It’s all your fault so don’t even think of blaming it on me. You know what I’m talking about. Covered from head to toe with dirt when you get to the car and your mom is screaming at you about ruining her brand new SUV. You went to the field purposely to practicing diving so you should have thought about the consequences. I might share part of the blame and say that I could have warned you to at least pack a blanket, but seriously start packing a blanket you are going to need it especially when you practice this month.
This month we are going to kick up your diving a bit and add movement to it. Not dancing kind of movement, speed. You know like you are actually running bases or something. It would be nice if they let you just call time out in a game, get in the position that we worked on last month and then dive. But they won’t, so eventually you will have to do this when you are moving at full speed and since there is no time like the present to get started …. Let’s do this.
The first step is to imagine that you have taken a big lead off of first base. Not the lead that is 2 feet from the base and you stand there going nah-nah- nah-boo-boo. And then turn and put your toe on the base. I’m talking about a huge kind of lead like you are actually an aggressive base runner trying to win games, and the catcher actually has to throw back to first. So here we go imagine you are way off first base, facing the catcher. You are in a nice athletic position with your legs, on the balls of your feet just like you are fielding a ball. Just for fun put your arms
in the air and say “Uh oh I’m busted.” You don’t really need to do that in games, but for practice that’s just plain fun.
So there you are about 10 feet off the base, the catcher has a bad attitude and a cannon for an arm so she is certainly going to make the throw to first and you better be able to dive back. Your first movement needs to be to get yourself pointed back in the direction of first base. I call that movement a pivot. Your body turns towards first base, your right toe presses into the dirt and steps back to first. Imagine the base, pretend you are now facing the catcher and you need to explosively turn back towards first and fire that right foot for the pivot and take that first step back towards first. Come back after you've practiced that a few times.
If you are anything like me, or most players as you make that pivot your body does it but just after making the pivot your body is way to high to dive. We have to make the pivot step in order to get our bodies facing the base again, but we can’t dive from that position because it is to high and by now you’ve learned that the key is getting as low as possible. So what to do? What can we do to get lower? We could just bend down with our right leg in front after we pivot. But we don’t really want our momentum going down do we? The second key for diving is exploding forward and leaning down after the pivot would defeat that. What if we took another step so that our left leg was in front just the way you’ve been practicing since last month. As you take that step with your left foot you want to start leaning out and getting low at the same time. So for this practice you are going to start out facing the catcher again then you are going to say out loud “Pivot” so that your body turns, your right foot pushes off and takes that first step back to first and is in front. Then you will say “Get Low” as your left leg goes forward and your body starts leaning over it. Go ahead and practice that 2-3 times. Try to do “Pivot and Get Low” a little faster each time you practice.
What I’m guessing is that as you did it faster and faster your body was pretty much begging you to dive. Am I right? Last month you were afraid to dive and now after just practicing a simple “Pivot and Get Low” your body is using the simple mechanics of going forward and down and it wants to dive. The bad news is that you’ve likely outgrown practicing at home so you need to do your practices this month at home so you need to do your practices this month at the field. So bring your iPad to the field with you and let’s get moving. Once you get there … practice the Pivot and Get Low step again and then add the dive at the end. Try it 2-3 times.
Let’s face it you are really starting to like this whole diving thing. Now what you need to do is practice it by first taking the lead foam first base. You are going to take a lead off the base, plant your feet to get in that “Uh oh” position facing the catcher, explode back to first with the “pivot and Get Low” steps and then dive. If you take your lead and dive and end up with your belly button on first base you might have underestimated how far you can dive and you need to take a bigger lead. Until now I’ve just said “practice it a few times.” But now your practice involves finding out how far you can take a lead and make it back to the base by simply doing the Pivot, Get Low and Dive. Once you find that spot be sure to mark it off with a big line or something and we are ready for the next step.
Now that you have your line marked off where you are comfortable I want you to draw another line about 2 feet further towards second base because that is where I want your lead to be. Seriously! Until now you are doing what is comfortable for your body and now I need you to challenge that. I have no interest in you becoming a “comfortable” base runner, my only goal is for you to become a base running monster. I don’t want you to just turn for a simple pivot, I need you to really dig your right toes in the ground and drive yourself back to first for the picot. As you take your get low step I don’t want a step I want you trying to explode full speed like your pants are on fire. When you dive now you will have to explode out instead of just going down. Go ahead and give that a try. Don’t come back until you make it.
How good does that feel? You just dove like a beast. And guess what … you are only going to get better. Now that you have learned the next key “diving is easier the faster you are going” lets add even more speed. For this next practice I want you lay down with your toes touching first base and your head facing second base. Use your arm to draw a line where your head is. Now move your body forward and place your toes on that line with your head still facing second base. Again use your hand to draw a line where your head is. Stand up and use your foot to make that line much bigger so that you can’t miss it. If you did it correctly that line is two full body lengths from first base.
The final practice this month is to stand at home plate and pretend like you have had a solid hit to left center field. Run as fast as you can, round first base going about 1/2 way to second base (forcing the outfielder in your head to make a great throw to second base.) Then you are going to plant your feet, pivot back to first base and run back to first as fast as you can. As you approach first base I don't want you to cross the line you drew with your feet. Instead as you approach it, try to take that Get Low step (actually getting low and extending forward) so that your foot plants right on that line and then dive back to first base. Yes it is a long way, but I'm telling you that you’ve got this. If you haven’t watched the video yet this month it might be a great time to do so, and if you need to watch Meghan round first base and come back two or three times so that you completely understand this last practice go for it. Trust me, she loves getting dirty and won’t mind demonstrating it as many times as you need to fully understand what you are about to practice. We both want you to GET DIRTY!
Dalton Ruer: Coach Ruer has been using softball to encourage and motivate athletes for 15 years. Throughout the year he is a private softball instructor to many college bound athletes in Georgia. He facilitates team based clinics and instructs at many elite and college recruiting softball camps. His specialties are helping players verbalize their dreams and establish a plan to achieve them and helping players overcome the fears that are holding them back from being exceptional athletes. He has produced 6 instructional DVD’s covering all aspects of how to win the short game and how to dive for the ball. Keep up with Coach Dalton by visiting his blog and resource site at CrossTrainingSoftball.com. Join Dalton On: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube
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