Softball Tips – Pacing Yourself to Peak at the Right Time

A few years ago, as a younger and less experienced coach,  like most new coaches in softball, I wanted to win, win often,  and win it all.

That was at the recreational level and also in travel ball at the younger levels (12U, 14U, 16U).

So my thinking was the following – practice super hard in the off-season, be a mile ahead of everybody else out  of the gate in April, May, and June to win as a many games  as possible against opponents who aren’t yet at their peak.

Of course, I also wanted to win in July and August when it counts the most.

Two things kept happenening:

1) We would win a lot early but burn out later in the summer  because of the early pressure (that happened more at the rec level).


2) We would struggle early because we had work hard on so many things that the girls needed time to assimilate and integrate all of those things in their game and I would get frustrated because I wouldn’t understand why we would struggle because we outwork all the other teams by a mile in the off- season (that happened more at the travel ball level).

I did that for a few years until a more seasoned coach came to have a little chat with me.

He said something like this: “Son, I’ve been watching you these past few years. You’re obviously a passionate, dedicated, and skilled coach BUT you are trying to run a 100-m sprint when the
season is a marathon!”

Wow – That simple statement but very powerful statement totally changed my way of coaching.

Re-read it, it’s worth it.

Bottom line – I was like an endurance runner who didn’t know how  to pace himself and would empty the gaz thank early by trying to win the race in the first few minutes of a marathon and wouldn’t  take time to study the course, analyze the opponents, adjust to the weather, etc.

And I have witnessed the same thing several times in the last few years where younger and/or less experienced coaches, like me back  then, try to win at all cost very early in the season.

Today – my way of doing things and how I see it has completely changed.

I still work very hard in the off-season to prepare for my season.

However, to me, April, May and June is still “building up” time and I am not really focused on “winning” but rather on  “playing well and  getting better every game”. 

This means that I use the first half of the season to prepare for the second half.

Basically, the first part of the season is just an extension of my off-season where we keep working on things, getting our timing right, learning, and using our games and first few tournaments to gain experience and get better.

The first few scompetitions are basically “rehearsals” for the major competitions later towards the end of the season.

That approach has worked very well for me.

We play ok in May.

We do much better in June.

We do very well in early July.

We have a little down in the middle of July.

We peak and dominate in late July and August.

This pattern has repeated itself for almost every team I have coached over the last 13-14 years.

Now I understand the concepts of “pacing” (managing the energy reserves) and “Peaking”. We typically peak when it counts.

This was a powerful lesson that I learned from a more seasoned coach.

Unfortunately, I never had the chance to thank him for that lesson and I have no idea what he is doing today.

I’m sharing this story and hoping that a few of you will get the idea:

The game of softball is about sprints, not marathon. But the softball season is marathon, not a sprint.

Pace yourself. Peak at the right time. Don’t burn out.

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