A coaching friend of mine asked me to assemble a list of the things that high school coaches most want youth coaches to be teaching to their players. Assuming that these youth players will be moving up to the high school team at some point in time, knowing what the high school coach feels are important skills or valuable knowledge would be very useful. This discussion can also apply, in general, to the things that college coaches wish high school players knew heading off to college, as well. Same discussion just a little different level of expectation.
Now this discussion has to be a little more broad since each individual high school coach would have a different list of things that they value. If we put a hundred high school coaches in a room and ask them for their wish list there are many things that I think would end up on every list in the room. And there would also be some things that a handful of coaches have as their number one priority that might not even appear on most of the lists. So knowing the ground rules we’ll try to answer this question from the, “Coach Tory’s Wish List” and hope that many of these skills are on your list too.
- Bunting! All players need to be able to execute a sacrifice bunt. This skill must be broken down and taught at the youngest levels. No matter how great of a hitter a player might be, there will be a day when the best way for them to help the team is to be able to get a bunt down. The number of player coming out of what should be their developmental years that have absolutely to bunting skills is alarming. And once you get good at sacrifice bunts there are a bunch of more advanced bunting techniques that will take your game to a whole new level.
- Base running! Too many players lack the intuition and experience to be the terror on the bases that no defense wants to face. Learning to be an aggressive base runner is not limited to the fast kids only. Players need to be able to read the pitch out of the pitchers hand and see the ball in the dirt before it even happens. Players should be able to see the ball in the outfield and see the opportunity to take an extra base well before their coach gives them the signal. All players should have a very aggressive lead off at every base that makes the catcher think they are stealing every pitch, even when they aren’t stealing. These skills need to be practiced a lot more and make a much higher priority.
- Sliding! If you are able to take advantage of all the base running skills we just discussed then the ability to slide well will take your game to another level. Knowing how to avoid a tag, read the defensive player as they set up to receive the throw, use the right slide for each situation and put extra pressure on the defense you are going to be a major contributor, right away.
- Softball IQ! All players need a much more in depth and thorough knowledge of the game and its strategies. When a player can advance their way up softball knowledge ladder they are going to become a much better player very quickly. Again, you don’t have to be a great athlete to be a great player if you know how to play the game. Start with the most basic scenarios and rehearse them in your mind, practice them in practice and watch how other players act and react in games. As you get more comfortable and gain more confidence you can then add the higher level and more challenging situations to your data base. All players can become smart ball players, but it has to be practiced and emphasized!
- Throwing and Catching! Throwing is a skill, not a warm up activity. Catching the ball is a skill that needs to be improved. Too many players are lazy and careless with this most fundamental skill. If you can’t throw it and catch it, this game is not too much fun to play. Work really hard at being really good at these skills and you will get on the field!
As we already discussed my list might be a little different than some coaches but I would be willing to bet that the vast majority see these things a crucial. If a player can start with mastering these skills my guess is that your high school coach will be looking forward to you starting your high school career.
What do coaches want? Players who can play and players who do these things well are on their way!
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?