Every high school and college softball game should have a crew chief. Generally, that is determined by the assigner and noted on the scheduling system used by that assigner. Other times, it is simply the person working the plate in the game (or the first plate of the series or tournament). Normally the most experienced member of the crew is assigned to be the crew chief, but not always.
Being the crew chief comes with added responsibility. It isn’t simply just being another member of the crew. The assigner has delegated this position because that assigner trusts the crew chief to take care of business and handle any issues that may occur. Too often, crew chiefs take this position for granted and don’t necessarily take care of everything that should be dealt with before, during and after the games. Assigners expect crew chiefs to lead. Here are seven ways crew chiefs can set the standard.
1. Take care of business before game day. The work of a crew chief begins well before game day. The level of the game dictates how early the crew chief should reach out to the school and the crew to disseminate information.
For high school games, 72 hours prior to the contest is a good time to reach out to the school and to the members of the crew to confirm all the information about the game. For collegiate games, one week prior is recommended, but each conference may dictate a different policy, especially if air travel and hotels need to be coordinated. This is a chance to make sure the game time listed is correct and even make sure the game is being played at the school listed. There have been times, even at the collegiate level, when no one reached out to the school to confirm and the crew went to the wrong school. This leaves egg on a lot of faces and is something that can easily be avoided with a simple email or phone call. The crew chief should reach out to the school confirming game time, location and locker facility location, notifying the school of the crew’s arrival time and asking if there is anything special happening that the crew needs to be aware of, such as senior day activities, cancer awareness, etc.
The crew chief should make sure all crew members have confirmed for the game(s) and if there are any issues, the crew chief should immediately notify the assigner to get guidance. The biggest problem that creates the most issues is a lack of communication. Remember, being a crew chief is a designation by assigners to take some of the pressure and stress off of them and have the crew chief take on more responsibility to assure the games go smoothly. Be a leader in this area, show you can be a strong communicator and it will pay off in spades.
Make sure you remind your crew of the proper uniform so you all look the same and you are wearing the right uniform for the level of play you are working (remind crew of conference or state-affiliated hats, shirts, jackets, etc.).
2. Lead a thorough pregame conference with partners. One of the most important jobs of a crew chief is to lead a pregame with the crew. Too often, crew chiefs gloss over this pregame, especially later in the season. Remember, this may be the first time you all work together as a crew. The last thing anyone wants is for something to go wrong (a missed rotation, a missed call, etc.) because it wasn’t communicated ahead of time. The pregame gives the crew chief a chance to get all members of the crew on the same page and focused on the upcoming game(s). Whether you choose to do this in the locker room an hour before the game, you are lucky enough to be in the same area and can grab breakfast beforehand or meet the night before a series, it is extremely important to run a thorough pregame with your partners.
Take the time to vary your pregames. It should not be the same speech every single time. Every game and every series present different challenges. Use this time to go over scouting reports, relay team tendencies, give notes on coaches, etc. This way, everyone on the crew is prepared and ready before taking the field.
3. Be confident, not cocky. You have been named the crew chief for a reason — your assigner has both trust and faith in you to get the job done. That alone should instill you with confidence. However, don’t be cocky. It will turn off both your crewmates and coaches if you appear arrogant. Remember, just because you are the crew chief doesn’t mean you know everything. Don’t be afraid to listen to concerns of your crew. This also doesn’t mean you are infallible and don’t have to listen to coaches’ concerns. The best bosses in the world rely heavily on those they oversee. Be a leader, not a dictator.
4. Build up your crew and be a mentor. As crew chief, you are there to also build up your crew. Let your crew know when they are doing things right and step in when there are things that need to be corrected. When most crews are formed, especially when it is a three-person crew, assigners will put a less-experienced member with two veterans. This is done for a couple of reasons. One, assigners feel the veterans can cover for a newer official in case of mistakes, but they also expect the veterans to be able to serve as mentors. As a crew chief, be welcoming to new members of the crew and share what you know with them. The crew is only as strong as its weakest link and it’s important to strengthen each and every member. At one point, you were the new person starting out. Think back to how you wanted to be treated in those instances and make sure you treat those new members how you would have liked to have been treated or hopefully how you were treated by a former crew chief.
5. Handle business during the game. As a crew chief, one of your jobs is to protect your crew. If there are any issues, step up and take care of them professionally. Do not allow your partners to sink because you don’t want to interject yourself. If you have a coach getting on a less-experienced crew member and that member is struggling, get involved. Don’t allow things to fester. You are there as a facilitator to make things go as smoothly as possible.
6. Have a thorough postgame. After the last pitch, don’t be in a hurry to get home (unless you have a flight to catch and have to rush to the airport). Take the time to discuss the game and any issues you had. Also, take the time to praise your crewmembers on the things they did well. Too often, postgames are either quick, “Nothing to discuss, it all went smoothly,” or they focus too much on the negative. All members of the crew should leave the postgame with some positive reinforcement and one or two things to work on for the next game.
7. Stay in touch afterward. Your job as crew chief doesn’t end when the game ends. Give your crew your cell phone number and make sure they text you when they arrive safely at home. It is a small thing, but genuinely shows you care about your crew. Make sure your crew knows they can get in touch with you after the game if they have questions, even if it is in another game and they just need someone to talk to. Those relationships will go a long way in both you and your fellow crewmembers’ careers. You never know when your paths will cross again.
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