When you are a young player, it seems logical to play every position on the field. You are just getting started playing the great game of fastpitch softball and the world is your oyster. The game is fun and being able to play all the positions increases the chances of you staying in the line up.
Then something changes. The question gets asked:
“What position do you play?”
You didn’t even realize that you were missing the boat by not playing a specific position. Well, I don’t want to be the one to ruin your day, but we live in a world of specialization. And the real world impacts the game of softball, for sure.
When should a player specialize? This is a great question that has a bunch of “right” answers but all of them are tied to a players age and her dedication to playing the game at higher levels.
Playing fastpitch for fun, and only for fun, is a beautiful thing. If a player is playing for the sake of playing at a recreational level, they never need to specialize. In this setting, being a true utility player is a bonus.
When a player, and her parents, decide that they want to move up the proverbial fastpitch food chain, then the idea of a specific position starts to gain momentum. When to specialize also ties directly into which position a player wants to play. If you choose to be a pitcher or catcher you are choosing to play where some very specific skills are required. Pitchers and catchers do need to work on their overall skills but they are making a commitment to working harder than others to become successful at these very demanding positions.
Can you be a successful player at the highest levels being a “jack of all trades, master of none”? There will always be a place on a team for the player who can play a bunch of positions well. Having this type of athlete is good for the team because it is insurance against injuries because you always have players who can fill in.
But now the bad news: If you want to play college softball, you’ll need to find your best position and put everything you can into playing that position the best you can. College coaches like having players on their roster who can play several positions but they rarely recruit true utility players.
College coaches are looking for the very best players they can find at specific positions, period.
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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