You need to score runs to win games. What many don’t realize is that a good defence is a good offence. By limiting runs by opponents, you need less runs to win the game, and this starts with basic offensive strategy, which starts with putting the ball in play. How are you going to produce runs against your opponents by using the strengths of your team to their fullest potential?
A walk is another way that runners get on base. The amount that this happens though depends on the experience level of the team. Walks are not unusual with less experienced teams but is of course less common as the players gain experience and skill.
Some things that effect basic offensive strategy
- the strength and experience level of your team
- the strength and experience level of the opponents defense
- importance of the game
- the coaches offensive philosophy
Lets look a little closer at each of the items.
The strength and experience level of your team
At the beginning levels of softball, simply hitting the ball can be a challenge for batters. An inexperienced skill level and all of the psychological obstacles that go with being at the plate, can cause unsureness even in the most athletic players. I like to encourage new players to simply hit the ball when they are up to bat. I say “if you can reach it and you think you can hit it, go for it” and have fun with it. So often there is a focus on balls and strikes, which can take the focus off the ball. The reason I encourage them to hit the ball if they think they can is to develop their hand eye coordination and their confidence. As players get more experienced in the game, they will be more able to focus on balls and strikes. In addition, at the younger levels, the pitching is not always consistent, which makes building hand eye coordination even more useful.
The strength and experience level of the opponents defence
A weak defence allows the offence to be aggressive and score runs that they they don’t necessarily earn. A run is a run is a run though right? Right. I do encourage though that if you are coaching a young inexperienced team, you do not steal on the battery and insist that your players hit the runners around the bases rather than stealing as soon as the ball is pitched to get as many runs as possible. This does not promote any development during the game and does nothing for the confidence of your players or the team you are playing against. It simply ensures a quick game where you get to put a big score on the board. It is different however if you are in the play-offs and you need to win as many games as you can by as many runs as you can. If you are in league play where everyone gets to play in the playoffs, it is beneficial use league games to develop rather than just going through the motions.
Importance of the game
This is where everything either counts or it “doesn’t really”. A play-off game will be approached differently than a regular league game as mentioned earlier. You should have a scouting report on your opponents and compare it to your own teams statistics against that opponent. Or, if they are a particularly tough defence, you might want to put players in the batting order who can execute the short game very well and are fast and aggressive baserunners. Looking in advance at your schedule you may slot players who would not play as much in the tough games in a game against an opponent who is not as strong.
Coaches offensive philosophy
This is where all decisions are made or not made. A coach who is very aggressive and believes in taking risks to test the defence and put them on edge, will be stealing a lot and using offensive plays that challenge the opponents. A hit and run or bunt and run is not necessarily a tactic that a conservative coach will use. Some coaches also have the batter automatically let the first pitch go by on every at bat, to see the pitch. Some will also have the batter not swing on a 3 and 0 count at the plate. Take some time to really reflect and consider your coaching philosophy on offence and defence, and see where you stand. Some coaches have never done this and might be missing out on things that might be beneficial to the offence.
I am an aggressive coach who believes that a batter is up to bat to hit the ball. I would never tell a batter to let the first pitch go by as that might be the best pitch because no pitcher wants to pitch a ball as their first pitch to the batter. A 3-0 count on the batter is the same in my opinion. I have not met any pitchers who didn’t want to throw a strike to the batter on a 3- 0 count. Again it might be the best pitch they see.