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Building a team of first-time players

Jun 6, 2016
Wanted to try a thought experiment to see what everybody would do. This is mostly hypothetical, as I am not building an entire team of first-time players, but we do always have a decent number of first-timers at our tryouts, and I'm trying to come up with some better ways to identify the ones who should make the team.

For the purposes of the discussion, here's the situation: You are put in charge of a brand new high school JV team. You have no expectation of winning right away. Every girl (let's say 20, so you will have to make some cuts) who comes to you has never played organized baseball/softball before. Some have engaged in skills of the sport (played catch, gone to batting cages, played wiffle ball at the family BBQ, etc). Some of them watch the local baseball team so they have a basic understanding of the game, but some of them just want to join a high school activity. The girls who show up span the entire spectrum of athletic ability, though you probably don't have more than 1 or 2 great athletes in the bunch.

Given these parameters, how would you design a two-day tryout? What would you focus on? Would you spend a lot of time on softball skills, testing general athletic ability, some basic drills to see who can follow directions?

Remember, as the JV coach, your expectation is to find a group of girls you can develop into the next wave of varsity players in a year or two. And we can remove pitching/catching from the discussion. You can always borrow the backup varsity catcher and the #2 varsity pitcher for games until you develop your own.
Feb 3, 2016
I feel this selection could be done in just a couple of hours.

Explain the reason for the stations and what your expectations are to the girls. With emphasis on hustling and effort to and from every station.

At each station you instruct them to do something on the following.
Catching the ball transfer Etc..

I look for kids who hustle, follow instructions and are coachable.

Time the running from home to first.

Each would hit off the tee /15 swings into a net.

Play catch for 5-10 minutes.

Start close move back until they can't reach the other glove in the air. Pair up the stronger and weaker girls.

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Jun 22, 2019
You look for both...skills and athleticism.

if they’ve never played organized softball by high school, its going to be tough, but I would do what ksphenom said.

Run stations
1. 20 yard dash
2. throwing speed/form
3. swing speed and form
4. play catch
5. hit balls to them

make first cut...the un-athletic unskilled would need to look into drama or debate

Then, start giving instructions and see who listens, can pick up your directions and shows improvement (even very minor adjustments).

next start running bases to see who hustles and has desire even when tired.
Sep 29, 2010
Knoxville, TN
Day one. If I’ve got a pitcher and a catcher, I’m cutting to 15 day one knowing I’m keeping 12. Every girl gets 10 coach pitch down the middle front toss. I’m keeping kids who put the bat on the ball! Infield outfield taking ground balls and fly balls. Situational stuff is not that important with no experience. I ask who has played other sports, basketball, volleyball, tennis etc. I’m looking for athletes who understand what it takes to play a sport.

Day two. ALOT of hitting! I can teach kids to catch and throw fairly quick. Footwork is the key to fielding! Hitting will determine who are the last three I cut. . Have to score runs to win. I always keep that one questionable kid who has the “it factor” that may be on the cut line. Call it coaches intuition.
May 6, 2015
Can you access a pitching machine? I would want to see them hitting against close the pitching speed you think they will see. with the time you will have with them, cannot teach/learn the hand eye coordination to make decent contact, and some may simply not be willing to stand in the box. swing mechanics can be corrected.

HP to 1B time, HP to HP time.

find one who can demonstrate sliding (I am forbidden to do so anymore by DW), then ask others to try (mainly to see who will attempt, and who is likely to hurt themselves)

hit them all a few GB and pop flies they have to run possibly dive for, mainly to see who "goes for it" the hardest.

as they are throwing to each other, work down one side then the other, instructing individually on the biggest single mechanical flaw you see in each one. see how they take the instruction.

Keep 20-22 (that number is including your borrowed Varsity players). some are going to quit, some will get injured/sick. kinda sucks, but if long term is really the goal, try to keep mainly Fr or Sophs
Sep 29, 2014
Do you have a set number? If not I wouldn't really stress too much about it. Honestly you could probably pick out the girls you really want to keep pretty quickly...but you might not have enough for a team. If I had 20 I would probably just cut the girls who are really just not coordinated or athletic enough to learn or compete. I think you need at least 13 or 14 especially since you don't really know the commitment level plus all sorts of things can get in the way especially if this is the first time they have played organized ball.

Others have hit the mechanics of it just have them throw to each other lined up for 5-10 minutes...I could probably make cut after just that drill...lol, but then so more basics grounders, pop flies, hit off a tee, do some front toss, I'm OK with a machine if you have on but some girls just don't do well for whatever reason especially beginners, the running, like I said it should all sort itself out pretty quickly. I think the biggest thing is to be upfront with them about while you are not looking for superstars the sport requires some basic coordination, reflexes and athleticism.

I've seen girls show up with their little plastic glove from tee ball, no cleats and blue jeans...kinda scary.


May 16, 2012
New England
Hit ground balls just out of reach, Any player that lays out/ dives makes the team. "Drop steps to see if any can track a ball. Look for effort, aggressive swings. Picking up gear or putting bases away without being told always a plus. Once took a player for just saying thank you coach.
Aug 1, 2019
I don't cut anybody unless they are total screw-ups and I come up with an A-squad and a B-squad with some players crossing over to both. I contact other JV coaches on the schedule to see if they have large squads and if they would rather play two, 5 inning games with an A-squad and B-squad instead of one 7 inning game. A lot of coaches are looking for innings for their girls, and it's JV, so there are no conference standings or playoffs. And hopefully you get competitive games at both levels by not having the studs face the duds.
And yes, this is done without participation trophies.
Jun 6, 2016
Some really fun responses here, and a few things I haven't thought of before. Love the idea of seeing who will just try for a ball she can't reach. A girl who is willing to go all out like that is probably someone I want to keep.

Like I said, this is mostly a hypothetical thought exercise to see what people would key in on when scouting completely raw athletes (and non-athletes). This year, our JV team will probably end up with 6-7 girls new to the sport (with 10-12 brand new girls signing up).

The big thing I was looking for was to see whether people thought it was more important to see who can catch, hit, etc. a little bit right off the bat or who demonstrated athleticism and a willingness/ability to work to get better. Last year, I think we as coaches probably put a little too much stock in which new girls were the best at the very basic things on Day 1 and didn't put enough thought into who the best athletes were. We probably made a couple mistakes in who we kept because of this.

This year I was considering doing less evaluation of, say, throwing mechanics -- after all, we've taught most of our girls how to throw, so we know we can teach that -- and spend more time on speed/agility drills, testing quickness, reflexes, hustle, competitiveness, basic hand-eye coordination, etc. We can teach people to be softball players. I don't really know how to teach someone to be athletic, hardworking, and competitive.