Team softball drills are not always easy to find. I have compiled many drills from various sources that you can use for your team at any time of the season.
Team Softball Drills
AROUND THE HORN AND BACK
Line all of the girls up at 3B except for the first baseman who is at 1B. Space 3 balls evenly between 3B and home. When the coach blows the whistle, the player at the front of the line sprints to the first ball and fires it to 1B, followed by the second and then the third ball. (The 1B player will need a bucket to drop the balls into s she receives them) As soon as the player fires the third ball, she sprints to 2B and sets to receive a throw from 1B. She immediately turns and fires it to a coach or parent at home plate. Do this in three rotations.
Demonstrate this drill one time through as fast as you can to instill the importance of speed to make this drill effective.
This drill helps improve fielding, throwing and base running. It also helps the fielder become aware of base runners and base runners aware of what to do when heading to a base where the ball is being thrown. Please remember to have the base runners ALWAYS wear their helmets when running the bases.
Note: We play this drill between second and third, but you could play this between two bases anywhere on the field. Also, with younger players, we start this drill on grass so they get comfortable with sliding.
Divide the team into two groups (this could also be done with a smaller number of players as another group is working with a coach on a different skill) and form two parallel lines to the right of second base toward right field, one for fielders and one for base runners.
Select two fielders, one to play at SS and one to play at 3B, and position them appropriately.
Place a runner at 2B (wearing a helmet) and have the coach hitting or throwing the ball stand between home and the pitching rubber. Depending upon the league you play in, start the runner on the base or with a lead off.
Either on the coaches command or when the ball is hit, the runner takes off toward 3B and the ball is hit on the ground to the fielder at SS.
The SS fields the ball and throws to 3B. The fielder at 3B catches the ball and applies a tag as the runner comes in.
The object for the runner is to get safely to the bag (either by sliding or stopping on the bag – not over running it), and the object for the fielder is to get the runner out.
The coach should time the hitting or throwing of the ball so that the play at third is close. After the runner gets to third and the ball is thrown, the runner resets back to second and the drill goes again.
Each runner and fielder gets two chances, then the fielders and runners rotate: SS to 3B, 3B to the back of the runner line, the runner to back of the fielding line. The first in line of the fielders moves to SS and the first in line of the runners puts on a helmet and moves to 2B. Depending on time, we would run the players two or three times through this drill. As they got better, we added a wrinkle or two by either hitting the ball to the fielder at 3B and have them throw to the SS covering 2B making the runner go back to 2B, or occasionally hitting the ball in the air to either the SS or 3B, sending the runner back to 2B. If the ball gets past the fielder, then the runner advances so the girls get used to advancing on a miss-played ball. The wrinkle helped both the runner and the fielder become more aware of where the ball was and what to do in a given situation.
This was one of our best drills and the players really started to improve when they figured out what they were doing. This was also a good “spirit” drill as we had the girls cheer on either the fielder or the runner, depending upon the line they were in.
Good luck and have fun!
RUN DOWN DRILL
TO COMPLETE THIS DRILL YOU MUST HAVE AT LEAST 8 PLAYERS AND PREFERABLY 10 OR MORE. I WILL SET IT UP FOR 10 AND EXPLAIN IT.
FIRST, PUT 2 PLAYERS AT EACH BASE (INCLUDING HOME).
PLACE 1 RUNNER ( WITH GLOVE ON TOO) BETWEEN HOME AND 3RD AND 1 BETWEEN 1ST AND 2ND.
GIVE THE 1ST IN LINE AT 1ST BASE THE BALL AND HAVE HER RUN AT THE RUNNER BETWEEN 3RD AND HOME TAKING AN ANGLE TO CUT THE RUNNER OFF FROM HOME, THE DRILL IS NOW IN PLAY.
THE PLAYER WITH THE BALL TRIES TO PREVENT THE RUNNER FROM SCORING AT ALL COST AND THROWS THE BALL TO HOME IF NECESSARY, IF SHE SUCCESSFULLY TURNS RUNNER TOWARD 3RD THEN SHE GETS RUNNER TO FULL SPEED AND THROWS THE BALL TO THIRD. TRY TO COMPLETE THE OUT WITH AS FEW THROWS AS POSSIBLE. WHEN THEY GET REAL GOOD, IT WILL BE 1 THROW.
WHEN AN OUT IS MADE OR A RUNNER REACHES A BASE THE PERSON WITH THE BALL IN HAND SPRINTS TOWARD THE RUNNER BETWEEN 1ST AND 2ND CUTTING HER OFF FROM 2ND AND CONTINUING AS THE FIRST RUN DOWN WAS RUN IN AS FEW THROWS AS POSSIBLE.
THE DRILL NOW REPEATS BACK TOWARD HOME. ALWAYS TAKE GOOD ANGLES TO CUT RUNNER OFF FROM ADVANCING A BASE. COMPLETE IN AS FEW THROWS AS POSSIBLE.
THE PERSON AT HOME AND 3RD STATIONS THAT WOULD HAVE RECEIVED THE BALL NEXT IS THE RUNNER NOW BETWEEN 3RD AND HOME. THE LAST RUNNER IS NOW ON EITHER 3RD OR AT HOME FOR THE RETURNING RUNDOWN IN A FEW SECONDS. THE SAME IS TRUE AT 2ND AND 1ST ROTATION.
THE DRILL CAN BE RUN FOR TIME, SAY 5 MINUTES OR SO.
IF ANY FIELDER RUNS INTO THE RUNNER AFTER THROWING THE BALL AND CAUSES AN OBSTRUCTION, THE TEAM WILL GET A LAP AT THE END OF THE DRILL FOR IT. THIS IS A CRITICAL MISTAKE TO BE AVOIDED AT ALL COST IN GAMES.
BEST OF LUCK. I HOPE IT IS HELPFUL.
IT SHOULD HELP THE PLAYERS TO UNDERSTAND THE FOLLOWING POINTS:
GOOD ANGLES WILL TURN THE RUNNER BACK.
IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING A RUN DOWN LOOK FOR THE NEXT RUNNER TRYING TO ADVANCE.
OBSTRUCTING THE RUNNER SHOULD BE AVOIDED.
IF THE RUNNER IS SAFE BACK AT ORIGINAL BASE NOTHING IS LOST BUT THEY SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED TO ADVANCE TO THE NEXT BASE.
With many years of coaching youth, high school, women’s, and college fastpitch softball, I found one drill that fits every level of play. It develops both the INFIELD mechanics, OUTFIELD mechanics, and finally RELAYS to HOME.
I divide the team into 2 groups. One group lines up behind third-base. The other group lines up in deep right-center. I have an assistant coach acting as my catcher as I hit hard grounders to the first in line at third-base. She fields the ball and quickly makes a sharp throw to home-plate. I then hit a deep fly ball to the first in line at right-center. As this player sprints to catch the ball, the fielder that was at third-base sprints to a relay position for home-plate. The outfielder hits the now relay fielder who should be properly positioned to receive and relay the throw to home-plate.
The cycle repeats as the infielder that was the relay joins the rear of the line of outfielders. The outfielder that caught and threw the ball to the relay then joins the rear of the line of infielders. This cycle should be repeated as to correctly get everyone to errorlessly field, catch, throw, and relay through an entire cycle.
We put these drills on 5×8 index cards and laminate them, to water proof them. Some days at practice we hand them out to players who play each position. They work on these drills for about 15-20 minutes with the other players who play that position. These Position cards enable a coach to concentrate on helping one or two positions, as the kids should not require a lot of supervision. One thing we absolutely do is put our Freshman team and our JV team with the Varsity team for this session a lot and put our Senior players in charge.
You can modify them for any level of ball. On some cards, one position may need to be coordinated with another position for part of their card.
FIRST BASE DRILLS
-Tag out for runner off the bag
-Back hand ground balls (short hops)
-Tag on dive back
-Pick off by catcher (footwork to get back to bag)
SECOND BASE DRILLS
-Tag out at bag
-Three pivots to 2B (double play feed)
-Double play from SS at bag
-Back hand ground balls
-Pop ups between infield and outfield
-Cut off play steal with runner on 1st and 3rd
-Diving to catch ground balls
-Back hand ground balls
-Slap tag at 2B
-Feed to 2b on double play
-Pop ups between infield and outfield
-Ground balls in hole, pivot and throw
-Diving to catch ground ball
-Cut off play on steal runners on 1st and 3rd
THIRD BASE DRILLS
-Bail out and cover 3B from in close coverage
-Tag outs at bag
-Back hand ground ball on the line
-Ground ball to your left in front of SS
-Bunt pick up and throw 1B, 2B, 3B
-Diving to catch a ground ball
-Foul pop ups near the fence/dugout
-Scoop dirt pitches
-Block and tag at plate
-Pop outs in front of plate
-Pop outs near backstop
-Bad pitch inside & outside
-Steal throw mechanics at 2nd and 3rd base
-Pickoff throws runners on 1st and 3rd
-Fielding ground balls to your left and right
-Mechanics of bunt coverage and throws
-Wild pitch coverage at the plate
-Pointing up to the side of a pop up to the catcher
-Covering first base on ground ball
-Backing up third and home plate on throws from the outfield
-Work with catchers on intentional walks
-Side to side range
-Up and back range
-One down on ground ball
-Backing each other up
-Tweeners in the gaps
-Coordination between infield, outfield, on short fly ball
-Diving to catch a ball
-Diving to cut off a ball going to the gap
READY FOR ANYTHING
Have someone to throw the ball and to catch. First you form a line about 30 to 40 feet away from the person that is throwing the ball. Tell the players just to charge the ball. Also tell them that they could expect almost anything. Grounder, Pop Fly, or a line drive right to them. Anything.
It teaches them to be ready for anything. And to always charge the ball.
Have the players line up in a line stretching to the outfield. Have the first player throw the ball to the glove side of the second player in the line. Do the same for the rest of the players.
This teaches the proper location for the relay throw and also teaches quick turn and release of the throw.
One drill that our coaches use with us is where the infield takes their positions and the coach makes up situations for us. Like…A runner on 1st and 2nd…2 outs…and then she hits the ball to us making us like its a real situation and we have to figure out what to do with the ball so we’ll be ready for any situations like that in a real game.
She goes through every situation possible with us so we won’t get confused in a game. She does this every practice. It helps out a lot and causes less confusion during a real game. The outfielders participate too. It’s just like a real game going on except it’s practice. It really helps improve the mental aspect of your fielding skills.
STRAIGHT LINE PICK ‘EM
Take the fielders and line them up in a straight line. With plenty of space in between each one, line them up one behind the other away from the coach. Number each player such that the first person is number one, second is number two, and so on.
To execute the drill, the coach hits a hard grounder and calls one of the numbers at the same time. That number must field it, while the others step out of the way. The coach should randomly vary the numbers, so that each fielder has a chance to field a grounder and none can predict whose turn it is.
This drill teaches quick reflexes and clear thinking under pressure.
We have called this drill “that game” because my daughter and I don’t have a name for it.
You split your team into 3 teams it works well with 12 players and 2 coaches. One team goes to the outfield, one team plays the infield and the other team is up to bat. One coach pitches and one catches, you can also use the tee if you only have one coach, he/she needs to play catcher, or you can play pitcher and catcher after the ball has been hit. The pitcher pitches 3 pitches and the batter hits the ball and has to run all the bases, the team who touches the ball first has to field the ball and pass the ball under their legs until the ball has been passed to every girls on their team and the last girl has to throw the ball to the catcher before the batter/runner makes it home. The throw home has to be a good throw and the coach receiving the throw home can stand on home plate and can stretch to catch the ball but cant leave the plate.
If the ball arrives before the runner then the home team has one out–three outs and they go to the outfield and the infield team is up to bat, the kicker is that the pitcher can pitch as soon as a batter is up to the plate with a helmet on so if your team was just at bat you better be running to position yourself in the outfield. We end up with girls not even taking their helmets off, but they also learn teamwork, they have each others gloves ready for their teammates on their way to the field and they usually have the girl with the best arm line up at the end of the line to assure a good throw home, coaches beware, this game has just pooped me out, especially when you are playing pitcher and catcher!!!!
Oh yah, the batter only gets 3 pitches, if she doesn’t hit a fair ball after 3 she is out. And no bunting.
This drill is used to have everyone participate in fielding, catching and throwing.
Have everyone spread out evenly into a deep infield position. Place two fielders at first base, with one on the bag and another backing up the bag. Have an assistant be the catcher or use another player.
Start the drill by coach yelling, “ready!” This should be the queue for getting all the players into a ready position.
You then hit grounders or fly balls to them. As coach, be sure that players’ verbally call all fly balls. On grounders, make sure they set up in the PFP (Perfect Fielding Position) and keep the ball in front of them. Once the catch is made, a good throw to first base is the next step. The first basemen then throws the ball to the catcher.
If a ball is missed, the player missing the ball runs and retrieves the ball. Then he runs back and rolls the ball into the backstop while everyone else continues on with the drill. After they all have received at least one ball hit to them I will then yell switch. At that time the player that is backing up the first baseman becomes the first baseman. The first baseman goes to where third would be and everyone else rotates toward first.
I usually have punishments for trying to correct certain aspects of the drill. For example, not getting ready, not getting in front of the ball, not using PFP, or making bad throws to first can all result in a short run before returning to the drill. More importantly, I do my best to reward players doing things correctly.
PFP – Perfect Fielding Position – Glove foot forward. Other foot shoulder with apart at the inseam of the glove foot. Glove out in front and on the ground. Back parallel with the ground. Shoulders square with the hitter.
My Coach this year taught our team this drill. You have to divide your team up into 3 groups. The first group stands between first base and second base. The second group stands at short stop. The third group stands at home plate. A coach and the catcher stand a little to the side of the plate. The coach hits the ball to the first group,then the first group catches it and throws it to the second group while running to the second group position. The second group girl that catches the ball throws it to home plate while running there. You just keep on rotating in all of the positions.
This drill gets you in shape and alert the whole time.
The Coach sets up a situation that forces a wild throw to a lead base. Fielders and runners are used in this drill. Give the players the number of outs to help increase concentration and awareness of whether to get the lead runner out first or just get an out to end an inning.
Here is an example: Runners on 1st and 2nd. Fielders needed: 2nd baseman, ss, 3rd, P, catcher, left fielder. One out. The coach says go and makes a wild throw to third base forcing the defence to try and get the lead runner out for the second out of the inning, or make a decision to at least get the next runner out. Stress making smart decisions depending on outs!
I got this drill from our current Hitting Coach, Coach Burney. It is the most fun game we play and the players absolutely LOVE IT!!!
You get a Barney (or any other stuffed animal, but Barney works the best because they hate him) and put him on a chair by 1st base. If you have a net, put the nest behind the chair to stop the balls, otherwise put the chair near home. Have a coach hit ground balls to shortstop.
The player fields the ball and makes a throw trying to knock Barnet off the chair.
Tha ball must be fielded properly or no points. Have a time limit (about 5 minutes) and keep track of how many hits Barney gets. We have a rule that if the players can beat the previous record, we run (not me of course, I coach the pitchers).
BAT AROUND THE HORN
My name is Gary Shepherd. I’m a high school coach at Fox, Oklahoma. I call this drill BAT AROUND THE HORN. It works on every aspect of the game–Hitting, Fielding, Throwing, Base Running and requires two teams of 5 players. (It can be played with 6 players or more but each player scores for herself.)
One team takes the field at 1b,2b,ss,3b, and c. The other team is at bat. The batter hits a ground ball (from a tee, soft toss, or just toss the ball up and hit it). Fly balls are outs. An infielder catches the ball and throws to 1b. 1b then throws to one of the other infielders. That fielder throws back to 1b. 1b then throws to the other infielder (who hasn’t touched the ball) who throws back to 1b. The ball then goes around the horn (1b to ss to 2b to 3b) and then to the catcher.
Each fielder must touch her base before throwing except for around the horn and home. If the batter-runner can run all the way home before the ball gets home, 1 run scores. If the ball gets home first, one putout is made. Fielders rotate one position clockwise and next batter hits. Each Fielder has caught 3 ball and made 3 throws. Every catch and throw must be accurate or a run scores. Bat until 3 outs are made and change sides. Batters need to wear helmets. Play 3-7 innings. With more than 10 players – Fielders can rotate in at 3b.
Here’s an example in case my explanation was not clear:
Ball hit to 3rd.
3b catches batted ball, steps on 3rd, throws to 1b
1b catches ball, steps on 1st, throws to ss
ss catches ball, steps on 2nd, throws to 1b
1b catches ball, steps on 1st, throws to 2b
2b throws to 1b (now around the horn)
1b throws to ss
ss throws to 2b
2b throws to 3b
3b throws to c and c steps on home plate
Hope my contributions help somebody out there.
We use this drill to teach aggressive baserunning, hitting, and fielding. The drill uses a whiffle ball and a plastic bat. First set the bases at about 40 feet apart. Divide your team in two. One half fields and the other bats. Fielders do not use their gloves. We want to teach them that the hands are the real tools in catching the ball.
The ball is pitched from about 20 feet away. The batter has only three chances to hit the ball. (There are no balls or walks in this drill.) Once the ball is hit, the batter must run the bases until she reaches home plate or is tagged out. The fielders must always try to tag the runner out at first. You bat the entire line up. Then you change sides. We usually do this drill twice a week for about 20 minutes at a very fast pace.
GROUNDER FLY BALL GROUNDER
My favourite drill is called grounder Fly ball grounder. It goes like this:
Line all of your players up at third base. Hit a hard grounder to the first person in line. As soon as they throw it in to the coach throw a high fly to first. Make the player hustle to get it. as soon as they throw it in hit another grounder to third, thus making them run back across to get it.
This drill is good for foot speed, fielding and personal effort. Speed it up as players advance.
The girls have created their own names for this drill – guts, kill your team mate, the grounder game. Simply divide the girls into two teams. Have the teams form two lines about 40 to 60 feet apart, with players shoulder to shoulder three feet apart. Place something two feet from each girl at either end of both lines. These are the goal posts. The goal posts can be buckets, cones, balls, or the parents. Hand a ball to one of the players. To play the game, the girls take turns trying to throw grounders through the opposing line. They can throw as hard as they want (make sure they’re spaced far enough apart).
The rules are fairly simple: The player who fails to prevent the ball from going past the imaginary line between goal post is out of the game. The team who loses all its players first loses. The ball must bounce in front of the players to count. If a player’s ball is caught on the fly without bouncing she is out – if it is dropped, she stays in. If a ball goes through the line without bouncing, it has no effect. Any throw outside the goal posts has no effect.
As players are eliminated move the goal posts in until the last player has a goal roughly six feet wide. Hint: if the girls learn to charge the ball, it gives one of their team mates an opportunity to back them up. If there is a question as to which girl allowed the ball to get through the line, the opposing team decides.
When my team is stuck in the gym for a couple of days it’s hard to keep up their interest. I do an X-out drill where the team is divided into two teams and stands on the corner of gym on opposing corners.
Each coach stands on the opposite end at the corners and hit/throws grounders or fly balls to their team cross court. Each coach has a catcher who feeds the ball to the coach and also must catch all balls if possible. To complete the play the player must catch the ball successfully and make a catachable throw to their catcher for a point.
This goes on for about 3 minutes with the winner watching the others run or getting a treat. My girls like this drill the best.
The name of this game is Pepper. A coach gathers a small group of players which are only a few feet from him/her. The coach then hits or bunts the ball to the players in any random order, then the players must use quick reactions to retrieve the ball and accuracy to pitch, this pitch is only a toss, for the coach to hit again.
You do this drill to improve the players reaction time. You have to do this drill as quickly as possible and the pace will increase as time goes on, and the players improve. This can also be used to help players with bunting by having a player bunt the ball in place of the coach.
This is a drill that I think we all have used, it just slipped my mind when I was doing this site. Thanks to Scott Otto for bringing it to my attention!!
You get your infielder’s at their position (except the pitcher). The ball starts at the catcher, she throws to the second baseman, she throws to the third baseman, she throws to the first baseman, she throws to the shortstop, and she throws back to the catcher. The whole time this is going on you have a runner run the bases. They leave at the same time as the catcher starts the cycle.
It starts out easy for the fielders because they tend to start in kinda close and creep in. I let them do that for a while, till it get to easy, then I make them start backing up. After they get a few steps in the grass the faster runners start making it close. (the runners like to see a dropped or missed ball)
This really helps on the infielder’s learning to get rid of the ball quickly. I hope that it’s helpful.
PITCHERS, BATTERS AND SELF-DEFENCE
Pitchers get hit by line drives and screaming one-hoppers. Batters get hit by wild inside pitches.
The key to big improvements in pitcher/batter reaction times does not lie in extending the pitching distances. It lies in improving the player’s reaction time. A 5 year old student of the martial arts can be trained to have very quick reactions from an attack coming from as little as 2′ away. They react to the attack because they have had experience defending/deflecting the attack. They are experienced at it from being placed in the exact same situation hundreds of times at their practice sessions with their instructors.
A batter and pitcher can also be trained to have very quick reactions to an attack from a softball coming from 35′ to 46′ away. However, they are seldom put in that EXACT same situation in their practice sessions. They do not have the experience dealing with that exact situation, therefore, they do not react well, they react too late or they do not react at all.
The pitcher is the closest fielder to the batter, the closest in the line of fire. They stand directly in line with the center of the playing field. Therefore, they have the least amount of reaction time to a ball hit back at them. When the ball is hit, at that instant, the pitcher is also the only fielder that is NOT in a down, set and ready defensive posture/stance. The other fielders are already in their defensive stance, down, set and ready. The pitcher has just finished throwing the pitch and, at the moment the ball is hit, probably still has a little forward momentum/travel going on, still a little off balance and is standing up. I think it is safe to say the pitcher has everything going against them as far as defense is concerned.
These are all contributing factors to pitchers being hit. Despite these things going against them, there is one simple fact that cannot be denied; if they reacted in time, they would not have gotten hit or at least might have deflected the ball a little and not gotten hit so hard.
The key word here is REACT. You train your infielders to react to a line drive or a fast one hopper. They don’t have to decide what to do; they just react and defend themselves because they have been through that exact same situation hundreds of times at practice. Drilling your pitcher while she is in a down, set and ready position, like a 3rd baseman, is good and will surely help a little. However, this is NOT a realistic game situation for a pitcher that will have to defend themselves at the very end of their pitch. How often do you have your pitchers practice receiving line drives and fast one hoppers WHILE SHE IS PITCHING? She is not going to be set and ready for one back at her when she is pitching. She is going to be forced to defend herself while she is standing up, off balance and maybe even still moving forward. More than likely she will be moving when she will have to defend herself from the ball.
I have heard numerous responses to the safety issues regarding the recent pitching distance change from 35′ to 40′.
In pitching, the ball travel time is measured from the point of release (usually around 4′ in front of the pitcher’s rubber) to the point where it will/might be hit by the batter (usually around 1 foot in front of home plate). So, the distance that matters, the ball travel distance, is normally around 5′ less than the regulation distance. This can be easily calculated if you know the ball speed and distance. The same formula is applied to calculate ball travel time from a pitch thrown to the batter, or a hit ball coming towards the pitcher (the pitcher is now 4′ closer to the batter).
The batters and the pitchers at the 12 under level now have an extra 5′ of ball travel time to react to a wild inside pitch, a screaming line drive or one hopper coming at their body.
Let’s do the math and see just how much more time they will have to react at different ball speeds.
At 30mph a ball will travel:
158,400 ft per hour (5,280 x 30)
2,640 ft per minute (158,400 divided by 60)
44 ft per second (2,640 divided by 60)
At 35′ (30 divided by 44) the batter has .681 seconds to react.
At 40′ (35 divided by 44) they will have .795 seconds.
A difference of .114 seconds more at 40′.
At 35mph, using the same equations:
51.3ft per second
At 35′ – .584 seconds
At 40′ – .682 seconds
A difference of .098 seconds more at 40′
58.6′ per second
At 35′ – .512 seconds
At 40′ – .597 seconds
A difference of .077 seconds at 40′
At 50mph73.3′ per second
At 35′ – .409 seconds
At 40′ – .477 seconds
A difference of .068 seconds
At 60mph88.0′ per second
At 35′ – .341 seconds
At 40′ – .397 seconds
A difference of .056 seconds at 40′
At 70mph102.7 ft per second
At 35′ – .292 seconds
At 40′ – .341 seconds
A difference of .049 seconds at 40′
I am going to carry this out to 80mph. I have seen girls that have just turned 13, have a bat swing speed of 75mph.
At 80mph – 117.3 ‘ per second
At 35′ – .256 seconds
At 40′ – .298 seconds.
A difference of .042 seconds at 40′
So, a ball coming at a pitcher/batter, between 30mph and 80mph, will have an additional .042 seconds to .114 seconds with the extra 5′ of ball travel time. If the thought of that extra 5′ made you feel very comfortable for your pitcher’s/batter’s safety, I hope you realize how little added time it actually gives them.
Anything that gives even THAT slight amount of extra time WILL help and prevent some injuries. The ASA has done about all it could do to help make the game safer and still keep the game as nearly the same as it was. I applaud them for that but it is only the first and a very small step towards a noticeable improvement/reduction in these types of injuries.
If you think moving the pitching distance back 5’ will make a tremendous amount of difference for a pitcher/batter that does not react well now, it probably won’t. The ones that get hit the hardest and hurt the worst are not the ones that did not have time to react, that is not the case. They are the players that failed to react AT ALL!
I see coaches practice their pitcher’s defense skills by hitting line drives to them while the pitcher is in a down, set and ready position, like they were playing 3rd base. That is good and it helps but it is not nearly enough. The fact remains that this is NOT a realistic game situation for a pitcher that has to react in self-defense of a hard hit ball.
A pitcher must be trained to react to a hit ball at the end of their pitch, while they are off balance and standing, just like when the balls are hit back to them in a real game. If a coach thinks training their pitchers to defend themselves, like they were a 3rd baseman, is doing everything they can to help prevent injuries, they are sadly mistaken. The overwhelming vast majority of the responsibility to keep pitchers safe falls onto the shoulders of the parents, coaches and instructors of softball players, exactly where it was before any pitching distance rule changes were made.
You cannot point at a rule, rulebook or any softball organization and simply say; “You must make it safe for my pitcher to play the game”. If you do not do everything to teach the player to react to the self-defense situation they will encounter during the game, you have yourself to blame.
FORCE THEM TO REACT AT PRACTICE AND THEY WILL REACT IN THE GAME. You must change their response from a decision to a reaction. The worst hit players I have seen are the ones that do not react at all. Their eyes open up real wide, their mouth drops open, then they get their nose broken, having never made an effort to defend themselves or get out of the way. I urge all coaches to make sure you practice your pitcher’s/batter’s self-defense EXACTLY like they will have to defend themselves during a game.
Here are a few ideas to help train your pitcher in a realistic self-defence game situation.
1. Have them pitch at practice, have them pitch the ball to their catcher. Stand just outside the batter’s box and fire a wiffle ball back at them with a tennis racquet, just as fast as a hit ball would be and at the same exact time it would be hit by the batter. Make it a random thing, just like the game. Don’t fire one back with every pitch. Instead, make it a surprise attack just like the game. Chest, waist, knees and one-hoppers. Swing the racquet sidearm so the ball comes back from the same level as a hit ball would come.
2. Stand about ten feet in front and just to the side of the pitcher and throw a woofle ball back at them sidearm to duplicate the same thing. Again, make this random.
3. Set up a pitching machine just to the outside of the batter’s box, one that can fire woofle balls. Do the exact same thing. Leave the lock downs loose for the left/right and up/down adjustments so you can fire them at their chest, waist, knees, one hoppers etc.
4. This drill will not exactly duplicate the game situation but it is great for developing hand to eye coordination for pitchers that must defend themselves while they are in motion. Have your pitcher doing a jogging motion on a single person trampoline. Fire the woofle balls at them as they are jogging and in motion. Make them defend themselves while they are moving, just like they will have to do in a real game situation. (This is also a great drill for ALL the infielders to help develop quick eyes and hands for defence AND self-defence.)
The numbers above are the exact same amounts of time a batter has to react to a wild inside pitch coming at them at the same speeds. Now, for the batters, here is what I do to prepare them for wild inside pitches during the game.
When I throw batting practice, I throw from a bucket of balls. The bucket is to my side, sitting on a chair. Mixed in with the softballs are 2 softball-sized woofle balls. When I grab another ball I secret it into my glove so the batter does not know what type of ball is coming. At random, I will pull out a woofle ball and intentionally throw right at the batter. I make it a big surprise and I force them to react and deal with the self-defense situation. I place them in the exact same situation they will face in the game.
I do this as a test to make sure they react as taught and to make sure they react PERIOD. I also do it to give them experience dealing with a wild inside pitch. I urge every parent/coach/instructor to duplicate the exact same self-defense situations, in practice, that their players will encounter when it happens in their games. You might be very surprised at how badly some of your players react. You might get very worried to see how many of your players do not react AT ALL.
Experience dealing with the exact same self-defense situation in practice is the ONLY thing that will give the player the experience necessary to develop the quick and appropriate self-defense reactions needed when it happens in the game. Teaching the players to react is the ONLY answer for a big reduction in these types of injuries.
Although the numbers above illustrate the 12 under distances and times, the same training can be applied to every level of play.
I came across a fun little toy … a spherical bunch of balls randomly put together like a bunch of molecules. It bounces every which way and very good for eye hand coordination and reaction.
I get the athletes in a small circle and they call the ball and must catch it on the 2nd bounce (it bounces funnier on the 2nd bounce)
Very good for those rainy day practices indoors. Sorry, I don’t know what they are called.
IT ISN’T POLITE TO GRAB
Catching a softball that is hit or thrown does not involve grabbing it with your glove. If the ball is sitting still or rolling slowly you should grab (or pick it up) with your bare hand but you should never grab the ball with your glove.
Instead, you should open your glove, wait for the ball to hit the pocket and then close around it. Actually in most cases your hand and glove will close around the ball automatically from the impact.
Grabbing the ball with your glove hand requires that you time the closure exactly upon impact and if your timing is slightly off the ball will hit the edge of your closed glove causing an error. Open it wide and let the impact of the ball signal closure.
I got this game from a site on the Internet. If anyone knows whose it is, I will gladly give him or her credit. It is a game we use almost every week. Place 3 balls on the ground evenly spaced, about 3/4 of the way from third base to home. The fielding team has a third baseman and a group at second base. Another team is at bat (without bats). When the coach yells, “Go”, the 1st batter (runner) runs as fast as she can to first base and on to second. The fielder at third base runs to the first ball and makes a throw to a teammate at second base, then goes to the second ball and makes a throw to the same fielder at second base and does the same thing with the third ball.
The object of this game is to make 3 good throws from third base (third base line) to second base before the runner gets to second base. If the runner gets there first, or if the fielder makes a bad throw or bad catch, the batters get 1 point (you can use any value you want). If the fielders get all 3 balls to second base before the runner gets there, no points are awarded.
I am a big proponent for turning every drill into an intra-squad competition. The players forget they’re practicing. I also believe in allowing them to take control of a drill. They learn more by coaching each other and have more fun doing it. Coaches should try reversing roles. Let the players tell the coaches what they are doing wrong. It’s a great way to reinforce what they have learned. You’ll discover real fast who how much these kids have learned.
Bunting – Draw sections in the dirt in front of home plate. In each section, write a number representing a point value based on what the coach considers the perfect bunt. For example, a two-foot diameter circle in that no-man’s area between the pitcher, catcher and either 1st or 3rd base. Divide the girls up into teams. Each girl takes her turn bunting. She is awarded the point value of the section that the ball stops in (not lands in.)
After every player has taken her turn, total up the points and reward the winners. Once or twice in a season we’ll hand out a small piece of candy (Tootsie Roll or Starburst) for each point. After the girls have played this game, let them take turns drawing sections in the dirt and assigning point values. Even if they give high point values to what would be considered a bad bunt, they are still learning how to control the bunt and put it where they want it. If you use your own pitchers, they get practice. Caution: the pitching machine balls tend to be more bouncy that real softballs and are more difficult to control. Make the sections larger and explain why to the players.
This game is a great one to just have some fun with your players. If they have been working really hard for a while, you may want to do this as a release from the tension. Have one team at bat, and one team in the field with a fielder on third base and one at first base. The batter must take a bat and place the knob to her forehead and the other end on the ground. She now spins around 5-7 times, then hits (or tries to hit) a ball off a tee and runs the bases until both the fielders have touched the ball in the outfield (or where ever it has gone). If you have some uptight players, this will loosen them up in a big hurry.
Start by placing your infielders at their positions (except the pitcher). The ball starts at the catcher, she throws to the second baseman, she throws to the third baseman, she throws to the first baseman, she throws to the shortstop, and she throws back to the catcher. The whole time this is going on you have a runner run the bases. They leave at the same time as the catcher starts the cycle. It starts out easy for the fielders because they tend to start in kind of close and creep in. I let them do that for a while, till it gets too easy, then I make them start backing up. After they get a few steps in the grass the faster runners start making it close. The runners like to see a dropped or missed ball.
This really helps on the infielder’s learning to get rid of the ball quickly.
This is a good game for all aspects of stealing. Put players at each of the infield positions. Have the rest of the team put on helmets and line up at 1st base. The base runners will each run the bases in this pattern: lead off, steal. You may only have one runner on the bases at time. The first runner gets ready on first. The pitcher pitches the ball and the runner takes a lead. The catcher attempts a pick-off at first and the runner
tries to get back in time. On the next pitch the runner attempts to steal second and the catcher tries to throw her out. The runner proceeds with a big lead at second, stealing third and big lead off at third. The final pitch for that runner is a deliberate passed ball/wild pitch, which gives the catcher and pitcher a chance to practice this play.
To encourage the runners to take big leads and to teach them what they can get away with we will place little pieces of candy in the dirt as a challenge. If they can grab the candy and get back safely, they can keep the candy. After they have done this drill a couple of times, allow the runners to do a “delayed steal” on their lead offs. If the catcher throws to first, the runners can attempt to go to second. This way the catchers learn to recognize the delayed steal and run the base runner back.
The drill gives the catcher a lot of practice throwing to the bases, allows the infielders to practice positioning themselves for and putting on the tag, and allows the base runners a chance to practice leading off, sliding.
BAT AROUND THE HORN.
This game requires two teams of 5 players.
(It can be played with 6 players or more but each player scores for herself)
One team takes the field at 1b,2b,SS,3b, and Catcher. The other team is at bat.
The batter hits a ground ball (from a tee, soft toss)
Fly balls are outs. An infielder catches the ball and throws to 1b. 1b then throws to one of the other infielders. That fielder throws back to 1b. 1b then throws to the other infielder (who hasn’t touched the ball) who
throws back to 1b. The ball then goes around the horn (1b to SS to 2b to 3b) and then to
Each fielder must touch her base before throwing except for around the horn and home. If the batter-runner can run all the way home before the ball gets home, 1 run scores. If the ball gets home first, one putout is made. Fielders rotate one position clockwise and next batter hits. Each Fielder has caught 3 balls and made 3 throws. Every catch and throw must be accurate or a run scores.
Bat until 3 outs are made and change sides.
Batters need to wear helmets..
With more than 10 players – Fielders can rotate in at 3b
Here’s an example in case my explanation was not clear.
Ball hit to 3rd.
3b catches batted ball, steps on 3rd, throws to 1b
1b catches ball, steps on 1st, throws to ss
ss catches ball, steps on 2nd, throws to 1b
1b catches ball, steps on 1st, throws to 2b
2b throws to 1b (now around the horn)
1b throws to ss
ss throws to 2b
2b throws to 3b
3b throws to c and c steps on home plate
My daughter calls this game, “The Running Game”. It is as old as the hills, but we use it almost every night in practice. Have half of the team line up at second base and half the team line up at home. On the signal, one player from each team runs the bases until she reaches the base she started out at. When she gets there, she tags the next runner in line and she runs the bases. This is done until all the runners have run. Whoever reaches their base first wins. The other team has to pick up the bases. This is usually the last thing we do at the end of practice.
This can be done with two players or you (the coach) and all teammates.
This drill will help players with their short hops. You can be inside or outside. If inside, find an area that is clear.
One player gets in the field and the other one stands about 10-20 ft. away. The player or coach will throw the fielder a ball that hits the ground right in front of them.
The fielder has to go down to get the ball without it going by them. You do this over and over until they get the hang of it. If the fielder won’t keep their head on the ball you may want to use a softer ball at first. This will show the fielder the ball is likely never going to hit them in the face. That will help them keep their head down.
Then you go back to the regular softball and you will see that the fielder will not be as scared of the ball hitting them.
I hope this tip helps some of you players out there.
This game has been played ever since the start of time. It is played with 2 teams. One team is at bat with a tee or soft-toss, the other team has one fielder on third base and one on first base. The batter hits the ball off the tee or from a soft-toss as hard as she can and runs as many bases as she can until BOTH fielders have touched the ball. Keep score by counting bases reached before the ball is touched. After all batters have batted, switch sides.
WE CALL IT BOBBLE
Fun indoor drill…good for a rainy day activity.
Needs: 2 teams, a bucket of incrediballs, bat and a plate.
One team is on Defense past half court line and the other team (Offence) is at bat.
The coach pitches from half court line.
Defense is scattered past the half court line
Hit ceiling is out.
A catch or clean fielded grounder is out.
Grounder hits court before half line is out.
Swing and a miss is out.
Batters get unlimited amounts of consecutive points but only 1out.
If a player hits grounder through defense to the back wall = 1 pt.
Line drive to back wall=3 pts.
Fly back wall= 1 pts.
If there are hoops a drive to the opposing backboard is a slam. The offence screams slam for 4 pts.
If a fielder BOBBLES a grounder or drops a fly the opposing team screams bobble and earns 5 pts.
Once a team hits through the order you switch.
Both teams must scream their score between each pitch, if a team forgets a score they go back to 0 pts.
This drill is fun after the first day of learning the rules. It uses hitting, fielding, as well as communication and is very fast and competitive.
WHIFFLE BALL GAME
We use this drill to teach aggressive base running, hitting, and fielding. The drill uses a whiffle ball and a plastic bat. First set the bases at about 40 feet apart. Divide your team in two. One half of the team fields while the other half of the team bats. Fielders do not use their gloves. We want to teach them that the hands are the real tools in catching the ball. The ball is pitched from about 20 feet away. The batter has only three chances to hit the ball. (There are no balls or walks in this drill.) Once the ball is hit, the batter must run the bases until she reaches home plate or is tagged out. The fielders must always try to tag the runner out at first. You bat the entire line up. Then you change sides. We usually do this drill twice a week for about 20 minutes at a very fast pace.
3 TEAM SCRIMMAGE
I have coached girls softball for Little League for 4 years starting in B-ball. With at least a 12 girl team, young girls can become bored with drill after drill and yet they want to experience every position.
I have a scrimmage that is made of 3 teams of 4. One team consists of the outfield, the second, the infield and the third bats. After the 3 outs, the outfield moves to the infield, the infield bats and the batters go to the outfield. Etc., etc.
It has worked our terrifically in building excitement for game situations, letting them experience both outfield and infield and be competitive. We can have ourselves a game without hunting for another team to play against.
1) Have two players stand 10-20 feet apart.
2) Player one throws a ground ball to player two. Player Two fields and throws back to player
3) Player Two then runs toward Player one. She will circle player one, returning to her spot. Player one will throw fly ball as a quarterback to a receiver. We also throw short and long and to right and left.
4) Then after player two gets the ball she throws it back to player one. Then player one throws back to player two. Then player two gives the ground ball to player one repeating the process.
END YOUR PRACTICE THE RIGHT WAY
Softball is not all total concentration or a constant onslaught of drills, drills and more drills. There is a time to have some fun and still learn or polish some skills. I like to use the end of practice for a fun game that can create some team bonding while still focusing on softball fundamentals.
One of the best games I have used is called “Barney Bop”. The tools needed are a sturdy chair, a large stuffed toy (I use Barney, hence the name) and preferably a backstop or net to place behind the target. Start by placing “Barney” in the chair and if needed, prop him up to get him about 3-4 feet off the ground and place the chair with Barney straddling 1st base. Place a net behind the chair. Now divide your team up into 2 groups and have them line up in 2 columns at the shortstop position. Have the 1st player from team 1 take the first play. Hit a grounder the player 1. She must cleanly field the ball and make a throw to 1st base trying to knock Barney out of the chair. If this is done, her team scores 1 point. Then the 1st player from team 2 takes the next play and does the same thing. Do this until all of the players have had at least one turn. You can move the players from shortstop to 2nd base and do the same game. I have also had the players set up out in the outfield and place the chair at 2nd base to teach a good throw to 2nd. Try to have some type of prize for the winning team, like not carrying the equipment or something like that.
Another game I like is called “3, 2, 1, Run”. In this game, again divide the team up into 2 teams. One team is at bat and one team is lined up behind 3rd base. Take 3 balls and line them up at intervals of about 5-7 feet apart from 3rd base toward home plate. They should end about half way between 3rd base and home plate. The team at home is called team 1 and the ones on defense are team 2. Have the 1st player from team 2 stand on 3rd base with her glove while the 1st player from team 1 is at home plate. When the coach says, “Go”, the defensive player must run to the 1st ball, pick it up and make a throw to a teammate standing at 2nd base (I have a bucket there to drop the balls into), then go to the 2nd ball and do the same thing and on to the 3rd ball. The player at home starts running at the sound of “Go” and runs to 1st base and on to 2nd. The object of this game is to throw all 3 balls to the defensive player at 2nd base before the offensive player gets there. This is a LOT harder than it sounds, but it teaches making fast, accurate throws while under pressure.
After all members of each team have had a turn, switch places. You may have to adjust the distance between balls to make it fair for each team.
BASE RUNNING GAME
Time all your players from home plate to first base. Do this twice. Average each player’s time. Pair up two closest times, placing one player at plate and one about ten feet behind. Have them race around all four baces. Do this for the entire team. We always go twice with the pairs switching their starting spots the second time.
TRY OUT SCRAMBLE
This drill is particularly useful in tryouts because it reveals a number of skills: arm strength, foot speed, hustle, fielding, and catching ability.
To begin the drill the coach needs a bat and two balls. The coach and a catcher position themselves at home plate. The catcher keeps one ball in her throwing hand while the coach keeps the other. One player is placed on first, and one player backs up first base. All remaining players line up behind third base, with the first player in line in ready position at third. The coach hits a sharp grounder to third. The player fields the ball and throws hard back to the catcher. The catcher then rolls a bunt to the charging third baseman who picks the ball up barehanded and throws to first. The third baseman keeps running and replaces the back up player at first. The back up player becomes the first baseman, and the first baseman hustles across the diamond to the end of the line at third.
This drill is rapid. It may stop periodically to change catchers, or to make corrections. As the players catch gain proficiency at the drill challenge them to make it through one rotation without a miss!
SOFTBALL TRY OUT SYSTEM
I am the coach of a Rec All-Star team in NJ and was looking for a FAIR way to score players. I am trying to be as open and fair as possible so that it doesn’t appear to favor any players. I don’t like the traditional scoring where you rate a kid on a 1 – 5 or 1 – 10 scale, because that can be viewed as favorable to certain players.
I came up with a mathematical scoring system and was wondering if it sounded fair and reasonable. Let me please have your opinions.
I hold a 3 day tryout, players must attend 2 of 3. I score on a 100 point system.
30 points for hitting. Each player gets 10 pitches off of the pitching machine. Each hit multiplies out by 3 to get the 30 points. I give 1 bonus point for line drives to the outfield and deduct a point for infield pop-ups.
20 points for bunting. Each player gets 5 pitches off of the pitching machine. Each fair bunt is worth 4 points.
10 points for Fly Balls. Each player gets 3 fly balls, using the pitching machine. One right at the player, one to their right and one to their right. Each caught ball is worth 3.33 points, 10 for catching all 3.
10 points for Ground Balls. Each player is put at SS and gets 3 ground balls. One at them, one to their right and one to their left. A ball fielded cleanly and thrown online to first gets full credit. A ball caught cleanly but thrown poorly receives 1/2 credit. A ball bobbled or missed, but thrown online to first gets 1/2 credit. A ball completely missed is worth 0. Each credit is worth 3.33, a perfect 10 for fielding and throwing all 3 clean.
10 points for Arm Strength/Speed out of the glove. Each player is placed at SS and hit 2 ground balls right at them. A stopwatch is used and started upon impact with the glove and stopped on impact with the first baseman’s glove. The 2 times are averaged together. Players are ranked in order of speed. Based on 20 players, the top 2 times get 10 points, the next 2 times 9 points…etc…to the slowest 2 times getting 1 point.
10 points for Running Speed Home to First. A stopwatch is started on the word GO and stopped upon touching 1st. This is done twice, with scoring the same as timed throws.
10 points for Running Speed Second to Home. Timing and scoring is same as above.
I rank the players in order based on their 2 or 3 day average. Selecting the top number of players that I am looking for to fill the roster.
It seems like the fairest way to score a player/team in order to get the best all-around players for a team.
This regimen allows me to see every potential player at every position over the course of 2-3 days. It also gives me solid information when trying to make cuts if they have to be made. For those of you coaches who have to deal with questions from parents as to why their kid did not make it, it’s hard to argue with the numbers when compared to all of the other participants.
Start off by having all of your tryout girls lined up at shortstop. Hit them a ground ball and time their throw to first base (start the clock when the ball hits their glove and stop it when it hits the firstbaseman). No time awarded for a bad throw. After three ground balls, average the player’s times and rank them compared to the others.
Next, do the same thing with all of the girls in the outfield, fielding flyballs and/or grounders throwing to home. Test the girl’s speed by timing them twice from home to first, and twice from second to home. Average each of their times and rank them accordingly.
Test their hitting ability by giving them 10 pitches from the pitching machine. Award points for the type of hit they get. For example, I give no points for a swing and a miss, 1 point for a foul ball, 1 point for a flyball, 2 points for a grounder, 3 points for a line drive. Let them do this 2-3 times for a total of 20-30 cuts. I usually split this into two days. Again, rank them compared to the rest of the girls trying out.
I usually end tryouts by having an inters quad scrimmage with my varsity girls mixed in with the tryout girls on the last day.
This has worked well for me. Being with a school you have to limit your numbers because of budgets and space available. This gives you solid data backing up the difficult decisions made as a coach pertaining to who stays and who does not.
HITTING AND DEFENSIVE ROUNDS
Want a drill that works your hitters, baserunners, and defensive players in a game-like situation with maximum efficiency? “Rounds” accomplishes all of these things.
Align a defense on the field. A coach pitches, or better yet, a pitching machine. 3-4 players are the hitting/baserunning group. Three to Five rounds per group is ideal. A sample would be: Round 1 – runner on first hit and run. Round 2 – Runner on first sac bunt. Round 3 – Runner on second with 2 outs. Round 4 – Runners on first and second hit away. Round 5 – Runner on third squeeze. Hitters start with an 0-1 count always. This entire drill is done at GAME SPEED! Every pitch is a game-like situation. The hitting/baserunning group has tasks to accomplish on each pitch, and the defense must react accordingly to each hit ball and situation. >Drill Notes: The hitting/baserunning group follows the same order. If the round called for runner on first sac bunt, players 1 and 2 would be at first, 3 and 4 at the plate. After 3 bunts and 1 runs, 2 would be the next runner and 4 would be the next hitter. After the hitting/baserunning group finishes their rounds, they rotate into defense and a new group replaces them. You might have to play kids out of position once-in-awhile to make it work, but that’s fine. Remember – make this as game-like as possible.
If you would like further details about this drill, or other variations, please send me an email. Coach Colbert
Tandem cuts are specifically used for balls that are hit in either gap or down the lines, that the defense knows will be doubles and possible triples.
It would be easiest to give a scenario to describe what a tandem cut is and does, and how to perform one. The batter hits a gapper to left-centre for a sure double. LF and CF are going after the ball. SS is going out to be the cut man because the ball is hit on his side of the field. 2B is going to trail the SS by about 15 feet, he is the tandem cut, (both of which are being lined up by the 3B). 1B waits for the batter/runner to round first and he will trail the runner all the way to second.
The ball is relayed into the SS from the CF, but goes over is head because of a bad throw. However, the 2B is there for just that purpose, and he catches the ball and relays to appropriate bag or runs it in.
Now, this tandem cut is used primarily for a bad throw from the outfield, or a bad hop from the relay to the cut man. This prevents extra bases from being taken if there wasn’t a second person in the play. If there was a runner on first to begin the play, it is possible that a tandem cut could prevent this runner from scoring if the relay went awry.
This play switches the cut and tandem man when the play is on the other side, in the right-center gap. A double down the right field line can be handled by the 2B being the cut, and SS being the tandem. However, on the left-field line, things need to change and can be done differently. Here is what I like to do.
Double down the left field line. 3B has to go out to be the cut man and SS will be the tandem. 2B cannot come all the way over to be the cut man, so he will go to his base and we won’t have the 1B be a trailer. However, he can come to the left field side of the mound and be a filler in case of a bad relay from the cut man to the P, who will be the fielder at 3B. Note: The pitcher, on all other tandems is backup to the base the play may be made.
This cut play can only be used at higher levels because of arm strength. In a younger age group, a double cut would have to be used.
RUNNERS ON FIRST AND THIRD
I think some of the most important situational conditions occur when the offense has runners on first and third. In that situation, the defense has some options which it can defend their position. One such option is a play that I will discuss in some detail…and it may be familiar to a lot of coaches. For you new ones…you can have a slight advantage.
Situation: The other team has runners on first and third and you have less then two outs. The runner on first is attempting to steal second base…hence trying to draw a throw to that base from the catcher after the pitch is delivered in order for the runner at third to have a chance at scoring.
Play: Your catcher must relay the signal of which play is on to the rest of the infield…and the pitcher, or you can yell out a signal from the bench. You can designate what that may be. This particular play consists of the second baseman sprinting hard to the middle of the infield about 10 feet in front of the bag at second, while the short stop is covering. The catcher must throw through the second baseman to try to throw out the runner or the second baseman can cut the throw from the catcher if he thinks that the runner at third is going to break towards home. The key element is communication between the shortstop and the second baseman. The shortstop needs to know whether or not the throw is going to go through to him or be cut off by the second baseman. One way to create that communication is for the SS to yell cut if he thinks he can’t get the stealing baserunner or he can see the runner at third cheating. If the SS does not say anything, then the second baseman lets the throw go through. The communication here is crucial…the whole infield needs to know what it is. There are other ways that communication can be accomplished…this is just one method. All in all, the whole key is to prevent the runner from third to score. You may have to sacrifice a stolen base…and if you are lucky you may even get an out and not have the runner score…or get the runner at third in a run down.
FIRST AND THIRD RUNDOWN
With runners on first and third there is always the possibility of the runner at first attempting to get caught in a rundown. This should be one of the easiest defensed plays in the game if run correctly.
Communication is key. The pitcher must be alerted as soon as the runner takes off towards second. The pitcher must keep his eye on the runner at third as he steps off the rubber. This action will make the runner on third commit to home or stay at third. If the runner at third commits to home the play is there, if not he turns directly to second base where the second baseman has sprinted to the line between first and second close to but not at the bag. The pitcher throws to the second baseman with no hesitation. This action makes the runner at third make a split-second decision whether to stay or go. It also gives the ball to a fielder who can see the entire play in front of him, both runners, instead of the pitcher having his back to the third base runner. The second baseman now need only tag the runner coming from first, or run him back to first while watching the runner at third.
This defensive scheme puts all the decision making on the runner at third, and forces him to make a split second decision to go or stay. However, this play relies heavily on communication and quick, fluid execution. There should be no hesitation on the part of the pitcher, its step-off looking at third making the runner commit, turn and throw to the second baseman.
21 OUTS DRILL
Here is a drill that I have my team complete, usually on a day before a big conference game. It is a pressure packed, intense drill that involves the whole team.
First of all I put out my defensive team, probably the one that will start the game the next day. I grab a fungo and have a base runner ready to go on my contact. I hit the ball, the base runner reacts to the hit, and the defense must make the play correctly and flawlessly.
The object is to get 21 outs in a row WITHOUT mishandling the ball!!! We start at zero and when the ball goes from my bat, to the defense, gets thrown for an out, and then relayed back to my catcher, there can be no mistakes, one out is recorded. All throws must be hard, accurate and handled with preciseness. If the ball is bobbled, misplayed, or thrown awry, we start again at zero. When the ball hits the catchers glove, everyone on the team yells the number of outs, or we start over. If someone doesn’t hustle or run out a fly ball, we start over. If you don’t run the bases correctly, or the pitcher doesn’t back up a specific throw, we start over. We look for and expect perfection.
A variation of this, would be to have the defense switched every 3 or 6 outs. This can be a good conditioner if you can do it right. It is critical for this drill to be successful that your rules are strict and that the players have the awareness NOT to stray from them at all!!! If you do this drill one time and slack off on the expectations, the next time you do it, you will be wasting your time. Do this drill with extreme focus and your game faces on, or don’t do it at all. We even throw some music on in the press box to simulate the background noise during a game. By the way, we screw up a lot when we are on out number 20…
A BASEBALL DRILL CALLED FOOTBALL
This is a fun drill for younger players.
I will usually end a practice with a game of “Football”. I split the players into 2 teams and line them up about 10 feet apart with myself in the middle, and a coach (or parent) on the outside of each line.
I will have each line alternate having a player back-peddle about 25-30 feet, where I will then throw a pop up to either side of the player. If they catch the ball, they get 2 points. As soon as they catch the ball, the have to set themselves and make a perfect throw to the coach on their side. If the throw is good, they get an additional point. I will run them through this 3 times each, alternating the lines.
Then I will have them run back on an angle (instead of back-peddling), and throw the ball to either side of them, forcing them to adjust. The same point system is used.
The players have fun with this drill, and it helps them get used to judging fly balls, and making good throws to the cut-off man.
1. Begin round with runner on 1st base.
2. Have defensive players at each position.
3. Runner on 1st base will take his best lead.
4. Pitcher will stretch and play on runner at 1st base one time, then he will throw to the 1st hitter.
5. The first hitter will bunt one, (the runner on 1st base will advance to 2nd base on the bunt and then will go to defensive position or end of hitting line). On hit two, the batter will run the second hit out and stay there. The pitcher will play on the runner one time and throw to the second hitter in round one. This procedure should be followed through all of the hitters.
1. Begin round one with runner on 2nd base.
2. Pitcher will play on runner one time, using middle infielders.
3. Hitter will bunt two, (sacrifice runner to 3rd and then squeeze the runner home). Hit two, run the second hit out to 2nd base and stay there. Continue this procedure through all hitters in second round.
1. Begin round with runner on 1st base.
2. The runner on 1st base breaks on the first pitch to the hitter and goes all the way to 3rd base.
3. The hitters try to take the first pitch to right field. If they execute the hit and run successfully, they should be rewarded with an extra hit. After they hit two or three, they run out the last hit and stay and 1st base.
1ST & 3RD PLAY
This situation is one that we do at the high school level and it works rather well. We have about a 99% success rate.
With runners on 1st and 3rd, we call a fake bunt and squeeze. We let our runner on first steal. The third base coach yells something to tell the runner at third to break for the squeeze. This gets the defense rattled a bit. Our batter squares and pulls back as our runner from third stops and the runner from first steals.
This is difficult to defend becuase you don’t know which play to defend. Of course, later in the game, you can squeeze in the same situation.
Obviously if you score more runs than the other team at the end of the game…you can notch another W on the tally. So what we need to do as coaches is have some plays that make things happen…we need to make the defense execute. This play that I am going to share with you is one of my favorites and has won some close games for me. You may think it’s too difficult a play, or you may believe that it is not for your age group. I have seen it work all the way from 8-9 yr. olds to my high school kids. As the kids get older and more experienced and athletic, it may not work.
Situation: You have runners on second and third or have the bases loaded with less than two outs and a close game with a batter that isn’t one of the best.
Play: Let me just tell you right away that this is going to be a suicide squeeze play. As a coach and a team, you need to sell your play to the defense and make them believe you are not going to squeeze…because in this situation, they think its coming. Here are two musts when using a squeeze play…first you must not squeeze on the first pitch, because that is when the defense is most prepared…second you must wait until the pitcher throws a strike to your batter…for all you know the pitcher may walk your batter. A rule of thumb for me is to wait to squeeze until the pitcher delivers a strike.
Ok…when the pitcher commits his motion to the plate, my runner at third is breaking for home. If the pitcher is not smart and in the wind up, then my runner breaks when the correct foot goes back off the rubber (rocker step) and commits to home. When my batter bunts the ball in play, the pitcher or catcher fields the ball and they realize they have no play at the plate. Their next instinct is to get an out and what do you always do…get the runner who bunted the ball. What they don’t know is that my runner at second broke for third a second or two before my runner at third did. By the time the C or P field the ball, my runner at second is rounding third. They complete the throw to the first baseman, and by that time, my runner from second is about to score.
The defense is in utter chaos. They couldn’t get the runner from third, so they immediately try to get the batter at first. If the team is a great communicator with themselves, this play may not work. If the defense has great arms and accurate throws, this may not work. If you have slow runners…it won’t work…then again you shouldn’t even run the play. One of the biggest keys to this at the higher levels more than at the lower levels, is the whether or not the first baseman is left or right handed. If he is LH, he has to completely turn his body to the plate and still make a good, strong, accurate throw (after receiving the throw from the C or P) to get my runner from second. Chances there are slim. If he is RH, he doesn’t have to make that turn. So understand that the more athletic and smart the players are, the chances of this play working are slim. That is why this play works ALL the time at a lower level. Communication is key if you want to defend this play. More often than not, this does not happen, and you score both runs with one bunt. All of a sudden I am up by one run instead of down by one.
CONFESSIONS OF A THIRD BASE COACH
For the past six years I have been a third base coach in Dixie Youth Baseball. I started out in TeeBall. Like most parents/coaches I was drafted into coaching because I showed up at the first practice and hung around to watch. I started my son’s first game as the first base coach. But even then I had my eye on the third base coach’s spot where our team manager was working. I could see that third was the action spot.
The first base coach is responsible for the baserunner from the time they hit the ball until they reach first base and until they leave first headed for second. That’s all. Until they actually make contact with the ball the batter is the responsibility of the third base coach who is giving the signals. And once they leave first base, whether they are stealing or moving with the next batter’s hit, they again become the responsibility of the third base coach.
The first base coach’s responsibilities are few. He encourages the runner to run through the base so that the runner does not slow down. He may signal the runner whether to make the turn to go to second or to hold at first. He congratulates the hitter for his hit. He also tells the baserunner when to steal second. There are several other strategic duties of the first base coach. He must notice the depth of the infielders. He tells the runner when there is an infield fly – he can’t wait for the umpire to call or signal it. He must be sure the baserunner knows the current number of outs. He needs to know the strength of the catcher and where the catcher normally throws the ball when he is throwing out a runner trying to steal second. He needs to know who takes the throw-down – whether it is the second baseman or the shortstop. He then uses this information to tell the baserunner where best to slide to avoid the tag at second base.
While this may seem a lot to remember it doesn’t come close to the duties of the third base coach. Listed below is a preparatory course for future third base coaches. While this is written about youth baseball most of the points apply to softball as well.
Foremost the third base coach must stay focused at all times. I often miss the action on the field because I am focusing on one or two players only. You can’t afford to get upset about a call and let it affect your focus. There have been times when I got so upset about an umpire’s call that I caused our team to miss a scoring opportunity.
Third Base Coach Responsibility:
Tell each baserunner the number of outs.
Make runners aware of certain situations such as infield fly rule, what to do if the ball is hit to the left side of the infield, etc. It doesn’t hurt to remind the baserunner whether or not he has to run when the ball is hit. On plays where there is a possibility of an “Infield Fly” the coach should watch the umpire’s hands to see if he signals that “Infield Fly”. Most umpires just provide a hand signal. This means that the runners advance at their own risk. The coach should already have made a decision about what to do if the Infield Fly is signaled.
Tell runner as he approaches third “BE SURE TO TAG THIRD” and point at the bag. As runner leaves third heading home the coach should yell out, “BE SURE TO STEP ON HOME PLATE!” This may seem like you are treating the players like children but I have never had a runner fail to tag the home plate when I have called this out.
If it looks like a play could be made at home plate advise the runner to slide and tell them which side of the plate to slide to. >Tell runner as he approaches third from second to:
SLIDE – Hold both hands out wide apart with palms down. All players should slide if there is any possiblity of a play on him. >STAND UP – Hold both hands out wide apart with palms up.
GO HOME – Windmill motion with left arm.
Congratulate player on hits, baserunning, etc.. But – do not touch (i.e. slap hands or “high five”) a player unless umpire has declared “Dead Ball” or “Time”.
Provide signals to batter. Provide an activator and a validator sign. An activator is a sign which tells the batter that the next sign is the real sign. A validator is a signal from the batter back to the coach which tells the coach that the batter understands the signal. A “thumbs-up” from the batter is a good simple validator. We have our batter tap his helmet to show that he understands the signal. Early in the season you should keep the signs fairly simple. By having an activator sign you can mix up three or four signs well enough that other team can’t decipher them in one game. There are several good articles by Brian Priebe on this website about signs. Check out the baseball articles page.
Remind batter of the balls and strikes count – both verbally and with your fingers.
Give your players (ALL YOUR PLAYERS) the opportunity to score. This includes the slower baserunners.
Be cognizant of the third baseman’s and shortstop’s depth. Know what the shortstop does when the batter bunts. If the third baseman charges a bunt and the shortstop does not cover third then you have an excellent opportunity to steal third. When you get a baserunner on second you should have your batter square around early as if to bunt. When the third baseman charges it leaves the base unguarded and the baserunner can easily steal third. In most cases I give the batter the signal to fake a bunt and pull back with the hope that not only do we get a runner to third but we may also get a ball instead of a strike.
Also watch the catcher and the pitcher closely. How quickly does the catcher return the ball to the pitcher? When the runner on third base fakes an attempt to go home does the catcher “walk” the runner back to third? If he does and then throws the ball to the pitcher there is an excellent opportunity to steal home since no one is covering the plate at that point. The pitcher will have to attempt to run the runner down or throw to the catcher who is also racing towards the plate.
When your runner comes off of third what does the third baseman do? Does he come in behind the runner to cover the bag at third? If so, you should be sure to warn your baserunner so that he doesn’t get caught straying too far off the bag. Remind your runner not to turn his back on the pitcher. Often the younger baserunners will turn their back on the pitcher or catcher and walk back to the base leaving themselves vulnerable to a quick throw to the third baseman. Remind him that he can dive head first back to the bag.
Do not allow your batter to get upset about a called strike that he disagrees with the umpire. Some players can become so upset with a call that they give up and are easily struck out on the next pitch. It is your job to notice a player that is upset and to request a time-out if needed to settle him down. Its important that you take the time to remind the player that no matter what the outcome this is still a little boys game. I try to know my players well enough to know what will make them laugh or at least what will break the tension in their mind. A quick joke told with your arm around a player can make all the difference while reminding a player to only swing at strikes will do little good.
If there is a runner on second and third you need to remind the runner on second that the runner on third is his key. If that runner advances only then can the runner on second advance.
There is an old (and very wise) baseball theory that you should never make the first or last out of an inning at third base. What this means is to not make the out by aggressive base running. With no outs you should always hold the runner at second base if there is any possibility of a play being made at third.
When the baserunner is on third with less than two outs be sure he understands that if the hit is a fly ball to the outfield he should stay on third and go home as soon as the ball is caught rather than risk having to retreat to third to tag up and then go home. In almost all cases there is plenty of time to run home as soon as the ball is touched. Do not worry about whether it was caught or dropped. There should be no question in the umpire’s mind that the runner was on base when the ball was first touched. The baserunner should stay on third and focus his attention on home plate and await the third base coach’s shout of “GO”.
Be sure that the base runner understands what you are communicating to him with your signals or words. If there is any doubt be sure that he understands that it is his responsibility to ask you again or to request time out.
Do not admonish a player for making a baserunning mistake during a game. Wait until the next practice to explain the circumstances and what you were trying to accomplish.
Remember that you want your team to be aggressive (but smart) when running the bases. One of the results of aggressive baserunning is a higher chance of being put out. You (and your team and parents) must be comfortable with the fact that aggressive baserunning will result in some outs and must be willing to exchange those outs for the possibility of a larger amount of runs (a big inning which in most cases will decide a game). There are times when you do all the right things and play all the correct odds but still get put out. That does not make the play any less correct. Be sure that all the players and coaches understand that. There should never be any criticism (even well-meaning) if a player and/or coach work within the framework that they establish in practice – no matter what the result. You do not want that same player worrying about whether he will be yelled at or criticized next time he is in the same situation. That little bit of doubt could slow a player down! > enough to cost a run or the game.
From the start of our season we use visualization techniques to put the players in the situations where they want to be the player in the spotlight in critical situations. As the slogan on a popular baseball tee-shirt says – Bottom of the ninth, down by three runs, two outs, bases loaded, full count – No Fear! Teach your players to want that pressure and they won’t disappoint you.
Obviously these are only guidelines. Each player is different. I have had some players who are baseball smart at the age of six – they are aggressive and always have the green light. They are the players that you purposely hold up at third base with runners behind them even when there is a good chance that they could score from second base because they make the pitcher nervous – so nervous that he might give up an easy walk, a wild pitch or a hit that will win the game for your team. Other players need more guidance.
But at all times the guidance should have the goal of making each player make more decisions on his own as the season progresses. As players become more experienced you should become less vocal . The communication becomes less verbal and more through signals and most importantly – the player’s own baseball knowledge.
Here is a little something that we do with our program to enhance focus within practice in the hopes of bringing it to the game.
This is a very simple thing to implement, but very difficult to actually do and control. If you are swift with your infractions and do not stray from them, this slight change in your practice can make a huge difference
At any given practice, depending on what you are doing, you can do what we call a Focus Practice. It is simply NOT allowing the players to talk AT ALL during practice. We simply tell our players that if you talk we will ask you to leave practice. We need focused individuals to compete at this level and if you do not have the discipline to stay quiet and keep focused, how can we expect you to have any focus or discipline during competition.
Now, obviously there are many practices where this will not work, especially if you need to communicate between players. Consequently, we do not do many focus practices, but the ones we actually do, have some very beneficial outcomes from them. We usually practice anywhere from one and a half to two hours, and the whole practice is silent other than the coaching staff communicating and the crack of the bat or pop of the glove. If you get a chance to do this, it is actually something that will put you in awe…it is quite nostalgic to just listen.
We want the kids to be heavily focused on their individual game, to make adjustments and to feel their mistakes. We make this type of practice follow a slow, yet methodical type so that the athletes do not feel rushed. Again, they are in complete focus on what they are doing, so they need some time to think and make the correct adjustments. Everything that we do as far as drill work is game speed however.
I always preface this practice by saying these simple words…”If you can focus for two hours here at practice, that is usually how long it takes for us to beat our opponents. Is this something you are able to do?” Now, we have never had to kick anyone out of practice for breaking the focus of the team…you can adjust your reprimand on your terms for your team. I invite you to try it however and see how it goes. Then ask the kids how tough it was…it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
INFIELD WITH TWO FUNGOS
This is the drill we ran all through high school. It is the most time effective and skill intensive way to warm up a team, but your boys must be able to play catch! Fungo-ers stand in the “fungoe circles” that any good field has (and if it doesn’t, you know where they’re supposed to be – just outside of the home-plate dirt circle, towards the dugouts). The catch to this method is this – you have two first basemen, allowing both sides of the infield to throw across. Herein lies the only danger – one of the first basemen has a lengthy throw back to a shagger, so caution must be excersised (a catcher with a good head on his shoulders really helps).
Now to confuse things. First we start with outfield pregame, two fungoes, but the two first baseman thing doesn’t start until infield does. So, both (or all three depending on the makeup of your team) players play “real” first.
First base fungo hits fly balls to center field (helps here if both fungo hitters move up and apart, hitting from about the front of the mound extended towards the bases). Center throws to second, second baseman is cutoff (for us it was, anyways – change to suit your style). Third base fungo hits balls to left field, who throw to third, with a second shortstop as cutoff (but you really don’t need one, if you’re shorthanded).
Then, first base fungo hits to right field, who throws to second, second base is cutoff. Third base fungo hits to center, who throw to third (off SS is cutoff).
Next, third base fungo hits to left, who throw to second, SS cuts (make a few of these the “cut off a double on a ball hit into the corner” variety – timing becomes important here, as the other fungo needs to hit many fewer balls than the fungo hitting to left). First base fungo hits to right, who come home, first baseman is cutoff, 60′ from home (about pitchers mound – this postitioning puts him out of harms way should the SS overthrow second). On the throws home from right, make sure that they are the “normal” kind – hit the cutoff man, and don’t hit too many. The right fielders will get to go again, as they’re last throws will be the “do-or die” variety.
Next, the third base fungo hits to left, who come home, third baseman cuts (again, 60′ from home, about the pitchers mound). First base fungo hits to right, who throw again to second (this is where we practised cutting off doubles on balls hit into the right field corner – it’s really practiseing hitting your cutoff man quickly than anything else – also the reason it’s safe to do while left field goes home).
Then, third base fungo backs off, and fist base fungo hits to center, who come home, first baseman cuts, right behind (second base side) the mound. After all of the center fielders have thrown the last “do-or-die” ball, the first base fungo hits one more ball each to the right fielders, who throw their “do-or-die” ball, and sprint off the field.
Make the last ball on the “come home series” a “do-or die” (i.e. give it everything you have to gun the guy at home) and sprint off the field. Wait for a while, support your infielders warming up, and be ready to form the high-five line (discussed later).
Now to the infield.
First, the third base fungo hits ground balls to the second baseman (this takes some doing to avoid hitting the mound, but it can be done), who throws to the deep first baseman, who returns the balls long and soft to the shagger. Meanwhile, the first base fungoe hits balls to the third baseman, who throws to the normal first baseman.
Secondly, the first base fungo hits balls to the third baseman, who turns a double play with the second baseman to the normal first baseman, while the third base fungo hits balls to the shortstop, who throws to a shortened deep firstbaseman (this means that the deep firstbaseman stands closer to the shortstop than normal, so that the throw across this infield is the correct distance – this does NOT mean that the deep man stands any closer to the normal first base position – this length should always be sufficient)
Third, the first base fungo hits balls to the second baseman, who turns two with the shortstop and the normal first baseman. The third base fungo hits balls to the deep first baseman, who plays in normal fielding position (again, only much deeper, towards right field).
Lastly, the third base fungo hits balls to the shortstop, who turns two with the second baseman and the normal first baseman. The third base fungo continues to hit balls at the deep first baseman, who plays in normal fielding position, only deeper. Here, change first baseman, so that both get practice recieving throws and fielding ground balls.
Then, have one fungo quit, and the last do one slow roller play throw to first to each fielder, then one slow roller play at home from each fielder. Players sprint off the field after their throw home, and line up along the first base line, giving fives down the line, and break it out with a cheer when everyone is done.
This sounds like a lot of information, but with a little practise on the coaches part, it runs quite smoothly. Two to three reps per player in the field per section is quite adequate, and with 14 men on the field, this whole routine should take about 7 minutes. It’s quite snappy, and quite impressive. I had many a parent marvel to me after witnessing it – “you look like a professional team!” I wouldn’t try the routine with anything less than a 14 yr old select team, but with the talent to do it right, it’s fantastic.
INTRASQAUD GAMES SPECIAL SITUATIONS
1. To practice specific game situations.
2. To improve player’s concentration during specific game situations.
Procedure: The team is divided into two squads. Various games include:
1. Three-Two Count Game: Each player goes to plate with 3-2 count. Players must be selective but also protect the plate with a 3-2 count.
2. Hit & Run Game: Runners are placed on the different bases prior to each inning. The teams play an intrasquad game with each batter going to the plate in hit & run situation. The defensive and the offensive teams play the hit and run game with the same rules that they would play a regulation game.
3. Nine Outs Game: The teams play an intrasquad game with the defensive team staying on the field for nine outs, instead of three. The bases are cleared after a new inning is started after three outs.
4. Two Strike Game: Players go to the plate with a two strike count. With a two strike count players must choke up and shorten their swings protecting their at bat and battle with the pitcher until a pitch comes down the “pipe”. You can add runners on base if you like.
Probably the most important preseason ritual we do is long-toss.
We start out with basic fundamentals on throwing which I have already shared. We start out at 40 feet in week one and then increase 10 to 15 feet every week until our first game, where we usually end up at about 250 feet or so. We long-toss for 10 minutes everyday. For pitchers, the rotation is different.
Set up infield with extra players lining up behind the positions and rotating in. Two first basemen line up at first base, one on the outfield side of the bag and one on the infield side. Two coaches at home plate. One coach fungos to the third baseman who fields and throws to the first baseman lined up on the infield side of first base. The other coach fungos to second and shortstop who make double plays – second to first – to the first baseman on the outfield side of the bag.
The drill moves quickly and gives the players many opportunities. If they muff a play, they’ll get another chance very quickly. It helps a lot if you have many balls. The first basemen can drop the balls in a bucket behind them and get ready for the next throw.
Of course, the most fundamental pregame ritual is taking infield. We take infield with two fungos going at once. Outfield is taken with one fungo.
First in the infield, one fungo is to the third base side of the diamond while the other is on the first base side of the diamond. The first stage, the third base side fungo hits ground balls to the second and first basemen, while the fungo on the first base side hits fungos to the third baseman and short stop and they bring the ball back to their respective shaggers.
In the second stage, the first base fungo hits ground balls to the third baseman and he throws to first base. The third base fungo hits ground balls to the second baseman and short stop who work on turning the double play. They throw to a short first baseman which can be your right fielder.
The third stage is when the first base fungo hits ground balls to the short stop who throws to first. The third base fungo hits ground balls to third and he throws to second for the double play as the second baseman throws to the short first baseman.
Finally one of the fungos leaves and the other hits ground balls to a drawn in infield. First, they check the runner at third and go to first. Second, they field a ground ball and throw home as if the runner was trying to score. Thirdly, they field a ground ball as if bases were loaded and throw to home and the catcher goes to first for the double play. Finally, they field a slow roller where their only play is at first, and come off the field.