The game of softball was invented in 1887, in Chicago. It is very similar to baseball, except that it is played with a larger ball and on a smaller playing field. Originally it was an indoor sport. There were many different names for the game before it was called softball. Some of the names it was known by were indoor baseball, playground softball, mush ball, and kitten ball, and originally, it was only played by women. The game became a women’s Olympic sport in 1991, and is played by millions of women the world over. An interesting fact is that although the game is called softball, the ball is in fact very hard. It is quite a bit larger than a baseball which measures 9″ in circumference. A softball measures 12″ in circumference. Softball is now played on every continent in the world.
What is softball?
Softball is a sport which is played using a bat and a ball. There are two teams which compete against each other. The game is very similar to baseball, although there are some very striking differences. Softballs are larger than baseballs, and the pitches are thrown underhand instead of overhand. The game of softball is also played on a diamond which is smaller than baseball.
There are normally 9 or 10 players on the field at the same time. The field has four bases, namely first base, second base, third base and fourth base or home plate. Very close to the centre of this square is the pitchers circle, and inside that area there is a ‘rubber’ which is a small rectangle area.
The object of the game is to score more points – or runs – than the other side, by batting the ball into play and then running from the first base to the last base. Each base must be touched as the player passes it. The game has one or more umpires.
There are three types of softball – slow-pitch softball, fast-pitch softball, and modified softball.
Slow-pitch softball: the ball can measure either 11 or 12 inches in circumference, depending on the age of the players. The ball must arch on the way to the batter. There are 10 players in a team.
Fast-pitch softball: there are nine players in a team and the ball is pitched very fast. Bunting and stealing are allowed with this type of softball.
Modified softball: this type allows the pitcher to throw as hard as possible but with a restricted back swing. The ball must be pitched underhand from 46 feet for men and 43 feet for women. There are only seven innings instead of nine is in a regular game.
- Scoop drill: If you have youngsters who need to learn how to use their gloves, then this is an excellent drill for them. Use a plastic milk jug with the bottom cut off and one half cut out so that it resembles a softball glove and looks just like a scoop. With the scoop shaped like their glove, younger players will understand the position where the glove should be. When using the scoop, give them different scenarios to try such as waist level tosses, shoulder and head level tosses and grounders so they get accustomed to using the scoop and feel how the ball rolls into it.
- Two arms: Youngsters need to learn that sometimes they will need to use two hands to catch the ball. Before starting the drill, explain that they should think of an alligator’s jaws work. You then explain that caching the ball should work in the same way, with the ball being the alligator’s food. They need to catch it with both hands like the alligators’ jaws. Players begin by standing in a single line in the fielding ready position. You then proceed to roll the ball and they place their glove down in front of the ball. As the ball reaches them they clamp down with the other hand to stop the ball from rolling. You should then proceed to doing this drill with waist high throws and then move up to shoulder height throws. Youngsters will soon be able to grip the ball with both hands if they need to, and then be able to do this with a glove on the field.
- Ball to First Base: While it is important for youngsters to learn to catch the ball, it is equally important that they know what to do with it when they have caught it. Most will be very happy just to stop the ball! The players should start this drill with their gloves on and out to second base, with one player at first base to field the ball. Coach then tosses or lightly hits the ball to players at second base. They need to know that one of the first places they are to throw the ball is to first base. Players should rotate the field while doing this so that they all have a turn to catch and throw to first base. Once they are familiar with the drill, the coach may be able to fire of more balls in rapid succession so that more than one are catching and throwing back to first base. To make players more aware of where they are on the field, they may stand on any of the bases to do this. They all catch and throw the ball to the first base, no matter where they are. This is one of the toughest things for a new player to do and repetition in this is the only way they will know where they are and where to throw the ball every time. This drill will help them learn the bases and every other position in the field.
- Pass Ball: Probably one of the things that must always be taught to youngsters when first learning to field is to have the ball in front of them. Set up two pylons approximately 10feet apart. The players must not let the ball cross the line between the pylons. The coach rolls the ball, or bounces the ball towards the players to try to get it past them. The aim of the drill is to have the players shuffle from side to side with the glove in front of them and their whole bodies in front of the ball. In the beginning, there will be some players who do not want to do this as they may fear the ball hitting them. This is perfectly normal, and in the beginning, you may want to use a softer ball until they get used to doing the drill. Then change to a regular ball. Players should learn in the early stages that they must shuffle their feet to get in front of the ball. This drill helps to keep them in the correct position, with the ball in front of them.
- Catch and Throw: This is a good way for youngsters to learn how to approach a fly ball, when there is a runner on base. Start with three lines of players, to indicate right, centre and left fields. The coach has the bat and hits fly balls to the players. It helps if the coach has someone to pass the balls to him so he can hit in a continuous speed. Hit the ball out to the first person in each line and have them catch the ball and throw it back to the correct spot. The players should focus on the correct footwork before catching the ball and returning it. As they gain confidence they can move out a little further until they are out at 25 feet away and still returning the ball accurately to the given spot. As they progress with this, you can add a runner on second base and have them throw him out.
- Step and Toss: The two most basic parts of softball are learning how to throw and how to catch. This is a drill which teaches both of these. You will be able to teach them to throw longer and catch harder balls. Set up two lines of players facing each other. One line throws the ball to the opposite side, taking care to aim for the glove of the receiver. Players need to learn where to put the ball, which is right in the other person’s glove. As they improve, they may move further apart from each other and adjust the throwing and catching.
- Lead runner: having learned to throw the ball accurately to the first base, the players should then concentrate on learning how to throw to the lead runner. This drill teaches them to look up at the lead runner, and decide if it is best to throw to first base or the second base. Set up a regular field and have all the positions covered. The first person should throw the ball to where the lead runner is headed. The idea is that the player makes a decision as to whether to throw to the first base or second base. If you want to add some variety to this drill you can place a player on all the bases. The player gets to decide where he is going to throw to be the most effective. By repeating this drill the players will learn to instinctively make the right play to the right base.
- Throw out: this drill combines some of the ideas used in previous drills. It should become second nature to field the ball and make a play while there is a runner running to different bases. This needs to be repeated over and over until it becomes second nature. This is a standard throwing drill with the change being that there is a runner headed to first base. The runner needs to try and outrun the thrower. Award a point to the runners if they get to the next base, and award a point to the throwers if they anticipate the runner and throw him out. The thrower should vary the balls while still keeping them accurate. By adding runners and putting the players under pressure to make decisions, they will learn to make the right play and make it quickly and accurately. Repetition of basic plays will ensure that less errors are made in games and more games are won.
- Hit the Cutoff: one of the most common errors in the junior leagues is hitting the cut off man when what should really be done is to hit the opposite field player. To do this drill, have a base man, a second base man, shortstop and third base man. There should be a runner on second base. The coach passes the ball to the right fielder and play begins. The right fielder plays the ball to the cut off man and then he plays it to the third base to try to get the tag out.
- Know your destination: young players sometimes just do not know where they are to go once the ball is hit. They may just wait until being told where to go next. This drill helps them to understand where they are meant to be heading when the ball is hit. Start with a complete field the coach calls out plays such as the player hitting a dribbler up to first base line. First base player should run after the ball while second base covers the first, short covers the second and so on. The coach should go through several different scenarios until all the players are moving as soon as the ball has been hit. Players – especially younger ones – need to be taught that they have a job to do on the field and should be moving. The coach can add batting to make the drill more of a challenge. This will teach players where they should be during the play.
- Tag Out: To do this drill there should be an infield set up with a runner on second base to start. The coach then hits grounders to the infield and the players must decide whether to stay at second base or run to the next base. The player must decide if they can make third base or stay at second. The coach can change the ball shots to give more variety. The players must decide of it is safe for them to run or stay. With repeated practice the players will get used to making decisions as to whether it is safe to run or better to stay.
- Double play: double play is a very good way to get the team out of trouble. It does take perfect timing and lots of practice to work effectively. Set up an entire field. Have a runner at first base and the home plate. Coach then hits balls to the different positions and players throw to second base, then turn it to first base for the double play. The job of the runners is to disrupt the play or outrun the ball. Variety can be added by having players on first and second bases who have to decide if they will take the lead runner or leave the lead runner. Another variation is when the line drives are hit and caught and then thrown to where the runner was. One the players realise that double play is only a series of single outs, they will find it easier to play the moves. Once they understand the moves of double play they will be able to add them to the games.
- Catch Fly Balls: this is to work on the drill of catching balls which are not hit directly at players. These are known as fly balls. Line up the fielders in all three of the fields. The coach hits the balls to the players. Coach should check that the players start the move with the glove side foot and move rapidly in the direction of the ball and scoop it up. Coach should watch for an incorr3ct approach to the ball which will cause it to be dropped. Another reason to drop a fly ball is lack of concentration. This drill teaches players to adjust to high fly balls as well as grounders. Constant repetition is needed for players to get the hang of tracking down a fly ball effectively.
- Make the play: Set up with a complete defensive team. Have one or two runners. Players need to know their responsibilities and be able to make the play when they are called upon. This is a standard fielding drill with a difference. Coach sets up different plays to cover. Perhaps a player stealing bases or a fly ball with a runner on third. The player never knows what the play will be but they must read and react correctly to the different situations. Once they have gone through the different scenarios, young players will be more able to deal with situations in a real game.
- Between bases: this is a drill where the players find themselves between two bases with either base being a safe place to go to. Coach sets up several stations with three people on each station – 2 fielders and one runner. The fielders need to play the ball back and forth in an attempt to get the runner out. While the runner needs to focus on getting to third base or back to second base, whichever he deems safest. Coach can award points each time a base is reached safely, or a player successfully stopped between bases.
- Hand-eye co-ordination: this drill builds co-ordination between hand and eye and builds up quick reactions. Coach has two groups set up with 5 players in a line facing the coach. Players have gloves on and are spread out about 10 feet apart. Coach starts to hit grounders to the players in a random order so that the players have no idea where the ball will go. Players need to react quickly and throw the ball to the player fielding the ball. Coach hits the ball as quickly as possible to different players. As the players miss the ball they are out of the drill. Players are allowed to communicate with each other to ensure no one runs into anyone on the field. The focus of this drill is that the players read, react, and communicate with each other. This way the players will improve co-ordination and reaction times to thrown balls.
- From the tee: from time to time even the professional softballers go back to the basics and hitting from the tee is one of them. This is used to work on the fundamentals of the sport. You need a batter, a tee, and several balls. A batting cage is great for this but not essential. A backdrop also works well here. The tee should be raised or lowered to show the difference between heights in the strike zone. The player should focus on striding towards the field as they have been shown, swinging down to the ball, and then making good, solid contact with the ball. The player should be less focused on hitting the ball out of the field at this stage and concentrate on making a good, clean contact with the ball. Once they can do this they will be able to move on to more aggressive strikes.
- Eye on the ball: this is sometimes a difficult drill for youngsters to master. The coach should make a mark on the ball with a black marker. The drill teaches the player to focus on things that are smaller than the ball itself. Set up a tee that is approximately waist high for the player. Place the ball with the spot on the tee with the spot facing the backstop. The player should be encouraged to focus on the spot and not the ball. Once they have learned to focus on a target that is smaller than the ball itself, they will be able to swing at the right spot. When aiming for a bigger area, there is more room for error. This drill helps youngsters to build confidence, and also develop muscle memory so that hitting the ball becomes familiar to them and feels natural.
- Learn the balls: knowing how to hit different balls such as grounders, pop ups and line drives will give the players a better idea of why they swing the bat in different ways. Start this drill with a ball, tee, and batter with helmet. Some fielders to catch the balls are also a good idea but not essential. Coach then demonstrates to the what happens when different parts of the bat is used to hit with. Coach also shows what happens when he swings a different way such as up, down or level. The players take turns to hit off the tee and experiment for themselves. Once the players have discovered the different ways that using the bat affects the ball flight they will be better informed in a game to use other styles of hitting. While everyone wants to hit a home run, the players will learn that making contact with the ball comes first and then hitting home runs.
- Learn the Stance: this is an important drill as it focuses on the fundamental need that the stance is perfect. Although young players will benefit from this, it will also be good for older players to
re-enforce the correct position. Start with a group of 6 batters with helmets and bats. Players should line up evenly along the third base line. Coach calls out ‘stance’ and all six batters get into the correct batting stance. This is the coach’s opportunity to make any corrections to the stances. On the second call, any player who needs correction is eliminated, the drill is repeated and the last man standing wins.
- Water filled balloon drill: Place some water in the balloons, not too much as they will burst. Line up 6 batters with a balloon each. The balloons are not allowed to touch the ground. The balloon should be placed between the players’ thighs and they should assume the batting stance. When they stride forward they should keep the balloon from falling to the ground. This drill helps players to recognise that they that if they drop the balloon they have taken too long a stride and they need to shorten it a little.
- Opposite field hitting: this drill is done with a tee or with the coach pitching. Using the tee will help with positioning and coach assists with timing. Each batter should take the stance with open shoulders, and point towards the third base side of the field. The players then swing and watch the ball flight to the left field. Then have the player close the stance and do the same and watch the ball flight towards the right field. The players should do this so that they know how the body stance affects the ball flight. This way the players will learn that their own body placement can predict the flight of the ball either to the left or the right. Once they can do this regularly they will have more control of the game and where they want to hit the ball.
- Follow through: the follow through is an important part of the swing and this will mean a fluid and powerful swing. If the player stops the bat I the flow, it will mean a weak swing that loses momentum and produces an inaccurate shot. Have a tee ready for the batter to hit from. You will also need a ball set up. When the batter swings through the ball, the coach should watch that they maintain the swing plane throughout the drill, first hitting the tee in front of them and then using the proper follow through technique. Often the first ball is hit well but the second one is off plane. The coach should correct this and have the player repeat the drill until the swing plane is carried out regularly in the same way.
- Hit and run: this drill is suitable for older kids who have already learned the basics of the game. This drill builds on these skills. Coach may use a tee in the beginning so that the players can learn to aim the swing to the gap in the lineup. Place a runner on first base, with infielders in place. The player should hit the ball through the hole left when the second base person moves away to pre-emt the steal. The drill can be altered by putting the hit and run on with a runner on the second base. You can even do the drill with someone on third with a hit and run in the middle. The aim of the drill is to help players to react correctly to a hit and run situation and to choose the best method of defence against it.
- Hitting high and low: this drill is excellent to develop a good reaction time to a ball. It is also designed to make the player make instant decisions about the shot to play. It is played with two balls, a batter, and the coach. Player should wear helmet and face into the batting net. The coach is kneeling off to one side and tosses two balls quickly right after one another, one high and one low. Coach calls out which ball he wants the player to hit and the player must instantly react and hit the ball the coach has called. This teaches the player to listen for the call and to instantly react to hit the ball wherever it is. This drill should only be played with one player at a time and the coach should wear face protection.
- Down swing: swinging down will prevent fly balls. Every professional hits towards the ground. For this drill, you need a tee and batter with an infield. Using either the tee or with a pitcher, the balls are hit downward. Each time the player hits a grounder thy are awarded a point. If they hit fly balls or pop ups they lose a point. The drill is designed to teach players to swing downward on the ball. This reduces the number of pop ups and fly balls.
- Keep the distance: often batters get too enthusiastic and want to extend themselves when they try to hit a ball. It is important to keep hands in the correct position to be consistent. In this drill, you need a tee, a batter with helmets and the player wearing a loose shirt. The batter sets up at the tee with the ball on top but they grab their shirt and wrap it around the handle of the bat. When the player starts to swing, they keep hold of the shirt until they make contact with the ball, when they release the shirt. By holding the shirt. the players will learn the correct distance that there should be between the ball and their hands. It is a common error for players to try to reach for the ball and this drill will teach them that they get the best contact at a certain distance from the contact point.
Base running drills
- Know the bases: young players should be taught the bases and what they are used for. It is always a good idea to teach them this early. This drill is in effect a walk around the bases, starting with the first base and moving on from there. The coach should walk and talk the players around and explain what happens as soon as the ball has been hit, where they are to go to and why, and what they should do when they get there. Particularly with young players, the coach should do this at least once during the off season to make sure that they remember. After that, the walk is the same but with the players telling the coach what they do, and where they should go, which base they need to run to and what they should look out for. As soon as the players know what to do and where to go, the level of the game will go up.
- Relay Bases: this drill is a competition between two teams to see who can run the bases the fastest. Secure all the bases with two teams. Coach blows a whistle and the first two runners head for the next base, touch hands with the next player who then runs to the next base, and so on. The whole team continues around until all the players have run. Coach has a stop watch to check the time. The fastest team wins something, the coach can reward them with ice cream or candy.
- Run the bases: this drill is used to increase speed and reduce the area while running to a base. Coach should divide the players into two teams. They should position themselves on the opposite sides of the first base and about 40 feet from the base. From both sides of the base, the runners run towards the base and then turn to run to the second base. This will teach them how to take the shortest route to the next base. At first, coach may do this at jogging speed until the players get the hang of it. After that they can move up to running as fast as possible. With doing this drill repeatedly, the players will learn to take the shortest route to the next base, even with other runners around them.
- Sand sliding: sliding has always been the fastest way to stop at a base because the runner never needs to slow down the run. They just need to learn to slide in. In the beginning this can be quite a daunting thing for youngsters to do, but with practice they will be able to master the art of sliding in. For this drill the coach needs a large sand area. If you have access to a long jump pit, then this will be perfect. Players take turn to run to the sand pit and slide, ensuring that they are turned slightly to their left side and slide on their left buttock and left leg. After they have mastered this, have the players form a line behind the pit and one at a time walk through the sand, gradually bend knees, lower hips and throw the right leg forward, thus performing a slow slide. Make sure that hands are not reaching to stop a fall as they will injure them. Start the players off slow and gradually move up until they can run into the sand and slide. This is a very good drill to increase speed between bases.
- Run through the base: this drill is intended to get players to start their run as soon as they can and not stop or slow down before they reach the next base. Often, especially in new players, they will be slow to start and will also slow down before they have touched the base. Have players on all bases. Coach has the whistle and on his signal, all the players take an imaginary swing, then explode from the box and run to 5 yards past the next base. In the beginning, it may be a good idea to place a marker at 5 yards past spot so that players know where they are supposed to stop. The idea is to train the players that they must run past the base before slowing down. They should not slow down before they get there. This drill is particularly good for young players who will naturally pull up short before the base.
- Run all the bases: this drill is important because players must be able to run all the way around the bases if they are required to do so. The drill is designed to keep them on their toes. They must compete with their team mates here. One team lines up at third base, and the other team lines up at home plate. On the signal one player from each team runs to the next base, touches it, and continues to run around until they are back at the team, when the next player takes off. The next player can only run when he has been tagged. Apart from getting the players into very good shape for the game, it will give them a little competition between themselves and they will learn the value of running between bases as fast as they can.
- Squeeze drill: this drill requires a full infield with pitcher, catcher, batter, and runner on third base. The runner on third needs to try and get a squeeze on the pitcher as the batter squares round on the ball. The aim of the runner on third is to sneak a run to home without being caught. The runner should focus on not getting tagged and getting a good run as soon as the batter has struck the ball. This is a very valuable drill when the game is in the closing stages and the difference in scores is very close. It is these plays that will win a point here and there to win the game.
- Double Steal: a double steal is done when there are runners on two bases and both advance to the next base or home. With this drill, you need a full infield, a batter, runner on first and runner on third. The pitcher throws as normal and the batter swings, but does not hit the ball. Both the runners then try to steal a run and it is left to the fielder to choose who to tag as both runners should advance if they can. Double steals are a very good way to increase the points. Coach may score this drill with each runner who completes getting a point, and each fielder who tags a runner getting a point. At the end, the team with the most points wins.
- Crack and run: this drill is designed to make the players anticipate the crack of the ball on the bat and explode away and off to the base. Have the pitcher and batter set up in the normal way. Have the players in a line looking away from the batter. The players must learn to react quickly to the crack when the ball hits the bat. The faster they can start to run, the more points stand to be won. This drill can be started with young players as well as older players. They will learn to react instantly they hear the crack and realise that every second counts in the game.
- Eyes on the Base Coach: this drill is meant to teach players that the coach is the person who decides what they do and they must pay attention to this. Have a full infield set up, with an outfield and some runners, a first base and third base coach. Coach then hits the ball to an area of the field and players make the plays. When the runner reaches the base, they must discipline themselves to wait until the coach has told them what to do. This will be hard as instinctively the player will want to run and do something, but it is important that they listen to the coach.
- Sacrifice Play drill: occasionally there will be a need to get a runner around the bases with a bunt or fly ball. Have a full infield, a batter and runner on first or second. The batter needs to bet the runner to the next base using only a bunt or a fly, which should be deep enough for the runner to advance. The batters should work on purposefully hitting fly balls to give the runner a chance to get to the next base. This is a very common play in softball and a good way to increase runs.
In some parts of the world, the winters are far too harsh to be practising outdoors. However, it is important that players keep doing drills in preparation for the season. Gymnasiums are the perfect places for drill sessions to be held as they have plenty of space and are protected from the elements.
While it is very difficult for players to get real practice against a live pitcher indoors. It is possible for them to stay in the hitting mode by hitting off a tee and taking batting practice while using a machine.
Often coaches will begin the season with indoor coaching as it is easy to spot mistakes in smaller spaces than out on a large field.
According to an article about indoor softball drills you can see that these are very easily carried out in any small space.
- Hitting off a tee: Young players will benefit from this. The player should focus on the correct stance and the position of the hands and arms. While keeping the head down and the eye on the ball, the player then steps forward with the front foot, keeps the back foot planted firmly and swings the bat right through the ball. The coach will be able to watch the swing and correct or modify the action until it is perfect.
- Using a pitching machine: these are ideal for indoor practise. The speed can be adjusted to suit the exact tempo of a real ball which is being thrown. The player should aim to return the ball as close to the machine as possible. This is another way to practice bunting indoors.
- Four corner drill: players stand in each of the corners of the gym. The ball is thrown across to the diagonal corner. The catcher then throws it to the player on the same side of the gym. They then throw it across the gym to the diagonal corner. This continues until all the players have had a chance to throw and to catch the ball. Players should work on catching the ball with two hands and throwing it quickly. When they get used to this drill, it is a very rapid moving action with no stops.
- Fielding: no gloves are used in this drill, just bare hands. Line the players up in two lines facing each other. The first player rolls the ball to the player opposite them, then both roller and receiver run to the end of the lines and the next pair commence. The players must focus on being completely square with the ball, bending with the knees and not the back, and cradling the ball into their bodies. Try not to roll too fast or slowly. It is a good idea for a coach to be present to watch the body positions and correct if needed.
- Elbows up: possibly one of the most common mistakes that girls make is the dropped elbow. This is because boys are naturally stronger than girls and the elbows drop. When a girl throws with her elbows in the correct position, it adds another 5 – 7 mph on to the speed of her ball. Girls should focus on keeping a straight arm at release, instead of being slightly bent. This can be done repeatedly with a coach watching to remind the player. It can also be done by practising the throw in front of a large mirror and learning to feel when the arm is straight.
- Shoulder stability: it is very important that the shoulders are strengthened and stabled. This can be done with some very basic gym exercises such as forward or lateral raises. These should be done with light weights at first so no muscles are strained. As strength builds up, the weight can be increased.
- Long strides: the longer the stride, the more forward movement is produced and the more the hips and torso can help the arm accelerate. Athletes with weak legs noticeably keep their legs beneath them more often. Athletes with strong legs have far better momentum. This is a very easy drill which can be done anywhere a player can walk in a straight line. Important to start to take longer strides, but stay stable and be balanced with each step. Start off with slightly longer than normal and gradually increase until the stride is long and solid with no overbalancing. If this is practised it can add as much as 4mph in throws, and they will be far more controlled and aggressive.
- Positive throwing: Having a video of the actual throw is very important, especially where girls are concerned, as they tend to throw softer than boys. The video should compare the players throw with a stronger player. This will give feedback on whether the player throws timidly or aggressively. Pay attention to the finish point of the throw. The phrase ‘throw it like you mean it’ may appeal to girls and it will help to give them the picture of how aggressive they should be. With repeated video comparisons, they will be able to increase the speed of their throw and add 1 – 3 miles per hour to a throw.
- Use the hips: the goal here is to teach hitters to drive the back hip around the front hip. To do this set the ball on a tee just inside the front foot at the same height as the hip. Have the hitter assume a basic stance with the legs, but place the forearm of the back arm against the back hip. As the player moves through the load, they then rotate the hips and without moving the arms, snatches the ball off the tee. The player will find that if the front hip is pulled out, they will not be able to grab the ball.
- Wall throws: this drill is designed to work on speed and arm rotation. Have the pitcher stand close to the wall as possible, but still be able to complete the move. Use a soft ball instead of a regular ball. Have the pitcher wind up as they would normally do, and pitch as hard, and fast as possible into the wall. Even though this is classed as a speed drill, it is not necessary to focus on throwing fast. Rather the player should focus on putting 100% power behind each shot. After a few pitches, the player then backs up to continue the drill.
- Circling speed drill: this drill will improve the arm rotation speed. The pitcher’s feet should be shoulder width apart and in a stride position. The pitcher then makes three very fast circles with the pitching arm and releases the ball on the third rotation. In order to help with the aim, the pitcher should have the gloved hand t shoulder height facing the catcher. After doing three rotations this may be reduced to two before pitching, and finally to one. If the player feels any pain they are to stop right away.
- Walk up drill: start this drill with the pitcher behind the mound. The pitcher should take one step only onto the mound before pitching the ball. Make sure that this step is long and fairly aggressive, as this will add momentum to the throw.
- Fingers behind the ball: this drill is designed to teach players how to release the ball in the most effective way to produce and keep the speed. Coach may either teach the player to release the ball by rolling the fingers up the outside of the ball or use a twist release which is similar to the release of a screwball. If the fingers are on the side of the ball when it is released, then the speed of the ball will decrease, but if a three-finger fastball grip is used, the fingers will drive the ball through with speed and power.
- Wrist snap: this drill is for more experienced players who wish to add more speed to their pitching. A fast forward snap which is carried out correctly will add 3 – 5 miles per hour onto the ball speed. To do this, the wrist should be bent backwards slightly during the final downswing. Exactly at the release point the player should whip the wrist forward to accelerate the ball.
- Long distance pitching: this is a very good drill to increase speed and control. The players should be well warmed up to do this drill. Step back three feet after each pitch, thus throwing from a longer distance every time. The player should go backwards until they can barely reach the catcher, then move forward again.
- Weighted ball: this drill must only be done after a good warmup. It is designed to improve strength and speed. The pitcher throws 15 – 20 pitches using an over weighted ball. Try to use a regulation ball which weighs 12 ounces (twice the normal weight). Players doing this drill for the first time should start with a ball weighing 9 ounces and work up to 10 and 11 or 12 ounces.
- Underweight balls: lightweight balls of 4 or 5 ounces may be used for speed training and to practice good pitching techniques. Once these are perfected, then the player can move to an over weighted 8 or 9ounce ball, and then back to the regulation weight ball.
- One knee drill: this drill is used to increase arm speed and upper body strength. Player faces the catcher and kneels on the pitching side knee. The other knee is bent 90 degrees facing forward. Body should be upright. Player should then throw at least 30 balls from this position. If there is no catcher, then the player can kneel about 4 – 5 feet away from a wall and throw against the wall.
Work on these to be a good hitter:
- Swing with confidence: practise the wing repeatedly. The best way to do this is to have a coach watch and correct, or – once you know how it should feel – practice it in front of a long mirror. Keep the eyes closed and learn to recognise how the body should feel when throwing. Once this has been mastered, then confidence will follow to repeat the action.
- Be consistent: once a player has achieved a perfect swing, then they should make sure to follow the same routine every time. This will ensure that the player is ready mentally and in the right position to hit.
- Be disciplined: mental toughness is required to be a good softball player. This means putting in the practise even on days when the player does not feel like it. A good coach will encourage the players to attend training as arranged. Being disciplined about practise will mean that the player will become a good hitter and learn the correct mechanics of the swing.
- Be balanced: Balance will allow the player to keep the head steady during the setup, swing and finish. Balance is easily practised and can be done anywhere, and at any given time. Begin by standing on one leg for a minute, swap legs. Straighten a leg out to the side and hold. Repeat with other leg. On all fours, lift opposite arm and leg and extend them, head is looking down so the neck is straight. Repeat with other side.
- Stance: if the player was to hold out the bat in the lead hand, they should be able to touch the outside edge of the plate with the end of the bat. Learn to recognise when this is correct. Feet should be slightly wider than shoulders with the weight on the balls of the feet. Knees should be slightly flexed so there is a little bounce. There should be a slight bend at the waist. Practice the stance with your eyes closed, while someone watches and corrects you.
- Grip: on an open hand, place the bat handle across the fingers. Close the fingers around the bat. It should feel like the bat is resting at the base of the fingers. Once you have the correct grip, then practise it often, until you can do it with your eyes closed all the time. The grip should not be too tight. Should the grip be too tight you will find that the wrists lock and it becomes impossible to generate bat speed.
- Bat position: Start this drill with the bat on your back shoulder. Take your grip, concentrating on your knuckles being properly lined up. Now pick the bat up and move hands until the knob is in line with the armpit and lined up behind the back shoulder. This will place the bat in the correct position to hit. The only action required is to think of pulling the knob through the ball.
- Explode forward: to do this the player needs to first move the weight slightly back and to the inside of the back foot. As soon as the pitcher begins the move, the hitter rocks back slightly and then starts the forward stride. Step 2 – 3 inches forward with the front foot. The hips start the move and lead the hands. The coach should watch this as the player repeats the movement until it is correct. Repetition is very important, in order to build up muscle memory.
- Finishing technique: after hitting the ball, the hitter must ensure that the swing continues all the way through to the back. Do not stop half way. The coach should watch that the head stays still and the back shoulder comes under the chin. This routine must be repeated until it is correct.
Things you might like
Every new softball player needs a set of new items to play in. Here’s a box set which will make a great gift to that young player.
This is the perfect back pack to carry all your gear in.
For practice sessions where you need extra balls, this pack of soft training balls is just what you need.
A great fast pitch bat for a youngster to own.
To get extra strength in those hands, this exercise gripper is the perfect tool for the job.
Despite the origin of the game of softball as an indoor game, it is a wonderful way to spend time outdoors with friends and family. Whether you choose to just play the game for recreation or whether you decide to take it up as a profession, softball is a game which is a lot of fun for all who play it. While there is a huge amount of work involved for anyone taking the professional route, if you set your mind to it, the game will reward you in ways you never thought it would. Softball is not only a great way to meet other people, but an excellent way to keep fit, stay in shape and have fun.