By: FPN Staff
Innovation at is core is a great thing. Matter of fact in sports continual improvement is what we strive for. But not all innovation is a good thing. Sure the intent was good, the idea of getting an upper hand over the competition is good, but is it helping the game overall? That is what we should be asking when it comes to this expansion in the use of wristbands in the game of softball.
One thing that separates softball from its male counterpart (baseball) is that the pace of the game is much faster. That seems to be less and less the case. Recently I attended a college softball game that was starting at the exact same time as the baseball game. The fields are side by side so it was easy to monitor. A full nine inning baseball game got done 22 minutes before a five inning softball game that ended in a 9-1 score. That should never happen.
How did such a thing occur? I believe part of the problem are wristbands. In that game one of the pitchers was called on three occasions for a timing violation (see NCAA rule10.2.1, 10.2.2 and 10.18). The reason was simple. Coach had to look at wristband, yell out numbers, catcher and pitcher then have to look at numbers, then pitch. Every single pitch this occurs. Now on the batters side you have a coach looking at a chart, then at their wristband, then calling out number, then hitters and runners looking at wristband and the whole time hopefully every one saw or heard the correct number. It goes on and on for every pitch of a game. In a non-scientific way I tracked time between pitches and estimated that the game was being extended by anywhere from 10-30 mins. Not a good thing when your advantage as a sport is that it is quick paced.
Most coaches know that Pitching can very much be about rhythm and the use of these wristbands seem to hamper that rhythm to some extent. I personally like coaches who have their catchers call games, but maybe I am just old school that way. In the end, the job of a coach is to coach and train players to make the right decisions in games. I am not suggesting that there is no need for play calls or signals, but I am suggesting that it does not have to occur on both sides for every pitch. Develop a player’s softball IQ and use signals in the correct situations when needed.
This leads me to what I see as “over coaching” which tends to lead to more confusion. I probably watch about 100 games if not more per year. One thing I have noticed is that teams who use the wristbands, especially on offense, tend to miss more signs. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that players either hear or see the wrong number or read the wristband incorrectly. Have you looked at one of those? They just seem to be over complicated and again slow the pace of the game down.
Softball is making great strides and building a larger fan base which evident by the ESPN numbers for the 2015 WCWS. Matter of fact the WCWS beat the men by 31%. One reason is the pace of the game. You can watch a great game in two hours or less. For people who are always on the go that is a great thing. My fear is that the more the game slows down it loses that appealing feature. I for one would like to see a reduction in the use of wristbands, not an increase.