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Inherited a team with a mentality stuck on "Loser"

Mar 20, 2009
Hi everyone-

I took over a high school team from a coach who is extremely harsh and was verbally abusive to his players. As a result, they only had a Varsity team last year.

This year, I have 30+ girls, 23 of whom have never really played. I have one pitcher who is excellent, a good catcher, a strong SS, LF, and 2B. Everyone else is pretty new, and it's obvious they lack even the most basic skills (even though some did play under this previous coach for two-three years).

Since I took over (he quit finally at the beginning of the month), the kids have started blaming me for their losses (JV has one once, and Varsity has lost all their games, many well over the 10 run rule). My assistant coaches and I have pushed them as hard as possible, but no matter what we do in practice, and how well they're able to execute skills, in the game, we fall apart.

Usually, the runs score due to errors, and then we can't get them back when we're up to bat. When the runs happen, the good players get frustrated with everyone else, and then the error-maker gets frustrated, and it just falls apart. They don't know how to fight back from defeat, even when they're only down by a few points. We've been able to hold the other team at 0-0 for four innings, but usually around then they start hitting my pitcher and the door opens wide.

Anyone have any advice on how to break this negative cycle? I've never seen it to this degree before, despite having coached for almost a decade. I have led them into making goals for themselves and the team, and I've done a lot of positive reinforcement when things go right. But there must be drills or something tangible we can do in practice to help them believe they CAN win.

I appreciate any help I can get. :)



Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
Dallas, Texas
Team building and attitude don't have anything to do with continuously getting 10 runned. Games are won 99.5% of the time by the team that fields better, throws betters and hits better.

You don't have an excellent pitcher and a good catcher. Excellent pitchers don't get 10 runned. An excellent HS pitcher will strike out 15-17 batters a game. The excellent pitcher will get another 2 or 3 easy popups, so basically the rest of team has to get 2 or 3 outs game. (There was a pitcher in Illinois who was so good her centerfielder made 4 put outs in 30 games).

Tough question for you: Relatively speaking, how time are you spending too holding hands and singing "kumbaya"? How much time are you spending hitting groundballs, popups and flyballs?

Are you benching girls that don't perform? Are you telling your pitcher, "It is OK if you walked her. Get the next one" or are you sitting her down on the bench and saying, "Like the view? Because if you don't stop walking people this is as close as you're going to get to the softball field."?

It sounds like you have decided to be Milquetoast to over compensate for the last coach. It isn't going to work.
Mar 2, 2009
Suffolk, VA

I was in a situation somewhat similar to you. I was asked to help with a school that previously had lost every game for 2 straight season by 10 Run rule. They didn't have a practice plan and the girls didn't have any work ethic. They assumed they were supposed to go out and lose and go home, they REALLY did.
*** What wound up working for us was detailed practice plans that did exactly as Sluggers suggest. Tons of flyballs to outfielders FROM Home PLATE and tons of grounders and line shots at Infielders. Catchers/Pitchers and corners had their own drills to work. Middles additionally worked range drills, throwing accuracy/backhand and shovel feeds to bases and foot work at 2B. We spent 60+ minutes a day working batting.
Pitching was VERY WEAK and although our PARENTS thought we had 2 decent pitchers, they had NO BREAKING BALLS and NOT even a changeup. They may have been good when they played little league against 12 year olds has nothing to do w/ Varsity against teams generally better coached (GENERALLY) and generally better skilled players. Mike Candrea states that defense is all about THROWING and CATCHING... he of course is right. Your girls MUST know proper throwing mechanics and proper way to catch and transition.
EVERY day we worked base running and/or sliding drills..... 7-11 minutes EVERY practice, good/aggressive baserunning can win close games, just as bad base running can cost you a close game.
1) In winter: Mandate to the extent you can: Conditioning 2-3 days a week: Although it is voluntary, you can tell them you do remember who shows and you make decisions on cuts!
*** BEFORE CONDITIONING: 20-30 minute classes teaching HOW drills are run, defense plays, positions responsibilities, rules of the game, score keeping, how to maintain the books for you, game dugout duties, etc.....

2) Suggest get a coach to help that knows the game well. May help get the confidence of the players and parents, cause if they don't have confidence in what you are teaching/doing, you will lose them. You need to gain the respect you need so you can teach them and make them believe that your practice plan will improve them.

3) Get these girls to work throwing drills and batting SOMEWHERE in the off season, whether its with a travel team, a local facility (maybe you can find a place to put a machine, and nets for working tee drills, various hitting drills and also hitting live pitching in a cage w/ a pitcher behind a net, throwing, OF mechnical drills and infield mechanical drills, catcher drills.)

4) You need to convince your most dedicated pitchers to work with a reputal pitching coach. Pitchers get more money for academic scholarships then other players and many DIV3 schools give academic money to help some of the cost. Not lots, but some. (Pitching coach can be someone from a local travel team, doesn't necessarily charge, but most/many good coaches do, as time is money. I hope you can find pitching coaches to help that won't charge and they can probably work with your catchers because even "excellent" pitchers don't do well W/O a decent catcher.)

4) Suggest you go to clinics that have winning coaches giving sessions, read what you can from Cindy Bristow, Cheri Kemp, Marc D has great info, Stacie M is also great input. Go to College games, VIDEO tape and watch college games (Especially teams that frequent OKC in teh College Workd Series!) on TV for how their players, play their positions, defenses and MOST importantly the announcers are often previous players that played at a high level and all game long are providing tips! Mike Candrea's clinics in Arizona is the best I've been at and I go every year as well as other coaches from the east coast becuase its well worth it! Lots more to talk about for how to turn a program around, but you cannot give up on the girls.
Jun 2, 2008
"Games are won 99.5% of the time by the team that fields better, throws betters and hits better."

Who wins the other .5%?

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