The Basic Skills of Softball

Updated: May 1


Softball is an exciting, technical sport that is very similar to baseball. The majority of the skills involved are the same with the major differences being the size of the ball and the pitching technique. Let's say you get asked to coach your 10-year-old’s softball team this spring and don’t have any experience coaching either softball or baseball. What are the basic skills you need to teach them? Where do you start?


How does a player learn how to hit a consistent line drive or make a diving catch on a flyball? Getting from point A to point B is an important process and the person responsible for guiding that process is the coach. A lot of pressure can fall on the shoulders of a youth softball coach as a positive first experience can often determine if a kid decides to continue playing the game for the rest of their life, or drops out after one season.


No matter if you played collegiate-level softball or have never played it at all, coaching the basic skills to a player who has never played the game or has little experience can be quite challenging. It’s quite common for a coach to realize that the cues and explanations that may have worked when they were first learning the skills, don’t necessarily work with everyone. Much of the success found when coaching kids comes from finding a balance between demonstrations and using language that the kids understand. Having a good explanation to help teach the basic skills is crucial when trying to give players the best opportunity to complete successful repetitions.


Thankfully, we put together some helpful cueing suggestions and skill videos to help you provide the best on-field experience for your players. But before diving into coaching these basic softball skills, let’s make sure that your players can properly develop their skills without the barriers of using full-sized equipment.


Making adjustments to the equipment


Using the correct size equipment will not only help kids develop the required movement pattern within the sport, but it will also help give them the confidence and necessary competence to enjoy playing in a game situation. We recommend that when coaching kids who have little to no experience playing softball, it’s best to start off with a softer ball or whiffle ball so players can practice their catching and throwing skills properly.


Another adjustment includes where to play the game. The Softball Canada Coaching Manual recommends that an open field can be used if a diamond is either not available or there are a large number of players. We recommend playing modified versions of softball such as bucketball within a larger playing area to help make sure all the kids on the team are getting the chance to develop their skills and fall in love with the game.


The final adjustment is the bat. Players should be able to swing their bat in a smooth, controlled motion. With the younger age groups, we recommend sizing the players for the correct bat. This will give them the best opportunity to feel the joy of hearing the ball crack off their bat and fly through the sky


Now that we have sorted that out, let's get the kids practicing these skills!



 

Want some great drill ideas to practice these skills? Check out the Athlete Era Softball app available on IOS and Android!


 

Must know softball skills


Every sport has its core skills and softball is no different. The basic skills we have highlighted are throwing, hitting, pitching, and fielding fly balls and ground balls. These simple skills are foundational to what makes the game so popular which makes teaching them correctly a crucial step in helping them build the technical confidence and the confidence to use these skills while playing the game. Lucky for you, we have broken down each of the 5 skills with some important things to look for when teaching these skills at your next practice!


Throwing

Learning how to throw the ball is one of the most important skills in softball. The more accurate you can throw the ball, the better chance you have of making that big tag play to win your team the game. Let's take a look at a few key coaching points to bring to the next practice!


  1. Start by holding the ball with the fingers

  2. Position the body sideways to the target with the weight on the back foot

  3. Step straight forwards while rotating both your hips and shoulders toward the target

  4. Snap the hand forward and release the ball

  5. Point the throwing-arm shoulder towards the intended target




Hitting

Anyone who has played softball knows that there is no better feeling than hearing the ball crack off the bat and seeing the ball fly through the air! Having said that, there is a lot more to hitting than swinging the bat as hard as you can. It requires a lot of hand-eye coordination and a lot of practice. Here are a few coaching points to help put your players on the right path!


  1. Hold the bat in the fingers, and align the knuckles of both hands

  2. Have both feet an equal distance from the plate with the front foot lined up with the front of the plate

  3. Have the arms relaxed and slightly away from the body.

  4. As the ball is coming, load your leg and bring it back down quickly

  5. Watch the ball onto the bat, as you start to rotate your hips

  6. Rotate the shoulders, extend the arms and wrists in order to push through the ball

  7. Follow through so that the bat finishes between the shoulder and the ear




Pitching

Pitching in softball can be a difficult skill to master. It is quite different from baseball and what can be considered a normal throwing pattern. When first coaching the skill of pitching to your players, it is important to highlight a few key points instead of overloading players with information. Below you will find a few key points to help your players learn how to pitch.


  1. Hold the ball with your fingers and place the thumb on the opposite side.

  2. Start with the throwing hand foot in front and touching the rubber

  3. Use the front foot to push off the rubber while simultaneously bringing the arm in a circular motion

  4. Step forward with the back foot and land at a 45-degree angle in a straight line to the catcher

  5. Release the ball at the mid-thigh of the back leg.




Fielding

Developing strong fielding skills is a crucial part of playing good defence. Whether it's in the outfield or infield learning how to react to different types of balls can be the difference between winning and losing a game. Here are a few key points for fielding ground balls and fielding fly balls.


Fielding ground balls


  1. Start in the ready position by bending the knees and having the feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

  2. Have the glove hand low and close the ground

  3. Move to position the body directly in line with the ball with the hands out in front.

  4. Open the glove up and use both hands to collect the ball




Fielding fly balls


  1. Get to the ball as quickly as possible and set up with the body directly underneath the ball

  2. Bring both hands overhead as the ball approaches

  3. Keep your eyes on the ball the entire time until it hits the glove

  4. Catch the ball in the open face of the glove and use the other hand to secure it




 

Want some great drill ideas to practice these skills? Check out the Athlete Era Softball app available on IOS and Android!


 

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