William Shakespeare had no idea that I could mangle his great words into something related to fastpitch softball, but you know we’re always looking for something to spark a little discussion. Those of you who know me know that I have never been a great user of the bunt but, like with many other things, there are some “do as I say, not as I did” situations.
Bunting is become a lost art in our game and coaches like me are very much to blame for that. What I have seen over the last couple of years is that hitting is fun but bunting is still very important.
There are going to be days where the bats struggle. There are going to be situations where moving a runner up a base is going to be crucial to your team’s chances for success that day. There is also, no way that we can expect our kids to get a bunt down if we don’t invest time in practicing it.
Coaches, we need to do some things to help our players become better bunters. They will value the skill of bunting if we value it too. Here are a couple guidelines that I think will pay off in a big way for your team.
1. Make bunting practice a priority. Require your hitters to bunt with a purpose during each practice. Whether it is off a machine, off of front toss or during scrimmage situations you have to include bunting into your routine. It needs to be an every practice skill. The hidden benefit to bunting in practice also pays off on defense because you can have your defense get a lot of work in when your hitters are working on bunting.
2. Require your kids to successfully bunt before you allow them to hit. If they know that they are going to get 15 total pitches but that they are not allowed to swing until they have executed each of your bunts they will take it very seriously. If the know that they are missing out on swings because they didn’t get a bunt down they will get to work. I promise!!
3. Add challenges, goals, or competition to keep bunting fresh. There are a myriad of target bunting, zone bunting, bucket drop and squeeze bunting drills to keep your kids interested. You can also make it competitive by ranking your players for their bunting skills. Nothing gets a players attention like competitive drills, except maybe seeing their name at the bottom of the scoreboard because their bunting skills are weak.
4. High five or fist bumps! Every time your player gets a bunt down it should be celebrated just like any other accomplishment. We can’t wait to surround home plate to celebrate a bomb, right? Well, if we meet a successful bunter at the gate to the dugout with a tunnel of high fives and pats on the back they will see that the team really values their sacrifice for the good of the team.
5. Be sure they know that a sacrifice bunt is a good thing. Too many players, especially young players, think that making an out is a failure. They often lack the knowledge to see that gaining a base in exchange for an out can be the best strategy for that situation. If they see that they are helping the team by getting the bunt down, they will be more motivated to get it down.
6. Make them bunt with two strikes! Yes, there are players who will or have purposely failed to bunt with he express desire to get the one swing you often give them after they have messed up on two bunt attempts. Send the message that you will hold them accountable and not allow them to short circuit what is best for the team by being selfish. They might “strike out” by messing up the third bunt attempt but they will also learn a very valuable lesson and gain more motivation to become a better bunter.
Let’s stem the tide of bunting mediocrity!
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.