3 Softball Teachable Moments

Youth softball coaches and parents, what are the 3 most important takeaways players should leave with with from their first softball team experience?

  • How to hit, field and throw?
  • Understanding teammates’, coaches’ and their own roles?
  • Something else?

The answer:  something else.  No one can deny the significance of learning the key tools of the trade or understanding what everyone does on the team, but there are more important things a young player needs to learn first.  For youth softball coaches and parents, they represent:

3 Softball Teachable Moments

Before diving in, please note there’s a reason that softball coaches alone weren’t called out as the sole instructors for these teachable moments.  Parents of players can play a big role in teaching and reinforcing Softball Teachable Momentsthese key principles.  As you review these concepts, think of their application as a child grows older. These are life lessons at a very high level. So, coaches and parents, here’s what young players need to know:

1. Try your best

THE MESSAGE:  You want each player to give 100% in practices and in games.  Emphasize that how a team practices reflects how they perform in games.  Let players know that from past experience you understand that results won’t always be the best, but the effort shown can be.  Reward the process  and the approach more so than the outcome.  Call out the importance of each individual trying their best for the team.  Encourage players to encourage others.

WHEN TO TEACH:  For coaches, teaching this concept can begin at the first team meeting.  Throughout the season, both at practices and games, there will be opportunities to communicate this message and reinforce it.  A batter hits a weak grounder, make sure you’re encouraging them to run everything out.  If you’re down by 7 runs in the later innings, don’t give up – try your best!

For parents, opportunities might come when your child is updating you on what went on at practice.  Giving your best also encompasses showing up ready to play for practices and games.  That might mean explaining to your child to pass on a sleepover the night before a big game.  It also might mean encouraging your child to practice in the backyard some of the skills they need polishing.  The best performers at nearly every level have likely worked very hard to get there.

2. Be a good sport

THE MESSAGE: Teach players the importance of winning and losing with grace.  Experienced sports coaches and fans will tell you the best displays of sportsmanship happen after games when you can’t tell the difference between the winning and losing teams.  The losing team members are busy congratulating the winning team members and the winners are busy consoling the losing team members.  No one is crying or hanging their heads on the losing team and no one is gloating or celebrating too wildly on the winning team.  In the game of life, there will be a roller coaster of highs and lows.  It’s important for young players to know how to handle the lows as well as the highs.
WHEN TO TEACH:  From a coaching perspective, this message needs to start early and be reinforced throughout the season.  One area for coaches to pay particular attention to is the post-game hand shakes between teams.  Like other fundamentals, coaches should have players practice this.  At the practice, before the first scrimmage or the first game, coaches should review the key elements to a post-game handshake.  There are 3 of them:

  • Look the other player in the eye.  We’ve probably all seen players looking the other way or at their feet with no acknowledgement of the other player.  That shouldn’t happen.  Poor sportsmanship reflects on the coaches and parents.  Make sure your players know how to do it right.
  • Execute the handshake, fist bump or high five with the appropriate level of force.
  • Say something positive about the player you’re interacting with.  “Good game” works, but I think it’s good to challenge players to find at least one player from the other team and give a sincere compliment, e.g. “That was a great throw you made from right field,” or “Your pitches were really moving today.”

Coaches lead by example.  Interact appropriately with the opposing team coaches before, during and after games.  Also, encourage your players to acknowledge the umpires.  Parents can help with some role play practice at home.  Introducing kids to talking to folks they don’t know that well is a good skill to introduce.

3. Attitude is everything

THE MESSAGE: Displaying a positive attitude can go a long ways in softball and in life.  Team chemistry, withstanding adversity and becoming a cohesive team are all affected by players’ attitudes.  It’s important for players to be positive, be encouraging and be good teammates.  Players should not be afraid to make mistakes, not get too down if they do and be willing to try different approaches.
WHEN TO TEACH:  One of the most effective way for coaches and parents to teach and reinforce this type of positive attitude is to model it themselves.  There will be times throughout the season when players’ attitude result in good things happen for the team.  Coaches in post game discussions or at the next practice time can call these out, as can parents at home.  Maybe your team comes back after being down by 5 runs and pulls out a win.  As a coach or parent, you can call out that players stayed positive and never gave up.  Maybe a player bunts to move a runner from first to in scoring position.  A coach can heap praise on the bunter and emphasize the importance of making sacrifices for the good of the team.  In almost any game situation, there will be opportunities to have kids thinking about bigger concepts than contained within the diamond.  As coaches or parents, look for these opportunities and make the most of them.


With these 3 fundamentals in place, young players will be in a position to flourish in softball, other sports and in life.


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