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.