Why mess with the best players?
This is one of those mysteries of fastpitch softball coaching that just stumps me. Every year when the HS softball season starts I hear tales of coaches trying to “rebuild” the swings of players in the two or so weeks they have before they start playing every day.
It’s pretty unrealistic to think you can make significant improvements in a swing in such a short amount of time. What really gets me, though, is that these coaches rarely focus where it might do them some good, i.e. the kids who can’t hit a lick, and for whom any instruction might yield some benefits.
No, instead they decide to focus on the team’s top hitters. That’s just wrong on so many levels. The most significant of which is there is a reason those players are your top hitters.
There’s an old coaching saying that says if a player can hit .400 standing on her head, the coach’s job is to get her a pillow. In other words, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Now, I’m not in 100% agreement with that way of thinking; truth is it’s always broke to some extent. But if the player is a good hitter the odds are she’s had some training and all she might need is a little tweaking here or there. Yet Mr. or Ms. “Helper Coach” ignores that fact and instead tries to completely change what these players are doing.
When you have limited time and a wide range of ability, it’s not the top of your order you need to mess with. Let’s face it. On most HS teams if you’re lucky you have five good, solid, reliable hitters. That means nearly half your lineup still needs help. A smart coach will work with those hitters and try to get them up to the level of the top five to give them a better chance of avoiding the dreaded bottom of the lineup black hole — that place where hopes of victory go to die.
Yes, it’s tempting to want to put your own stamp on good players. Everyone wants to claim they helped those players get to where they are. But that’s not where your efforts will pay off.
Instead, work with the players who really could use the help — the ones without a clue — and not only will you raise their games, you’ll avoid screwing up the players who are your best hope of gaining more wins. Just sayin’.
What has your experience been? Do you know coaches who mess up their top players (and teams) by trying to change what’s working? Or do you disagree and think the coaches should work with the top ones instead of the bottom-level players?