The quick and easy guide to coaching youth softball
| 5 min read
Yes, baseball and softball have a lot in common — but really, they are two different sports. A softball game moves quickly, thanks to the bigger ball and smaller diamond. And anyone who has been to a softball game knows the culture is all its own.
At heart, coaching youth softball centers on developing the skills players need to keep up with the game. From running a tight practice to making games a positive experience for all, we’ve got you covered. These softball coaching tips will set you up for a season of success. Just don’t forget your cheers.
Parents — they can make or break one season of youth softball. Make sure to start the season off right with good communication. Whether it’s by email or at an in-person meeting, establish your goals for the season, recruit parents to help you out, and emphasize positive sideline behavior. Setting your expectations from the get-go will pay off down the road.
All softball players need their own glove. The first-timers will probably need a lesson on how to break in that glove, which you’ll happily share once you see them try to catch with a stiff mitt. They also need a pair of cleats — either softball or baseball work. Besides that, it’s up to families to decide how much gear they want to get. For the lice-averse, their own helmet.
That said, most leagues give each team a couple of bats and helmets to use for the season. What leagues won’t give you, you can beg, borrow or steal (kidding!) — a bucket of softballs, as many Wiffle balls as you can accumulate, plus batting tees, cones, and a catch net if you are lucky.
A not-so-small part of being a coach is hauling equipment on and off the diamond. More stuff means more drills, more stations, more options for players. It’s a good problem to have.
You’ll need a plan to go along with all that equipment. Having a schedule in place before you arrive will help you use your time efficiently and keep your players moving. MOJO provides age-appropriate softball practice plans, of course. But generally-speaking, start with a fun, physical, full-body warmup, then, if they’ve played before, move into a version of catch. It’s a great way to get kids focused while working on a core skill.
Then, dive into the fundamentals. Something as simple as a solid ready position needs to be taught, as well as how to hold a bat and throw a ball. No matter the age, always focus on throwing, catching and hitting. These are the core skills of the game. Getting them right at an early age is key.
Running drills can be tricky when you have players with varying levels of ability – a common challenge with younger players. Choose drills you can adjust to be easier or more challenging.
These three receiving drills are a good start – toss further and higher for experienced players.
Just like practices, be sure to have a plan in place for game day. Set your batting order ahead of time – one that works with the strengths of your team. Practice fairness when rotating players in and out of the dugout and around the diamond. Especially with the younger players, the more experience they get at different positions, the better.
Be prepared to manage nerves when players are at bat. It’s one of the most stressful places in sports. Many players struggle with the fear of striking out. Some are even afraid of getting hit with a pitch. Coaches who celebrate effort help their players move away from these fears.
Your coaching mindset on game day should be a bit different than practice. Your team has put in the hard work. It’s time to see how it all plays out — literally. The best thing you can do as a coach is keep it positive. And of course, cheer.
Speaking of cheering, softball is loud. And full of slang. Get ready to hear it from the dugout. Let’s play ball!