Ever make a game decision only to be second guessed by parents, players your other coaches, or even yourself? If so, then join the club.
Discover how to leave the second-guessing out of it.
There’s always more information after a play then before it, but as coaches, our job is to find ALL the information we can before the play and then make the best possible decision with the information we have.
In my book, Softball Strategies, Coverages, Signals & Charts, I explore in detail all the factors that influence strategic decisions both offensive and defensive. I also wrote something that I recently re-read, and that still makes a ton of sense to me:
“When you make a strategy decision as a coach, it’s a good or bad decision if it was based upon all the factors involved and NOT if it was successful or not. It’s a good or bad decision at the moment you make it, NOT after the play is over. As a coach, you must make your decision ahead of time – only the fans (parents) and the media get the advantage of waiting until the play is over and then deciding what you should or shouldn’t have done.” – Cindy Bristow
How true is that? All the people watching a game are able to see the results of your strategy decision and then make their judgment as to what you should have done, and what they would have done. Hey, great point! But, irrelevant since as coaches, we have to make our decisions before the play happens based on the information that we can gather at the time – which is usually what the second guessers leave out.
So, what is this information we should be considering before the play? Let’s take a quick look at some factors to consider before any offensive and defensive play:
- Offensive Factors: (to go through in about 5 seconds between pitches & still have time to make the decision and give the signal)
- How is this batter hitting this game?
- How does this batter hit this pitcher?
- How does this batter hit righty or lefty pitchers (which ever this pitcher is)?
- Is this batter hurt (physically or even mentally as far as confidence goes)?
- What are our chances of scoring with this part of our lineup vs. later in the game with another part of our lineup?
- What are our chances of scoring now off of this pitcher vs. later off of another of their pitchers?
- Are our chances higher of hitting or bunting off of this pitcher?
- Can we move our runner 60 feet without giving up an out?
- If we bunt, can we get our runner to 2nd or is their defensive coverage going to throw us out at 2nd?
- Does their defensive coverage allow us to advance our runner without a bunt – by using a fake of some sort based on 2nd or shortstop coverage or position?
- Defensive Factors: (these change with each pitch as the count changes)
- What has this batter done in previous at-bats against us and this pitcher?
- What are they most likely to do offensively?
- What defensive set do we need right now based on them, us and the pitch?
- Where do we want this batter to hit the ball so we can position our defense accordingly and make the play we want to make?
- We then need to have our pitcher throw the type of pitch and location that will result in the batter hitting where we want her to – can our pitcher do this?
- Can we attempt a pick off to either keep the baserunner close to prevent her from advancing, or to pick her off?
- Do we need a pitch out to see what the offense has planned?
These are just some of the factors that must fly through our coaching minds on every single pitch. Based on our answers to questions like these we’ll determine our action for our best chance of success. As long as you considered the right information and made your decision based on those factors then regardless of how it actually turned out – it was a good decision. Remember that there’s a difference between a good strategic decision and a successfully executed play. Sometimes you get both, but if you’re thinking right as a coach you should always have at least the good decision part!
For more help with making great offensive and defensive strategy decisions check out our book, Softball Strategy, Coverages, Signals & Charts. Also, be sure to check out our defensive strategy eClinics: Essential Bunt Defenses, Stop the Madness – Defending 1st & 3rd Pick-offs and Steals, Defenses to Shut Down Slappers & Tie-Breakers.