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Softball Excellence Questions & Answers
  • Pitching and Catching
    • Pitching
      1. How often do you have your pitchers throw if they're 10 and under? I've coached boys before and with boys I limit it to the equivalent of 5-6 innings per week and maybe one-two bullpens per week with no more than 30 pitches per bullpen. What do you recommend with younger girls?
        • In my opinion we should be equally cautious with both. There's a HUGE on-going myth that softball pitching won't hurt your arm but baseball pitching will. To me, having been a pitcher that's an absurd comment that comes from people who just perpetuate something they hear, without any knowledge what-so-ever. While the underhand motion might be slightly easier on your arm - that's one motion and not thousands.
      2. How many pitchers should our 10 and Under team have?
        • Be careful with overuse in young kids whether they're boys or girls and whether they're 10 or 20. You're on the right track in thinking you should have a pool of pitchers instead of 1 or 2. Most teams will get greedy with a good pitcher and pitch her in all the big games and as often as possible instead of risking it with any of the "other" pitchers. I tend to believe there isn't much difference between baseball and softball when it comes to pitching - that doing a very violent, ballistic motion over and over thousands of times is not all that healthy for the joint, and that rest, ice and limiting the amount of reps is the best thing we can do. But, I'm looked at like a witch doctor when I saw things like this. Fortunately for me, I did pitch and have coached and been in this game for over 20 years so I can say it and people will at least consider it. The best advice I can give you is to use your common sense, fastpitch pitching is not that different of a sport or skill - we all would just like to think it is!
      3. My 13 year old daughter is being taught to follow through on the rise ball - should pitcher's follow through on their rise balls?
        • Here's the dilemma you're in - most pitcher's really limit their follow through on most pitches (especially the rise) as that helps them get a more violent release causing greater spin and movement. OK, that being said, most of these pitchers AREN'T 13. I think it's important to remember that your daughter's as good as her arm is healthy. As a result, she will get the best snap, spin and therefore movement on her rise if she limits her follow-through (without limiting her hand speed prior to release). But, I recommend that she not practice her rise more than 30% of her total practice time each day. Only when she gets older and stronger can she increase that amount. For instance, if she practices for an hour - she'd only practice her rise for no longer than 20 minutes and it's one easy motion and not the violent movement required for pitching a ball that's bigger and heavier than a baseball.
    • Catching
      1. What's the best footwork for catcher's to use on their throws to 2nd?
        • While there are 3 different footwork options available to catchers - (1) the pivot (or jump), stride and throw (2) the replacement, turn and throw, (3) and the area step and throw - most will use the pivot and throw and some will use the area step and throw. I don't know many at all that use the replacement step and throw. Johnny Bench did, but then he was unique in a lot of ways. The problem with this footwork is that it's very hard for most catchers to keep their power going toward their target while their feet are going sideways. So, I'd suggest you introduce your catcher to all three footwork techniques and let them choose the method that's the fastest and most comfortable for them. Note - you can see an example of all three types of footwork on my Catching presentation in one of the eClinics or else in the Free Stuff area on this site.
      2. How can you tell if your catcher is throwing the ball fast enough to play in college?
        • You should time our catcher's throws with a stop watch to see where they stand on touch to release (meaning start the watch when the ball touches her glove on the pitch and stop the watch when she releases the ball on her throw):
          • Above 1.00 seconds is Slow
          • At 1.00 seconds is OK
          • .8 to .9 is Good
          • .7 seconds is Very Good
          • .6 seconds is exceptional
          The reason that speed of release is important in addition to speed of throw is because you can throw it fast but take too long to release and you'll still have a slow throw.
  • Offense
    1. My daughter plays select (tournament team) ball and goes to a hitting coach. We're confused and have two questions. Our questions are regarding the instruction she is receiving regarding hitting. First: Her hitting coach tells her to keep her hands over or behind the back of her back shoulder, at the top of the strike zone with the bat 45 degrees up and 45 degrees back. Her select coach tells her to keep her hands by her back ear, hands at the top of the strike zone and the bat flat pointing behind her (not toward the pitcher or catcher). We're confused ... which is it???
      • Regarding where her bat should be and how it should be pointed - her hands will be MUCH faster if she keeps them near her back shoulder (not behind it) - that goes for whether there's a bat in it or not. I tell players to keep their hands near their back shoulder and angle their bat about 45 degrees. The easiest way to get to this position is to have your daughter rest the bat on her back shoulder - then simply lift if up off her shoulder ... the bat should be at the correct angle and her hands should be in the correct position.
    2. This question is regarding when the HANDS extend toward the ball during execution of the swing. Her hitting coach is teaching her the hands move BEFORE the shoulders rotate so the hands lead shoulder rotation. Her select coach is telling her that the hands AND shoulder rotate TOGETHER until the upper body has partially rotated THEN throw her hands towards and inside the ball. We're confused ... which is it?
      • In regards to the hands moving vs. the shoulders - the worst thing a hitter can do is to think about moving their shoulders. Hands are crucial to hitters as they hold the bat, and for younger aged players to be focused on shoulders instead of hands will make hitting close to impossible. All good hitters focus on hands, and move hands toward the ball as the front heel has planted and the weight shifts forward into the swing. The hands stay between the hitter and the ball (called inside the pitch) - and the arms DO NOT EXTEND until after contact is made. Arms extend in the follow through or else the players swing is too long and too slow with no inside plate coverage.
    3. How do you get a player to slide in a game? She will do it on the sliding mats and slippin' slide but won't slide in a game.
      • Start to make your practice situations more game like by adding a penalty for the player not reaching the next base using a base player and an incoming throw - create a game-like situation for your player to have to decide to slide.
    4. Does it matter which type of lead the baserunner takes?
      • It's up to the individual runner to pick the lead that is the most comfortable to them and that ultimately gets them to the next base fastest. Keep in mind that won't be the same lead-off for every player. I know that most coaches in softball think that every player should use the rocker-step lead off and yet if you watch the US Olympic Softball Team play you'll see all 3 types of lead offs (the 3 types are; the rocker step starting with your body behind the base, the rocker step with your body in front of the base and the baseball-type leadoff where the player faces the batter in their lead off). Going back to the US Olympic Softball team Jessica Medoza uses the rocker type leaf-off and Lisa Fernandez prefers the baseball type. What you need to do is have each player try each of the different lead offs and let them pick which one is more comfortable to them - keeping in mind that even if they pick the rocker type they need to try it both was (with each foot forward). Then you need to line them all up at first base, have them use the lead off you want them to use and time them running to second. Then have them use the lead off they prefer and time them 1st to 2nd. They should do it 3 time with each lead-off in order to really see which one is fastest for them.
  • Defense
    1. How fast do outfielders have to throw in college?
      • Most college outfielders all throw in the low to mid-60s.
    2. How fast do baserunners have to be in college?
      • Speed-wise, at the Division 1 level colleges are looking for their players to be able to run home-to-home speed under 12 seconds, preferably under 11.5 seconds and Home-to-first time is in the 2.6 to 2.7 area.
    3. When should defenders call the ball on a flyball?
      • Call the ball when it's s close to it's height as possible. Don't call it too soon or else you might get stuck making the wrong decision early and end up chasing a ball allover the field that the wind blows. So avoid those mistakes and let a flyball get as high as possible before calling for it.
    4. Who takes the cutoff throw near the pitcher's mound on throws coming in from the outfield to homeplate?
      • Usually that's your 1st baseman with your pitcher going behind the catcher to serve as backup. If you have an excellent fielding pitcher then you can use your pitcher, but otherwise, you're better off using your 1st baseman and have your pitcher back up home on the throw.
    5. Would you ever use your 3rd baseman as a cutoff on throws coming from the outfield to homeplate?
      • Yes. On balls hit down the 3rd baseline the 3rdbaseman is the best person to use as the infield cutoff on throws to the plate.
    6. Does it matter how big my glove is in softball since the ball is so big?
      • Yes, it does matter. Just because the ball is bigger doesn't mean you need a bigger glove. Keep in mind that your hand must control the glove and most girl's hands aren't very big so they can't control a big glove. Legally the biggest glove you can use is a 14 inch glove - which is a HUGE glove. Typically outfielders should use a 13 inch glove and infielders and pitchers should use 11 - 12 inch gloves. The glove doesn't catch the ball - your hand does - the glove only protects your hand. So make sure your hand can move the glove fast enough to catch the ball by being small enough for your hand to control.
  • Strategy
    1. In travel ball, I loved to coach a 1 run game, I knew I had the horses to win if we played for 1 run, I can't seem to bring that philosophy to high school ball. I have always had great athletes on my teams and now I'm frustrated because I'm not getting the results I'm looking for. Any suggestions?
      • There's a huge difference between the amount of talent on a travel ball vs a high school team - plus the desire level is different since all the travel ball players are there because they love softball and that's not the case with school ball. So, coach who you have and know that your high school team isn't playing again travel ball teams. All the school ball coaches have the same problems so put your best players in the key positions, teach everyone to bunt really well, and to throw and catch better than other teams and you're going to win a lot of your games. Coach the team you have right now and not the team you wish you had! What if your players were playing for a coach they wish they had too - then what? Deal with what you have and don't just make the best of it - work to make it good!
    2. In the course of getting our girls some team instruction, we have a dilemma. The coach and I have just been told that the normal cutoff person for a ball hit to left field and runner on 2nd is the 3rd baseman and the SS covers 3rd. We (and the girls) have always heard that the SS is cutoff, and 3rd will cover her base. Is there a right in this?
      • In regards to who serves as the cutoff for a ball hit into left field, with 1 exception that we'll talk about in a second, it's usually faster for the SS to be the cutoff. That's because the SS will usually be going after many of the balls hit out into leftfield or leftcenterfield so it's just easier for her to stay out there and act as the cutoff on all balls she couldn't reach. (As opposed to her trying to get to a ball hit into LF or LFC and then racing back to cover 3rd and the thirdbaseman then going out for the cutoff) Now, the exception is the ball hit directly down the thirdbase line. This ball is easier for the 3rd baseman to go out on and act as the cutoff and the SS to cover 3rd - especially if it's a ball hit in front of the leftfielder. I recommend that you use whatever coverage is easiest for your players to do. There is no ONE WAY to do this. There are "common ways" but that's usually based on the typical player. If you have an exceptionally fast footed and smart 3rd baseman and your shortstop isn't as quick, the use your 3rd baseman as the cutoff, otherwise, what I mentioned above should work for you.
    3. We lost the championship two weeks ago to a team that was below average in all aspects of the game. We were heavy favorites but they hung with us till the 10th inning and we made two glaring errors and they scored to beat us 2-1. What can we do better in the future?
      • Try to avoid at all costs getting to extra innings. Be more aggressive strategically, in the future to try and either win or lose the game in regulation. This is the philosophy that any US national team employs against the Japanese whenever they play them, because the Japanese teams throw and catch so well you don't want to try and out do them in the tie-breaker. So anytime you can beat a team early or by a large margin, do so.
    • Offensive Strategy
      1. Situation: Less than two outs, runners at 1 and 2 OR runner at 2. Would you ever consider keeping the third baseman back in this situation? I am experimenting--I have great fielding pitchers with incredible speed.
        • That's a good question so here are the factors you need to consider when making that decision:
          • the key to me is that in both cases you've given (r at 1 & 2, or r at 2)
          • there's a runner in scoring position at 2nd
          • If you can, know the following before you decide what to do with your 3rd baseman
            • Who are you playing against? If it's me, I'm not bunting with 1 or more outs because I'd rather give 2 hitters a chance to hit in at least 1 run and possibly 2 than simply give you a free out by bunting my runner over to 3rd and still not be sure I could hit her in. So, if you're playing me or a coach that might think like me which is probably a former baseball coach or player since they will try to hit in runners already in scoring position (2nd base) than give up an out to move a runner further into scoring position, I would keep my 3rd baseman back. I'm much more likely to try and steal 3rd than to bunt to get it. Stealing gives me a free base without giving up and out, especially if I have runners at 1st and 2nd since a thrown out runner at 3rd still leaves me with a runner at 2nd
            • The other thing to know is - what is the opponents likely chance to score with
              • the batter at the plate? (if she's really weak then bunting might be their best option so play for it)
              • the next 2 batters after the one up? (if the next 2 batters are really good then look for a bunt as this gives the opponent at least 1 chance to hit in the runs even if you walk the hitter after the player that bunts her over)
              • The pitcher you have throwing today? (if you've got a stud pitching today and the opponent's chances of scoring are grim, look for a bunt - this IS when I'd bunt in this situation versus hitting because the chances then of my next 2 hitter's actually getting a solid base hit would be less than the chances of giving up an ou to move a runner 60 feet closer to home.)
              • The amount of time left in the game? If it's late in the game with a tie score or the offensive team is down by a little the look for a bunt (as time is running out and single runs become vital). But, if it's early in the game and there's time left (against a pitcher that their team can hit) then they might look to hit in a couple runs instead of playing for only 1 run. The exception to this would be if you're pitching a kid against them that isn't that strong of a pitcher, BUT you have a STUD you could put in if it gets close. In that case ,if I'm the other coach then I'm playing for as many runs as I can get right now since my chances slide to near zero once the stud goes in.
          Remember that on defense you're defending their most likely scenario - THEIR scenario and not yours. Knowing what they are likely to do will make defending it much easier!
  • APE (Attitude, Psyche, and Emotion)
    1. I coach at a very good softball school that has put a lot of championship banners on the wall and have been to the State Championships 3 times in the last 6 years. This is the first year we have lost a sectional championship in 9 years - any advice?
      • I agree that they all need to understand that those banners were earned - earned with competitiveness, dedication, and intensity - not just by showing up. So I'd ask them, what are they bringing to the tradition of the softball program, other than just showing up? If I were you I'd do some of the competitive games listed in my Team Chemistry book. I even had to do those with my pro team and they had a lot more talent, experience and desire than your high school kids - it's sometimes a female thing not to distance yourself from the group by your talent or your desire...so the whole group just limps along at average. They need to know that they aren't playing to live up to the past every time they field a ground ball or swing at a pitch. What the past teams at their school have done is great and should help serve as their Superman capes. It should give them confidence and strength instead of creating pressure. Help them create their own wins.
  • Miscellaneous
    1. I find myself with the girls by myself and I feel over whelmed sometimes. I try to keep them all busy but I feel that they need individual attention in certain areas. I have tried to recruit friends, family and fellow coaches to help out with the all star team. I've had no help in the past and have done pretty well but there is always room for improvement. How do I make better use of mine and the girls time?
      • It's great you're coaching and while you're feeling pretty overwhelmed right now, know that you're really helping the girls! They need a coach like you who cares enough to give this much time and effort. Plus, most coaches start out just like you. Kinda like being a parent - no real training and you're usually understaffed and overwhelmed... OK, since you're the lone ranger at practice one simple way to make the groups smaller is to not have them all come at once. I'm just making up times but you could try something like this. If you practice from 6-8:
        • 6:00 - 6:45 have your infielders come (you'll be able to work with them for 30 minutes - just you and your infielders)
        • 6:30 to 6:45 your outfielders can show up
        • 6:30 - 7:15 have your outfielders show up (the 15 minutes that both groups are there - 6:30 to 6:45 - you can work on your team defense with your entire defense there)
        • 7:15 - 8:00 have your pitchers and catchers show up (the first 15 minutes the pitchers can warm up to themselves while you work with the catchers on hitting)
        • Then for the last 30 minutes the catchers can catch the pitchers
        • And at 8:00 everyone goes home.
        This type of workout is a great way to make the groups smaller and allow you more time with each player. It will work great if you practice more than once per week so you could have one of these type of practices for defense and the other set up this same way and work on offense.



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