It seems everyone in the fastpitch softball world has questions about slapping: “I am pretty fast. Should I learn to slap?” “I hit left handed, so I need to slap, right?” “Am I too old to start slapping?”
Today we will help determine whether you or your athlete should learn to slap.
First of all, what is slapping? A running slap is performed from the left batter's box. The hitter moves her feet up the box (toward the pitcher) while the pitch is being delivered. She then strategically places the ball on or through the infield and takes off running to first base.
Slapping is part of the “short game” of fastpitch. The smaller diamond and shorter base distances compared to baseball make the short game, which includes both slapping and bunting, a very effective offensive weapon.
Secondly, why do players slap? Slapping is an offensive skill of finesse, rather than power. Based on individual speed capabilities, slappers attempt to place the ball in areas of the field that make it literally impossible for the defense to secure an out. Great slappers boast impressive batting averages and on base percentages.
If a slapper is quick and skilled enough, she only makes outs when she does not execute her plan. The closer left-side position, the running start, a little speed and proper placement of the ball can render a defense helpless.
Now we can address the real question: Who should learn to slap? To provide an appropriate answer, we must consider several criteria.
Speed – Is the player gifted with some natural speed? Is her speed likely to increase or decrease with age?
Young players experience variations in speed and overall coordination as they encounter growth spurts. If the player has had more speed in the past but seems to have slowed due to a growth spurt, the speed may return once her coordination catches up with her body's growth.
If a player is fast or has the promise of being fast in the future, slapping may be a valuable weapon to include in her offensive arsenal. Hitters with no speed advantage will not benefit from slapping.
Regardless of any other factors discussed, hitters with blazing speed can definitely gain an edge by learning to slap. Hitters with average to above average speed may want to consider the other ideal-slapper components below.
Right vs. Left Handed – Does the player naturally hit from the right or left side of the plate?
Natural lefties have an advantage when learning to slap. The learning curve is less steep, so the skill is usually mastered more quickly.
In addition, when a left-handed hitter/slapper steps to the plate, the defense does not know which outcome to expect. The player can utilize the short-game when the defense plays deep and swing away when they shift to cover the slap. This versatility is a powerful advantage.
On the other hand, if a player hits from the right side and only slaps/bunts from the left, the element of surprise is non-existent. The defense will know she is slapping or bunting from the left side, so the extra step gained when the defense must guess her approach does not exist. Players who hit from the right and slap from the left should possess impressive speed.
Let it also be clear that not all left-handed hitters should attempt to slap. Power hitters who have no speed will take time away from hitting practice to develop the skill of slapping. Without decent speed, slapping is ineffective.
Age – How old is the player?
It is never too young for exposure to the skill of slapping. When players are very young it is difficult to know how they will develop. Exposing them to new skills early in their softball experience can be beneficial, but they must be comfortable and possess some solid hitting and bunting fundamentals before devoting focused practice time to slapping. Do not overwhelm them with too much information too soon!
One of the greatest pieces of advice I offer players who are starting their playing careers is to hit from the left side of the plate. In the game of fastpitch, being a left-handed hitter provides many benefits. Unlike the game of baseball, hitting from the right side on the softball diamond does not provide any strategic advantages.
On the other end of the spectrum, players who choose to pursue slapping later in their careers should either be established left-handed hitters or have very impressive speed. Right handed hitters with average speed will not be super-effective slappers. Wasting time learning a marginal skill late in a playing career is not the most effective use of time or focus.
Goals – How long does the player want to stay in the game? What level of play does she desire to achieve?
If a player simply enjoys playing fastpitch softball with no prospects of playing high level travel ball or collegiate softball, she may find slapping a beneficial skill. Younger ages and lower levels of play typically struggle to effectively defend skilled slappers.
Players who desire to compete at a high level must be more focused and efficient with their training time. They should possess outstanding speed or in addition to slapping have the willingness to attempt hitting from the left side.
Is slapping the right fit for you?
Charity Butler is respected nationally & internationally as a pro athlete, writer, speaker, collegiate coach, hitting instructor and Certified Intrinsic Life Coach®.Currently, as a Pro Speaker for Sports World, Inc, Charity travels the country speaking to more than 40,000 people annually. As a recognized expert in confidence training, she also presents at various conferences, colleges & universities.Charity is the founder of Exceed Sports, LLC, and of the I Heart Fastpitch Campaign Join Charity On: Twitter, and on Instagram
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