Let Them Play! Exploring the Stalling Tactic in Softball
Stalling is becoming a huge and unnecessary strategy implemented by youth softball coaches all across the country. Many youth softball tournaments are played under time restrictions. Some games are structured to end with drop-dead time limits, while others don’t allow a new inning to start after the time has expired. Imagine the home team is up to bat, with only a few minutes left to play with the lead. The visiting team is fighting to finish the inning and record the third out before the time expires so that they can hit again. The third base coach calls time to “chat” with the hitter and as a result, the time runs out, and the game is over. It is not uncommon for coaches to use a stalling tactic to secure a win. Is it ethical? Part of the game? Or a cheap shot? Should this strategy be allowed or should umpires be more aware and keep the game moving?
At the end of the day, the game of softball should be about the participating players. What is this stalling tactic teaching players? Some may argue that a coach is cheating by stalling to run out the time to maintain the lead and to secure the win. Did they earn it when this happens? Does that thought cross the coaches mind, or do they only care about winning?
Wins aren’t everything in softball. When players reflect on their playing careers, they are going to remember their lifelong friendships and memories made, over any championship or game they have won. It’s easy for coaches to get caught up in winning. There is no better feeling than having a medal placed around your neck at the end of a long grueling tournament weekend. The sense of accomplishment after going to war with your team is indescribable.
If you are involved in youth softball, there will come a time when you will be faced with a stalling tactic. It’s unfortunate when it happens against you because games should be decided by the players, not the coaches. When an opposing coach uses a stalling tactic, there are a few options you can take. First, if you are passionate about the game and your team, as a coach you can get the umpire involved. Most umpires will side with the coach of the team who is being stalled on. The role of the umpire is to be fair to both teams and players on the field. Another option is to take the high road. As helpless as you may feel in this situation if you give your pitcher and defense confidence, they may be able to secure the outs in the time frame. If coaches make it a big deal, this puts additional pressure and expectations on the players.
Coaches, it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture. As important as winning may be, your job as a coach stems much deeper than recording Championship titles. The role of a coach is to lead through actions, to nurture, develop, and instill growth in the players under your wing. If a player leaves a program as a better softball player, person and overall better version of themselves, then the coach did their job.
Winning isn’t everything in softball. Winning is addicting and is hands down way more fun than losing, but it’s not the most important thing. Let the players play the game and dictate the outcome. As players get older and time restrictions aren’t in place, they will need to learn how to finish and win games themselves. Keep it about the players and the wins will come as they are earned.