Timing. Coordination. Agility. Quickness. Just a few of the benefits of the Lateral Shuffle Drill for baseball and softball players.
Timing may be one of the hardest skills to master when fielding a ground ball. I am a strength and conditioning coach, not a baseball coach, and I'm not trying to teach my athletes how to catch. However, working different movement patterns, like this drill—timing the ball's bounce and catching it while on the move—can certainly improve timing and translate to the field.
To become a great baseball player takes more than lifting weights. Besides timing, the Lateral Shuffle Ball Drill works your hand-eye coordination, a crucial skill for baseball and softball players.
Agility comprises many factors contributing to performance, including change of direction and technique (such as foot placement). Agility requires you to start off quickly, move efficiently in the right direction and be ready to change direction or stop fast to make a play in a smooth, repeatable manner. The Lateral Shuffle Ball Drill works simple agility mechanics, including change of direction. Repeated and done in a controlled manner, it provides a good foundation of technique for reactive drills at practice. The ability to master your skills and movement patterns repeatably in a controlled manner will pay off when your movement patterns become more complex.
Quickness refers to rapid response. An athlete can have speed but not quickness. A 100-meter sprinter can win a race without being quick off the blocks. But unlike sprinting, baseball is a game of inches. A player who is quick can move instantly and reactively. The Lateral Shuffle Ball Drill trains the mechanics of rapid response.
Any time I give a player a ball, the spark in their eyes in undeniable. Which leads me to two other benefits—motivation and enthusiasm.
In the video above, we use a BOSU ball to improve sensory feedback, because the athlete has a history of ankle sprains.
- Using a small medicine ball—preferably one that weighs 1-3 pounds (for added dynamic shoulder stability) and one that bounces—shuffle over the BOSU and simultaneously bounce and catch the ball.
- Repeat for 10 repetitions (5 per side). Keep your legs within your body's "box," meaning do not reach your feet out wide. Feet, knees and hips should all be within your body's frame.
- Start slow and build speed as you get through the drill. Do not force it.
I often use this drill as part of a series. Although it can be done by itself, as blocked practice, once an athlete is proficient, I use it within a set, as randomized practice. Random practice is the most effective method of enhancing long-term skill development. With random practice, you have to retrieve a motor program, just like you do on the field.
For example, we may start with a plyometric exercise (e.g., 10-20 yards of hurdles) and finish with the Lateral Shuffle Ball Drill. Depending on the goals and level of the athlete, the drill may be within a sequence of 6-8 exercises, with short rest between them. It can also be done between strength training sets or on its own.
- Brown, L. E., & Ferrigno, V. A. (2005). Training for speed, agility, and quickness (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Chien-Ho, J. L., Fisher, B. E., Wuz, A. D., Koi, Y., Lee, L., & Winstein, C. J. (2009). "Neural correlate of the contextual interference effect in motor learning: A kinematic analysis." Journal of Motor Behavior, 41(3), 232-242.
- Jeffreys, I. (2006). "Motor learning: Applications for agility, Part 1." Strength and Conditioning Journal, 28(5), 72-76.
- Magill, R. A. (2011). Motor learning and control: Concepts and applications (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Young, W., & Farrow, D. (2006). "A review of agility: Practical applications for strength and conditioning." Strength and Conditioning Journal. 28(5), 24-29.
- Verhagen, E. et al. (2004). "The effect of a proprioceptive balance board training program for the prevention of ankle sprains: a prospective controlled trial." Am J Sports Med. 32(6):1385-93.
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