As the coach of a fastpitch softball team, understanding the various safety topics as it impacts the game is extremely important. Some of these are mandated by the various governing counsels, while others are just common sense practices to ensure the safety of your players.
The ASA has had a bat certification in place since January 1, 2000. It was updated in 2004 and that is the standard by which all bat manufacturers must comply today.
In order to know that your player’s bat is in compliance, you should look for the ASA 2004 bat stamp. ASA devised this program as impacting what is referred to as ASA Championship Play, which are tournaments that can lead to the winner of the tournament playing at a higher (national) level. Because of the respect ASA has within softball circles, this quickly became the standard across all fastpitch softball, from college to high school and so forth. The umpire is suppose to inspect players' equipment before each game. He will be looking for the 2004 ASA stamp. If it is not so certified, the bat will be illegal for the game. An umpire, at his discretion, can also declare a bat to be illegal if it is damaged in some way and he deems it dangerous to the game. To find out more about the ASA program, follow the link above. Make sure you share this with your parents before they buy that new bat, as it would be a shame if they spent $150+ on something their daughter will never be allowed to use. The ASA also publishes an annual list of non-approved (banned) bats. This page will take you to all non-approved ASA equipment. If a player’s bat appears on this list, it cannot be used.
The next safety topic is around two very important pieces of equipment, the the batting and catching helmets. It stands to reason, therefore, that both also have strict safety requirements imposed on the manufacturers of these products. With the addition of the facemask to the batting helmet, these standards also extend to including the facemask. The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) sets the standards that the helmet manufacturers must abide by. The helmets must pass a drop test from several angles in order to meet specification guidelines. Like the bats, umpires will inspect the helmets, both batting and catching, to verify they have the approved NOCSAE stamp. The stamp can usually be found on the rear of the helmet. Make sure when you are acquiring team helmets that they meet the NOCSAE standard.
There are other safety precautions you can take as a coach that are not mandated (yet) by any of the governing authorities. The first is the use of mouth guards, or mouth pieces. We used to require all of our players to use them, especially the infielders. With the pitcher only 40 feet away and the infielders around 60 feet away, one bad hop can ruin a beautiful smile. Why chance it? Another safety item that seems to be gaining popularity is the fielding mask for infielders. You will find a selection of these on the batting helmet page. This protects the entire face against the bad hop. Unfortunately, people will adopt this only after something bad has happened. No argument that it takes some getting use to, but if the mask does save one bad calamitous injury, isn’t it worth it?
Another of the safety topics to consider is injury prevention. If you are looking for ways to prevent common softball injuries, you will want to read our common sports injuries section about ways, through stretching and team preparation, to avoid needless injuries. In addition, there is a section on first aid and CPR to prepare yourself should a serious injury occur to one of your players or the other team's player.
What other safety equipment do you use? Share your safety topics with your fellow coaches.
Do you have other safety equipment you use for your team? Share it!