The Adult Softball Team Manager
By Jerry Grimm
Every softball team must have one, and although it isn't absolutely necessary that he actually be part of the playing team, he usually is. Whether or not it works for him to be a player/manager depends on each team's situation. There are advantages and disadvantages for him not to be an active player, but in most cases the amateur softball players settle for one of them to be the leader. What would be the benefits to doing this job? The obvious one is that he is able to play himself wherever he wants. He also has the authority to tell everyone else on the team what to do. But if that's the most he receives from being the manager, is that all it should or could be?
In the softball book, Rookie Managers' Softball by Tim McCracken, a basic for amateur teams is conveyed, "A manager assumes the responsibility of doing everything possible to ensure that the players on his team will have an enjoyable and safe sporting experience_take the fun out of sports and you'll take the ‘kid' out of sports."
Just imagine the silent pressure of making up a line-up of the players on your team and then also putting yourself in as a player: If you don't perform, you may receive scorn from some of the players, in addition to your own disappointment. A lot of things come to the team manager when he is a player. Figure that he must relate to each and every member of the team on a one-on-one basis; his relationship with each player must not only be as player-to-player, but as manager to player. Then he must be the manager to the entire team. Oh, that's right, then he is a player also. This can definitely strain relationships and friendships. This factor could be a primary cause for many managers quitting. If all of this is not enough to discourage the manager/player, then comes the sinking feeling of general thanklessness for all of the extra off-field work he has done, in order for the team to function.
One positive that comes his way is when the team wins and he has played a good game. He is the true "captain of the conquering ship" and also made wealthy by his own exploits. This is a feeling that is among the very richest that amateur softball can offer.
The obvious benefits of the team manager not being a player are simple. His job is to manage. He is more of an authority figure to the members of the team and he is able to manage with a keener view of the overall picture without the added pressure of playing.
It's fun to manage, being in on every pitch of both halves of the inning, locked into the game's pace, expecting things, thinking the game. When it works for you, whether you called it or not, you are the Manager. If your applied facts don't seem to complement one another or your play calls don't work like you planned, you are the Manager. The job of managing is just that. Managing!
A good manager works as much as possible with each individual on the team. If he has
not established this type of relationship and maintained it along the way, it could come back to pick him off later, even right there in the dugout, in front of everybody. This necessary trust between a manager and his player is key to the player's enjoyment of playing. The manager's real job is working with the players. A player must feel wanted and accepted on the team in order to perform well. Managers who are natural masters at building up the average players and have a general satisfaction in watching them go out and play over their potential, can have winning teams because of that.
Many have also seen (and experienced!) the opposite: A non-caring manager for the individuals on the team, and he can drag the team down more than anyone else. Players will melt away from a team like this. But most amateur softball managers are there because they do care about the other players. The best thing you can do for your manager is show loyalty and some friendliness. That's how you can help him.
Perhaps you want to be a manager. Feeling that you could make up the defense and offensive line-ups as well as any one else on the team. You may think that it's just amateur ball and the positions that players end up in shouldn't matter that much. The game will be fun. But could you consistently make all of the phone calls necessary to the players? Spend time talking to them? How about lining up some team practices and taking care of all emergencies, plus handling all of the complaints? This is just part of the line up card. Often, the manager is the one who procurers a sponsor and the uniforms. He also has to collect all monies from the players and on occasion has been known to reach into his own pocket to pick up some financial mishap.
If you are a player, consider how much your manager is doing for you and give him a little more slack and a lot more respect. During a game is not the time to confront your manager; he has made his decisions, let him live with it. After the game is the most constructive time and even then, give it a cooling down period before you share your wisdom with him. Never criticize your manager in front of other players. It drags the entire team down like nothing else can and no matter how right you might be, it will get your backside in a sling.
One of the keys to keeping the respect and support of the team is how a manager handles open adversity from one of his players. This is difficult and if the manager can quietly get the vocal player off where they are more or less alone, a great stride to victory has been made. Listen to the player's complaint and then calmly assure him that these things are worth considering, but for now they must go on with his decision. The level of play will guide a manager in many of his choices but remember to try and always be patient.
The other players are watching you so try and get on with the game.
The amateur softball manager can also take a few hints from a successful pro, who was not only one of the greatest baseball players, but also a pretty good manager in his day, Ted Williams. He states in his book, The Science of Hitting, "I don't think you can emphasize enough the importance of practice. There are things you learn growing older in the game which practice brings out. Like how to get out of a slump. If you sense that you are falling into a slump, remember that they follow a pattern. When you first start going bad, you just try harder. Then you press, which means you do things unnaturally. Then you imagine you're getting all the tough breaks and you start feeling sorry for yourself. Start thinking in terms of going through the box; you're going to handle the bat better and not pull the ball. You're going to shorten up and be a little quicker. As a manager at the big-league level, I've tried to do things that will help individuals while I'm helping the team. I think that every player should have goals, goals to keep his interest up over the long haul, goals that are realistic and that reflect improvement. Let the players tell you, help them get there_your biggest job is to help bring out the best in each player."
Who makes the best amateur softball manager? No one will ever really know because most of what he does which matters in an individual player's life is not always observable by others. Only the manager knows, and even then, some things might slip by the Skipper occasionally-just let ‘em!