Creating Front Side Resistance – Sherry Werner Ph’D

Objective: A hitter must create resistance on the front side so that the hands can move quickly to the ball. The same applies in pitching. A pitcher must create front side (stride leg) resistance in the order for the throwing arm to move quickly through the windmill motion. The purpose of the leap series is to allow an athlete to feel what it is to create front side resistance in pitching.

Drill: The leap series consists of 3 drills:

(1) leap and stick: the pitcher starts in a balanced position on her dominant side (push/drag leg) foot. With the opposite leg (stride leg) off the ground, the pitcher leaps out (not up!), from the push/drag foot, and lands on the stride leg foot. The landing should be on the ball of the foot and held for 5 sec.

(2) leap and hop: the pitcher starts in a balanced position on her dominant side (push/drag leg) foot. With the opposite leg (stride leg) off the ground, the pitcher leaps out (not up!), from the push/drag foot, lands on the stride leg foot and then immediately hops straight up and lands again on the stride foot. The landings should be on the ball of the foot and the hop does not need to be high but does need to be quick.

(3) leap and push back: the pitcher starts in a balanced position on her dominant side (push/drag leg) foot. With the opposite leg (stride leg) off the ground, the pitcher leaps out (not up!), from the push/drag foot, lands on the stride foot, and then immediately hops back to the push/drag foot. The landings should be on the ball of the foot and the hop backward does not need to be long but does need to be quick.

Each of the three drills should be repeated 3 times and followed by 2 fastballs in order to transfer the feel of the drill to the pitch.

Sherry Werner Ph’D is currently a biomechanics consultant with Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, TMI Sports Medicine, and Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine, and a pitching instructor at the Sherry Werner Fastpitch Academy. She has held research positions at the United States Olympic Training Center. She received a MS degree in Biomechanics from Indiana University in 1989 and a PhD in Biomechanics from The Pennsylvania State University in 1995. She was selected to the COSIDA Academic All-American Softball Team while earning a bachelors degree from Slippery Rock University.

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Reacting to Throws as a First Baseman – Leah OBrien Amico

leahObjective: To react quickly to balls thrown to first base by infielders and becoming confident in fielding bad throws.

Set-Up: First baseman sets up in her ready position with a coach/teammate throwing the ball from different positions. The first baseman would drop step with her right foot (chest open to the field) and run back to get to the base, putting her foot on the middle of the inside of the base. The foot placed on the bag should be the left foot for left handed first basemen and the right foot for the right handed players.

Drill: The coach would throw the ball starting from behind the pitcher’s mound once the player gets her foot on the bag and turns open to receive the ball. The ball can be thrown to the player’s left and right. Many times players stretch too soon and don’t step toward the ball. Wherever the ball is thrown, the arm and glove extends as well as the leg on that side of the body (glove side) straight toward the ball. The first baseman wants to get comfortable getting set quickly and stepping to the ball as soon as it leaves the hand of the person throwing it, making sure to step straight in line with where the ball is going. When the ball is not too far to either side and is more in front of the body, the first baseman wants to get as much as a stretch as possible, making sure to keep the back foot on the bag during the stretch. The coach can move all around the field doing this drill, throwing the ball hard and soft, and starting closer and further from different positions.

PHASE 2: Working on balls that bounce before reaching the bag:
To get a player’s confidence up at first base on bad throws, start out by throwing
long bounces to first base. Once the player recognizes that the ball is going to be low and bounce, she should wait to step and react as she sees where the ball is going to bounce. The first baseman needs to keep her head down and glove open and scoop the ball. We need to remind the first baseman to try to catch the ball on a long hop or to go reach for it and make it a short hop. If it bounces 5 or more feet away, we should not step out, but should read the long hop and field the ball. If it is closer on the hop, we need to extend our glove foot out as far as possible and try to keep the glove on the inside of your leg (not outside of your body). Fingers will be down to the ground and you want to reach forward as you scoop the ball. The coach can throw long and short hops, giving the first baseman a chance to read the ball. The coach should only start to throw the ball hard when the player has success on easier bounces. Confidence will build success. Our goal is to help our first basemen to become a wall at first base, not letting anything get by them.

Visit Leah’s website at www.leah20.com

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Outfield Range And Communication – India Chiles

India ChilesObjective: Teach communication and aggressive defense in the outfield.

Set-Up: Have 2 outfielders side by side in the outfield, preferably in left center and right center. Have a coach set up to hit balls from the plate.

PHASE 1: The first ball hit, should be for the defender in right field. This ball is going to be hit towards left center and will force her to sprint hard after it, not allowing it to hit the ground. Her second outfielder’s job is loud communication to help her with ball judgement. The next ball will be hit towards right center for the left fielder to defend. Same principle here.

PHASE 2: Hit balls in the middle of the two defenders, now knowing that they both have the range to get to it. The two athletes are to communicate loud with one another to safely and successfully finish the play by making the catch. When finish with this phase of the drill, you can rotate other athletes in for the same drill.

To make the drill harder, make the gap between the 2 defenders wider, while keeping it in perspective how much ground each defender should be able to cover. You can also implement diving with this drill, to emphasize that no balls should hit the ground with out maximal effort exhibited.

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How To Use A Tee To Train – Crystl Bustos

Crystl BustosObjective: to effectively use a batting tee.

The tee is one of the most useful tools for training to hit a fast pitched ball. It allows you to work on your swing in a controlled, stable environment, with an assistant, or on your own. Additionally, you can use it to add difficulty to your training as your ability improves, with options like changing the location of the ball.

Training set-up: It is recommended to have a tee and a flat “throw down” home plate. Any type of tee can be used, as long as you have a separate “throw down” home plate. If you do not have a” throw down plate” it is best that you use a standard black tee. Set your tee up, place the flat side of your throw down plate directly behind the neck of the tee. If you do not have a” throw down plate” and you are using a standard black tee, with the neck of the tee in the middle of the base that is shaped like a home plate, turn the tee around so the flat edge of the tee faces the catcher and the pointed end of the base faces the pitcher. You can also make your own home plate by tracing and cutting out a home plate using various material. I have seen people use carpet, rubber, thin wood or bath mats.

Basic swing training: Most training will be done with the ball placed in the middle of plate (or strike zone) and at the front of the throw down plate. This is done by placing the center and neck of the tee in this position. You would then take a balanced stance at the proper distance from the plate. The position of your feet should be set such that when you take a normal stride (or no stride as some hitters prefer), your front toes will end up in line with the ball (and neck of the tee). You should use the corners of the plate as a consistent guide to position yourself to hit from the tee. You are now ready to hit. (Don’t forget to place a ball on the tee, and if hitting indoors, hit into a net.)

Ball Focus: To help train your focus on the ball, place the ball on the tee in a consistent manner with regard to the seams (or marks placed on the ball). One method is to place the ball on the tee with two seams parallel to the ground, facing the catcher. For a line drive, focus on hitting the ball directly in between the two seams. For situational practice hitting long fly balls, focus on hitting the ball on the lower seam or below. For situational practice hitting ground balls, focus on hitting the ball on the upper seam or higher.

Training to hit different height pitches: Simply raise or lower the neck of the tee to the appropriate height to practice hitting pitches at different heights in the strike zone, or even pitches outside of the strike zone.

Training to hit corner pitches: As noted earlier, place the tee directly down the middle of the plate at the front edge of the throw down plate to simulate a pitch down the middle. To simulate an inside pitch, place the neck of the tee approximately 6-8” in front of the throw down plate, but in line with the inside corner of the plate. Do not change the relative position of your stance to the throw down plate for this location. The position of your stance will always be based on the middle center of the plate. Conversely, to simulate an outside pitch, place the neck of the tee on the outside back corner of the throw down plate. Again, do not change the relative position of your stance to the throw down plate for this location. You can also simulate more pitches by moving the tee even farther inside or outside and combining this changing the height of the tee.

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Base Running, Pick-Offs, And First Base – Christie Ambrosi

amb Objective: Helps train base running, and picking off players.

Set Up
Put a base runner at first base.
Place a pitcher, catcher, and first baseman in their defensive positions.
Place a bag of candy on the base path between first, and second.

Execution:
As the pitcher pitches the ball, the base runner leads off first base. There is a pile of candy laying out on the base path where the baserunner is leading off. The base runner is trying to figure out how far off the base she can go, and still get back to first base without getting thrown out. The base runner leads off, grabs a piece of candy and then slides back head first into first base. By having to pick up the candy, this forces the baserunner to stay low on the way out and the way back. In the meantime, the catcher throws the ball to the first basemen who is working on her footwork back to the base to pick off the runner. If the runner is safe, she gets to keep the piece of candy. If she is thrown out, she has to put the candy back.

Find out more about Chrisiti here.

Throwing To Bases – Rachel Folden

rachelObjective: Helps train catchers to get the ball out of their glove quickly and make the throw.

Set Up
Draw a line between your feet in the catcher’s box or where you set up.
From the middle of that line, draw a line in the direction of each base.
You will either have a T (more like a + to second base) or a V (to first or third base).
Have someone throwing you pitches from the front.

Execution:
As the pitch comes in, hop on your T or your V in one quick motion, all while getting the ball out of the glove.

Try not to close your glove to catch the ball, unless the ball is way out of the strike zone. Instead, merely use your glove as a guide to bring the ball to your throwing hand.

When throwing to third base, go behind a batter. When throwing to first base, go in front of a batter. This will disguise your throw better and make it easier to see the base.

When throwing to second, always aim for 1-2 ft over top of the bag.

When throwing to first or third, lead the defensive player there, as most are later getting to those bags. Be willing to throw a “touchdown” to these players, don’t just aim over the bag.

You can use a runner or a stand-in batter whenever possible.

Fastpitch Softball Books

20-40-60 Drill – Bobby Simpson

Objective: To get players to improve their skill for making various throws quickly and accurately, as well as making correct decision as to which throw is best for a specific situation.

Points Of Emphasis: Use least amount of time necessary to move a ball to a location accurately. Learn to throw from various body positions and arm slots, adjusting and compensating as needed. Step only when necessary. Learn to throw with body control instead of balance. Realize that throwing hard may take too much time, especially at short distances. Be prepared for bad throws, especially when thrower is in awkward position or hurried. Make a good catch when someone makes a bad throw. Catch every catchable ball.

Equipment Needed: Balls; throw down bases, cones, or objects to designate a location; stopwatch.

Preparation: Set up throw down bases or cones to establish mini-infields at 20 feet and 40 feet, on the main field, which has bases at 60 feet. Divide players into groups of four. If necessary, place five in some groups and let one alternate each time. Groups will compete in throwing and catching contest. Start by placing a player from Group 1 at home plate, 1B, 2B, and 3B on the 20-foot diamond.

Basic Drill: The catcher starts with the ball and throws it around the 20-foot diamond a designated number of times (suggest 3-5 to start), either HP-3B-2B-1B-HP or HP-1B-2B-3B-HP. After 3-5 times, the players must repeat the process the same number of times at 40 feet and at 60 feet. Entire circuit ends with force play at home plate. The group is timed and must complete the circuit without the ball hitting the ground. If ball hits the ground (may be very common, based on skills), the group loses its turn and the next group begins. The winner is the group that can get ball around entire circuit in least time without ball ever hitting the dirt.

Options: (1) Use a fifth player in each group as a pitcher. In original circuit, each time the ball arrives at home plate, the catcher must throw it to pitcher and have it returned so that that specific circuit is completed. (2) Add more distances, such as 80, 100, and 120, or use 30-foot differences and play 30-60-90. (3) Alter rules to allow ball to hit dirt if receiver catches it. This may slightly decrease emphasis on accurate throwing, but can increase emphasis on catching catchable balls. Consider having advanced players actually being required to throw balls that hop to place extra emphasis on fielding aspect of the drill. You may want fewer rounds conducted, depending on what you observe. (4) Alternate starting point for drill and/or rotate players after each trial, so the drill does not always start at the same place and players in a group do not always start at the same base. (5) Alternate direction of throws after each time around (e.g. HP-3B-2B-1B-HP-1B-2B-3B-HP could count as one circuit or two). (6) Change path of throws so it is not always base-to-base (e.g. HP-2B-3B-1B-HP or other such patterns).

Visit Bobby Simpson’s web site at HigherGroundSoftball.com/.

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Reaction Tee Drill – Monti VanBrunt

Objective: To practice seeing, and reacting to pitch location to gain better hitting production of contact and power.

Equipment Needed 2 or 3 tees needed (optional laser pointer) and a partner.
–If 2 tees you need them set for inside edge of plate(higher) and outside edge (lower)
–If 3 tees then you need them set as inside edge of plate (higher), middle (between height of in and out tees) and outside edge (lower)

Explanation: With your eyes fixed at the pitcher begin your load and as you move your eyes to the hitting zone your partner/coach/helper standing to the side or behind will tell you which ball to hit.

Or you can have a person standing behind a screen/fence in the pitcher position which gives a hand signal to the hitter keying them to hit the corresponding ball. Hitter loads with eyes on pitcher, left hand goes up they track to outside ball and the hit it. Hitter loads the right hand goes up they rrack to the inside ball and they hit it.

You can also have the hitters take by no hand motion/signal at all.

If you have a wall/target which is dark in color you can use a laser pointer by shining it on a dark background which is out in front of the hitter at the position of the pitcher which will then key them to hit the corresponding ball. You would need vertical lines on the background to create the Inside, Middle, Outside.

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Spray Drill – J. D. Bancroft

Objective: Teach hitters to recognize inside, and outside pitches.

Equipment Needed: Pitcher or Pitching Machine, 2 ball buckets or cones, bats, balls, shaggers and hitters.

Set Up Place the 2 ball buckets or cones on the edge of the outfield grass, one behind 2nd base and one behind SS. This divides the field up into 3 areas Left, Middle and Right.

Execution: Have pitcher or pitching machine setup to throw inside, outside and down the middle. Preferably have a pitcher with good control that can alternate locations every pitch. Speed should start out slow and increase with experience and expertise. As each pitch approaches the plate the hitter must call the location of the pitch in, out or middle and hit the ball to that portion of the field.

Option: You can turn this into a fun game for your players by giving them points and subtracting points for each hit. Faster pitching speeds for the game play makes it more exciting. You can separate your players into teams or play as individuals.

Hip Rotation Drill – Ken Krause

Objective: Teach hitters to drive the back hip around the front hip instead of spinning/exchanging the hips.

Explanation: Hitters often have a difficult time learning to keep the front side in so they can drive around it. Instead, they pull the front hip out, losing some of their drive.

To help them learn to drive the hip in, set a ball on a tee, just inside the front foot at the same height as her hip. The hitter assumes a basic stance with her legs, but places the forearm of her back arm against her back hip. She then goes through her negative move (load) and stride. At heel plant she rotates her hips and without moving her arm snatches the ball off the tee. If she pulls the front hip out she won’t reach the tee and won’t be able to grab the ball.

View these 2 videos for more information

watch?v=6h6WNtvWxIY
watch?v=NMLEQku-CUM

Visit Ken’s website http://fastpitchlane.softballsuccess.com/

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Building Confidence – Dot Richardson

Objective: An exercise in building team unity

Explanation: After practice have your team stand in a group and pull out one player. Have that player stand in front of the rest of the team. At this point have each athlete compliment their teammate on acts of service they witnessed or any other wonderful things she is and/or has done. The athlete is not allowed to speak during the entire exercise. They must stand there and take the compliments. Compliment one player after each practice. You will see an amazing transformation in your team and the way they deal with each other.

Video On Demand

Triple Load – Darrick Brown

Objective: To teach a negative move.

Purpose: One very common problem I see in many hitters today is the lack of rhythm or negative move. In my opinion every swing should have a negative move away from the midline to create the most force to the softball.

Drill Explanation: I do this drill off a tee. From your stance simply load three times and swing on the third. I tell the hitters to relax and create a nice and fluid rhythm. We don’t want to rush the negative move.

Team Outfield Drill – Joni Frei

Objective: Tracking Balls At Different Angles /Reading Depths While Running Full Speed/Diving

Equipment Needed: Bucket of Balls

Explanation: X is the Coach, The bucket of balls is at the pitching plate, 000000 is the athlete sprinting for the balls, 0 are the athletes picking up balls tossed back, => suggests the direction the athletes are going.

Description: Athletes line up deep in outfield foul territory and minimum of 4 athletes line up against the fence in the outfield. First athlete (000000 ) takes off running and the coach throws 5 balls (one at a time) in the air , FAR OUT IN FRONT of the sprinting athlete. When the athlete catches the ball they toss it behind them towards the athletes responsible for picking up tossed balls (0), and continue sprinting to catch the next ball that the coach tosses until 5 balls are consecutively thrown.

If the athlete does not catch the tossed ball they continue sprinting looking to catch the next ball. They never stop sprinting, and will finish at the other foul line. Once the athlete (000000) has had the chance to catch five balls and toss it out of their glove behind them, all of the athletes (0) clear the balls so they’re out of the way for the next athlete (000000 ) getting ready to sprint and catch the balls the coach tosses.

Athletes (0) then shift to the left. The athlete that had just finished his/her sprint (000000) joins the (0) line and the next athlete (000000 ) goes. This continues until all athletes have had their opportunity to both clear the balls and catch the balls while sprinting. The drill can be repeated going in the other direction.

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