5 Free Fastpitch Drills ~ StacieMahoe.com

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2 Aloha and thank you for picking up this mini pack of drills! My name is Stacie Mahoe and I ve spent all kinds of time around the game of fastpitch softball since I was 9 years old. I won t tell you exactly how old I am now, but let s just say, it s been a while! During these years, I ve seen all kinds of useful drills. I share just a few of those here plus some very useful practice tips I ve learned along the way. I hope you find it useful :) Wishing you the best always, Stacie Mahoe

3 Before we get to the drills, let s cover a little logistics and the answer to that question What should I practice in practice? Ahh, now that is the big question isn t it? Well, here are some tips and ideas for creating the best answer to that question for your team. Practice Tip: Creating Your Plan First of all, whatever you do, please go into practice with some kind of plan. There s nothing worse than a bunch of coaches standing around trying to figure out what to do next as all the eager young eyes of their team are all on them. Not only does it waste valuable time, it really doesn t look good to players or to parents. It certainly isn t going to build faith in your players nor your parents in regards to your capability to lead the team. So, first and foremost... Always have a plan. If you re not used to making up practice plans, start simple. You don t necessarily have to have every minute planned or every station drawn out in detail, but at least jot down what you want to cover and how long you want to work on each major part of practice (warmup, defense, offense, baserunning, conditioning, etc). Ideally, you also know what drills you will use in each part of practice. In order to create a good plan so you can show up prepared for your practices, there are a number of questions and issues you can consider...

4 What is it that you want to accomplish today? This week? This month? How long do you want your practice session to be? What skills do you want to practice today? Are there situations you want to cover? Do you want to incorporate conditioning into your practice? What equipment do you need to run the drills you want to use? Do you need a special piece of equipment to run any of your drills? How many coaches will you have available to run drills? Does each drill need extra coaches or can the girls run the drills themselves? Thinking through these questions and coming up with answers will go a long way toward getting a solid practice plan started. Answers to What Should We Practice FAQs Offense, Defense or Both? Some coaches like to work on both offense and defense every practice. This is especially true at the younger ages if you are only having 3 4 practices per week. In this situation, many of the players are learning new skills and attaining new knowledge at practice. If they only practice that skill once a week or go over that new concept once a week, they are unlikely to progress much in that area. New skills and new concepts need to be reviewed regularly so they stick! I remember Cindy Bristow suggesting that offense, defense, and teamwork all be practiced every day. However, I also know many coaches who practice hitting/offense more than they practice defense. Some insist upon hitting every single day, while they may, occasionally, go without running any defensive drills or practice at any given session. Now, going without defense entirely is not a common occurrence, but if practice time is going to be split lopsidedly it s usually in favor of hitting.

5 How do I decide? The better you know your team, they better you can organize and plan your practice. Does your team need more work With baserunning? With bunting? With making contact with the ball? With pitch selection? With stopping the ball on defense? With making better throws? With making better defensive decisions? Whatever area it is that you know your team really needs work in, it s probably a good idea to incorporate that particular skill, concept, or situation regularly (or at least until you feel confident in your team s capability in that area). What happens if my team needs lots of help in lots of different areas? Sometimes you get that team that needs so much work you don t know where to start. Well, here are a few things to keep in mind when working with a team like this. 1. Focus on proper technique and mechanics first and foremost. This lessens the chance of injury for your players and makes the game safer for them. Plus proper technique provides the foundation that enables you to progress to higher levels of play. It may seem like the slower route at first (and it very well might be), but taking short cuts rarely pays off in the long run, for you or your players. As a coach, it s your responsibility, not only do what s best for the girls right now, but to give them the best groundwork you can for their future in the game as well. 2. Choose 2 3 MAIN areas where improvement will give you the biggest return on investment. For example, maybe your team isn t the strongest throwing team, but, for the most part, they can manage to get the ball to their target. Of course, improving team throwing is important, but if fielding is horrible and your team isn t even stopping the ball to begin with, what good does a

6 stronger throw do? Not much. At this point, stopping the ball is more important than stronger, faster throws. Focusing on fielding likely yields you a bigger result on game day than strengthening throws. Another thing that may help in this situation is working on back ups or coverage. Working on stopping the ball is necessary, but also working on getting defenders in the right position to back up the plays could help too. If your defense isn t going to stop the ball all the time, covering plays properly may stop your opponent from taking too many extra bases when mistakes do happen. Let s face it, if your team needs work in an area, planning for handling mistakes is important. Giving your team tools for minimizing damage and appropriately handling situations when things don t go perfectly goes a long way! With this in mind, evaluate your team. What is MOST important right now? What area would make the biggest difference in a game situation? Make a list from the most important down all the way down to the it would be nice if we could get to this areas. Then grab the 2 3 items at the top and start there. Work your way down the list as you feel your team is ready. Remember to re evaluate and tweak your list as issue arise in competition, or even in practice. As much as possible focus your practices on things that matter most for your team. 3. Keep it simple. When you have a lot to cover, avoid overloading your team with too much information. Trying to learn and master 10 things at once is a lot tougher and more frustrating than being able to concentrate on a few major concepts at a time. This is one of the main reasons planning is so critical. It allows you to take your team through an effective progression as the season moves on vs just throwing everything at them at once or hoping they catch on to whatever it is you decide you want to cover on any given day. Now on to the good stuff The drills you see here were originally featured with Stacie s e book Lessons Learned from Decades on the Diamond

7 DRILL #1: Short Distance Quick Throws Player throws into a net feet away (or to a receiver if you have enough players/coaches). Their feet should be at a 45 degree angle to their target. Coach sets up directly facing them. Coach tosses a ball to the player Player receives the ball and quickly throws to the net For this drill, coach tosses balls one right another to force the player to get rid of the ball quickly Things to keep in mind No foot movement is necessary because it s a short throw. Have players begin in an athletic stance. You want your player to use a quick snap throw. Make sure players catch the ball with their hands together (two handed catch) as this is quicker than catching with the glove, then bringing the hands together to transfer the ball, then throwing. Make sure your toss is a good one, do not make your player have to reach for the ball to catch it. You ll have to judge how quickly you can toss to each player to push them. Some players you can toss to faster than others.

8 DRILL #2: Short Distance Quick Throws to the Right Player throws into a net feet away (or to a receiver if you have enough players/coaches). Coach and player are facing each other. Players toes point at coach to begin. Players start in an athletic position ready to catch the ball. Make a good toss to the players chest. Player steps to the ball with their glove foot (this makes the turn much quicker and easier). Foot should hit the ground BEFORE the catch is made. Player receives the ball out in front of them (slightly bent elbows) with both hands then brings the ball into their throwing position. Player finishes pivot to the right and makes a quick throw to the net/receiver. Allow your player enough time to catch the ball, pick up their target, and make their throw, before they have to look back to you for another ball. *Note: You can also short hop or roll this ball as well and have the players practice this pivot and quick throw to the right from a fielding position. Again, have your players step to the ball with their glove foot to make the turn easier. We tried this with a full bucket of balls per player before. They enjoyed it. It was a challenge and it gave them a bit of a workout. You do not need to do an entire bucket. You can just do 3 5 balls then move on to the next person in line.

9 DRILL #3: Short Distance Quick Throws From the Ground This drill simulates situations such as 2b making short throw to 1st or SS making short throw to 2nd. Player starts in the fielding position. Toss, roll, OR short hop the ball to them. Player fields the ball, stays low, and makes a quick throw to the net (or to a receiver if you have enough players/coaches). Again you roll multiple balls in a row to encourage quickness (3 5 usually works well).

10 DRILL #4: Thinking Infield Divide all players up into the infield positions only. Place players who play infield should in their regular position. Coach starts off the hitting the ball to the 3rd baseman. From there 3 throws must be made before returning the ball to the catcher. 3b throws to SS SS throws to 2b 2b throws to 1b then 1b returns the ball back to the catcher Now the coach hits a ball to SS. Again, 3 throws are made before returning the ball to the catcher so SS throws to 2b 2b throws to 1b 1b throws to 3b then 3b returns the ball back to the catcher Continue to hit to each position and have the 3 throws made befor returning the ball back to the catcher. If there is more than one player at a position, there are two ways to handle the rotation. Same players stay in position until the coach hits to each player. OR players handle the ball once, then switch out.

11 For example after the first hit to 3b, even though the SS didn t get a grounder yet, she received the ball from 3b, then threw to 2b, so she would go to the back of the SS line and let the next SS come in and handle the ball for the coach s next hit. It s more challenging with players constantly switching out. Focus, communication, and proper execution is essential for safely running this drill. Start off slowly if necessary. You can even have players roll the ball to each other instead of throw so that each player is getting a ground ball to field. If you need more of a challenge reverse the direction or get two balls going in your drill or both. The idea of this drill is to put some pressure on the defense and get players thinking and communicating while fielding.

12 DRILL #5: Catch and Run and Do It Again This is a drill I learned a long, long time ago as a player at a clinic. It s a fun one that gives players a little bit of a workout while having them execute a few different defensive skills. Players stand about 70 feet away from the coach/thrower. First player in line comes forward to be the first to do the drill. Coach throws a fly ball to this player. Player catches the fly ball and throws it in to the coach/thrower (look for proper approach to the ball, proper footwork, proper glove work, and proper throwing mechanics). After the throw back to the coach/thrower, the player starts sprinting directly at the coach/thrower. Coach/thrower then throws a line drive at the player. Player makes the catch and throws back to the coach (again look for good footwork and mechanics). Player keeps sprinting toward the coach. Coach tosses a short pop up that the player has to try to sprint in and catch before it hits the ground. After catching that ball, player flips the ball to the coach then goes back to the end of the line. Do this with all the players in the line. Variations: If possible, make 2 3 lines (including a coach/thrower for each) to keep things moving and give players a good workout. You can also have your players take turns being the thrower instead of using coaches. After the last catch and flip is made, the player that just caught all the balls takes the thrower s spot and the thrower goes to the back of the line to wait for a turn to catch balls.

13 Running the drill this way allows the girls are more involved in their own training while the coaches are free to observe and give feedback. Of course, you have to take the skill level of your team into consideration when figuring out whether to run this drill with coaches vs players as throwers. Safety is key and, in order to get the most out of this drill, throwers need to give players good throws to work with. With older girls you can have them practice their off foot throw after the line drive catch (the 2nd catch). Players would catch the ball with their glove foot forward and make a snap throw as their throwing foot hits the ground. If executed properly, that s all the time/steps a player needs. Any more than that, they may as well just make a regular throw. So with a right handed thrower, the catch is made with the left foot forward and on the very next step forward with the right foot, the ball is gone! If your girls are not familiar with an off foot throw or have never been taught an off foot throw, then that should be done BEFORE having them try to execute one during this drill. Either way, the catch should still be made with the glove foot forward. Things to look for: On the fly ball make sure players get into proper position to catch the ball and immediately go into the throw. They should have their glove foot forward on the catch. Avoid weight on the back foot upon the catch because this makes for a slower transition into the throw. Catching with the wrong foot forward typically causes at least ONE extra step necessary to make the throw which means it takes longer for the ball to reach its destination. Every extra step a defender takes gives the runner at least one extra step too! Ideally, players step into the catch with their glove foot forward, then immediately transition into their crop hop/throw. The quicker a throw is made, the more chance to get an out or stop a runner from advancing. Last but not least, make sure the girls waiting for their turn give the player performing the drill enough room to get to that first fly ball. If they stand too close, she may not have enough room to get into proper position to make the catch.

14 These drills were originally featured along with Stacie s e book Lessons Learned from Decades on the Diamond Get More from Stacie Free Fastpitch Tips Delivered via 50 Softball Coaching Tips e book 5 Ways to Improve Team Communication audio course Softball Coaching Cheat Sheets Fastpitch411.com online resource center puts coaching help at your fingertips

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