But First Let Me Make This Line Up Written By Renee Ferguson
The easiest thing a coach has to do is make a line up. I mean how hard is it to put the best 9 players on the field? Anyone who has ever had to make a line up knows all too well the difficulties associated with this process. If a bystander can look at a group of girls and know who the 9 best players are why is making the line up one of the single most difficult things a coach has to do? Well let me explain in a little more detail the thought process that goes into making the lineup.
Making a line up is not cut and dry, I for one did not have those true 9 best players and honestly my girls played out of position so much that I make all of my players take infield and outfield before each game. Sure there were some kids I knew HAD to be in the lineup either because there was no one else who was physically capable of playing their position or because their bat was too important to the team to remove them from the lineup. But other than that select handful of kids there were always more questions than answers as to who was going to start and where they may play.
The first thing I always evaluate is the anticipated strength of the other team’s hitters. Do I need to strengthen my outfield because I am anticipating them to hit us hard all day or do I think that they are going to small ball us? After I make a determination on what I think the other team’s game plan is, I then look at my pitchers to determine who I will be starting first. Do I start my faster pitcher first and then slow them down or do I slow them down and then make them speed everything back up? I evaluate this during our warm up time, do their hitters look aggressive or more relaxed at the plate, do they cast their hands too soon or do they have a nice compact fast swing?
After my starting pitcher is set, I then need to determine if I need the freedom to rotate my pitchers freely during the game. If so this means I will need to remove someone else from the hitting line up and put my 3rd pitcher in as a designated player (DP). Having my 3rd pitcher in a DP and the other 2 pitchers on the field would allow me to flip flop back and forth between the 3 of them without substituting which means I could theoretically change my pitcher every batter if I really wanted to. I have literally switched pitchers 4 or 5 times in one inning if I think it will throw the team off enough to increase our chances of winning.
Now that my pitching staff is set I look to the rest of the team and spots that remain. These positions are often the most important when it comes to deciding who will play because I didn’t have a true position player for those spots, meaning I had to convert someone who was a true left fielder to a second baseman. There are many different things that I took into account for these type of positional players, did they recently have a fight with or break up with their significant other, how did they look in practice leading up the game, what is their body language like with their teammates, do they look alive or like they are dragging?
Usually there is one spot on the field where I have a multitude of players fighting for that position, this year it was right field. I always struggled with whom to start first and who to sit mainly because there wasn’t that one star athlete for that position so as I continued to evaluate them based on practice attendance and effort, attitude coming into the game, how they looked in warm ups when being hit fly balls (did they hustle are they overplaying or underplaying the position) and who’s bat looks the best in warm ups. In the end it usually came down to whose bat looked the best in warm ups.
And finally, as I am walking up to the coaches and umpires meeting I write in my last few players positions. Something that is perceived to be a simple task effectively took me an hour and half to complete with enough confidence that I could call it final. My real point is this, it’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and say put the 9 best girls on the field but as a coach understanding that those 9 best players may not be the BEST players for that particular game is priceless. So next time you question a line up or positional change I hope you think back to this article and have better understanding of all that really goes into putting the 9 best girls on the field.
Renee Ferguson Renee has over 30 years of combined playing and coaching experience at the select and college levels. After a 3 year stint as Division I, Morgan State University’s pitching coach; Renee was appointed the Head Women’s softball Coaching position at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland. Where she lead the Pioneer Softball team to an 8th place finish, in the NJCAA DIII Nationals in Rochester MN after taking the helm only weeks before the 2013 season started. Renee’s goal is to instill the love and passion that she has for the game, into each and every one of her players and students. Keep up with Renee Ferguson by visiting her site at DirtInTheSkirtSports.com.Join Renee On: Facebook.
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