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The Lost Art of Coaching 1st Base

By: Cindy Bristow

Sure, the head coach is usually in the 3rd base coaching box giving signals and sending runners, but are you doing everything possible at 1st base to increase your team’s chances of winning?

Fastpitch Softball Coaching First Base

Every team has a 1st base coach but that doesn’t mean they have a good one. Make sure you know all the things a good 1st base coach should be doing.

While coaching 3rd base might get all the attention there are some important duties that a 1st base coach has that are integral to the success of the team. After all, if the position is important enough to have a place on the field of play then there has to be more to it than just standing there.

As the 1st base coach you are a physical presence on the field, and more than that, you’re the “coach” on your part of the field. This means there are some important duties, roles and functions that you’re responsible for that will not be done by someone else – so you either do them or in many cases, they aren’t done at all. When it comes to helping your team do everything you can to gain an advantage over your opponent don’t leave your 1st base coach to chance.

So what does a 1st base coach do? There are some obvious things we see them do like giving a pitcher that just reached 1st base her jacket, or taking a hitter’s arm guard, or letting the runner know if a play is on, just to name a few. But that’s just scratching the surface as the duties of a good 1st base coach fall into 3 categories:

  1. Things You Must BE
  2. Things You Must DO
  3. Things You Must KNOW

All of these should be done on every pitch to ensure your 1st base coach is helping their team as much as possible:

Things YOU Must BE:
As one of only 2 coaches allowed on the field-of-play you are important! You’re important as a relayer of information through either visual or auditory means and while most of us use our mouths a lot while coaching 1st base, I can’t underestimate the power of the visual aspect of coaching 1st base!

  • Be an Extra Set of Eyes and Ears – NOT the only ones! Don’t let your baserunner depend totally on you for all of their information. Think of yourself as an extra pair of eyes and ears and not the only set.
  • Be BIG – stand tall and proud and give your players a sense of confidence as well as a feeling of energy and readiness, instead of standing over there with your hands in your pockets. Readiness is an image as well as an action.
  • Be Able to Coach at the Level of your Opponents and your Own Players – if your opponents are highly skilled in both talent and strategy you must also raise your game coaching 1st. For instance, you must know if your opponents have their 2nd baseman fake stab to get you to yell “back” in a bunt situation in order to allow them to throw your runner out at 2nd.
  • Be Thick-Skinned and Help Your Runners Be That Way Too – lots of times you’ll be only a few feet from your opponents’ dugout, or crowd, and some people aren’t as hospitable as others. So remember that you’ve got a job to do and listening to rude or distracting comments isn’t one of them so ignore the opponents and their fans and do your best to help your runners.
  • Be Aware of Your Role – while the 1st base coach is usually the assistant coach it’s crucial to be supportive of the head coach. Your role over at 1st base is NOT to bad mouth the head coach with the runners at 1st. If you can’t be supportive and loyal then you don’t need to be part of the team. That doesn’t mean you have to completely agree with every call made by the head coach but when you don’t agree you should only bring it up with the head coach directly and not with any of the players!

Things YOU Must DO:
Remind the runner of the following (depending upon their skill/intelligence level):

  • Number of Outs
  • Stage of the Game – so she’ll know if she can risk going to 3rd on an OF hit
  • To pick Up the 3rd Base Coach on a Hit to the Outfield
  • Find the Ball on Any Ball Hit
  • Which Outfielder’s to Run On
  • The Catcher’s Arm: Quickness of Release, Arm Strength & Accuracy
  • The Current Play – if they ask, don’t just give it to them. But be sure that whether or not you are telling your runner some information make it look like you are on every single play, so the defense won’t something’s on.
  • Hide What You’re Saying – while it’s important that anything you say is heard by your runner at 1st it’s also crucial that the 1st baseman not hear it. Do your best to cover your mouth and to make sure the opponents aren’t able to figure out anything you’re saying.

Things YOU Must KNOW:

  • Know the Situation BEFORE the Current Batter Puts the Ball in Play – make sure you’re aware of all the strategic parameters on every single pitch so you’ll know whether you’re in a position to take a chance and send the runner to 2nd base or you need to play it safe and hold the runner at 1st. This decision happens in a split second and you MUST know the situation BEFORE the ball gets through the defense.
  • Know all Outfielders Range, Arm Strength and Accuracy –before the game starts know what outfielders you can run on and which ones you can’t BEFORE you figure it out because they threw your runner out!
  • Know the Speed, Baserunning Skills and Injury Status of All Batters – one thing that young 1st base coaches overlook is the batter. You’ve got to anticipate that the batter will become a baserunner on every single play so you need to know her speed, her baserunning skills and whether she’s healthy and able to run full speed. All of these things will factor into whether you help send the runner to 2nd on any possible ball.
  • Where the 2nd Baseman is Playing In Standard Position (without runners) and with Runners on 1st)
  • Coverage Range of the Big 5: Pitcher, Catcher, 3rd, 1st and 2nd
  • Aggressiveness of Your 3rd Base Coach
  • Importance of the Batter/Runner
  • Ability to Score in This Game, Against This Pitcher – this determines your need-to-take-chances factor.
  • Injury Status of Current Batter and Runner – this helps you stay on top of the potential need for any pinch runners
  • Ability for 3rd Base Coach to Take Recommendations – not all 3rd base coaches are open to suggestions so make sure you know how yours feels about this before offering anything you see, notice or think.
  • Anything Else that Will Help – do your job and pay attention to anything on the field that will help your runners score!

For more help with other strategic and game management issues check out the following:

Filed under: All,Strategy — Tags: , , , , , , , — Cindy Bristow @ 11:19 pm


  1. Hi Cindy
    It was great to catch up with you in Sydney & Melbourne Australia.
    What a great article. Good reminder on how important the 1st base coaching position is not only to the team, but to the 3rd base coach. Also prompted me on a couple of things I have recently not done as well. Thanks for the reminder.

    Comment by Cheryl Waye — July 13, 2010 @ 6:38 am

  2. Cindy,
    Great advice. You show the importance of the obvious (and probably mostly overlooked) aspects of the positona as well as making some other very important points. You have provided a sense of purpose to a position where it is so easy to get “caught up in the moment” of the game. Now the hard part…any advice for the “hero/villian” 3rd base coaches??

    Comment by J. Comizio — July 13, 2010 @ 6:54 am

  3. as a first base coach at college level i find that it is inportant to watch the hands and position of our hitters , see how the go through the zone remember we have the best seat to watch the position, load, timing of our hitters and help them out with this. last we should know if pitcher is throwing first pitch strikes,wild or on, pattern they use to get out hitters,and
    types of pitches they are using. to much for 3rd base coach to watch all of this

    Comment by MICHAEL MYERS — July 13, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  4. Thanks for the extra points Michael – some good stuff for us all to consider!

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — July 13, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  5. Let’s give the third base coaches some love. i would love a clinic on this part of the game. Thanks for all you do!

    Comment by kenneth Vial — July 14, 2010 @ 2:21 am

  6. Thanks for this and countless other insights, Cindy. I’ve been a subscriber to your site since 2008 and was in attendance at one of your Brisbane Clinics. This year I took our regional team from Rockhampton (our district has only 80 juniors total) to compete in the women’s side of the Friendship series. Your drills and articles have helped keep our training sessions fresh and inspired a great deal of passion for training and excellence in our players. Our kids are shooting for the stars and you are helping us show them the way. Thanks for all you do.

    Comment by Tanya — July 18, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  7. One more thing I do for young players is to let them know what runners are ahead of them. How many times have you seen girls run up the backs of the player ahead of them?

    Comment by Sandi Caouette — July 19, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

  8. Great discussion for 1st base coaches. I have coached both sides of the field often over the past 13 years and spent this summer again at first. We have 3 coaches in evenly divide the tasks among ourselves. I coach 1st and am also the hitting coach. As Michael stated I always watch the hand, stance, position and readiness of my hitters. I make sure each pitch they make sure their feet close enough to the plate (reach out and cover home plate with bat), bring the bat up to their shoulder and relax/ready for the pitch, focusing on the ball coming out of pitchers hand. 1st base coach is best positioned for this on the field throughout each game. Also, always mindful of batter as runner, defensive skills of opposition before game starts as 1st base coach, a great technique I use (my players know my cadence an comments) is verbal instruction that is a decoy (to confuse the defense) and hand signals to on my chest to runners at second as to how far off I want them to get off the base so as to confuse the defensive players and make them think something is on that is not. I have many other tricks I keep to myself. These things all work with the other coaches because it helps produce more runs scored and I am good at doing it. I am equal as coach, not higher and lower and that is how it must be on every team. Sets great example for the girls.

    Comment by Bob Figone — July 23, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

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