Coaching a beginner to play softball isn’t an easy task. The most useful quality for a softball coach who is working with beginners, is to hone patience. Of course, patience isn’t easy and doesn’t come naturally to many people. However, with perseverance and a patient approach the children you are coaching can quickly become proficient at softball. Children learn at their own pace, but they all benefit from a softball coach who encourages them and praises them when they do well. Firstly, beginner players should learn basic techniques before incorporating softball hitting drills into their practise sessions to develop their skills further.
A softball coach should ensure that the beginner player has the correct bat. The child should find it easy to lift the bat to chest level. If this is too difficult, the bat is too heavy and they need a lighter one. Children who play softball should be fitted for, and wear a batting helmet for safety. A batting tee should be used to begin with. It should be set level with the child’s waist until the child is confident swinging the bat level.
When the batting tee has been mastered, the softball coach can work with the child on hitting a moving ball. Here the child (or hitter) needs to focus on the ball and be aware of when to swing. The coach should kneel about 5 feet away from the hitter and throw easy, slow pitches. Gradually, as swing improves, the coach should increase their distance between themselves and the hitter to 25 feet.
Pitches should remain slow and flat, with the ball coming towards the hitter straight. Eventually, the coach should increase the distance between the hitter and themselves to 45 feet. The ball can now be pitched in a low arc, and the pitch speed can increase as the child’s batting improves.
In order to continue to support the child as they develop their softball skills, the softball coach should include a good variety of softball hitting drills in their practice sessions.
6 Softball Hitting Drills
The following softball hitting drills should give you a starting point which can be developed and adapted to suit the individual’s style and technique.
Developing strong bat pitch will increase the power of your swing considerably. Every good softball coach will tell you that practising interlocking throws will help you to increase the strength in your bat pitch and should be an integral part of your batting drills. When the swing is too long, it is not possible to keep pace with fastballs. When the swing gets too short, your are in danger of a dead pull. This drill will build muscle memory and help you consistently create a direct path to the ball and beyond to the zone.
Ensure that your hands are in the correct position for launch.
Swing the bat, releasing the ball in an upward angle.
You should release the ball just at the point of contact.
This drill is the key to ensuring the ball is launched with power.
It ensures that there is good contact as a result of carefully planning the bat path.
The top hand is used effectively to drive the ball.
It develops extension and refines the finishing of the swing.
Half-Bat Soft Toss Drill
In order to carry out this batting drill, you will need a half-bat. This is just a bat that has had the barrel removed. The reason for this smaller bat is that this drills focus on using just one hand.
The hitter should begin, using only his bottom hand to swing through.
As the bottom hand gets to the contact position it should be palm down.
This exercise focuses on achieving the palm down on contact position and the place during swing that this is achieved.
A successful softball coach will encourage the hitter to focus on their rhythm, timing and swing sequence.
Half Turns Drill
Many softball drills focus on releasing the lower half and developing more powerful hitting. The half turns drill is about mastering the correct sequence of movements to ensure success at point of contact. It is important maintain strong position in which your hips and legs will powerfully drive the ball.
For this drill, the coach supports the hitter to pin the barrel of the bat against the back leg, and the handle of the bat against the back shoulder. This drill focuses on keeping the front shoulder closed.
In the half turn drill, the back foot moves up whilst the front leg acts like a bollard that you drive your weight into.
The hips remain at a ninety degree angle to the pitcher.
Tipping Your Bat
In order to become a great player, it is essential to focus on increasing your bat speed. To ensure that you set up the optimum conditions in your batting drills to increase bat speed, you should work on tipping your bat forward.
Tip the barrel tip forward, then turn it backwards and into the baseball. The barrel turn is the most efficient way to get the barrel to move fast.
A good coach will encourage some of each practise section to perfecting this technique.
Remember, that to increase bat speed it is the barrel, rather than the body that needs to build speed.
Tipping the bat needs forearm strength, but because of the momentum which is gathered from tipping the bat, less strength overall is actually required.
Bat and Stop Drills
This is another drill focussing on speed.
Firstly swing through to the back of your swing fast, focus on making the best point of contact with the ball that you can and be aware of getting to the finishing point of your swing.
For the next few swings, keep swinging fast, but try stopping the bat as soon as you contact the ball.
Finally, go back to your regular swing and swing like that a few times. A coach would advise you to pay particular attention that you are not slowing your swing down to make it easier to stop.
This is one of the most enjoyable batting drills. It increases bat speed and encourages full swing from the hitter and following through without a slow down at the point of contact. For this drill it is beneficial for hitters to practice in a group.
A parachute should be placed over the bat.
The hitter the takes their place and swings the bat.
It is important to keep going when the parachute provides resistance. Hitters often stop at contact, but this drill encourages the hitter to continue past resistance.
At follow-through, the hitter’s back foot should point towards the pitcher
Their hips should be in line with pitcher and their hands should be at shoulder level.
An efficient coach will make sure the hitter is finishing their swing as fast as possible.
Throughout a softball players career, they should include a good variety of softball hitting drills in their practise sessions. Hopefully these techniques have given you a starting point and will encourage you to keep practicing to become a better softball player.