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Softball Coaching Tips – Teaching Game Sense

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softballtips-thinkingThis past weekend I was watching a 16U game when I saw something that made me shake my head. With one out and runners on first a second, a routine ground ball was hit to the shortstop, who fielded it cleanly — and then proceeded to throw it to first for the out.

Never once did she consider throwing it to third to get the lead runner. Nor did she consider flipping it to second for a possible double play. In her mind, the play was to first, as though there were no runners on base.

In the meantime the runners on first and second became the runners on second and third. The next batter cracked a long single to left center and two runs scored. Final score? 2-1 in favor of the team that was at bat at the time.

I was shaking my head, of course, because the situation seemed pretty obvious to me. I couldn’t understand how a 16U shortstop wouldn’t just know instinctively where the play was. Apparently, however, no one had taught her game sense.

This is an issue that often comes up with teams and players these days. There is so much focus on the mechanics, both with teams and private coaches, that sometimes coaches forget to teach this critical aspect of the game.

In the situation described above, in a 0-0 game, you want to get the lead runner. It’s a short throw from SS to 3B and should be a fairly easy play. Yet if the player doesn’t understand how important that lead runner is, you can see why she might just go with the play she’s practiced the most.

Fastpitch softball is a very complex game, with lots of moving pieces and lots of situational decisions to make. In many ways it’s akin to chess — only moving at a much faster and more dynamic pace.

It’s not the sort of game you can pick up in a few afternoons. That’s why it’s critical to give players an understanding of why things work the way they do, and what the priorities are.

Yes, you need good technical skills. But that alone won’t do it. To win more games, you must do all you can to teach the game itself to players. Otherwise you’ll find them throwing to first when they should be throwing to third — and it will come back to haunt you. It always does.

Anyway, that’s the way I see it.

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January 24, 2012

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