Put Me In, Coach...!

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Coaching girl's softball and boy's baseball teams has both many differences and similarities. They are obviously two different sports, but they have a lot in common. In the same way, the coaching position is known to be the hardest job on a team. He or she is responsible for choosing new players from the draft, batting orders, familiarization of the rules and regulations, and all of the appropriate paperwork involved. The coach decides who is talented and would do the best job in each defensive field position. An experienced coach will have an outstanding knowledge for the game and possess developed strategies for his or her team's successful season.

The most stressful part of this job, in both softball and baseball, is complying with the specific rules that must be followed during a game. Planning the line-up takes a lot of thought and careful consideration. Every player on the roster must play at least one inning of the game, or loss by forfeiture will result.

As in both sports, the umpire's judgements are official. Parents think they have the last say with coaches. Wrong! A coach cannot please everyone. Few of the parents will complain of their child having certain disadvantages. Among all types of criticism a coach faces, the one heard the most is that their child has not been getting enough playing time. In baseball, there are nine positions on the playing field. Softball has an additional player, the rover. The parents seldom realize that if the coach has fourteen players on the team, and only nine to ten positions exist on the field, the other three or four players must sit the bench. The substitution players look upon sitting on the bench as degrading.

The equipment used for each sport is similar. Each player uses a bat, ball, glove and a uniform. League rules for each sport state that all external items a player wears must exactly match each member of the team from the hat to the type of socks worn. The number printed on his or her jersey identifies each individual player to the umpires and scorekeepers. The technique for documenting each play in the score book is the same. The offensive strategy is alike. The moment the batter hits the pitched ball, the batter must run safely and consecutively to first, second, third and home bases to score a run. A ball that is hit over the fence is considered a home run. The objective of each team is to win by scoring more runs than the opponent scores.

The required equipment names are the same. However, official rules specify equipment styles and sizes to legally use in a game. For instance, a baseball bat is different from a softball bat. The baseball bat's barrel, the portion above the handle, is slender when compared to the softball bat, which is wider, and, in most cases, heavier. Rules prohibit a player from using a softball bat during a baseball game and visa-versa.

Softball rules state that the distance between base paths is 60 feet. This is a major distinction since the short base paths require infielders to react much more quickly than in baseball, where the infielders have 90 feet to work with.

Baseball rules allow a runner to lead off and steal bases as a ball is in "play." Softball rules restrict leading off and base stealing. Because the sizes of the balls used in both games are different, the method of pitching is not the same. A baseball is pitched in an over-hand motion. As the ball is pitched, the counter-clockwise motion of the pitcher's arm causes the ball to travel at speeds up to 100 mph. The softball is quite larger and somewhat heavier than the baseball. In a slow-pitch softball game, the pitcher delivers the ball under-hand in a slow, clockwise motion. At top speed, the pitch is delivered at 25 mph. A baseball player must have quick hands to successfully hit the fast ball. While at bat, a slow-pitch softball player must be patient and know that the ball will reach the plate sometime soon.

For obvious reasons, coaching girls is different from coaching boys. Boys and girls are motivated in different ways. For example, during instruction, boys prefer to be talked to in a macho voice, while girls prefer to be addressed to in a soft, calm manner. The tone of voice used to convey praise for a job well done is the same for each.

During a season, coaches experience many gratifying moments. Your team has earned a spot at the regional tournament. All of the hard work has paid off. In my experience, the most memorable moment was when the smallest member of my baseball team hit the ball over he fence for his first home run.

There is nothing more inspiring or more motivating than to have your team play a tough game and win. This is what keeps players coming back to the sport season after season.