We all know that there is always a risk in playing this game. Sliding, running, diving, getting hit with a pitch, a bad hop that hits you in the chest are all inherent risks. There is an old saying that goes something like, “Bruises heal, but glory last forever!”
Well, while the glory might last forever, the fear that the bruise creates also last forever. And eliminating as much of that fear as possible is a key to keeping kids in this game.
We need to emphasize eliminating as much risk as possible for the young players we are bringing into the game. And there are many ways we can do that.
Use safer equipment with young players. There are several companies that sell safety balls. The safety ball feels like a real softball but has a softer core. This means that while a player will feel it if they get hit they are not likely to be going to the doctor for broken bones or stitches.
Start slowly and build up. With a young player a slowly rolled ball from a coach might be a great place to start when learning to field a ground ball. If you are out there hitting missiles at players who are not skilled enough to handle the challenge they are going to get hurt.
Use protective equipment. Heart guards, fielding face masks, helmets with face masks, arm guards and other types of protective equipment are smart ways to protect our players. Get over the old school thought that using these types of equipment are a sign of weakness.
Learn about basic first aid. Having the band-aids and ice bags are part of coaching every team. Learn how to help a player who gets nicked up and you will give them confidence in your knowledge and caring about them. If you understand the consequences you are much more likely to see the risks.
When kids get hurt, they start to wonder why they are playing a game. We need to do everything we can to prevent injuries from happening. If we want kids to stay in the game, tears from getting hurt should be a rare occurrence not an every-practice thing!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.