Attempting to catch a fly ball is one of the scariest things for a beginning softball player. If your fastpitch softball team is a relatively young team or a beginning team, then you should plan on devoting as much time as is required to master this skill. The keys here are to take it slow, build confidence, and don’t get anyone hurt along the way. One good smash in the face with a hard ball and that softball player will be afraid of the ball for years to come.
This fly ball drill is for girls of all ages. Over time, some players will get lazy with their technique and start to use only one hand to catch fly balls. Sorry, that just doesn’t cut it. We’ll go right back to this drill until they get in the habit of using two hands again.
So first things first. Use a ball that cannot injure the player. It can be tennis balls,
wiffle balls, or foam balls
. Typically, it won’t take too many practices before you can graduate to hard softballs.
Teach the fundamentals and start with the basics. Do not assume the girl is going to instinctively know what to do. Start this drill with the player using her bare hands. A glove will only complicate matters at this point. The left hand should be above the left shoulder and the right hand should be touching the left thumb. The coach should stand about 3 feet from the player and toss the ball about 2 feet above the player’s head. Once she is able to catch the ball with her bare hands, then have her put her softball glove on and try a few more very low tosses.
If your softball player is able to catch the ball using the proper technique then you can start to toss the ball a little higher. However, if the player misses the ball or does not use the proper technique the coach will need to repeat this step until everything is perfect. As the coach continues to toss the ball higher and higher, be sure the player continues to use perfect technique. It is critical to have perfect technique while catching fly balls. We don’t want any flaws that could later lead to the player missing a fly ball and it hitting her in the face. I’ve seen this too many times and generally put the responsibility on the coach for not taking the time with each player to make sure she can protect herself.
As the softball player continues to improve her fly ball skills, the coach can begin to toss the fly balls a little to her left and a little to her right. This is when the coach will have to talk to his softball player about getting underneath the ball. Again, we want the player to catch the ball above her left shoulder and not above her head. Most girls catch on to fly ball skills pretty quickly and soon you will have them running everywhere to catch the ball.
At this time you are still utilizing a foam ball and to be honest, it’s pretty hard to catch a foam ball in a softball glove. That’s okay. When they get to where they can catch a pretty high percentage of foam balls they are then ready to move on to a regular softball.
Once you have made the move to a regular softball, be sure to go back to step one and start with very short tosses. This will help build your player’s self-confidence, while continuing to build perfect fly ball technique. Perfect technique in this softball drill is mandatory. As the responsible adult on the field, and as the person primarily responsible for the player’s safety, you have an incumbent responsibility to make sure that all of your players can catch and protect themselves from fly balls.
So coach, take your time on this softball drill and make it perfect. Continue to run the fly ball drill at every fielding practice until the entire team is up to speed. You may soon find that several of your players don’t necessarily need to work at this drill every practice, but you may also find that certain players will still need to this drill at the end of the season. It’s pretty easy to set this drill up and just about any parent (Just make sure the parent knows the technique.) can help out, so there is just no excuse for not being diligent about this essential skill.
Now, Go Get ‘em Coach!