Directional Drill With Northwestern Softball

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Incredible defensive plays helped the Northwestern University softball team compile a sick record [50-15] and take home the runner-up trophy in the 2006 College World Series. According to Jason Pullara, the team's strength and conditioning coach, the Wildcats' web gems resulted from "working the first two steps, the most important in the game of softball."

"We do a lot of drills and exercises that simulate those steps," says Pullara, "because you're giving up outs and bases if you take false steps and don't get to the ball in time. This puts unnecessary pressure on your pitcher and defense, and can turn into runs."

Pullara uses the Fly Repetition with Bungee twice a week in the off-season. It's a surefire way to stop false steps and put you in position to make ESPN's Top 10 highlight reel.

Set-up

Attach bungee with belt around your waist, with partner providing resistance. Begin each of the following movements in an athletic stance.

Movements

With partner providing resistance from opposite side of movement, perform two steps of each movement, then return to start position.

• 45 degrees left
• Straight forward
• 45 degrees right

With partner providing resistance from behind, perform two steps of each movement, then return to start position.

• Directly left, crossing over with right foot
• Directly right, crossing over with left foot

With partner providing resistance from front, perform two steps of each movement, then return to start position

• Open hips to right, then step back with right foot 80 degrees
• Open hips to left, then step back with left foot 80 degrees

Sets /Rest Time 4/3:1

Adaptation Have a second partner throw a tennis ball in the direction of your movement, so you can make a play with your glove.

Coaching Points

Stance Begin in a good athletic stance—on the balls of your feet, not rolling back on your heels.

Straight-ahead movements Whether you're stepping to the left or right, never cross over with your feet or take a false step backward. These are unnecessary movements that waste time getting to a ball that's hit in front of you.

Crossover movements For balls hit to your left or right, crossing over helps you cover more ground and puts your body in better position to make a play on the ball.

Drop-step movements If the ball is hit over your right shoulder, step back with your right foot. This allows you to open your hips properly. Your first step should be as deep as possible and not rounded.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock