Although diving catches, barehanded double plays and fancy first-and-third scenarios all make the highlight reel, your ability to make routine plays will be the biggest contribution you can make to your softball team’s success this season. Strengthen your fundamentals and improve your fielding percentage by concentrating on these four pillars of fielding:
1. Watch the Ball
It’s a cliché, but there’s nothing more important to consistently making routine fielding plays than keeping your eye on the ball at all times. Assume with each pitch that the ball is coming to you and wait in the ready position for the batter to make contact. Whether you’re charging a slow roller or waiting for a fast grounder, it is critical that you keep your glove down and your eye on the ball all the way into the glove. By watching the ball all the way, you’ll be able to instantly react to changes in its path. Improve this aspect of your game by reading up on vision training.
2. Develop Soft Hands
Avoid losing the ball in your mitt by mastering the art of “soft hands,” the inviting motion of bringing the ball into your body as you’re receiving it. This will allow for a quicker transition to your throw and more time to get the out at first. Develop soft hands with this excellent fielding drill from David Wright.
3. Learn How to Use the Backhand
The backhand should never be a crutch for sloppy fielding, but it is an important tool for making difficult plays look routine. If you don’t have enough time to approach the ball from behind and field it in front of your nose, turn your glove to the backhand position to make the play. The Stationary Fielding Drill is perfect for practicing this skill.
4. Want the Ball
When you’re inviting each batter to send a ground ball your way—because you’re confident in your ability to make the routine plays—you have successfully taken control of the mental aspect of your game. Learn how to develop the mental toughness to get past mistakes and maintain confidence in your skills.
Spend time on the dirt training your muscle memory to respond to each play with on-point fundamentals, because, ultimately, the team that has mastered the fundamentals wins the game.