Winning isn’t always the goal

Ask any fastpitch player, coach or parent what the team’s goal is and the easy answer will be “to win.” But when you look at things a bit deeper winning may not always be the primary goal.

Take a 10U or 12U team making the jump from rec ball to travel ball. It can be quite an eye-opener for the girls and the parents. The rules change, the game gets faster, the teams get more aggressive, and the overall caliber of play is generally higher than they’re used to seeing.

In that first year wins may be tough to come by. But that’s ok. The real priority should be getting the players acclimated to the level of competition and helping them understand what it’s going to take to perform their best long-term. That may mean sacrificing a few opportunities to win in favor of player development.

That could mean letting a hitter who isn’t producing bat, even though a better hitter is available. It may mean suffering through more walks to give a pitcher with good long-term potential the opportunity to get reps in facing batters. It might mean putting a fielder into a position she hasn’t quite learned yet in order to give her the experience to play it later.

Winning is nice, no question about it. Me personally, I subscribe to the statement from Moneyball that I hate losing more than I like winning. But if your goal is to develop a team, and its individual players, to be the best they can be, you need to have a plan and stick to it – even if it means you lose more games than you would have otherwise today.

It’s all about your goals, which is why it’s important to set them before the season, when you can be unemotional about it, rather than during the season when you may be willing to do anything required just to get the W.

Know where you’re headed long-term and you’ll be in great shape. And when those wins do start coming, they will be all the sweeter.

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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 July 9, 2015, in Coaching and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The learning curve is definitely a tough time for players, coaches, and parents. The parents are wondering why their child isn’t playing. Thoughts like, “Why isn’t so and so playing that position? That other girl can’t even catch the ball,” go through people’s heads. I, personally, think that parents are harder to coach than the players are. Parents often think they know more than the coach.

    At the age of 10 to 12, the girls are starting to actually understand the game and gaining skills through live play. It is so hard to teach the “what ifs” when it comes to softball because both the ball and the runner can only be controlled to a certain extent. This age is so great for making mistakes because there is going to be room for error and room for improvement.

    I remember when I was at this age and playing summer softball was my whole life! We traveled to nearby towns to scrimmage other teams. Back then it was solely about spending the day outside in the sun with my best friends. Looking back now I see that I was learning some very valuable skills. I was on the varsity team as an eighth grader and started as a ninth grader so obviously these summer activities did me well!

    I think your paragraph that says, “That could mean letting a hitter who isn’t producing bat, even though a better hitter is available. It may mean suffering through more walks to give a pitcher with good long-term potential the opportunity to get reps in facing batters. It might mean putting a fielder into a position she hasn’t quite learned yet in order to give her the experience to play it later,” should be written in letter form and passed out to all parents. To go a step further, have them sign it saying they read and agree to the team’s goal/philosophy!

    Like

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