Article Provided by: The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA)
Article by: Marc Dagenais, MHK, CSCS, ChPC/ www.softballperformance.com
I'm a firm believer in shifting the odds in your favor. Softball is somewhat of a complex game. Yet, to be successful at the youth level, it comes down to accomplishing a few very simple things. Doing those simple things will "shift the odds in your favor."
What are these simple things? Here's my top 10 list of rules to shift the odds in your favor.
1) Pitching – Keeping the ball low and on the corners on a regular basis. How many hitters do you know that can hit an inside or outside low pitch very hard?
2) Pitching – Throw strikes early. Get ahead in the count. Then mix.
3) Avoid walks at almost all costs, except in a few situations. I'm allergic to walks. A large percentage of these walks will come to score, especially when given early in an inning.
4) Don't give easy bases to any runner, especially to the trail runner.
5) Always get at least one "sure" out. Lead runner if you can. The team that gets to 21 outs the fastest usually wins.
6) Catchers or any fielder – don't throw if you have almost no chance to get an out. The vast majority of defensive errors come from poor throws. The team that makes the least errors usually wins.
7) Swing at strikes and if you are going to swing at a bad pitch – swing hard. Even if you are chasing a bad pitch, at least send a message or swing hard enough to maybe get a scratch hit out of it instead of a lazy pop-up or weak grounder.
8) With two strikes and less than three balls – swing at anything that looks like a strike. I would rather go down fighting and have a chance to hit than get beat without a fight.
9) Be aggressive on the bases. Make the defense work to get you out.
10) Get the sacrifice bunt down in fair territory and don't aim for the lines. The purpose of the hitter in a sac bunt situation is not to be safe at first; it's to advance the runner. Too many are trying to bunt the perfect ball, often along the lines and it rolls in foul territory. Make sure the ball is in play well inside the lines, and just try to bunt not directly at a fielder to make sure the runner will make it safely to the next base.
Offensively – Put the ball in play. Swing the bat hard. Run a lot. Challenge the defense.
Defensively – Get at least one "sure" out on every play. Avoid walks like the plague in most situations. Keep the ball low most of the time. Get ahead in the count. Don't give easy bases. Force the opposite team to "earn" its runs – don't give them to them.
These are somewhat very simple and very basic. Yet, I see many youth teams forget about it. They often lose focus by focusing too much on the more advanced strategies.
I've applied and really emphasized these basic rules with my pitchers, catchers, fielders, and hitters very systematically over the years, very successfully, and at various levels of game from 12U to 23U. The thing is that you have to always emphasize them until it becomes second nature, even though most of them are very obvious.
Play to shift the odds in your favor and win A LOT more games.