Basic Throwing and Catching Skills
The Basic Skills Ever wonder why some teams are good year after year? A large portion of their success can be traced back to the importance their coaches place on the fundamental skills of softball. You can't score if you can't get to bat. You won't get to bat if your team is weak on catching and throwing the ball. Every defensive play involves catching and throwing. Stressing these basic skills from the very beginning makes for some very strong players. You would be surprised to discover how much time the U.S. Olympic Softball Team spends in drills that are designed ONLY to improve each player's catching and throwing skills. You can never practice catching and throwing too much. Catch The Ball Much of this material will probably seem too basic for many of our young athletes. Some girls have been throwing and catching for years. But that's all right a little review never hurt anyone. More importantly, this Learning Aid has many readers who are new to the sport and are looking for the fundamentals of the game. Nothing is more fundamental that throwing and catching. If you are just beginning your softball career this season, get ready to hear some words and phrases that will be repeated throughout your stay in the sport. The first of these is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. We'll start with the most fundamental aspect of catching, but reading the words is not nearly enough. You must practice even this most basic concept over and over again until it becomes automatic. So here it is: BASIC CATCHING RULE NUMBER ONE: If the ball is coming toward you and it's above your waist, catch the ball with the glove pointed TOWARD THE SKY! If the ball is coming toward you and it's below your waist, catch the ball with the glove pointed TOWARD THE GROUND! If you don't catch the ball this way two things will probably happen. 1. You probably won't catch the ball. 2. You will probably get hurt. If you don't want to get hit in the face, then catch the ball correctly. (There's nothing soft about a softball!) If you catch a ball that's above your waist with the glove pointing down (which seems to be the way everyone begins) you are creating a direct path for the ball to hit your body or face. BASIC CATCHING RULE NUMBER TWO: Always use TWO hands to catch the ball. Squeeze the glove closed with your free hand to completely trap the ball. Again there are two reasons why you should ALWAYS use two hands to catch the ball. 1. If you only use your glove hand to catch the ball, you run a high risk of dropping the ball. Instead of an out on a fly ball you must now pick the ball up and hope you can throw the runner out at base. 2. If your throwing hand is already covering the ball, you save time when you grab the ball to throw it to another player. In softball saving time is the primary component in making an out. Now that you know the rule, you need to know that coaches understand that there are times when you can only get your glove hand in position to make a catch. BUT, whenever you can get both hands in postion to make a catch USE BOTH HANDS. Nothing frustrates your coach more than a dropped fly ball that pops out of a glove because only one hand was used. BASIC CATCHING RULE NUMBER THREE: When catching ground balls, PUT THE FINGERTIPS OF YOUR GLOVE ON THE GROUND. Your parents won't be upset if your glove gets dirty. It happens every game. A ground ball is hit to an infield player. The player is in position to catch the ball, and the ball goes under her glove, between her legs and continues into the outfield. A simple out becomes a single or a double. BEFORE the pitch is thrown, good infielders prepare for a ground ball by getting into their ready stance with their glove fingertips on the ground and their free hand next to the glove to cover the ball when it's caught. BASIC CATCHING RULE NUMBER FOUR: Don't let the ball get past you. If you can't catch it, STOP IT! The best outcome is always a caught ball leading to an out. However, it ain't always going to happen. When the ball can't be caught, the fielder must minimize the damage by, at least, stopping the ball. Even this action may result in an out by a fielder with a good throwing arm. At worst, the hit will be limited to a single base. That's not too bad. You'll get the next batter. OK, that's the big four basics of catching. It only took a couple hundred words to explain and a few graphics to visualize. Unfortunately, it will take years of practice to master. So get started. As you become a more proficient catcher, I guarantee you'll become one of your coach's most valuable players. Practice Tips: Here's a few activities the girls can perform on their own. - Tennis ball throw against a wall - those old tennis balls you have around the house can be a great source of skill training. Throwing a tennis ball against and wall and catching the return ball increases eye hand coordination, provides some throwing practice, and provides the opportunity to catch the ball with two hands. Since the ball is about half the size of a softball, learning to catch this small ball makes it easier to catch the 12 inch softball. - Tennis ball off the roof - throw a tennis ball onto a garage or house roof and catching it as it bounces from the roof sharpens relfexes, provides "fly ball" catching experience, and throwing practice. Throwing "You throw like a girl". If you've ever seen "Sandlot", you know this is meant to be an insult. If fastpitch softball continues its rise in popularity and skill level this phrase will soon become a compliment. Until that time, we'll just consider this comment to mean any girl OR boy who hasn't been taught the correct way to throw a ball. So what's the difference between the "girl" throw and the correct form shown by seasoned baseball and softball players? The beginning player usually exhibits four poor traits which will haunt their attempts to master the art. If caught at a young age, these bad traits can be corrected to eliminate years of frustration. 1. The throw begins with the ball hand place well behind the head. Most beginners hold the ball next to their heads. The forearm and upper arm form the letter "L" and the ball hand is facing behind you. Also the GLOVE shoulder faces the person you are throwing to. The glove actually points to the place you want to throw the ball and most of your body's weight is placed over your back foot. 2. The part of the arm/hand anatomy that passes the head first is NOT the ball hand. It's the elbow. A correct throw leads with the elbow. The hips and upper torso should turn to face foward as the pitch progresses. 3. The ball is thrown by snapping the wrist at the point of release -- NOT by pushing the ball with the hand. The wrist snap provides the speed needed to reach across an infield. 4. The throw DOES NOT end with the wrist snap and release of the ball. The hand and arm MUST follow through in a way that the throwing hand comes to rest near the knee on the opposite side of the body. By this time, the weight of your body has shifted to your front foot. This weight shift and follow through motion ensures that the power of the shoulder is included as part of the total power applied to the throw. KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR TARGET THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE THROWING MOTION. THE BALL AND YOUR BODY TEND TO GO TO WHEREVER YOUR EYES ARE FOCUSED. Practice, Practice, Practice Your coach goes to great lengths to organize practices that are meant to teach and strengten defensive or offensive skills of each player. Be considerate to your coach and teammates and go to the practices and if you can't make the practice, let the coach know. Remember, the more your team practices together, the better you'll play as a team. However, practice should not be limited to the limited time your coach is available. The more serious you are about fastpitch softball the more practice you will need.