My mind has been on this topic for a long time now. Like football, can softball games be won by superior defense? How important is it to have a solid defensive culture in a game that typically values homeruns and RBI? Do we tend to place more emphasis on individual victors such as the winning pitcher or the clutch hitter who knocked in the game-winning run? If so, how loud is the voice of the unsung heroes who seldom get the spotlight but are a part of each constant out made as a collective defensive unit?
If you are like me and have played college softball or even beyond into the pros, then you have had many coaches in your life. Although they all had different coaching styles and offered their own unique lessons of wisdom, there is always one cliché that gets mention on the field: “the team that makes the less errors, is the team that wins.” Yea, yea coach I’ve heard that so many times before. We all know it’s true though. For some reason, maybe we are just resistant to accepting coaching advice that places emphasis on the importance of defense. If so, why is that? I believe it is because solid defense can’t be achieved alone, but is dependent on the entire team unit. Even if you can sit back and ride on the talent of your Ace pitcher, she can’t pitch every game. When it comes to hitting, there is only one batter standing in the box at a time. For that moment, all of the pressure is on her shoulders, while everyone else chomps on sunflower seeds in the dugout to calm their nerves. On defense, however, no one can relax ever! The second you sit back on your heels is the exact moment when the ball is hit to you and you’ve missed your hop. Knowing that you are responsible for the unknowing, pitch by pitch throughout the course of a half inning can be stressful. As one person can hit the ball over the fence to win a game, a defense needs to rely on each other to execute each play from the pitch, to fielding and throwing the ball, to receiving the ball for an out. Therefore as a defensive unit, we need to ask ourselves if we are ready to work together and only be as strong as our weakest link. If we want to turn double plays, are we ready to make eye contact and communicate about base coverage and where to throw? Although offense allows more space for players to bask in the sun of their own batting average, defense does not offer an immediate statistic for teamwork, short of a championship.
To achieve Game Speed Defense we need to be sure our team has a Defensive Culture. We will be more likely to win by having a vision of winning. In order to execute a win, our team needs to value each of the mundane defensive plays just as much as we value the clutch hitting or individual performances. I have seen so many fastpitch softball games that were lost by an overthrow or a fielding error. If your team can walk off the field with no errors on the scoreboard, you have given the offense less opportunity to score. Repeat that over the course of a season, and I would say your odds at winning are high. Just because most post-game interviews usually involve one microphone and a close-up camera angle, never forget that you have chosen to play a team sport.
|Lisa Iancin: Lisa Iancin “LI” competed professionally in the (NPF) for 5 seasons, gathering a national championship in 2004 with the New York/New Jersey Juggernaut and in 2006 with the New England Riptide. In 2005, Iancin was named the NPF Defensive Player of the Year. Among her college accolades at Cal are First Team AII-Pac 10 and back-to-back appearances at the Women's College World Series in 1999 and 2000. Internationally, Iancin played for Team Bussolengo, Italy in 2001. Iancin was the Assistant General Manager of the Tennessee Diamonds for the 2010 (NPF) season. To find out more about LI go to LISoftballAcademy.com|
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