NFCC coaching class on offensive strategies – Day One
Greetings from Denton, Texas, where I am participating in the NFCA’s coaching college class on offensive strategies. So far it’s been a lot of fun. This particular group has been very open about sharing ideas and discussing strategies. I also think the instructors — Jay Miller, Carol Bruggeman, and Scott Centala are particularly adept at getting the discussions going.
This is a class I’ve wanted to take for a couple of years, so I’m glad to be able to do it this year. I feel strong on the technical aspects of the game, but have always felt I could use some improvement in the area of strategy. I’ve gotten better over the years through some effort, but I still felt there was more work to be done to become the coach I aspire to be.
In any case, the class has been very interesting. One of my favorites was the idea of using a fake bunt/slap to help a runner on second steal third. Covering a steal of third can be challenging for the defense under ordinary circumstances. Do they leave the third baseman back to cover third, thereby leaving themselves more vulnerable to a bunt (especially if their pitcher is not a particularly good fielder)? Do they have shortstop cover third, creating a foot race to the bag with the runner?
As an offensive coach you can take advantage of that. The fake bunt part will likely get the third baseman to come in another step or two at minimum, pulling her further away from the bag making it harder for her to cover. Showing slap will likely freeze the shortstop for a step or two, giving your runner more time to win the foot race. The beauty is the hitter doesn’t have to get the slap down. In fact, you can have her miss on purpose. You give up a strike, but advance the runner 60 feet. Sounds like a good idea, especially if your runner on second doesn’t have the speed to win the race outright. And you never know — it might create enough confusion to get a mishandle on the throw and score the runner.
One other thing they encouraged was taking more chances on the bases. For example, going for two bases instead of one whenever possible. Part of that depends on the speed of the runner of course. No sense being stupid about it. Another emphasis was on keeping the trailing runner running. If your hitter slashes a single to the outfield with a runner on first and no outs, your runner should be thinking of going to third instead of cruising into second. If she does, the batter/runner should be heading to second base, not watching the play from first. Even if the first runner is out, you’ll still have a runner in scoring position. And if she’s safe, you have two runners in scoring position with no outs, giving you a lot of options while putting pressure on the defense. Miller said you have to be willing to have runners thrown out now and then; if you’re risk-averse you’ll never create those opportunities. Lord knows I’ve had enough runners thrown out going for the extra base, so with a little smarter approach we should benefit.
Obviously there’s lots more to it. But those are a few highlights. If you have the means and opportunity to take this course, by all means do it. Makes me wish we had a game coming up (instead of more snow to shovel).
Oh, and one last thing. We went to dinner with a bunch of the other coaches and had some great conversations. The type of coaches who would take a class like this are pretty cool, as a rule!