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What does it take to have a winning team?

May 24, 2009
My daughter's team works out really hard in practice. We are a 12U team. We practice 2 times a week and 3 hours of practice. At practice, we are awesome fielding, batting and pitching. Every girl is very dedicated to softball. We get to the tournaments and cannot win a game. We fumble and miss catching the ball, tons of over throws, and girls will strike out. We look like the Bad news bears at these tournaments. Not that winning is everything because it is not. But our girls' moral is way down. If we could just win 1 game I believe their spririt would pick up. We have had several girls quit the team recently because they are wanting to go to a winning team.
I am looking at some of these teams at the tournaments and have to wonder how much are they practicing to get that good? What drills are they doing. Are they going to batting cages? What does it take to have a winning team? Do you have any suggestions ?

Ken Krause

May 7, 2008
Mundelein, IL
One question I have is what level are you playing? It could be that you're playing at too high a level for what your team is capable of right now. If you're playing in all "A" level tournament, see if you can find a "B" level tournament. While you can certainly learn a lot by playing better teams, it can also get very discouraging. Playing at your proper level will help.

Beyond that, they probably need to relax during the games. A lot of times the kids will put too much importance on the games, especially during tournaments. They don't realize it's the same game whether it's practice or the real thing.

If they're executing well in practice, the problem isn't physical most likely or a lack of practice. It's mental. Spend some time building their confidence and reassuring them that they CAN play this game. Focus on their successes and build on each one. They'll come around.
Dec 19, 2008
When you practice, what level are you practicing at? In other words, for example, when you hit to them for defensive work, are you lightly hitting it to them? A lot of coaches do this for fear of hurting someone. Our coaches hit to them harder than anything they would typically see in a game, including our close up playing infield and pitchers. Someone always goes home with a bruise or a bump (my daughter did Wednesday night), and she is a pitcher. But, come game time, they are prepared and have quick reflexes.

My daughter plays 12U. After my daughter goes to her pitching lessons, we hit the batting cage. Typically, I had the speed set at 57. She hits well, and always gets an infield hit. But, she is not fast enough to always beat the throw to 1st. Just recently, I turned up the speed to 61, and she had 2 hits to the fence in 2 games yesterday. The higher practice speed caused her to speed up her bat, which in turn made her drive the ball.

She pitched 2 out of 4 games yesterday. And both games she pitched a shutout.

Practice 10% harder than any game you'll see.


Ex "Expert"
Feb 25, 2009
It takes different things for different teams. My dd played for a team that was travel but comprised of her rec team. She wanted more and so played as a guest on another team. That team split with her team in league BUT at the age of 12U, they were traveling and getting their lunch handed to them often. Then, somehow, they turned the corner. They won an ASA Class B Northern National as 14U and last year as a first year 16U (Most could really have been 14U again including my dd) they went 58-23 counting playing in a 18U league. Suddenly a light turned on for them and they made huge improvements in every facet of the game.

Per individuals, that is never going to be "typical." Some are just gifted. My dd is a hard worker. She is not a natural athlete. Starting as a second year 12U, she asked to hit 150 balls per day in the summer. She has continued to do so and is now a sophomore in hs. When school ball ends, she will set up her own schedule and get after it. If you have enough individuals like this, you'll have a winning team. Besides, if they are working hard, they are winning anyway. Good Luck!


Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
Dallas, Texas
Coaching is teaching. If the coaches don't know what to teach or don't know how to teach, it doesn't matter how much time a player spends at practice. I suspect your head coach is clueless.

Since your team has not won a game, my guess is that the practices aren't very good. It might appear to someone who is inexperienced that they are good, but to someone who is experienced, they probably aren't.

A good practice will have the girls running from the moment they get there to the moment they leave. During the course of the practice, there is detailed, specific individual instruction for each player. At 12U, there should be a great emphasis on specific, individual skills. The amount of time for working on team plays is probably no more than 15 minutes.

If the coach is training the girls appropriately, and the girls are still losing, then they could be playing at the wrong level. An overly ambitious and inexperienced coach could have signed his team up for tournaments where the team is cannon fodder. At 12U, there are some very, very good teams.

May 7, 2008
I think that it takes great parents to have a successful team. They have to get the kids to practice and the games and reinforce what is being taught.

The kids have to be throwing and hitting at home. It is difficult to develop good muscle memory by practicing twice a week.

Do you have private pitching and hitting coaches? Because, many of the girls that you are facing are getting private lessons.
May 24, 2009
We play 12B, and what is sad is almost half of our team will have to move up to 14U next year. So we are really 2nd year 12U. Our pitchers on our team all have private pitching coaches and all do pretty well. The pitchers are accurate, but some are slow compared to other teams and girls can hit VERY well (too well) off of our pitchers. Hitting to the fence, then getting home runs because our defense stinks. But at practice our main focus is fielding. The girls are contantly doing different fielding drills. When we do practice batting it is hitting soft toss into the net, or the coach soft tossing to the girls. They rarely hit off a live pitcher or pitching machine. My daughter is a very hard worker and is one of the best on the team. Luckily, her confidence level is very high right now, and as a parent, I want to keep it there.
Dec 19, 2008
Our practices consist of (twice a week):

Warm-up throwing
Light jog around the field
Infield/Outfield work
Situational plays
Hitting off a tee
Hitting soft-toss (softballs)
Hitting soft-toss (3 different size wiffle balls)
Hitting off a pitching machine

3 and a half to 4 hour practices.

Occassionally live pitching/catching with batters. But our 3 pitchers and 2 catchers are expected to practice on their own time (much more than the other girls batting).

I do know a lot of the girls go to the batting cages on their own time.

My daughter (pitcher) practices at home with me on the bucket catching. I go pick up her catcher 30 miles away, once a week and take her to pitching lessons 60 miles in the opposite direction with my daughter. They also stay after lessons and hit the batting cages (not sure about the other pitchers and catcher) but my daughter is their #1 and her catcher is their #1.

The girls have got to practice alot to be successful. Hitting is about repitition (with correct mechanics). Tee-work will reinforce the mechanics. Soft-toss is about hand/eye coordination. But, that alone won't get the girl to catch up to the pitch speed. Gotta hit the batting cage.

Good coaches will have multiple stations going during the practices, so there will be no standing around. Our girls get about 10-15 minutes of socializing when they first get to practice. Girls have to have that, and our coaches realize this. But then, it's focus time, and no screwing around. They get a few 2 minute water breaks, then back at it they go.
Dec 19, 2008
The pitchers are accurate, but some are slow compared to other teams and girls can hit VERY well (too well) off of our pitchers. Hitting to the fence, then getting home runs because our defense stinks.

Pitching does not have to be fast. My daughter is the slowest pitcher on the team (although she is catching up fast) and she is their #1. Accuracy has to be more than throwing strikes down the middle. They have to hit their spots, and spin the ball. Really, a pitcher has to fool the batters.

Let me give you 2 examples of my daughters pitching on Saturday.

Game 1 she pitched: She faced 15 batters. 0 runs. 3 hits (on base) 6 K's. 37 pitches total, and 34 were called for strikes. 0 walks.

Game 3 she pitched: She faced 16 batters. 0 runs. 5 hits (on base) 1 K. 39 pitches total, and 28 were called for strikes. 0 walks.

She hits her spots, spins the ball (no outfield hits), has an awsome defense. I was in the dugout this weekend, so it was hard for me to see her "spots". After the coach showed me her stats, I asked her why she didn't throw more "balls". She said " I did dad, they were just swinging at em'." So, I guess she fools them as well. Couldn't be more proud.


Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
Dallas, Texas
A good coach watches the softball game and then fixes problems with the team. Some problems aren't fixable during a season--like pitching. And you can't invent talent where it doesn't exist.

But, a coach can focus practices on specific problems that occur during a game. The coach first has to recognize the problem--which seems to be difficult for some. A coach has to check his/her rose colored glasses and look at the players objectively.

You say the girls aren't handling balls hit to the fence. A coach should objectively look at a play and figure out why. You say the defense is bad. Why? *SPECIFICALLY*, what is going wrong?

(1) Are the girls not getting to the ball quickly enough? If not, then the players need to be repositioned. You have to have fast girls playing the outfield. If you have accurate but slow pitching, you have to have a good OF.
(2) Are the throws bad? If so, then you practice on throwing. (Not catching, *THROWING*. Target practice throwing.)
(3) Are the players not aligning correctly for the relay?
(4) Are the players catching the ball correctly? (Two hands??)

The coach should go through the list, and work specifically on those things that going wrong.

Hitting is a lot like pitching--you don't have enough time in a practice to work on hitting. Kids have to work on hitting on their time away from practice.

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