all season long… this included every practice and every game. One of the dad’s kid was a pitcher, pretty good, she pitched 4 innings the max at every game, the other coaches kid got to play catcher every inning of every game..they switched with the 4 inning max was reached in the game. Everyone else stood around. My daughter who has been in the same league for years, was a threat to the pitcher daughter’s father since she wasn’t awful like the secondary pitcher so she go to share the position of rover. He told my daughter, who has played multiple year of softball, and has played every position, that she was not good enough to play any in field position and he was only thinking of the team. It was a bunch of malarchy.. he was only thinking of his own daughter the entire season. Luckily we had had positive experieces prior, but my daughter who had been practicing pitching all off seaon throwing at least 300 pitches a week on a rubber in the back yard (we live in california so it is year round here), has basically switched her interest to volleyball. That coach left such a vile taste for the game to her. We have never quit a team before mid season but after the many nasty comments to her from these two coaches, we all had better things to do. The only thing that made her day was that the guys team with his “star” daughter as pitcher came in dead last in our league and there were some pretty awful teams they competed against. It doesn’t matter to you… but just another side of it. oh and lastly on this subject.. these two guys cried that they were only “voluteers” and had given up “so much of their personal time”… yah right… it was a way to make only their kids be the stars of the team and everyone else was secondary to that.

Prior to this year, we had been to plenty a boring practice and probably ineffectual, but at least the dad-coaches were nice and tried to be fair to all the kids. She was well-liked by every other coach.

thanks for your site.. it is interesting…

June 10, 2008

My Gosh! @ 11:06 am

Candy,

I’m amazed that soemone, like you, could actually think that one season, with a coach that feels she should not be playing an infield spot on her rec. team would scare her back to volleyball.
I have seen it time and time again, where parents poison there kids, saying things like “this coach doesn’t know what he is doing”, “this coach is a joke”, He’s just playing kids he likes”, “your better than all the rest of the team”, these are the real undermining issues that help drive kids away from sports, they may otherwise enjoy.
I had a kid that I felt was “overlooked” for her ability to pitch on her rec. team and yes, I did feel this coach was incompetent and was making a mistake, but instead, I encouraged her to work harder, I spent more time with her, I even volunteered my time with the coach to do the things that takes his time away from coaching the team but She rarely pitched that season, but got better, and developed a work ethic and drive in order to meet her goal of being a pitching consideration in the future.
I have been around many rec. leagues and travel teams, know a lot of coaches, and one thing that they all share is “they all want to win, every game they play”, does that mean they play only their best kids? – Sometimes, but from what I have seen, it’s usually pretty fair. Don’t get me worng, there are some bad apples, but they are not only coaches, but also parents who make excuses to their kids, instead of encouraging them to work harder.
My daughter is still playing softball and has been exposed to many different coaching styles, some she likes, some she doesn’t, but her passion to compete in the game she loves, over rides the thought about quiting or giving up the sport entirety.
Stop complaining, find the time to coach your own team, and sit back and watch how many families are unhappy with you. It’s a thankless donation of time, and if the coach is there to get his daughter better, and the other kids get a chance to be on a team and compete, then thats more than your doing.
Doesn’t take much to complain…

Marc Dagenais @ 10:11 pm

Hi Candy,

Unfortunately… this is far too common. It’s sad but it is the reality of sports like softball, baseball, soccer, and ice hockey.

Thanks for the comment!

June 17, 2008

Laurie Wilson @ 5:29 am

Dear Marc,

I agree with everything you said. It has happened to my daughter some but it happened a lot to my son.

The practices were so boring and unproductive. These children were not learning the skills that they needed to compete with later, if they decided they wanted to continue with the sport.

Our son loves baseball but there have been times where he wanted to give up because of the coaches alone. I agree with one of the comments about the girl that gave up softball and went to volleyball. Coaches have that influence over KIDS. We have been associated with many teams like hers and I am sorry but it is political. The bad thing is sometimes is that no matter how hard a child works, he/she never gets the break they deserve.

My child is very good at what he does but don’t get me wrong he makes errors sometimes just like the coaches’ sons. I just wish that some people would realize that this is a team sport and not an individual sport like tennis. My son tells me all the time that he doesn’t mind sitting the bench if it will help out his team but when is enough enough.

Both my children have been taking batting and pitching lessons since they were little and we are always working on skills on our own. What more can you ask of a KID. I think you are right Marc. If you make the practice fun and productive then the players will be more relaxed in the game which in turn helps the players to perform better. I wish we had more people who thought like you.
Maybe then our Little League in town would not be losing so many children. This day in time is when we should be trying to bring children to something else besides the crime and junk that is out there for them.

Wake up people and stop thinking it is all about me and my child. Keep up the good work Marc.

Sincerely,
The parent of two hard working players

Marc Dagenais @ 6:05 am

Thanks for your comments. Marc 🙂

August 7, 2008

Marie @ 9:34 am

This past season we had a coach just like this. At the begin of the season my daughter tried her best and even wanted to try out for our local travel team. Her goal for the season was to make our county All Atar team. However, there was no way she could because the coach did not show up. By the end of the season and even now she states she hates softball and refuses to try even if we try to work with her.

Our county tryouts for our traveling team is in a couple of weeks. I hate to just let her quit but I am not sure what the answer is at this point. Do I continue to make her play and hope the passion comes back or do I just let her quit. I just hate to see her talent and past passion to gone.

Marc Dagenais @ 9:54 am

Unfortunately, it is far too common!

Would you be able to find a different team?

One key thing – motivation has to come from within. Doing something you aren’t motivated to do just makes you miserable.

It is sad for a kid to quit but if not happy in an environment, sometimes – that is the least worst decision.

Even if another team isn’t as good, environment might be better. The keys are:

1) Get as much time as possible to think about it and let time do its thing

2) Make a decision based on how you feel deeply after letting time do its thing.

Marc

August 24, 2009

Chris Hurley @ 12:39 pm

Too bad you go in depth on how us volunteer rec coaches can run a bad practice without suggesting anything about what we can do to run a good practice. This is my first foray into coaching. I’m coaching 12U girls and have been scouring the ‘net for good articles, books, etc on how to put together a good practice, but have not found anything. I have plenty of sites telling me about this drill and that drill, but nothing on how to put it all together, how to keep the girls interested, how to break down the drills at practice, nothing. How about some REAL help for us ineffective, unproductive, and boring coaches that need to be fired?!?

October 11, 2009

Jacob @ 11:58 pm

Marc,

I am a 3rd year softball coach at a high school level. I must say I fell prey to this style of coaching in my first year, my second year was a much better use of practice time. This past year, I got involved with the little league program to help out as best I could. This being my 3rd full year of softball, I have found that more coaches are better to help with keeping kids occupied. I will say that people need to do instead of talk. I remember my Baseball coach from high school noticed I was having problems with practice, he came out and became my assistant coach in charge of hitting. It is people like that help young coaches out, and I will follow in his footsteps.

February 23, 2010
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Fun Softball Drills – Football Softball @ 9:59 pm

[…] Purpose: To reward a good practice. It is important to add variety and fun drills when coaching softball. […]

May 19, 2010

Carrie @ 10:22 am

My daughter is playing high school fast pitch and oh my gosh what an experience we have had……first of all she played short stop and had 1 count it 1 bad inning in a game (which was 9 games ago) and has sat the bench ever since……in practice they have moved her to outfield ok this consist of the girls are in there positions and the coach hitting balls to them, which is fine but he only hits to the infielders…….I timed him and it was 20 minutes before he hit a ball to one of the outfielders. Talk about boring to the outfielders. My daughter is used to intense practices……she loves it. Now she doesn’t even break a sweat and is getting rusty.

[…] balls to designated spots while running against the clock. It is important to put fun drills in  softball coaching so players can enjoy while working […]

September 11, 2011
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Fun Softball Drills – Green Monster @ 3:15 am

[…] this competitive outfield game combines aggressiveness, communication, and the clutch catch.  Softball coaching entails preparation and preparing fun games will make practice more interesting for the young […]

October 17, 2011

Disgusted Dad @ 9:43 am

It looks like you've been by my 10U daughter's practices! And unfortunately, these kind of practices produce the result that we have seen at the end of our season, we only won 2 games since we started the season in March, with our last game Saturday being a 27-0 embarrassment. I and some of the other parents are ready to get rid of the coach but don't know how we should go about it. They definitely haven't improved as they should have with the amount of practice that we put in. (Typically 3 hr practices 2-4 times a week, with 4-5 practices the week of a tournament.) IMO, the practices aren't productive, they don't correct areas that they need to work on, it's always the same thing; the girls take their positions while the coach hits to them and tells them where to throw to, then they let the girls bat, one at a time, with the coach tossing 20+ pitches to them, then they run and that's it. And then when they make mistakes in a game, he gets mad but they haven't been taught what to do! He takes all of the decision making away from them…..I'm just ready to make a change. Any suggestions on how we, as parents, need to go about this?

May 16, 2012

Trying my best @ 7:36 am

I am that coach that you are venting about. I volunteer my time and can't afford to pay for the equipment that is needed or the websites that are available for practice ideas. I just found this site and I hope it works. I LOVE sports and want to continue encouraging these kids in the poorest neighborhood in our city to pursue sports over the negative stuff that is regularly happening in our neighborhood. I just wish I knew someone that knows how to run a practice to volunteer their time to help us. Until then, I'm the best these kids have. 

July 27, 2012
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» Fun Softball drills – Tools of the Trade @ 2:15 am

[…] fun. Kids should also know the functions and importance of their uniform and pieces of all kinds. Coaching Softball goes beyond teaching […]

September 17, 2012

CallinYouOut @ 12:44 am

Quitcher bitchin and offer some suggestions on how to do it correct and effectively maybe since you've seemed to have been doing this so well for so long huh?????

October 4, 2012

rabidgoldfish @ 10:38 am

There are lots of online FREE resources for drills, etc. I run my practices to include, light stretching/calastetics, short distance throwing (partners), medium throwing, minimal long throwing, pop up catching, grounder fielding, batting, situational infield/outfield, contests. The 2 hours fly by.

August 17, 2013

cocomaepup @ 7:15 am

I guess you must be the kinda coach they were talking about, huh?
Jerk.

March 23, 2015

Mike @ 11:20 am

After reading this, the ‘venting’ much have been relatively cathartic. I get it. I’ve read through some of the comments and I’m flabbergasted at some of the parental comments. I’m a brand new assistant coach and my wife will be a rookie HC. Why? Because other parents, the one’s who always complain about coaching it seems, don’t step up to coach when there’s a need. Rather than complain about the coaches who really are trying their best in most cases, try complaining about the leagues that don’t train the coaches on how to coach. Or how about lobbing the blame to others in the industry who don’t offer to assist new or inexperienced coaches who really do have the best interest of the kids at heart.

Are the folks writing negative comments and “venting” so busy complaining that you don’t have time to mentor a new or inexperienced coach? Or at least get off your butts and volunteer YOUR time to coach your child’s team.

As for me and mine, we are bent on running a good, productive practice. Hence the reason I found this article. We will be using a practice schedule with fun drills and proper conditioning. My advice to those of you who complain? Offer your expert opinion on how to run practice, or volunteer your time to help make improvements. Make something other than a monetary investment.

Thanks…

April 24, 2015

Rob Trauth @ 7:06 am

Quite frankly the reason kids are playing more soccer and less softball is because Soccer does a lot of things better then softball. Soccer starts out recreational and fun and then if the kids get better then they move on to an academy league. Softball starts out competitive and most of the kids are burnt out by the time they are in a under 10 league. Also there is a major shortage of Parents coaching Girls softball so you would be an idiot to fire anyone who volunteers. I guess you want more parents just standing on the sidelines and not volunteering.

Rob Trauth @ 7:10 am

well I guess if you volunteered to be a coach then you would not be in this position. its called either be a volunteer or be quiet.

April 25, 2015

Guest @ 10:26 am

I feel like I wrote this!!! I’m dealing with this problem for my 10 year old who has played for 4 years and loved the sport. Now she hates going to practice and wants to quick and as u said go back to soccer! I was a volunteer coach for a small town and they gave coaching classes for the 2 weeks before practices and also sent a veteran coach out the first couple practices to help you get it together. It’s a sad situation but most volunteers do mean well but they also don’t want input from others to correct the problem at hand.

Krys @ 10:26 am

I feel like I wrote this!!! I’m dealing with this problem for my 10 year old who has played for 4 years and loved the sport. Now she hates going to practice and wants to quit and as u said go back to soccer! I was a volunteer coach for a small town and they gave coaching classes for the 2 weeks before practices and also sent a veteran coach out the first couple practices to help you get it together. It’s a sad situation but most volunteers do mean well but they also don’t want input from others to correct the problem at hand.

[…] See my first post about that topic: Coaching Softball – How to Run a Bad Softball Practice […]

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