SOFTBALL TIPS FOR YOUNG PLAYERS
With young softball players it isn’t just about learning the riseball. Sometimes just learning how to play the game the right way and having fun is the toughest challenge. Here are some tips to help those fastpitch newbies hit, throw, and have a great time on the field.
- HOW (NOT) TO CATCH A SOFTBALL WITH YOUR GLOVE
Here is a simple three step process that newbie softball players can use to cleanly field a softball thrown or hit to them and help improve your squad’s overall team defense.
Catch, Don’t 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
- Then close around it
Actually in most cases your hand and glove will close
around the ball automatically from the impact.
Time is Money 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.
- HITTER’S GUIDE TO A STRIKE ZONE
Sure the strike zone in fastpitch has dimensions. Some are
stretched and shrunk by some umpires, but the strike zone
is still defined from rule book to rule book as being the
same. As a batter, you can help yourself tremendously by
applying the strike zone “box” vision to your at-bat. The
ability of a fastpitch hitter to expand and shrink the strike
zone, according to the count, is a vital skill for a player to
have. Here’s a pitch-by-pitch guide to knowing how to
adjust the strike zone.
- Let the Count Decide the Zone When you first enter the batter’s box, the count is 0-0, no balls and no strikes. After the first pitch, and if you are still at the plate, the count will be either 0-1 or 1-0. Now the strike zone “box” should begin to change for you. As I go on you’ll better understand. If, after the second pitch you are still there batting your count should be either 0-2, 2-0, or 1-1. - Behind in the Count If the count is 0-2, your vision of the strike zone has made the “box” greater in size because the next pitch can strike you out if you don’t swing at it and it’s close. - Ahead in the Count If the count was 2-0, then the strike zone has made your “box” much smaller and you should only swing at the pitch if it is thrown in your vision “box”, your select spot. If the count was 1-1, then your “box” is back to being a normal size strike zone. The key points of these examples are that if you have a 2-0 or 3-0 count on you, look at swinging only at a specific pitch you like in a specific small zone or “box”. Perhaps only a fastball right down the middle. If your count was 0-1 or 0-2, then the pitcher is in control of the situation and you must expand your vision of the strike zone so as not to be called out on strikes. Be prepared to swing at pitches you may not find as sweet as you prefer.
- SEVEN STEPS TO PERFECT THROWING MECHANICS
Throw No. 1: Indian Style Have your players start approximately 10-12 yards from position, the players isolate the upper-body motion, using the glove hand for proper shoulder rotation. To help emphasize proper follow-through, the players should follow through, with their throwing arm elbow outside their knee, as if picking a blade of grass. (This can also be done in the kneeling position: with both knees on the ground, bodies square to their partners.) Throw No. 2: One Knee Have your players proceed to the one knee position – stride leg in front – pointing towards their partners. The players should move back to approximately 15-20 yards. This focuses on upper-body mechanics and accuracy. Again, the players should follow through with their throwing elbows outside their knee with bend in the waist. Throw No. 3: Standing Players put all three together and begin throwing from the standing position. Again, emphasize using the glove hand to point at the target as well as proper follow-through. (Throwing wrist should brush the outside of the knee). Throw No. 4: Crane Players begin in the “crane” position: stride leg raised in the air (knee bent); glove hand pointing at the target; throwing hand in the launch position (ball outside ear). Players should hold this position for 2-3 seconds before releasing the ball. To ensure proper follow-through, the players then take one full step towards their partner after releasing the throw. This helps the players focus on properly using their glove hand for emphasis on shoulder, hip, and knee rotation. The best way to describe this is – (for a righty) their left shoulder, hip, and knee point at their target. When they are done with the throw – their right shoulder, hip, and knee should be pointing at their target. Throw No. 5: Quick Throw Players work on framing and quick release. Players catch and throw without hesitation for approximately 1- 1.5 minutes straight. Throw No. 6: Tags While partners are working their “crane” positioning, the receivers set up in the straddle position. When the throw comes in, they perform sweep tags. This allows the receivers to train as well as the throwers. Throw No. 7: Throwing for Distance Once the players have gone through the series of throws, continue to have the players back up until they are able to make accurate, strong throws DIRECTLY to the receiver. No lob throws. This builds valuable arm strength.
- 5 WAYS TO BUILD SPORTSMANSHIP IN YOUNG PLAYERS
Sportsmanship isn’t just about shaking hands after the
game. It’s about helping young athletes enjoy the spirit of
competition, deal with adversity, and handle authority
figures properly. Here are five tips to boost sportsmanship
in young players – and help them prepare for life in the
Find a Role Model: Character is a word that gets used often, but its true meaning may be hard to explain to a young mind. It’s ultimately a choice to hold oneself to a higher standard. By raising standards early, an athlete can both give and expect mutual respect during their course of competition. Find a pro athlete the child idolizes, and is a good character athlete, and have them “visualize” themselves acting as that athlete would. Give 110 Percent: One way to instill the idea of sportsmanship is to let the athlete know that they should do their personal best and to treat teammates and opponents in the same fashion they wish to be treated. This age-old idea will help them become an admirable and respected competitor, and help them off the field as well. Forget the Numbers: It’s important to the young athlete to understand that for as many victories as they hope to have, they must face losing if they’re going to play their sport. An effective method is to have a young athlete pick out well-known popular athletes, particularly in their sport or sports of interest, and look up their statistics. Knowing that professional athletes have faced defeat can teach the young competitor to deal with loss rationally and graciously. What (Not) To Do: Dealing with adversity and authority figures in sports is another challenge that young athletes must face. This is another instance where the proper explanation of how situations should and should not be dealt with, as well as examples from professional sports, should be used. One can easily find examples of the proper and improper handling of referees, umpires, and judges to provide visual examples to back up instruction. (Baseball is especially good at showing how players should deal with inconsistent officiating.) Have Fun: Sometimes young athletes need to be constantly reminded that sports are designed to be fun. Practice and skill building should be offset by times of goofing off, perhaps practicing with crazy costumes or with fun music, and not critiquing or coaching in the traditional sense. This one little thing can do wonders in reminding the athlete not to take anything too serious and to have fun doing what they have chosen to participate in.