Practice…or something like it

What do you think coaching softball for ten 5 and 6 year-old girls would be like?

Well, as luck would have it, I am going to find out first hand and I’ll be able to verify and/or debunk your theories.

I decided to volunteer to coach Bailey’s bitty ball team. We’re the Fireflies. Although, after our first practice last night I think it might be more descriptive to call us the Unguided Throwers. Fortunately, my skill level expectations were somewhere down around the French army’s ability to stop blitzkrieg tactics.

Now I’ve never coached softball before. In fact, I didn’t even play little league baseball. Which means I’m as qualified to be a softball coach as Obama is to be president. Anyway, I did play a lot of basketball. So if there is a way to translate the ability to come off a high screen and smoothly catch and shoot, well, I’m all set.

I figured we’d start off the basics. We’d pair up and toss the ball underhand to each other. This quickly deteriorated into a level of chaos that I can only assume resembled the negotiations inside the Democratic caucus on the health care takeover.

Hmm…I thought to myself. What is that kids do well?

Line up.

“Okay girls! Line up, single file right here.”

This must be the first thing kids are taught at daycare because they responded faster than a bunch of DOT workers who realized it was break time.

I broke them up into three groups and had a couple other Dads roll some grounders to them and then had the girls throw the ball back to us. I made the mistake of assuming that when I explained that when I roll the ball to them that they needed to get in front of the ball and trap it in their gloves, that they knew what getting in front of the ball meant.

They didn’t. Several girls used the “wait till it stops rolling” strategy and one girl was really partial to the “wait for someone else to pick it up for me” strategy.

But one of things I did manage to teach them was to trap the ball in their gloves. Which, by the way, come in a variety of girly colors. White with pink, black with pink, brown with pink, etc. Now, how did I manage to teach ten little to trap the ball? I told them to pretend they were alligators.

“You trap the ball in your glove with two hands. Your glove is your bottom teeth and your other hand is your top teeth – and you snap it shut on the ball!”

Unfortunately the alligator strategy doesn’t really work when it comes to throwing the ball. So I used the make a “W” with your fingers on the ball and an “L” with your arm method. Once they figured out which foot to step with they really, really improved. Although one girl has some weird aversion to actually throwing it back to me. She’d throw it to my left, to my right, but never to me. Finally, I coaxed her into trying to hit me in the nose with the ball. Another girl really got the hang of it and added a fist pump and a “yeah baby” to every throw.

I gave fly balls a try too. If effort and enthusiasm were the measures of success, we’d be champions of the bitty ball galaxy. It didn’t matter if they were bonked on the head, face or arm, they just kept trying. But nothing topped running the bases. Now remember, these are little kids. Before I would let them do it, I asked them to identify each base. Because, as I understand softball, each base has a name and are arranged in certain order forcing you to advance to each one in the correct sequence.

Once we figured that out, I had them run to first. Then run to first and second. Then I said, “hey let’s find out who is fast. I’ll count and you guys run all the way from home plate, around all the bases and back home!”

This, if the level of screaming is an indication of approval, was the best part of practice. I have a couple girls, including Bailey, who are pretty darn quick. I bet Bails would be even faster if she didn’t admire her own feet as she ran or checked out the parents to make sure they were also admiring her speed.

So next week we’re going to continue with throwing and catching but I’m going to add hitting off the tee. This will mean batting helmets. Swinging, running and most likely tripping with batting helmets. But I can’t wait to see how they react to actually hitting the ball.

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