As we approach the last few months of the year, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep many of us sheltering at home and avoiding crowded outdoor activities like baseball and softball games for the foreseeable future. While it’s important to keep ourselves and others around us safe and healthy, it’s definitely a bummer to miss out on a season of competitive action.
But you don’t have to let your softball skills get rusty. In fact, this is an awesome opportunity to spend some time honing in on your technique without the pressure of others watching. There are several fun and practical ways that you can practice in your own backyard or indoor space to keep yourself in tip-top shape.
We’ve put together this helpful guide loaded with drills and tips so that you can hone in on your softball technique while at home on your own. Let’s get started!
First, Set Up Your Space
Before you can get down to business, you’ll need to set up your space! If you don’t have a huge backyard or any backyard at all, don’t let that stop you. Make do with what you have!
You can easily set up your living room, garage, basement or other space and transform it into your very own training area. Just make some space and be sure to dress it up with the gear you have on hand, such as a net, tee or other training tools.
Once your space is ready to go, you can get started practicing! The following is a list of tips for practicing softball at home.
1. Ball Handling
This first drill is an excellent way to improve your ball handling. The more time you spend with a softball in hand, the better. That’s why this drill is great to do while you’re watching TV or just hanging out around the house.
Think of basketball players and how their warm-ups usually consist of swiftly moving the ball around their torsos and legs with just their two hands. This drill is similar to that!
In a similar motion, grab a softball and quickly move it around your torso from your stomach to your back and continue repeating the motion. Be sure to switch between clockwise and counterclockwise a few times. See how much you can pick up the speed without dropping it.
Next, move on to your legs and do the same action, moving the ball in a circular motion around each leg. Then try doing a figure-8 motion around each leg. This drill can help you get comfortable with the ball and be able to handle it with more control!
Pro Tip: When performing this drill, keep your hands soft! This is an important skill to develop for defense.
Fielding a ground ball during a game requires specific skill and footwork technique. You would never traipse up to the ball in a nonchalant, careless manner. The way in which you approach the ball has a direct impact on your effectiveness in carrying out the play.
The correct footwork technique involves stepping with your right foot, then your left foot, getting into a ready position for the catch. Then, follow through by stepping through onto your right leg, moving it across your left and stepping out with your right in a side-ways movement as you build up power into the throw. For left-handed players, you would start with your left foot first instead.
It is also key to ensure that as you catch the ball, you keep your glove down between your legs and tucked in towards your glove-side leg slightly.
Practicing this footwork technique without a ball and with tapping incorporated will help you move through these steps naturally. To do so, you’ll want to get into a ready position and then move through the steps with your right foot first, then your left. After the left foot is planted, tap your glove down on the ground twice. Be sure to keep your glove to the side you’re wearing it on. Repeat.
This drill will help you get a good workout and learn how to field more quickly and confidently!
Pro Tip: As you move through this drill, focus on keeping your glove-less hand hovered over your glove as you tap the ground and your eyes on where the ball would be. Also, focus on your posture. You want to have your butt back and your back straight with a slight 45 degree angle towards the ground.
This next drill piggybacks off of the right-left-tap-tap to allow you to not only hone in on your footwork, but the follow through as well. To perform this drill, you’re going to do the same footwork technique with two taps on the ground. However, this time once you tap the ground, keep your hand over your glove and pretend as if you have just caught a ground ball.
Next, move through the remaining steps of the footwork and step across with your right then left leg in a sideward advance. As you do so, bring your imaginary ball into your body and on the second sideward movement, pull your arm back as if you were about to thrust it forward.
Pro Tip: Remember again – focus on your posture and stance to ensure that you’re protecting your back and learning how to move through these steps with speed and control.
4. Wall Ball
This next drill is super simple! All you need to do it is a wall and a ball – as the name suggests.
Wall ball is fun and can help you hone in on the techniques in the drills we’ve already discussed. Practice throwing the ball against the wall and catching it as it bounces back. Be sure to keep enough distance between yourself and the wall so that the ball can bounce off the wall then off the ground before it comes back towards you for the catch. Don’t throw the ball too high!
As the ball bounces and rolls back towards you in different directions, you can practice fielding ground balls, catching and being quick on your feet.
5. Momentum Drill
Fielding ground balls is part mastering the footwork and part mastering how you approach the ball to allow yourself enough momentum for the throw. This next drill will help you set yourself up for a successful pass out on the field.
You should never run directly toward the ball in a straight line. This will only cause a sudden stop in your inertia, which leaves you with no momentum to follow through with a strong throw.
Instead, the key is to run in a curved path toward the ball. This will allow you to field the ball and continue moving through your footwork and throw with the same power.
To practice this momentum-building technique, you’ll need a softball and three pylons or cones. Then, you want to start with the softball placed on the ground in front of where you’re standing. Set up the three pylons in a triangle, so that they create a diamond formation with the ball. Make sure they are a few feet apart.
With everything arranged in this way, you’re ready to start the exercise. Position yourself behind the cone that is at the “point of the diamond”, behind the ball. Then, as you run to field the ball, you want to step around one of the other two cones in a “C” formation. As you approach the ball, be sure to step through your right-left step to position yourself correctly and grab the ball. Repeat your right-left step and go for the throw.
After running through this exercise several times, you’ll be sure to work up a sweat and train yourself to approach a ground ball from the right angle!
6. Behind the Back Hitting
Now that we’ve covered some in-field drills, let’s move on to hitting drills! First up is a hitting exercise that will help you sharpen the mechanics of your lower half.
For this drill, you’ll need to first set up a tee and situate your softball on top. Next, hold your bat behind your back with both hands while making sure it is parallel to your lower back side, just above your tailbone. The barrel should be sticking out from behind you long enough for you to rotate and hit the ball off the tee – which is precisely what you’re going to do next!
Practice hitting the ball off the tee in this position. However, you want to execute the drill with the same posture and form. So make sure to load your weight back, lift your front leg and as you rotate your body to hit the ball, make sure you are driving forward as you would if you were in the correct position.
Pro Tip: Focus on your driving from the bottom half of your body. Run this drill a few times with 10 or 12 hits each.
7. One Leg Kneeling Drill
Next up is another hitting drill, but this time it's to build up your upper body strength! The point of this exercise is to isolate the motion of your top half by hitting the ball off the tee in a kneeling position.
To get started, you might want to put some padding down on the ground to protect your knees and lower the tee down as far as it will go so that it is at a suitable height for you when kneeling. Position the tee close enough so that you can touch it with your arms in full reach – because you’re going to run this drill and hit the ball with bent elbows!
In a kneeling position, stretch one leg out in front of you and keep it straight. With your elbows bent, pull your bat back to load up for the swing. Your chin and cheek should be touching your shoulder. Then go for the swing! Your cheek should touch your other shoulder as you follow through with the swing.
Be sure to focus on driving through the upper half of your body! That is the essential aspect to this drill.
Pro Tip: As this drill gets easier for you after a few tries, chock up on your bat and try it that way.
8. Full Swing
For this final drill, you’re going to put the last two techniques together. Simply set your tee up at its normal height again and practice hitting the ball at a full swing.
Remember to incorporate the skills you’ve practiced in the last two exercises for driving through your bottom and top halves. For your bottom half, make sure you’re loading your weight back, lifting your front foot up, and fire through the swing with momentum. For your top half, make sure your cheek connects to your back and front shoulders as you follow through.
Always pay attention to your posture, grip and hand position! All three of these hitting drills combined will really help you to perfect your swing and see success once you’re finally back out on the plate.
Until life gets back into the normal swing of things, you can practice these awesome, fun drills at home by yourself. Keep your head in the game and your skills sharp so when it’s finally time to get back out on the field, you’re ready to be victorious!