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Establishing Rules and Expectations

Rules are a team’s foundation and the groundwork for how they will approach things come game time.

There are two sides that must be addressed when coaches are laying down the groundwork for their team, and two places where the information must be communicated.

For the players it is imperative for them to be involved and focused, both when they are on the field and on the bench. And parents must also be privy to workings of the team in order to ensure that rules are adhered to as closely as possible. 

“The rules help to keep order and help the girls stay into the game and know what’s going on every game,” said Chris MacDonald, a coach in the Medford Youth Girls Softball league in Massachusetts. “You try to teach them the game and certain things that are situational.”

For MacDonald, the enforcement begins on the bench with the lineup board that shows each and every player where they will hit, or when they will enter the game.

This eliminates the constant asking of when one may be batting. MacDonald has also initiated the practice of having his players sit on the bench in the same order as the lineup. That way, they are ready to step up one after the other when the team is getting their at-bats.

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Another bench rule is making sure that the players have what they need from their parents before the game begins. This is in an effort to keep players engaged and not have them walk away from the bench for extended periods of time to get a drink or snack from their parents.

“When you’re batting for the inning, I want it so that one is coming off the bench after the other, in order,” MacDonald said of the bench setup. “If you have a drink, bring it to the bench. Try to prevent the disruption of them spending five minutes with their parents and we’re looking for someone at bat. We try to enforce those as bench ground rules.” 

Within the game itself, MacDonald likes to pinpoint four or five specifics that he feels should be constants for his players.

Some points of emphasis that have paid dividends include: having one of his players take charge of calling the outs in the field, making others aware of where the play is going to, and when and making sure everyone knows they have a green light to take second base in a first and third situation. 

“We try to teach them some rules that are situational as well,” said MacDonald, who has coached girls from age six to 12 in his seven years. “You can’t overwhelm them, so you try to give them certain things that should be no-brainers, like 3-and-0, you’re going to take (a pitch).”

But of course each team is different, and depending on age and talent level, it is best for each coach to individualize their preferences for what they feel would work best with their group. But seeing things on two sides will help them plant solid roots for a successful season, regardless of results.

From GameChanger and Craig Forde. Photo by Lesley Show.

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