Enhance Outfield Reaction Time With Blind Ball Drills

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An outstanding outfielder is one who "moves at full speed while judging the ball on the run," says John Rittman, head coach of Stanford University's softball team.

To develop outfield fundamentals such as footwork, range and ability to judge balls on the run, try the Blind Ball Drill. The drill calls for a coach or partner to throw the ball from a short distance to a player who has her back turned. The player must turn, locate the ball and catch it quicker than a standard fly ball.

"Once they get used to judging balls and trying to pick up balls at that distance, we start hitting live balls to them," Rittman says. "It's a little bit longer distance, so they feel like they have more time to judge and to react."

Before setting your sights on the Blind Ball Drill, first have a look at Rittman's Cardinal rules for playing the outfield:

  • On a fly ball or line drive, your first step is a drop step
  • If the ball is hit over your right shoulder, execute a drop step with your right foot into a crossover [vice versa if the ball is hit over your left shoulder]
  • Once you've made up ground and caught up with the ball, do not turn and backpedal; instead, open up your body in the direction of the ball
  • Catch the ball on the throwing-arm side of your body; this will enable you to get rid of it in one fluid motion
  • When catching the ball, move through it with your shoulders turned toward targeted base
  • If chasing a ball at full speed, pump both arms and run on the balls of your feet

Blind Ball Drill

  • Take position in outfield facing away from home plate
  • Partner standing approximately 30 yards away throws fly ball while simultaneously shouting "ball" command
  • Upon command, turn around, locate ball and catch it

Coaching Point: React quickly to where ball is thrown

Variation 1: Blind Foul Ball Drill

  • Perform drill with partner throwing fly balls into foul territory
  • Upon command, turn around and sprint toward foul territory to catch ball

Coaching Points: Run on balls of feet // Pump both arms while running

Variation 2: Blind Fence Drill

  • Perform drill standing five to 10 yards away from fence
  • Upon command, turn around, locate ball and catch it in front of fence

Coaching Points: Use warning track to judge distance to fence // For deep balls, get to fence first and then track ball

Variation 3: Blind Ball With Runners on Base

  • Perform any variation of Blind Ball drill
  • Upon command, turn around and locate ball
  • Catch ball on throwing arm side of body and throw ball to third base

Coaching Point: When catching ball, move through ball with shoulders turned toward targeted base

Photo:  David Gonzalez


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SOFTBALL | REACTION TIME | OUTFIELDER | COACH | THROW | DRILL | TRACK | FULL SPEED