As an instructor and former college coach, I get asked the $1,000,000 question on a regular basis.
What should I look for in a new coach or team?
Changing teams or making the move to a travel team can be a very difficult situation to manage. I always tread lightly on this subject because I certainly don’t want to feel responsibility for a player ending up unhappy. But I do always try to help.
I always start with asking a couple very simple questions:
1. Why are you leaving the team you are on?
2. How important is it to you to start, play a certain position, hit in a certain spot in the line up?
3. What kind of coaching do you feel that you respond best to?
4. How well do you know the team and coach you are considering?
5. Are you looking for competition, fun, exposure or great coaching?
The answers to these questions can be very revealing. They do offer a great deal of insight into making the difficult choice of what might be the right team. Of course, there is more to the answers than just the answers.
Your responses should lead to a new set of questions that you and your player should ask of the team and coach they are considering.
How are decisions made about who plays and how much? Is it rotation or competitive? Does everyone sit (including the coach’s daughter)? If we are rotating, does that include championship play or just pool games?
Positions — Field and Lineup
Are positions determined by how a player performs in practice or in games? What is more important to who plays, offense or defense? Will I get to play my primary position a majority of the time? How much time will I spend in my secondary positions?
Are you an intense coach who really gets after a player for making a mistake? Do you encourage competition for playing time? Do you have a lot of turnover from team to team or year to year?
What kinds of tournaments are we going to play in? Showcases? Nationals? Local or long distance?
What is your track record for getting players recruited or placed in college programs? Do you have a strong network with college coaches? Can/will you help me with recruiting?
You should approach choosing a new team just like you make any other important decision in your life. Do your homework! Ask questions! Be skeptical! And, most importantly always remember that you are joining a team, not getting married. You don’t want to make a habit of switching teams but you should never stay on a team that doesn’t meet your needs.
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.
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