How fast does she throw? How many homers has she hit? Is she fast? Does she have a strong arm? Followed by a rattling of stats and comments like “SHe has hit 25 homers with her last team,” but failing to mention they were just outfield hits with lots of errors and extra bases….Or – she has 11 pitches and throws mid 60’s and she’s 11….
Today, we offer helpful ways to spot a softball player you WILL WANT on your team!
Recruiting for your team is tough. It’s hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. You hold tryouts and girls show up and you have a micro minute to figure out who will fit your team best. Not to mention that their performance on the field has nothing to do with team chemistry, and in case you haven’t figured it out yet – TEAM CHEMISTRY IS IMPORTANT.
So you sit there with your assistant coaches and run through drills and try to make the most of the 2 hours you have to spot the best players that you want to join your team. You’re trying to get a feel for their talent and skill level. You eyeball the parents and keep one ear out for how they are behaving on the sidelines. You’re assessing their bat speed, their foot speed, their throwing ability etc….
The. Struggle. Is. Real!
Problem is, with over 10 years of experience, we can say for sure there is a lot more to finding an excellent player than just stats, and skill sets…. We have found these ‘little things’ to be highly indicative of girls that YOU will WANT on your team.
We also believe in this thing that coaches are out there to coach. So even that girl with the ugly swing who seems a little bit raw, is worth a shot – and you shouldn’t be afraid to take on a “project” – especially if she exhibits any of these following characteristics. Some of our projects have turned out to be the best players we have ever had on our team.
- SHE HUSTLES. She runs off the field, and she runs on the field. She has an at bat, and regardless of how it went she doesn’t sulk back to the dugout, she hustles and gives her on deck partner knuckles before heading into the dugout. She needs a bathroom break, and you see her hustling back to the field. You ask the kids to shag balls or pick up the outfield balls and she is hustling. If she’s on the bases, even if there is no game at stake, she is hustling. Seriously. Hustling and hurrying and showing eagerness and not being lazy – even when they aren’t specifically being watched or it isn’t their turn, is a huge sign that they are passionate an motivated and hard workers. AND THESE ARE THE KIDS YOU WANT AT PRACTICE and at GAMES!
- Look, tryouts are socially challenging for these kids. There is pressure and they are nervous and there are new girls as well as girls from the team already who may have been together a while, and fitting in and feeling comfortable is hard. But look for the girls who try and make conversation with the others. Is she sitting on the far edge of the bench? Is she giving off a vibe that she is too good for the team? Look for her who cheers on a perfect ‘stranger to them’ softball sister who makes a good play or hit. Obviously, some kids are just super shy at first, but the way they interact with the other kids is important because team chemistry is important. AND KNOW YOUR TEAM CHEMISTRY and try and find kids that will fit in with your team culture and atmosphere.
- How does she react after a mistake? Strikeouts are part of the game. Do her shoulders hang low, does she tear up or pout? Do she seem to shut down or get OVERLY angry? Or does she ask for another ground ball until she gets it right? It doesn’t take someone with a masters in Psychology to figure out which personality will work out better come game days. Errors and strikeouts are part of the game, what is important is what they do next?
- Are they constantly watching over their shoulders for their parent’s reaction? We ALWAYS watch how kids interact with their parents? Are they barking at them to bring them another water, or smart mouthing and rolling their eyes at their parents? Are the parents overly critical, are the girls continuously or nervously looking for approval or disapproval from the bleachers? Paying attention to these details can be a great indicator of what the family dynamic is, which WILL have a huge impact on your team long-term.
- Is she coachable? We have seen 10-year-olds come to a tryout who think they know it all. Coach says, “hey backhand that next time” and they don’t even try. We have seen kids come to practice who throw like maybe they are throwing with the wrong hand, but yet they direction well and are open to it. Coachability is important.
- Athleticism. Lots of kids don’t like to run. Many kids don’t workout- and that’s totally ok, but athleticism is an important aspect of a successful softballer. AND THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SIZE either, as athletes come in all shapes and sizes. So don’t be too quick to judge a kid based on their body shape or size. But recognizing all-around athletic ability is important.
- Does she smile? We don’t mean clownlike freaky smiling all the time. But you know she’s nervous and trying hard to impress you, and likely a little uncomfortable. But does she smile? Is she enjoying herself? Some kids show up at the field and are stoic, and act as if they would rather be anywhere else. Smiling is a very subconscious reaction to happiness, and if you see her smiling – then she is having fun and kids that have fun and love the game are great teammates.
Another piece of advice is this. Yes, the softball world is small and people talk. (Boy, do they talk) Be brave enough to make your own opinion. Try not to listen to what you hear from other people. The worst parent/player combo for one team, may not be that way for you. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt.
And lastly, if you are holding tryouts then BE HONEST with the parents about what to expect. Don’t say you are an A-team if you’re not. Don’t promise parents’ positions, or playing time. Don’t try to sandbag players just to have them sit. In other words, don’t be an asshole. And whether they make or don’t make the team – let the family know. That kind of courtesy will take you far in the softball world.