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Thread: Rebuilding High School Program

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    Checking out the clubhouse IndyHScoach's Avatar
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    Default Rebuilding High School Program

    I know HS coaches are not the most popular people on this site but I am going to ask for some advice. I just want to see if my thinking is anywhere near correct.

    I coached almost 20 years ago when I was fresh out of college, where I played baseball for a couple years. Local HS asked me to coach when no one else wanted to. I basically used baseball knowledge to help build better fundamentals. Very lucky that there was a local pitching coach that was willing to help. (I know pitching is the thing to fix.)

    This year I took a teaching job at a small school and was asked to coach again. The game has changed a lot so I have been trying to study as much as possible before the season starts. Indiana is a spring sport. My thought to rebuild a 4-20 something team is start with defensive fundamentals and find a pitching coach (may have a former D1 player help).

    Obviously everything has to be worked on but I would think there has to be some priorities and an order of operation to get there.

    Thanks for any suggestions.
    -I do not have a daughter or relative on the team.

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    I can talk softball all day let it be fun's Avatar
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    I think you have the right idea with bringing in someone who can help with pitching. Starting with the girls you have in place, teaching fundamentals on defense and improving hitting will go a long way but will not make your team very good. If you really want to improve the team you need to be looking 6-7 years down the road. If you wait to start with the girls until they are 9th graders, it is a tough proposition. Figure out what type of youth leagues and travel teams they have in your area. Are there leagues that support the geographic area where your students come from? Get with those leagues or associations and see what they are doing to help the girls develop. If you can get some quality coaching and run some clinics or open gym pitching lessons with the young girls that will help a lot. Identify those pitchers with potential and drive early (by 12U) and help parents navigate the whole travel ball labyrinth. If there are no TB teams in the area, maybe see if you can get some interest going yourself.

    Bottom Line: From what I have seen, if you want to have a good HS team you need to have a good feeder program that delivers decent ballplayers to you every year. You only need 3-4 players per grade and maybe a pitcher per grade to be able to field a pretty good HS team.

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    Certified softball maniac GunnerShotgun's Avatar
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    You will have to build it from the top and bottom. The girls that you have now in HS want to win (have some success) now and you also need to build it from the bottom (players in middle school and your local rec league aren't being taught what they needed if you went 4-20 in HS).

    Below is what I would work on. It isn't a list by a matter of importance it's a list in order of ROI. In other words you will get an immediate return by working on base running vs. spending the majority of your focus on hitting right away. No one is saying that base running is more important than hitting.

    1. Base running (various slides, first and third offense and defense, stealing, delayed steals, IF fly, dropped third, tagging up, etc.);
    2. Bunting (offense and defense);
    3. Defense (Kobata footwork...not everything he teaches is useful but some of it will solve a lot of problems);
    4. Pitching (Most pitching coaches in the Indianapolis area are not as well versed as the people on DFP with regards to the high level pitching mechanics);
    5. Hitting (the most time consuming but also really important. You will need to video the hitters and see where each hitter is (bat drag, doesn't turn the barrel, doesn't use the lower half, etc...)

    The second part is building from the bottom up. You need to get the middle school(s) and rec leagues in your district on the same page...

    I am from Indy and coach 18u travel at a high level so let me know if I can help in any way.

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    start with stick'em drills, and throwing mech. Then bunting and running. Every practice. Have to start with simple stuff and build from there.

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    Certified softball maniac FP26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by let it be fun View Post
    I think you have the right idea with bringing in someone who can help with pitching. Starting with the girls you have in place, teaching fundamentals on defense and improving hitting will go a long way but will not make your team very good. If you really want to improve the team you need to be looking 6-7 years down the road. If you wait to start with the girls until they are 9th graders, it is a tough proposition. Figure out what type of youth leagues and travel teams they have in your area. Are there leagues that support the geographic area where your students come from? Get with those leagues or associations and see what they are doing to help the girls develop. If you can get some quality coaching and run some clinics or open gym pitching lessons with the young girls that will help a lot. Identify those pitchers with potential and drive early (by 12U) and help parents navigate the whole travel ball labyrinth. If there are no TB teams in the area, maybe see if you can get some interest going yourself.

    Bottom Line: From what I have seen, if you want to have a good HS team you need to have a good feeder program that delivers decent ballplayers to you every year. You only need 3-4 players per grade and maybe a pitcher per grade to be able to field a pretty good HS team.
    Excellent post and something DD's school is currently working on. A new coach took over 3 years ago and started with virtually nothing. Since then she has been able to create a junior high program, has developed some relationships with local rec leagues and travel ball teams, has raised money and support to provide much needed field repairs, and started a high school run softball clinic for the elementary and middle school students. DD is a senior and won't be around to reap the benefits of all this, but I truly believe the coach has the program heading in the right direction. Provided you have the support of the school and the parents, I would consider it a long term process.
    "Once you stop learning, you start dying" -- Albert Einstein.

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    Do you have access to a school gym during the winter? If so try to get extra reps with high school and middle school kids. At my DD's school, we have a time slot for the high school and middle school (combined). Then after that we have a time slot for 4th,5th and 6th graders from our local rec league. Some of the high school and middle school coaches stay over and help the rec league coaches with various drills. That way you can teach the kids and coaches(mostly parents) on what needs to be done. Sometimes we have some of the older girls stay and help which is great because the younger girls look up to them.

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    The high school where DD coaches the head high school coach is over the high school varsity, JV high school and 2 teams for the middle school, a total of 12 coaches. When one of their players makes high school varsity they have had from 6 grade up to the time they make varsity, consistent and reinforcement of mechanics the head coach teaches. The program has been very successful the past few years.

    Coach I like the comment you made about studying and learning IMO a good coach never quits learning or studying the game, it shows you want to do what you can for your players.

    Good luck coach!

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    Thanks for all the advice and I will use all of it in some way I am sure. I keep reading the different post on different topics and gain more knowledge. Thanks again and I will continue to read..

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    All great stuff here.

    You are building your culture, which in my mind, is more important than any drills you do. Two things we like to say in our program is "how you do anything, is how you do everything" and "everything matters". Focus on how you do things just as much as what you do. Connect it to the classroom and life outside school/softball, as well. Absolutely, you have to do the right drills/skills, but all successful programs basically do the same things, the most successful ones do them with consistency. Don't neglect the mental side of the game, either. I walk around a lot at practice having conversations with players about their focus/attitudes/approaches of the day.

    If you like to read, a few books on culture I like are:

    Above the Line by Urban Meyer - This one is my favorite culture/coaching book I've read. Good insight into his program at OSU and how he changed from Florida to Ohio State. The stuff he talks about from Tim and Brian Kight is fantastic. I'm a big fan of those two.
    You Win in the Locker Room First by Jon Gordon & Mike Smith - Excellent read about how Smith built his NFL culture, and also good insights into how he lost it.
    The Hard Hat by Jon Gordon - The story of Cornell lacrosse player George Boiardi. Amazing story! I have my leaders/captains read this one. Of all the books I've had them read, this one is consistently their favorite.
    Burn Your Goals by Jamie Gilbert & Joshua Medcalf - Another one I have my players read, another favorite. Good read on setting process based goals and how to go after them.

    If you like Podcasts:

    The Mindside with Dr. Bhrett McCabe - Dr. McCabe is a sports and performance psychologist in Birmingham, AL.
    The Focus 3 Podcast with Tim and Brian Kight - The Kight's approach to culture building, to me, is the best out there. The podcasts are super long, but really good.

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    Great suggestions you just have to realize that building a good program with sound fundamentals and an environment the players enjoy and that does all the little things right and the right way can equal a team that everyone in the area says "they are a well coached team and the girls are great kids, I respect that program"...is not the same thing as building a winning program. If you are sound defensively and hit well you can be good and win most of those close games against the middle of the pack but the best teams in the area will almost always be dependent on who is in the circle...a quality #1 in the circle gives you a chance to beat anyone on any given day without that you are fighting with one hand tied behind your back. As others have mentioned these pitchers don't grow on trees and since you can't recruit it is just luck of the draw if that good pitcher lives on the right side of the track to be in your district (unless you are going to go down to the local 12U TB teams to scout and build talent)

    I think you are on the right track though; build a quality defense (errors lose a lot of games) and coach girls how to play the game (base running errors are another killer and game changer) and work with them so they are putting the ball in play (this is also huge, force the other team to make plays) these are things you have some control over and obviously create an atmosphere where girls enjoy playing the game.
    Last edited by djcarter1966; 10-10-2017 at 10:24 AM.

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