How to assemble a successful fastpitch softball team
If you are a fastpitch softball parent, odds are you have done some coaching along the trail. Odds are you and other parents have at least considered building your own select team to maximize the playing experience for your kids. Do you really want to take the plunge? Here are some guidelines to help you succeed over the long haul. This excellent team video captures the essence of what you are looking for.
- Two pop-screens for soft-toss hitting.
- Several buckets of regulation softballs.
- One bucket of limited-impact balls for indoor practice.
- Two buckets of wiffleballs stuffed with plastic grocery bags, for pre-game hitting.
- Contacts with a sporting goods firm to arrange uniforms and equipment purchase.
The recruiting process starts with pitching and catching. Do not launch your team without two strong pitchers and one strong catcher. From there, recruit a third pitcher and second catcher capable of playing multiple positions. Then target a few more players that fit your group, preferably left-side infielders. Remember: The quality of the parent is just as important as the quality of the player, if not more so.
Determine you team's competitive level based on the ability of your core players. Set your team goals and schedule accordingly. If you have one of the top two or three teams in your region, take on all comers. Otherwise, be realistic. To develop your players AND have fun for the summer, aim for the high side of .500 . . . but not too high. Schedule a mix of games -- some very challenging, some 50-50 games and some you should win. Adjust your tournament schedule according to your team's success or failure.
Build the business component. Calculate the annual cost for each family. Establish a separate checking account. Appoint a capable bookkeeper. Collect at least 50 percent up front, to solidify commitments. Establish an account for each family and provide monthly statements. Explore fundraising options and sponsorship possibilities with the group. Do not create additional expense without a group vote.
Once you have a strong nucleus of players in place -- and your coaching staff established -- complete your roster. Advertise for players on local message boards, community newspapers and batting cage/training center bulletin boards. Hold tryouts. Seek a mix of speed and power. Emphasize defense. Build a roster of 11 or 12 players, with lots of versatility. Make sure at least two players can handle third base, shortstop and center field. Pick good people. Select teams spend long weekends together. Chemistry is critical.
The elite programs have their own training centers and instructors. Obviously, you can't match that while starting your own team. So collect written training commitments from each family. Make pitching and catching programs mandatory for those positions. Expect players to polish their skills away from the team. Communicate with their personal pitching, hitting and catching instructors. Don't let players receive mixed messages. For parents unable to afford personal instruction, help arrange for group sessions and clinics to reinforce fundamentals.
Secure a decent field for weekly practices. Then do a LOT of homework while designing your practices. Observe elite teams at work. Study the top high school and college programs in your areas. Attend coaching clinics. Use instructional books, videos and web pages to tailor a regimen that suits your team. Develop an wide assortment of drills to address team weaknesses and keep things fresh.
Maximize your practice time. Remember that a quality pre-game routine serves as an extra practice. Stress defensive fundamentals constantly. Do everything with tempo. Use multiple work stations to keep things moving. Allow the kids a few minutes to socialize during the team stretching, but then put them to work. No chit-chat. No standing around. Get a lot done in a 90-minute practice. Address the team for five minutes afterward, update the parents on the business stuff and then stay late to work with any players needing extra attention.
Don't talk about game situations, do game situations. Use stop-action scrimmages to teach and reinforce team defense and base running. Stress the need for on-field communication.
Assembling a batting order is not rocket science. Kids with high on-base percentages go on top, especially if they have speed. Then you stack your best RBI threats through the middle of the batting order. In the lower third, stress contact hitting to sustain rallies and on-base percentage to start new ones.
Remember your team is your team. When a family commits to the team, the team commits to the family. See the season through unless there is a major disciplinary issue. Build a good reputation in the softball community. Add players in mid-season only if your team suffers casualties, physical or otherwise.
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