TOP 10 INGREDIENTS TO A WINNING TEAM
Knowledge of the game. Lots of people talk a good game, but very few can back it up by applying their wisdom on the field of play. Some guys can't even retain the idea of taking a pitch to start an inning. Players who pay attention to detail usually possess the discipline to use their experience during the heat of battle. The small intangible things like taking advantage of an opponents weakness, setting up for a particular game situation, knowing the rules, or the importance of the dugout.
Personality (Fit-In-Ability). Obviously, every team has a personality or a chemistry that will be unique to their ability. That identity is not something that should happen by accident. It is something that "everybody" on the team has to work at. It's not about changing each others or conforming to the managers rules-- it's all about mutual respect and accepting each other's personalities for what they are. Finding players who know how to "fit-in" should be part of the manager's overall plan to make a winning team. High maintenance players can be tolerated, but is the manager's discretion on where to draw the line. Players with negative attitudes or too many opinions will usually cause some sort of conflict.
Versatility. Managers should know that the best players offer multiple skill sets. These are the true impact players who can run, catch, throw, pitch, and hit. They usually show up in the line-up at two or three or more different positions during the course of the season. They help the team immensely because they give the manager so many options under certain game situations. On top of that, their versatility helps to keep the roster to a minimum. That's important for a lot of obvious reasons; playing time objectives, budgetary concerns, dugout traffic, etc.
Overall Athleticism. This characteristic, like the one above cannot be taught. Athletic players are blessed with special talents and have a sixth sense for making big plays. Athleticism usually comes packaged together with versatility and vice-versa. It can mean the difference between coming up short on a diving catch or dropping it into the pocket of your web. It is the "key" to becoming a championship caliber team!
Bat Control. This is perhaps the most talked about topic among softball players and the least understood. Everyone has a theory about lifting weights for more bat speed, using the correct technology (i.e. 28 oz., 27 oz., 26 oz.), but in the end it's all about bat control. The most consistent and successful players hit the ball to all fields. If the defense takes away the 1st option you have to be prepared to execute a secondary plan. That means recognizing a particular defensive alignment, positioning yourself a little differently in the batter's box... and adjusting your swing for the opponents weakness.
Tenacity (Bull-doggish). These are the teams that get better when their backs are against the wall. They are the players who raise their intensity level when the game reaches a critical moment, which usually separates the winners from the losers. Some people call it being "clutch", but it all boils down to performing at critical moments. Tenacity is "continued" intensity. It takes lots of determination to learn the secret of keeping your intensity at it's peak.
Commitment. Being there 100% of the teams schedule is important. But being there AND being prepared both mentally and physically 100% of the time is a challenge for everybody. There are dozens of distractions during the course of a season which can breakdown a player's concentration and commitment. Avoiding these pitfalls requires a strong mind and body. The modern day softball player cannot appreciate the "total commitment" because their lives are extremely busy and demanding. If a player cannot be totally committed, it is important to compensate with good communication. Example: A player is not performing up to his normal standards due to a newborn baby in the house. (Loss of sleep). Communicating that change will help the team adjust to whatever shortcomings a particular player may be experiencing.
Defense. It is important to make the plays that you are supposed to make. Not everyone is blessed with tremendous foot speed or a fantastic throwing arm, but everyone is expected to make the plays that are presented to them at their position. The sensational plays are a bonus. No team has ever lost because the sensational play was missing, but lots of teams have lost because they booted the average groundball or flyout. Be solid!
Overall Offense. The key is recognition. You've got to know what the situation needs and have the ability to execute. This usually comes with experience and lots of discussions with other softball junkies. But once you've got it-- you'll know it because you'll be performing at a higher level.
Power. This is the most popular aspect of softball, but perhaps the least important. With homerun restriction rules being what they are at each individual level of competition, the long ball has lost some glory within the game. Oh sure, the upper levels still revel in HR's because the restrictions are higher, but the championship teams are collecting the honors because they take stock in all of the above.
SUMMARY. The ingredients for making a winning team may vary from team to team. There are always the exceptions to the rule and there is more than one way to skin a cat. Clichés aside-- if you follow these ten ingredients while making your squad, you will be successful!
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Last Updated: 09/23/2003