I have found that the most difficult thing to combat in softball sliding is fear. A player who is afraid of getting hurt will not be able to be relaxed enough to execute a slide and will likely get hurt. This is why it is important for players regardless of age or skill level to learn how to slide in a safe environment where they feel like they will not get hurt. there are numerous things you can do to make it safe and even fun for sliding.
- gymnastics mats
- wet grass on a hill
- sliding mats
- a long piece of cardboard on grass
- water sliding mats
If you are in a gymnasium or on the field, you can start the teaching process with them simply sitting down with their legs crossed. The leg that tucks under is the one that would tuck under on a bent leg slide. You can have them begin with two adults holding a bat horizontally at each end. The slider can start with hanging onto the bat and the adults lower the slider down into a finish sliding position. In the progression, the slider runs and hangs on to the bat as they slide and the bat holders keep them from hitting the ground. This is a way for the slider to feel safe.
Reasons for the Softball Slide:
- to avoid a tag
- to prevent over running second or third base
- to break up a double play
- to avoid a collision with a fielder
In some leagues it is actually mandatory for baserunners to slide into second and into home to avoid collisions.
Bent Leg Slide
This slide is the one that players learn first and is the most used one. This slide is similar to the slide tackle in soccer. The runner should slide about a body and a half length away from the base to prevent injury and to ensure that they get all the way to the base or home plate. It is mostly used to avoid a tag and to break up a double play.
This slide is used when the runner is likely going to advance to the next base on the play. The runner uses the base to push off as the bottom leg pushes the body up to a standing position. Speed is important for this slide to be effective.
Fade Away Slide
This slide is used to avoid a tag by sliding away from the base and then reaching for it as the fielder is missing them with the ball.
The type of slide used is dependent on the baserunners experience level and confidence. It will also depend on the situation and the defense. Sliding also requires some instinct and ability to read the play allowing them to select the best way to get to the base safely and / or advance. It is important not to force the players to slide if they do not feel comfortable. Make sure you have practised and that they can execute the slide well before you expect them to do it in a game.
On those rainy days when you don’t know what to do, sliding can be an option if you are near a grassy hill. The most important thing to remember when practicing sliding is to wear a helmet. We always think that no one will get hurt but safety is our number one responsibility as coaches.