Focusing on safety is the best way to reduce the number of injuries you will see while coaching. Learn about risk management on the softball field and what you can do to reduce the chance of injury. I will mention them here and again as they apply in other sections of this site. Conditioning the athlete, adequate stretching, proper throwing mechanics, learning to slide properly and wearing protective equipment can all reduce injuries and will be talked about in latter sections of coaching fastpitch.

Make sure everyone that is on the field during batting practice is aware of what is going on. Do not allow someone to take a swing at a ball until everyone is paying attention. This would go for everyone including the coaches or the parent who just want to see if they can hit the ball. When anyone is swinging a bat, whether it is a drill of a tee or warm up swings, make sure they know to check for plenty of clearance before swinging. Others should be instructed to pay attention to what is going on around them at all times. Do not approach someone with a bat without getting their attention first especially from the blind side. Teach the athletes not to throw the bat after swinging and hitting the ball but how they can drop the bat instead.

If a catcher or the on deck batters can remove a dropped bat from the field of play without interfering in the play, this could reduce the chance of tripping or twisting an ankle. A catcher who removes her mask to go after a pop foul ball should first locate the ball in the sky and then toss the mask away from the path to the ball.

The batting helmet with face guard is required safety equipment for any offensive player on the field.

On deck batters should always be paying attention when the pitcher is about to pitch. A line drive foul that hits an on deck batter because she is not watching should never happen. It has become an acceptable practice to have the on deck batter take her warm up swings behind whoever is currently batting. An example of what I mean is if the team up to bat was the team occupying the 1st base dugout and a right handed batter was up to bat, the on deck batter would occupy the 3rd base warm up circle. Less line drive foul balls will be hit at her here.

Do not throw a ball at someone that is not aware that it is coming.

Housekeeping makes a difference. Do not allow anything that is not being used by a player on the field of play to be left in the field of play. The obvious thing that comes to mind is a bat tossed aside from the previous batter. Your umpires are always thinking about safety. They will not allow play to start if a bat is left lying in the field.

Did you know that years ago, when baseball was young, at the end of a defensive inning, the fielders used to leave their gloves in the field so they knew where to find them the next inning? Thankfully, this practice was stopped by the rules committee.

Housekeeping in the dugout is also important. Bags should be tucked away safely out of any walking path, balls should be stowed safely away in a glove or ball bag and bats should be stored in a rack or leaning neatly against the fence. Eliminate anything that could cause a twisted ankle from the dugout floor. Responsibility for safety belongs to every body.

Proper fitting protective equipment like batting helmets fitted with approved face masks are required to be worn by all offensive athlete in the field of play. Proper fitting catchers’ equipment makes sense and it also required that any player under 18 years old must have at least the catchers helmet/mask on when they are warming up a pitcher.

A new safety item has come on the scene in the last few years. The protective face masks for pitchers are becoming a common site. In fact, I am seeing a few more corner infielders (1st & 3rd base) wearing them. The two popular brands of face masks are “Rip-It”, “Game Face” and "The Defender".

Many coaches recommend them and a few coaches insist that their pitcher wear them. October 5, 2009 a 16U pitcher from Prior Lake, MN was hit in the face with a line drive while playing dome softball. She was wearing a face mask. She ended up with a head ache but that was all. The opposing coach wrote about the incident on the Fastsports Forum. He wrote:

“When it happened, in the split second after it occurred, I couldn’t remember if she had had a mask on, and what then made me realize she had been wearing one, was processing the sound I heard of it hitting plastic. Then, in the minutes after it happened what I kept thinking about was what the sound would have been without the mask. It literally made me sick even thinking about it. The ball was absolutely crushed – just a laser and it would have taken down any Pitcher.” I really wish that they would have been around when my daughter pitched. After completing her motion and releasing the ball, she would end up only 34 feet in front of the batter. Batters are swinging bats with more “pop” in them. My daughter had many close calls and was lucky enough to never have been hit by a line drive, at least in the face.

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You Are Important

The coach is the person who communicates with parents, players, umpires, other coaches and your local associations. You facilitate the team by making sure all the equipment is there when it is needed. Most important are the players. You are teaching more than the skills and strategies of fastpitch. The ability to gracefully deal with success and failure, the persistence to keep trying and the confidence that these young ladies learn from you is priceless.

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