How many softball hitting philosophies have you heard? I think that hitting is more individual than that. Some coaches have set rules that they have their hitters go by. For example, many will say, never swing the bat if you have 3 balls and no strikes on you. The theory I think is that because they say the pitcher needs to get 3 strikes in a row to strike you out and the percentages of that are not very high in some levels of the game. In my opinion this strategy does only one thing. It takes the bat out of the hitter’s hands for what could be the best pitches of the game. Especially if the opposition knows that your team uses this philosophy.
During the developmental part of the season, this should be a hitting game rather than a walking and simply getting on base game. When the game is on the line walking is absolutely as important as hitting to get a runner on base …. If it happens organically. I believe that what happens with this strategy is fear. Fear of the batter hitting a ball that is an easy out or fouling off and then swinging at anything. The other thing that’s happening in my opinion is an attempt to control the outcome of the at bat from the coach’s box. So why not let the hitters learn how to hit through the full at bat instead of only part of it. If you take the bat out of her hands on a 3 and 0, then when she does get a strike on her there is more pressure for her to have a good hit but she only gets 2 strikes to do it.
I also heard someone say to never swing at a changeup with less than 2 strikes on you. What? Again, we are taking the bat out of the hitter’s hands by using this strategy and trying to control the outcome of the at bat from the coach’s box. What if the change up is the best pitch the batter is going to hit? Do we really know if the batter is capable of detecting the change up in time to take it for a ride? Not really because we are not in their heads.
The point is, we are coaching individuals, we can anticipate their abilities all we want, but until we give them more control of their own hitting, we are not going to find out what they can do. This is another example of how we don’t allow our players to develop into competent softball players who are in control of their development. If they spend all of their time during games listening to the coach and only doing what the coach is telling them to do, they are not spending time learning and making adjustments based on their own abilities and desires to improve.
This also happens when the team is on defense. Every time the ball is hit, someone yells out where everyone should go and where to throw the ball. I say let them make the play on their own. Especially at the beginning of the season where they are learning the game or getting the rust out from not playing for a while. By allowing them to make the decisions rather than trying to help them not make mistakes, errors will become learning experiences.
Talk with them in between innings when they come off the field if you need to find out what happened on a specific play or how they thought their inning went. Again, we need to give the game back to the players and learn how to be more like facilitators than directors in their development. We provide feedback and skill training to improve the team when we are at practices and even in warm ups. Let them learn how to positively and constructively provide feedback for themselves and you would be surprised at how they look forward to practices to improve on the skills they know and feel they need to improve.
If you can allow your players to become more self aware while they are at the plate and on the field, they will begin to make their own adjustments to improve their game and to have more success.