Baseball players chatter but softball players chant. It’s a small difference with a big impact on the game. Across gender lines, in baseball chatter is part of the game. “Hey batter, batter”, “Give em’ the heater” and other greats can be heard from dugouts around the world. It’s the universal language of baseball, even when the native language isn’t English.
In softball however, you’re more likely to hear the clapping or recognize the tune, than understand the words. What you will notice however is the gender divide. Ladies with matching bows in their hair clapping in unison and cheering… you’d think the home team replaced their bench with a cheer squad. There’s definitely no equivalent on the benches of their male counterparts and, for our two cents, we think it’s a shame.
There is an infectious nature, a pent up energy, behind every chant. It’s the equivalent of a primal scream for stress relief. It’s healthy and, as a result creates a lighter, happier atmosphere. While appreciated, like most great things in life, it is best experienced in moderation. This is where some teams - for coaches, teammates and fans alike - can go array.
Here are some basic guidelines for getting it right the first time.
Cheers v Chatter
In chatter the words don’t matter. It’s the verbal backup that is meant to let your teammate know the bench has their back. For example, one player might say “Hum-diddy-hey-come-to-play” while another says “Come kid, come kid” and then you might hear a “Yup-Yup!” It’s random. When the whole dugout is going, it sounds like a sea of cicadas; a field of crickets in the still of night.
According to coach5150, The biggest difference between baseball and softball in this matter is simply organization. "There’s a freakin’ chant for every situation imaginable.” Coach says, “I have to hand it to the ladies. They’ve got the boys beat. The chants that come from their mouths are infectious, hilarious, and very simply, fun.”
The biggest difference between chatter and chanting is organization. Stacie Mahoe with softballperformance.com says, “If you listen carefully, most teams do cheers based upon what’s currently happening in the game which means that they have to be paying attention in order to choose the best cheers to do at the best time.” She says the key to cheering is that it helps a player feel in the game even when they’re not in the lineup.
Mahoe believes, “What a team can achieve in cheering, they are more likely to be able to do on the field in play. If they can be consistent in cheering, from the very first pitch to the very last out, it’s a very important skill to develop. They celebrate every victory no matter how “big” or “small” – every hit by a team member is a reason to cheer. Every out made by the defense is a reason to cheer. This mentality reinforces the concept that there are no “little things” and that every out and every offensive opportunity is important. It helps minimizes “pressure” situations. Players are less likely to see situations as “big play” or “big at bat” or “big pitch” situations when, through cheering, their mindset weighs every situation as equally “important.”"
Ryan S. Clark of the Sun Sentinel says there are three things that go into a successful chant: “A player's last name, that player's number and having someone on the team willing to be the loudest person around.” Here are a few ground rules to get you started.
Moderation – While enthusiasm is appreciated and infectious there is a line between engagement and annoying.
Energy – good energy is the key to success.
Sportsmanship – Keep it to yourself. In the spirit of sportsmanship cheers should be limited to your own bench and their accomplishments. Pointing out the faults of your opposition is just bad manners.
Respect - If someone on the team asks you to leave them out of the loop, do it. Sometimes it’s more pressure and the point is to provide backup.
Positive Energy - Avoid negative, profane and impolite lyrics – in other words, be good sports.
Paige Lokeinsky of Cypress Bay softball says, “Intelligence has to be applied. You don't make fun of people who are injured or just got hurt. Chanting isn't just spouting off something or making fun of someone. It has to be clever. It has to be funny. It also has to be harmless fun.”
At the College Softball World Series last year Michigan Wolverine Olivia Richvalsky told ESPN, “It's part of what makes our team so special, and it's given us our presence on and off the field. That's something I'm so proud to be a part of. I think that's really made my experience here so incredible."
ESPNW.com’s Graham Hays says, “Softball's dugout culture is part of the sport's identity, as much a part of its uniqueness as the big yellow ball and underhand pitching motion. When it comes to how the sport is perceived, it is also its vulnerability.”
The implication is that chanting is just a girl thing and that makes it feel a little less like sportsmanship. Is the perception the reality though? Well, if you’re from New Zealand, then no. The men’s softball team is spreading the Haka around the globe. If you’re team isn’t quite mean-mugged enough to pull off a Haka gentlemen, don’t worry. With lyrics to melodies from Ghostbusters to Big Papi, the ladies will help you find the right fit to your team’s bench.
How Does It Work?
Chants are as unique as the teams that use them. While some are universal, using theme songs or well-known melodies as the base and creating their own situational words to match, others are one of a kind.
The more personalized they become, the more they serve the purpose of uniting your team. The West Carolina softball team directed their fans through some of their most-often used chants so they could join in from the stands. What about your team?