Pregame Getting Your team ready to play:
Make sure your team’s equipment bag is ready and all equipment is in working order.
If you have an away game during league play, make sure you know where you’re going well beforehand. If necessary, call the opposing coach to verify directions and field numbers. Distribute directions to all players well before game day (at last practice, via email using Mapquest, etc.).
As a general rule, request that all your players be at the field ready to warm-up at least 30-40 minutes prior to game time. As coach, you should be at the field well before your players to set up and do a pre-game field inspection. Note any problems with field conditions or issues that could result in injury. Consult with opposing coaches and umpires when necessary to discuss possible problems and/or alternatives.
Make sure your team knows what you expect of them at the field. This includes dugout etiquette and organization, such as how you expect them to treat each other and their opponents while at (on) the field, and how to enter and leave the field (“we run on and run off”), etc. Remind everyone that they are representing ZFA while at the fields. Accordingly, fields and dugouts should be left in a clean condition following all games, wherever they are played! After your game, please make sure your team quickly picks up the dugout in consideration of the team playing the next game, which quite often is waiting to get into the dugout. This process and protocol should be discussed at practice so that by game time your team knows and understands your pre-game/post-game process and plan.
Setting the batting order and defensive line-up:
Be Prepared! Come to the game with a written batting order and position list so that you can use your pre-game time wisely. Use a line-up card (or line-up template) that allows you to pre-define what positions your players will be occupying for every game (see Player Rotation Form in the Coaches Corner).
Make sure you know who will be absent at every game beforehand if at all possible. Do your line-ups in pencil! Unfortunately, coaches often don’t know when someone will be sick or unable to make a game, until just before game time. For this reason, using a pencil can make last-minute changes easier.
Depending on your opponent and game situation, consider where your players will be successful for that game (i.e.; some players are better playing 2nd than 3rd, or are more efficient at 1st base than in center field). Know your players’ strengths and weaknesses. Try your best to know something about your opponent in order to plan accordingly. Watch the opposing team warm up.
Time goes by quickly during pre-game warm-ups. The more focused your team is during this time, the more ready players are to play. Warm-up drills are numerous and every coach has particular drills they like and which work best for them. Because time before each game is limited, it’s imperative that your pre-game routine is well defined. Here are a few things to consider prior to game time:
What About Playing Time?
Development of players, particularly at the younger age levels and lower tiers, is valued over a winning record. Each girl is to learn and play several positions. Balanced (not necessarily equal) playing time, particularly at the younger age levels and lower tiers, is to be dictated as much by commitment and attendance as skill level. An easy way to assure equal time on younger teams is to track innings played by each player on the form found in the Coaches Corner.
Guidelines for all traveling “B” teams and lower tiers & all Fall Ball / Dome Ball teams:
Girls shall be given the opportunity to learn and play several positions including infield and outfield positions.
Playing time shall be balanced (not necessarily equal).
Playing time is dictated as much by commitment and attendance as skill level.
Roster batting shall be used when allowed.
Guidelines for Class “A” teams at 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U:
Teams will be highly competitive and coaches may use their own discretion in assigning positions.
All players shall play at least ½ of the innings for league games and ½ of the innings for tournament games. Some factors that may reduce playing time include, arriving late, missing games and practices, lack of effort.
Coaches are obligated to honor tryout results regarding the #1 and #2 rated pitchers assigned to each team, deviation is allowed for injuries or player schedule conflicts.
At the 10U levels, if a girl wants to pitch or catch they should be given the chance, to further the progress of players in our program, but not at the cost of the team winning games.
You are the Coach:
Remember that each game is only ONE game of a long season. Development will come through experience. While winning games is nice, and certainly will make you feel like a successful coach, the goal is to develop players and build a TEAM. Players and parents will remember much more about how you conducted yourself than they will about the score of any one game or the final season record.
HINT: If you have constructive criticism to give to your players, do it in a conversational manner after each half inning. Get your players into the habit of sitting on the bench after each half inning for a few moments, while you review what they did right, and what needs to be improved.
Finally, remember to tell your team that our primary goal is to learn, develop, play softball and have FUN!
Dealing with Umpires!
ZFA hires umpires to officiate the league home games. Every effort is made to assure quality officials. ZFA believes the umpire has complete authority once a game begins. Remember, umpires are human. They are going to make mistakes just as you might. Youth league umpires like to umpire youth games because they love the sport and most of them see it as a way to contribute to the sport and the community. They get paid little for the hours they are spending in the heat. Umpires should not be looked upon as adversaries but rather as an important part of the game. The more that you communicate with them in a positive, respectful manner; the better they will work with you.
Coaches must remind players, parents, and team supporters that the umpire must be treated at all times with respect and courtesy. Coaches are asked to not allow any player, parent or fan to berate, openly criticize or otherwise harass any umpire. Players, parents, and spectators who display ‘unsportsmanlike’ behavior toward an umpire, and coaches who permit such behavior, reflect negatively on their team and ZFA.
As a matter of record, ZFA will not condone any such action by a player, coach, parent or supporter. Upon investigation, ZFA will take whatever disciplinary action is required to prevent a re-occurrence of such conduct. This may include such actions as reprimand, player and/or coach suspension, or even game forfeiture. The Board of Directors will determine the nature of the discipline. Our goal is that no coach, player or parent be removed from any game for unsportsmanlike behavior.
Good Practices When Dealing With Umpires:
1. Know the umpire's name. Most umpires will respond to the name "Blue," but referring to him or her by name is even better.
2. Treat the umpire with mutual respect.
3. Should you wish to discuss an on-the-field ruling, you should request time from the umpire. Once granted, the coach should approach the umpire and ask for clarification on the ruling or the on-the-field call. Be brief and speak in a controlled voice. After making a point, listen to the response.
4. Keep your distance and don't get in the umpire’s face. This kind of behavior only tends to put the umpire on the defensive. He or she will become more concerned with how you are acting, rather than listening to what you have to say.
5. Never get personal with your comments. Never use profanity.
6. Don’t continually "pick" at the umpire. Asking the umpire between innings to be aware of something is much more beneficial than constantly yelling at him or her from the bench.
7. Do not waste the umpire and players’ time unless you “know” the rules. A coach should make sure that he or she has the rule right when protesting a call.
8. Don't bring a rule book onto the field. If a coach is not satisfied with a call, he or she should ask the umpire for an explanation. If a coach still doesn't agree, there is the choice of protesting the game. A coach should never use the protest as a threat, and should always remain calm and professional.
9. If the home coach cancels a game, it is his or her responsibility to inform the umpire scheduled for that game. A list of contacts and a schedule of anticipated officials will be available before the season starts.
10. Most of our officials prefer to work with the older ages. The scheduling is done so to distribute the more highly sought after games equitably between our regular officials. Please, DO NOT ask officials to switch assignments, and make certain the official on your field is the one assigned before you start play.
11. If an official does not appear at your home game, it is the coaches’ responsibility to report that occurrence to the Travel Director the following day.
Protesting A Game/Team Conduct Complaints:
If the coach is not satisfied with the umpire's explanation, the coach may follow the “game protest procedures.” A coach will calmly and professionally inform the umpire that the game is being played under protest. After the game, the coach should call the Travel Director to explain the incident.
In regards to opposing team conduct, appropriate complaints would be incidents that involve the use of profane or vulgar language or gestures; physical contact between or among players; or unruly demonstrations of players, coaches, parents or supporters.