Been a while since I posted on fielding. But as the summer season launches into full swing, it's certainly worth addressing.
Errors are a part of the game. We wish they weren't, but sooner or later every player is going to commit an errors. This happens even at the highest levels of the game. As Cindy Bristow once said in a coaching clinic about her pro team, "My girls make the same errors your girls do; they just do it faster."
Where it really goes bad, though, is when one error turns into two. For example, a ground ball is hit to the shortstop. She bobbles it, has a little trouble picking it up, then rushes her throw trying to make up for the first error. The ball sails out of play and the batter/runner (who would've had first regardless) winds up standing on second.
Or what about a throw trying to get a runner at a base? The ball gets away from the fielder, and the runner takes off for the next base. Either the fielder or backup picks it up and then makes a wild throw to the next base, and the runner keeps going. You can hear the circus music in your head as the merry-go-round starts to run. Often it becomes the start of one of "those innings." You all know what I'm talking about.
The reason these things happen, more than anything, has to do with the P word. No, not that "p" word, the other one -- panic. Players hate to make errors; when they do, they begin to feel pressure to make up for the error. The internal clock is running, they know the runner might be safe when she ought to be out, and soon the panic sets in. Mechanics go out the window in the rush to get rid of the ball, and suddenly one errror turns into two.
It doesn't have to, though. Train your team to avoid the panic, and to recognize when the internal clock has ticked its last tick. When that happens, it's better to eat the ball than make a throw. In the second scenario, where a throw gets away from fielder at a base, it's important to keep calm and make a good throw to the next base. If there's a trailing runner, it may even be better to let a run score than put a second runner 60 feet closer to the bag. It's hard sometimes to let a run score, but if you can prevent another run, or even get an out on the trailing runner, you might be able to short circuit one of "those" innings.
One other important skill to work on is recognizing when the runner is going to be safe no matter how hard you throw. Making the throw might make you feel better, but only bad things can happen. It involves some simple geometry -- how close the runner is to the bag, how close the thrower is to bag, and how hard the thrower can throw. Knowing those things, and practicing various proximities, will help fielders know when to hold 'em and when to throw 'em.
Teach your players to stay calm and make good decisions and you'll avoid having one error turn into two. Not to mention keeping the merry-go-round from starting up.
IOMT Castaways 18U
Contributing editor, Softball Magazine
Life in the Fastpitch Lane
NFCA Three Star Master Coach
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