New Coach - Where to start?!

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May 17, 2012
This post made me break out in a cold sweat, and I've been at this for 15 years.

You're not the first person to be in this horrifying situation, but you MUST get some help! If you don't have any capable parents who are willing to step up, ask the league for some leads or post on the local softball bulletin board. There are loads of very experience people with kids who are in college or grown; I'll wager that you'll get someone to help you out if you ask for it. I saw a new 12U Rec coach in this situation a few months ago. He got so many offers that he ended up turning people away.

To play a ball game, you need to pitch and play basic defense. For the team, start with throwing, catching, and fielding. Construct your practices to maximize repetitions and avoid having people stand around. Leave the bats in the car. You can do the drills in the link below at any level of softball. You just need a bunch of softballs and several buckets. The great thing with this is that ANYONE who can roll a ball can help you with this, and it can be done at the most basic of levels.

You find lots of links here to other Mike Candrea videos to get you going. You can find tons of videos on throwing, hitting, pitching, and some say conflicting and confusing things. Candrea (look him up) has been at this a long time and does a good job of simplifying it. won't be teaching this yourself, but find out who might be interested in learning. Hire a pitching instructor to give a group lesson, and see who might look promising. For Rec, all you need is ONE kid who can get it over the plate, but two is better. The chosen ones need to then schedule individual lessons.

Catchers...same thing. Hopefully, you'll have someone (or two) who wants to learn and will make the investment in gear and a few lessons. Send them with the pitchers to the pitching lessons!

That's the starting point. Hitting comes after being able to field a defense that can catch a lazy fly ball, stop a grounder, and get an out a 1B.

Some great information in your post. I hate Candrea's fielding videos though...the footwork is so bad.
May 17, 2012
I enrolled my daughter in as 12U fastpitch rec league for the fall. It's a draw team, so all the players that didn't register as part of a formal team. Nobody volunteered to coach and the league was on the verge of refunding everybody and dropping the draw team. I didn't want to let that happen to my daughter or the 14 other girls that signed up and just wanted to have fun and play softball. So, I stepped up to the plate and offered to coach. Everybody is excited that the girls get to play. Life is good.

It's at this point that it hit me: I don't know how to coach softball. I haven't played baseball in (*checks calendar*), 16 years. It also doesn't look like I'll have a lot of assistant coach help from the other parents. Most of the girls just finished their first season in a 10U program, some of which could still stay in 10U but we don't have enough softball interest nearby to field a 10U fall rec league. Practices likely need to start in 2-3 weeks. I'm desperate to find a way to make it a good experience for these girls because they deserve it and because rec league youth softball is struggling for participation in our area.

In addition to fun, my coaching strategy is going to have to be heavily focused on fundamentals, but I want to make sure that I'm teaching them the right way. Some google searching and YouTube viewing has yielded largely conflicting information, but plenty of comments about how "practice makes permanent." Obviously I don't want to spend the next couple months teaching them bad habits they'll just have to unlearn in the Spring.

Given the lack of an unlimited budget, what's the best bang for my buck to help put together practice plans and help me learn (quickly) how to teach the fundamental mechanics the right way? I know there's only so much I can do and I'm not expecting miracles, but I want the best for the kids. That's what it's all about.

TL/DR: Volunteered for something I haven't done before. My #1 priority is the experience for these girls and that I set them up for success so they continue to come back to the game. I don't want to leave them with bad habits that they have to struggle through in the Spring. Any helpful resources that I can drown myself in over the next few weeks would be greatly appreciated!

I have done exactly what you are doing and I only have one piece of advice. Practice nothing but base running and bunting as a team. Conversely practice defending the bunt defensively as team.

You aren't going to have enough time to do anything else well.

You can coach up the players individually before and during games as needed in other areas.
May 1, 2018
Figure out pitching and catching ASAP.
Throw and catch ....ALL THE TIME
Hit ..... ALL the time (Start every hitting station with 5 bunts)
If you have your list of girls already .... start practice now.
Figure out your strategies as a coach now. (IE runners on third with less than two outs, bunt.) (Runner on First less with no outs Bunt and steal and keep going to 3rd) Those little things matter.
There is a million drills.....but it won't matter if they don't know where to go with the ball. Run it over and over.
Oct 3, 2011
Right Here For Now
It looks like the catching camp doesn't offer the $40 DVD anymore, which is a bummer. I may still reach out to them and see if they have copies laying around.

No, but the do offer the download/on demand. Go to the coming soon link, click on the DVD purchase link and the message saying it is no longer available will pop up. Right below that is the link to Vimeo for the on demand/download.
Nov 18, 2015
+1 for NFCA. I believe all the videos shown above, ebook, Practice Keys, and Plans and Drills Package 1 are included with the first year membership.

IIRC, the per-membership cost for multiple teams drops to like $50 if you sign up for 4-5 accounts.

IMO, an even better bang for the buck (or just get both) is an ABCA membership. I signed up before the convention last year, and now have access not only to this years virtual convention, but access to the video presentations from just about every previous convention. Wasserman has presented several times, Jerry Weinstein numerous times, Trosky, Tanner Swanson, Ryan Sienko (can you tell I favor the catching info?). To get past NFCA videos, you still have to buy them separately. Not ridiculously priced, but NFCA isn't nearly as big as ABCA, so I can understand their need for revenue.
May 29, 2015
Based on my background ... don’t go out buying videos. Your players are not ready for that. I’m not saying there isn’t something to be learned, I’m saying you don’t need to spend money. Figure out your goals and make sure your actions align.

You said you are a 14u team with some 10u players ... that concerns me, but I admire the “whatever we need to do so they can play” attitude.

You also mentioned “so they don’t have to unlearn things in the spring.” Where will they be playing in the spring? Start by asking there ... find those teams/coaches and ask them what they would like to see. You might find some help.

I also love the idea of reaching out to some older players (high school or college), especially if they played for the organization.

Finally, to circle back where I started ... THANK YOU! I have a soft spot in my heart for community rec leagues. They need to be revived.

I recently visited the program I ran and was happy to see they had retained the partnerships with other programs (something I worked hard to build), but was not surprised to hear (and see within 15 minutes) that it was hanging by a thread due to the people in charge. It is a shame. Community ball needs to survive and be treated with the respect it deserves.

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