Fastpitch Softball Outfield Drill - Intermediate
Due to practice time constraints, it seems softball outfield drills are often overlooked or short changed. However, a fly ball to the outfield means momentum is about to swing to one team or the other. If the ball is caught, the defense has the momentum, but if the ball is dropped or misplayed then the offense has the momentum. The core of my defensive strategy is to convert a very high percentage of easy outs, and that certainly holds true with fly balls. On a ground ball, three things have to go well to make the out: 1. Field the ball cleanly, 2. Make an accurate throw, 3. Be on time with the play. However, with a fly ball the only thing that has to go well is to catch the ball.
As with all softball drills, one thing we really focus on is repetition. So for practicing softball outfield drills I like to use our
Jugs pitching machine
to shoot fly balls. The down side to this is that the ball goes to essentially the spot every time. So to work around this, we will shoot a couple of balls to the outfield and mark where the ball lands. Then from that landing point, we step off about 10 paces to the left, right, forward, and behind and place cones. The girls will then start at one cone and have to move in one direction to a catch a fly ball, and then proceed to the next cone.
This softball outfield drill gets them used to moving to their glove hand side, their backhand side, forwards and backwards to catch fly balls. The easiest of these for them to master will be catching a ball on their glove hand side. The next easiest is catching a ball moving forward and the hardest will be moving backward to catch a fly ball.
This is an intermediate drill and as such it will begin to teach them to read and react to fly balls. At the same, this affords the coach the coach the opportunity to teach the correct fundamentals for catching fly balls.
As your players progress, you will want to move the cones further from the landing point to get them used to running farther to make the catch. Also, since you are using a pitching machine to shoot the fly balls, it's very easy to adjust the height and/or distance of the fly ball.
It's also very easy to make a game of this softball outfield drill. Have all of the players start at the same cone. Then, as a player catches the ball she advances to the next cone. If she misses the catch then she has to stay at that cone. The object of the game is obviously to see which player can catch from all of the cones first. You might be surprised how this little competition will focus your players on making the catch. Just as they will all be trying to win, they sure don't want to come in last place.
To really be efficient with this drill, you will want to have at least 24 balls and two buckets. Give the girls and empty bucket to take with them to the outfield and put the balls in after they catch them. Then as the bucket is filling up have one of the players run it in to the coach. An alternative is to have the girls make the catch and throw to a player at 2nd base and put the balls in a bucket there.
Learning to catch fly balls takes a lot of practice initially. The good news, once they have mastered the skill it becomes like riding a bicycle. They will just need a few balls each week to keep the skill up to performance level. Spend a fair amount of time with this softball outfield drill and soon your defense will routinely be stealing momentum from your opponents.
A great video for defensive fundamentals is the ASA Fastpitch Fielding Principals
video. I highly reccomend it as a reference tool for all coaches.
Now, Go Get 'em Coach!
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