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Teaching aggressive base running in fastpitch softball can be one of your greatest weapons on offense. Yet many softball teams are content with baserunning that takes one base at a time.

And this does very little to put pressure on the defense.

Teams that are conservative and run the bases “scared” can be traced back to the coaches offensive philosophy.   Some coaches prefer the conservative, “swing-away,” keep it very simple approach. 

If this is your philosophy, that is fine.  You just better have a lineup full of really good hitters.

However, if you are like most of us, you probably have a lineup that is a bit mixed. Some hitters that are very advanced, and some that are good but perhaps not stellar at this point in their career.  

If this is you, then I strongly suggest thinking about developing an aggressive mindset on the bases.  Here are a few reasons why I believe teaching good baserunning in softball is essential. 

Reason #1:  Fastpitch Softball Base Running Has MANY Facets That Require Teaching

Baserunning in softball is not simply running around the bases after the ball is put in play.  This part of the game includes stealing, leads and returns, tagging up on fly-balls, sliding, rounding the bases, and reading the ball in the air.  Not to mention decision making! 

We cannot assume that all of our players have a solid grasp on each of these aspects.  It takes practice and patience to teach these elements of the game to all of our players.

Reason #2:  When Done Well, Baserunning is Fun

I am a big believer in teaching players to be aggressive on the bases.  It takes time to develop this mindset, but when players start to “get it,” it makes the game much more enjoyable.  Taking risks, challenging the defense, and making something happen at any given moment is a much more exciting way to play the game than always being conservative.

Each of us has players that have been blessed with God-given speed.   While every player needs to learn how to run the bases, it is also our responsibility to teach our “rabbits” to wreak havoc on the base-paths!

Reason #3: Teaching Base Running Truly Can be the Difference in a Fastpitch Softball Game

Aside from stolen bases, baserunning does not come with a lot of statistics. Thus, great baserunning does not always show up on paper.   However, taking an extra base at a critical moment, or forcing the defense into an error with aggressive baserunning can have an enormous impact on the outcome of any game!

So enough about WHY base running is important in softball. Let's get into some tips for how to actually teach an aggressive mindset most effectively. 

Following are my 3 keys for teaching an aggressive base running philosophy to your softball team:

Key #1:  Start by teaching the small details for softball base running

By “small” I am talking about running through first base properly, rounding the bases properly, tagging up on fly-balls properly, sliding properly, and getting a great jump on steals.

We cover a number of the technical aspects in our post about baserunning fundamentals

If you are going to be aggressive on the bases, you want your players to be as sound fundamentally in their technique as possible. You will find your players in a lot of “bang-bang” plays…and proper base running will often be the difference between safe and out.

We have even asked our track coach to come out and teach running form to our team.  We will take every little advantage that we can get!

Key #2:  Don’t get mad at your players for making aggressive mistakes

For an aggressive offensive philosophy to work, you will need to preach to your players how to make smart decisions while being aggressive at the same time. A few players will be overaggressive by nature, but most will be overly conservative and afraid to make a mistake.

It takes time to get the whole team on the same page, and you will have players that make mistakes in their “calculated” risks.  Chances are they have not played on a team that stresses the importance of aggressive softball baserunnning.

When these mistakes happen, it’s crucial that as coaches we see it as an opportunity to teach. Simply getting upset at a player will hinder them in the long-run.  

If you want your players to be aggressive, then you want them to feel free to take chances when they see the “door open.”   If they play scared, this will not work.

Key #3:  Dare to make aggressive decisions yourself

We can preach all day long to our players to be aggressive, but we must then have this mindset ourselves.

Don't be afraid to take chances sending runners home when we know it will be close. And look for the opportunities to steal bases even when the catcher has a good arm.

For example, is the shortstop covering the bag well?   Does the catcher throw high or wild when he/she is rushed?  Perhaps the defense has communication problems and reacts slowly?  Or is stealing third base a good option?

The bottom line is that you have to have this mindset as well. As a result you will start looking for those opportunities to be aggressive.  

You cannot steal bases or take the extra base on every play, but if you aren’t looking for the opportunities they will pass you by during the course of a game.

Being aggressive on the bases is fun for your players when they learn how to do it, and it also helps your team score more runs. Yes, you will get thrown out at times. And yes, players will make some mistakes.

But when it is all said and done, the pros far outweigh the negatives during the course of a season.  Whether you are coaching baseball or softball, players will enjoy the fast and exciting pace of an agressive baserunning approach!

(By Tim Covey, Founder of Covey Sports)

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