Using a Report Card to Keep Your Softball Players on Track

softball report card individual players starting bench

Having a great team year in and year out isn’t easy. Sure, it takes great players, but it also takes the ability to know whether you’re on or off track.

Discover a softball grading system that could help you a lot!

In my many years coaching and teaching softball, I’ve learned a lot of incredible coaching tips and ideas from my softball friends around the world. Some of those tips and ideas pertain directly to softball, some of them may be a little “off topic.” One of those “off topic” things I learned was from Carol Hutchins, now retired, long-time coaching great and national champion at the University of Michigan. Hutch taught me how they used a Report Card system at Michigan to grade each of their players performance throughout the season. The Report Card allowed them to break down their season into smaller, more measurable 11 game chunks, preventing their players and thus their whole team, from getting too far off track.

softball report card individual quality at bats

Here’s how it worked. Every 11 games they used the Softball Report Card shown at the left to grade their players. Starting Players and Bench Players (Subs) had different criteria listed on their cards since they had such different roles.

Here’s a look at the stats used to grade starting players on their Report Card:

  • QAB%: These are defined at the bottom of the report card noted by the red arrow
  • OB%: On Base percentage
  • SLG%: Slugging percentage
  • RISP%: Runners In Scoring Position percentage, or, their batting average with runners in scoring position
  • RBI’s: Runs Batted In
  • BA: Batting Average
  • ADV. RUNNERS: Ability to advance runners whether from 1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd or 1st to 3rd. If a batter advances them home then it would be listed as part of the RISP% and the RBI’s.
softball report card individual players starting bench
  • FLD %: Fielding percentage

If you’re going to say that every player on your team is important and plays a critical role in the team’s success, then you have to measure and grade the subs, or bench players, as well. Since they contribute in different ways from the starters you’ll need to grade them on different criteria. The card to the right shows some of the things you would grade your Subs on:

  • Effort: Grade your bench players on their overall effort while on the bench. How much effort are they giving to whatever they’re supposed to be doing on the bench? Some of that will be up to you to determine what exactly your bench players are supposed to be doing.
  • Enthusiasm: How much enthusiasm do they have on the bench? For some teams this might be how loud they cheer, while for others it might be how supportive they are to their teammates on defense, or the hitter up to bat.
  • Engaged in Game: Basically, are they paying attention while they’re on the bench?
  • Watching Runners: Do you have your bench players watch to make sure the opposing team’s baserunners touch all the bases? If so, then grade them on how well they do this.
  • Charting: If you have your bench players do any charting then grade them on how complete the charting is, how detailed and thorough it is, and also how legible it is.
  • Warming Up: Are they each staying warm in the event you ask them to go into the game?
  • Ready to Go In: When you turn and tell them you need them in the game, are they ready? Do they know where their glove is, or their bat and batting gloves, or their helmet? How ready are they to go into the game when you call upon them?
  • PR-Taking Extra Bases: For the Pinch Runners (PR), how many extra bases did they take? Did they advance when the pitcher threw the ball in the dirt, on the bunt, on the wild pitch or passed ball?
report card team totals players grade

The Sub Report Card will have grades given in each column for each item instead of stats, since the bench players won’t have actual stats for things like “Effort”, “Enthusiasm”, etc…

What you’re doing by grading ALL of the players on your team is creating a way to not only evaluate their performance, but you’re letting them know that you’re paying attention – that you notice the things they’re doing really well, no matter how big or small the contribution might seem.

The Entire Team is graded as well since ultimately each individual is trying to contribute to the overall success of the team. The team report card looks just like the player report card except it’s filled in with the stat totals for the team. To grade your players based on their most recent grading period you’ll need to determine a fair and attainable grading scale. The one that Hutch used is listed here. They use an 11 game grading period to break their 52 game season in 1/5 chunks but you can use any number of games that makes sense to you and your season. Try to avoid 2-3 game grading periods since those usually aren’t large enough to really measure much. The exception might be if those 2-3 games are playoffs, then it might be very useful.

softball report card grading scale 11 games

Notice on this Grading Scale how they’ve broken up the FLD% into smaller sub-groups based on positions. They’ve grouped the M IF’s – Middle Infielders (SS and 2nd) together and given them an A for slightly lower FLD% than the other positions. That’s due to the amount of balls they field and the slightly higher room for error. They’ve also grouped 3rd Base and Pitchers together, as well as 1st Base and Catchers and then the final group are the Outfielders. Notice how the outfielders are only allowed 1 E in 11 games for an A, any more than that and it’s not an A. Again, the lack of reps makes the need for error free play higher.

Also listed on the grading card, but not given actual letter grades are Ability to Adjust, Energy in Game and Aggressiveness. These 3 things were important enough to Hutch that they made the grading scale.

After reading through all of this let’s review the Keys to Grading Yourself Like the Champions:

  • If it’s important to success then it needs to be graded.
  • Break down the whole season into smaller, more measurable parts.
  • Determine the things you want to measure with your team and players and how you’re going to define those things.
  • Determine what behaviors you want from the players on your bench and then create a Report Card for them as well as your starters.
  • Be sure that you’re grading scale is appropriate for your level and not based on a top Division I college team!
  • Remember that grades have to be challenging, yet attainable! Don’t take a great idea and turn it into a huge bummer by making your grading scale impossible to attain.
  • Grade yourself and your coaches. What’s good for the goose….
  • When reviewing the Report Card with each player be sure to let them know exactly how they could raise their grade, and that you’re available to work with them to help make that possible. Don’t throw it all on the players.

My thanks to Carol Hutchins and the entire Michigan coaching staff and team for allowing me such open access inside their program.

For more help with this topic check out the following:

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