The quality of mercy

Sorry all, I’ve been away for a few days visiting my son Adam before he deploys to lovely Afghanistan. Had a nice visit in Myrtle Beach, SC. So while I wasn’t blogging, I had plenty of time to think about posts. Especially while sitting in airports waiting for flights to board and take off.

One thing that’s been on my mind was something I saw at a tournament this past summer. Essentially, I saw a very strong team take advantage of a very weak team. I think the coach of the strong team realized that they shouldn’t have been in that tournament in the first place — someone else scheduled them in. But what she didn’t realize is there’s a time to press your advantage and a time to pull back. In this case, the strong team, who had experienced players at the 10U level, was able to do pretty much whatever they wanted against the weak team, who had mostly beginners.

My problem wasn’t running the score up to the run rule. You have to do that, and should do that to save your players for tougher games ahead. What I didn’t like, though, was the strong team continued to play as though it there was some danger the weak team could come back, even though it was obvious they couldn’t. Among the things they did that bothered me was continuing to steal bases when it was obvious the catcher couldn’t make the throw, running the bases aggressively on hits (going from second to home on a ball fielded in the outfield), bunting for hits when it was obvious the infielders couldn’t make the play, things like that.

When you’re in a mismatch, I just think it’s wrong to continue doing things to point it out, or to try to embarrass the opposing team. Yes, they’re not very good, but there’s no sense in rubbing it in. Some of the things you can do are not steal bases (especially home, even on a passed ball), run bases station to station, put in a pitcher who doesn’t get much chance to pitch regularly, or even kill an inning by stepping off the base early. (Let the umpire know you plan to ahead of time so he/she catches it.) You can have your team work on things they’ve had trouble with, or give your second string players at key positions a chance to play.

I’m a big believer in Karma — the whole what you do comes back to you idea. Karma has a funny way of evening the score. Like, you decide to have your #1 pitcher steal home on a passed ball and she winds up turning her ankle running across the plate. Or you keep playing your #1 shortstop and she winds up breaking a finger by misjudging a ball.

There’s also the phenomenon of a long memory. Your team may be way ahead of my team today, but perhaps they won’t always be. If I have the chance, I will do to you what you did to me, and I will enjoy it immensely. Fortunes change on teams, especially as they age. A lot of coaches have those kinds of long memories.

Then there’s the “you never know who knows who” syndrome. A couple of years ago we were at a tournament. The coach of another area team that I know was telling me how his team was spanked and humiliated by the host team. Apparently they thought it would be fun to run up the score against this team, which was just finding its way at 14U. Now, we have no connection to the area team — in fact we compete against each in games and for players — but there is something to be said for area pride. We played that host team the next game, and let’s just say we evened things up. Hopefully that coach learned a little something about knowing when to say when.

I know there are people who think you should always stay aggressive, never let up so your players know how to play the game. Get real. Kids aren’t stupid. There is a teachable moment, not just about softball but about life, when you’re in an obvious mismatch. The right thing to do is let up on the gas, and afford your opponents some dignity. You just never know when someone might have to do the same for you.


About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on August 18, 2008, in Coaching, General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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