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Are Softball Wristbands Taking the Place of Hand Signals on the Field?

March 10, 2023

For many newcomers, the hand signals made between the coaches and players can seem like complete gibberish. Unfortunately, it can also be like that for the very players communicating!

While hand signals have remained a cherished part of softball and baseball culture, it can also lead to miscommunication and errors.

So what’s the solution? Many softball teams have started using softball wristbands instead. These wristbands contain personalized team charts that the coach can call out to avoid any visual confusion.

It’s a creative solution, but is it the right fit for all softball teams? In this article, we’ll explore some of the pros and cons associated with the new strategy.

But first, to see why softball wristbands may be preferable to traditional hand signals we need to understand why the latter can lead to mistakes.

Why Do Hand Signals Lead to Miscommunication?

Hand signals have been around for a long time. They’ve become an iconic part of the game — a catcher holding up a finger or a pitcher swiping the rim of their hat.

So why give them up?

Simply put, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong with hand signals. For one thing, it can be difficult to give specific instructions with a hand signal.

For example, it may be easy for a pitcher to distinguish the difference between a fastball and a curveball, but the specific location can be hard to communicate.

It’s also fairly easy for an opposing team to catch on to hand signals as the game progresses. When this happens the softball team is essentially telegraphing all of their plays directly to the opposing team.

Also, it’s difficult for every player to see the hand signal — especially players in the outfield on defense. With a shouted number instead, the entire time can quickly become privy to what’s going on with the play and defensive strategy.

Why Are Softball Wristbands a Good Alternative?

To understand softball wristbands we first need to understand how they work. The wristbands that players wear contain a small chart on the inside of the wrist. Each chart contains a play or pitch with a corresponding number next to it.

Typically the wristband is laid out in a grid format with the numbers running across the top and the plays running along the bottom.

Coaches then call out the number of the play they want, and players can quickly double-check the corresponding meaning. Wristbands can be used for offensive plays or for defensive plays depending on how the coach wants to utilize.

So what are some of the advantages of using a softball wristband?

For one thing, wristbands solve the location problem we mentioned earlier. Instead of signaling whether a pitch should be up, down, inside or outside, a coach simply needs to call out a number.

It’s also much harder for the opposing team to read or steal your signs when you use a wristband. Hand signals, on the other hand, can be fairly easily cracked. Wristbands also solve the common problem of memory failure.

In the heat of the game, there’s a lot of pressure on players. As such, it’s easy for them to accidentally blank out the meaning of a hand signal in the middle of the game.

A wristband fixes this problem by attaching a reference sheet directly to the play. That way, if they forget the meaning of the signal they can quickly check it to make sure they know.

Where Can Softball Wristbands Go Wrong?

Unfortunately, wristbands aren’t perfect. One problem is that they rely on sound. As the catcher of the Blackhawks explains, if players can’t hear the coach call out the number of the pitch they want, then the operation can fall apart.

Coaches should try and take this into account when they play larger softball fields with lots of crowds and noise. Always have a backup plan in case the first one falls apart.

Also, it's important to realize that both wristbands and hand signals can go wrong if your softball team isn’t properly trained. It can be difficult making players commit to memorizing an entire sheet of signs.

And it’s not just the players who can make mistakes — even the coaches can get disorganized and make mistakes if they aren’t careful.

Are Softball Wristbands Taking the Place of Hand Signals on the Field

However, if the players and the coaches commit to the chart to memory, then the play will quickly become second nature to them.

In addition to making sure they memorize the signals, you should also make sure they’re properly drilled. Here are four types of softball drills we recommend for beginners.

How Do You Make Softball Wristbands?

There are plenty of services that offer wristbands for athletic purposes. The problem isn’t getting them — it’s fitting plays inside of the wristbands.

You can handwrite or type them, but this takes a lot of time and you will need to change them often. Luckily, some companies offer software that makes it easy to organize your specific plays onto each wristband.

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We hope this article helped you learn more about softball wristbands. While they may not be right for every team, we think for the most part it’s a more efficient system of communicating with players on the field.

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