With a 47-22 regular-season record and their fourth straight invitation to the Women's College World Series, the University of South Florida women's softball team had a stellar 2006 season. Capitalizing on their quickness and agility, the Bulls made it to the Super Regional before losing to the number-one-seeded UCLA Bruins.
Ron McKeefery, the Bulls' head strength and conditioning coach, and Beth Spak, their softball strength and conditioning coach, cite the Star Drill as one of the most effective quickness and performance-enhancing training tools. "Except for running the bases, most movements in softball are relatively short and quickwithin three to five yards," McKeefery says. "We use this drill because it works on quick change of direction, shuffling, short sprints, body control and awareness."
The drill is versatile, and it mimics the movements players make on the diamond. McKeefery says, "We use this drill on our lateral speed agility days and when we condition. We even use it to warm up during the season."
Star Drill (see diagram for set up)
You will always start at Cone 4 or 6, with your first shuffle being to Cone 5. From there, you react to whatever cone your partner points to or calls. Any pattern called should include three to five cones; always sprint to and from final cone. The following instruction is for a 4-1-2 pattern, which is illustrated in the diagram below.
Start at Cone 6
Shuffle to Cone 5
Shuffle to Cone 4
Jog to Cone 5
Shuffle to Cone 1
Jog to Cone 5
Sprint to Cone 2
Sprint back to Cone 5
Keep your butt down, chest up and chin up so you can watch the ball; squeeze your shoulder blades together. Don't let your knees rotate inside or outside your ankles; that's a sign of knee instability and can lead to injury.
Work on technique through fatigue. When you begin to tire, don't let your hips pop up or chest drop down. all outs For the younger athletesfreshmen and sophomores we point to the cones, because they're still learning the drill. For our older athletes, we call out patternslike 4-1-2so they have to think: shuffle to 4, jog to 5, shuffle to 1, jog to 5, sprint to 2 and back to 5.
Base your rest on the number of cones in the pattern. Early in the off-season, we use five cones per rep, and we rest five times longer than it takes to do the drill. If we use four cones per rep, rest is four times longer.
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