Last updated on August 22, 2023
Fastpitch softball is not just another sport; it’s an intricate dance of strategy, teamwork, and unyielding dedication. From the resolute gaze of the pitcher to the poised readiness of the outfielder, every player embodies a unique blend of talent and training, making the game a captivating tapestry of skill and effort. Each match is a performance, a culmination of countless hours of practice, sweat, and an unwavering love for the game.
Yet, at the very core of this refined performance is something foundational: drills. These repetitive yet essential exercises serve as the building blocks for player development. They transform initial, often raw talent into a polished display of athleticism and strategy. Our guide unveils 55 of the paramount fastpitch softball drills, each designed to address specific skills and aspects of the game. So, whether you’re a seasoned player or just beginning your journey, these drills are the keys to unlocking your full potential and lighting up the diamond with your prowess.
Looking to enhance your batting skills in fastpitch softball? Well, you’re in luck! Here are 15 drills that can take your batting prowess to the next level:
- Tee Work Drill: Begin by setting up a tee at various heights and distances. Focus on hitting the ball squarely off the tee every time. This drill is fantastic for refining bat control and improving hitting consistency. By eliminating pitch variables, you can really hone in on perfecting your swing mechanics.
- Soft Toss Drill: Position yourself to the side of the batter and gently toss the ball underhand, aiming for them to hit it into a net or fence. The Soft Toss enhances hand-eye coordination, simulating real pitch scenarios but in a much more controlled environment. This way, you can build your confidence one swing at a time.
- High-Low Toss: Two balls are tossed simultaneously; one high and one low. The batter chooses one to hit. This drill sharpens decision-making skills at the plate. By forcing a quick choice between two balls, it trains your eyes and brain to identify and respond to pitches faster.
- Opposite Field Hitting: Using a tee or soft toss, aim to hit the ball to the opposite field consistently. This drill is essential for expanding your hitting zones. It enables you to react to outside pitches efficiently and keeps opposing defenses guessing.
- Front Toss with a Screen: A partner tosses the ball from in front while protected by a screen. Your task? Hit it squarely. This drill gives a more realistic feel than the soft toss because of the direct line of sight. It’s perfect for tracking ball movement and adjusting your swing accordingly.
- One-Hand Isolation Swings: Using just one hand (start with your lead hand), hold the bat and practice your swing, focusing on wrist strength and form. By isolating each arm, you can identify and strengthen any weaknesses in your swing mechanics. This drill highlights the contribution of each arm during the swing, ensuring both are working in tandem to generate power and precision.
- Random Pitch Machine: Using a pitching machine, randomize the speeds and types of pitches. Your mission is to adjust and hit. This method keeps you on your toes, mimicking real-game unpredictability. Over time, you’ll find yourself better equipped to handle any pitch thrown your way.
- Heavy Bat Swings: Swing a bat that’s heavier than what you usually use. Practice your regular hitting mechanics. The added weight strengthens your swinging muscles and refines mechanics. Once you switch back to your standard bat, it’ll feel lighter, allowing for quicker, more powerful swings.
- Shadow Swings: Without a ball, practice your swing mechanics in front of a mirror. This is all about self-evaluation and muscle memory. By watching your form, you can spot and correct inconsistencies, ensuring every swing in the game is your best swing.
- Track the Ball: Without swinging, watch pitches from a machine or a pitcher and call out “ball” or “strike” as they cross the plate. This fine-tunes your pitch recognition skills. By consistently gauging the zone, you’ll cultivate patience at the plate and swing at better pitches.
- Visual Focus Drill: Place a small piece of colored tape on the ball. As the ball is pitched, try to identify the color as you prepare to swing. This exercise sharpens your visual tracking and enhances your ability to focus on the ball’s minute details. By training your eyes to pick up on the tiniest cues, you’re preparing yourself to read spins, seams, and rotations, giving you that extra fraction of a second to adjust your swing.
- Pendulum Batting: Start with your bat resting on your back shoulder. As the pitch comes in, bring the bat to the front shoulder before swinging. This elongated motion forces you to initiate your swing earlier and with more deliberation. Over time, you’ll cultivate an acute sense of timing and rhythm, crucial for hitting off-speed pitches and change-ups with consistency.
- Variable Distance Toss: Mix up your soft toss distances without telling the batter. This promotes quick adjustment to varying pitch distances. It helps batters become adaptable, ensuring readiness for both off-speed pitches and fastballs.
- Load and Explode: Start in your regular stance but without striding. Instead, focus solely on the loading phase, then unleash your swing. This helps in breaking down the swing into segments. By emphasizing just the load and the subsequent swing, you’re reinforcing the importance of generating power from your hips and core. With regular practice, this drill will help you develop a more potent and swift swing, ensuring that the energy from your load phase is efficiently transferred to the ball.
- Choke-Up Power Drill: Choke up on the bat and try to hit pitches as far as you can. This encourages strong wrist action and better bat control. With this approach, you’ll generate power even when not holding the bat at its base, giving you a diverse batting toolkit.
Remember, like any skill, batting improves with dedication, practice, and consistent feedback. These drills are a roadmap to success. Incorporate them into your routine, stay patient, and soon enough, you’ll see remarkable results at the plate.
For those striving to sharpen their skills in the infield, the journey to excellence is paved with dedication the right drills. Here’s a comprehensive list of 10 infield drills that will not only challenge but also refine your skills, setting you on a trajectory toward infield mastery:
- Rapid Fire Grounders: Stand a few feet away from your partner and hit sharp ground balls to them in quick succession. This drill helps in refining quick glove work and building agility. By forcing rapid responses, you’re training yourself for those crucial split-second decisions in-game situations.
- Double Play Turn: Set players at shortstop and second base, and then hit grounders to them. Practice the turn and throw for the double play. This drill emphasizes footwork, quick ball transfer, and accurate throws. It’s vital for building that innate understanding between middle infielders, ensuring silky-smooth double plays during matches.
- Barehand Fielding: Field ground balls without using a glove. This challenges and hones your hand-eye coordination. Without the aid of the glove, you’re forced to watch the ball more carefully, enhancing your focus and ball-handling skills.
- Short Hop Mastery: Using a softer practice ball or a tennis ball, a partner throws short hops towards the fielder, aiming for the ball to bounce just before it reaches them. This drill emphasizes the tricky art of fielding short hops with precision. It’s a scenario that often occurs in games, and mastering this skill can significantly reduce infield errors. By using a softer ball, players can build confidence without the fear of getting hurt, gradually transitioning to regular softballs as they become proficient.
- Backhand and Forehand Practice: Roll balls alternatively to a player’s forehand and backhand sides, focusing on proper fielding techniques for both. This drill ensures versatility in fielding. It preps infielders to handle tricky bounces and sharp grounders from any direction with grace and confidence.
- Wall Ball Reaction Drill: Find a solid wall, like a handball or racquetball court. Have a partner throw the ball against the wall at varying angles and speeds, forcing the fielder to react quickly and field the ball after it ricochets. This drill heightens your reaction time and improves your ability to read unpredictable bounces. In real-game scenarios, not every grounder will come to you smoothly. By training with unpredictable wall bounces, you’re preparing for those unexpected moments, ensuring that no matter how the ball comes at you, you’re ready to make the play.
- Bucket Relay Race: Create two teams. Each team relays balls from one bucket to another, racing against the other team. This drill fosters teamwork and throwing accuracy. Beyond honing precision, it introduces an element of competition, making practice both fun and productive.
- First Baseman Pick Drill: Throw balls in the dirt towards the first baseman, challenging them to “pick” or scoop the ball effectively. This specific drill boosts the first baseman’s skills in handling difficult throws. A skilled first baseman can save the team from many errors, turning potential misses into outs.
- Charging the Ball: Hit slow grounders and make infielders run up to field them. This drill reinforces the importance of aggressively charging slow balls and making a quick throw. It’s especially useful for those high-pressure situations where hesitation can mean the difference between an out and a runner on base.
- Dive and Recover: Roll balls to either side of the player, forcing them to dive and then quickly recover to make a throw. This pushes infielders to their limits. It prepares them for those game-changing moments when they need to go the extra mile, ensuring not only a fantastic catch but also a rapid recovery and throw.
Remember, the best infielders combine natural talent with relentless practice. By integrating these drills into your training regimen, you’re laying down a strong foundation of skills and reflexes. As you consistently push your boundaries and refine your techniques, you’ll find yourself making plays that leave both teammates and spectators in awe. Play hard, practice harder, and let every ground ball know: nothing’s getting past you!
For outfielders in fastpitch softball, mastery means having a combination of speed, precision, and the ability to read the trajectory of the ball effortlessly. Here are 10 drills tailored for outfielders, designed to transform you into a formidable force in the outfield:
- Long Toss: Partner up and gradually increase the distance between each other, throwing the ball back and forth. This drill strengthens the arm and hones accuracy. The long toss is crucial for outfielders to ensure they can make those long, decisive throws from the outfield to the infield.
- Drop Step Practice: From a standing position, react to a verbal cue (left, right, or back) and drop step in that direction to chase a ball thrown by a partner. This enhances your initial step and reaction speed. Quick and precise reactions to batted balls can mean the difference between an out and a triple.
- Ground Ball Rollers: Have someone roll ground balls in front of you, forcing you to charge the ball and field it on the move. This drill refines your approach to ground balls, ensuring swift pick-ups and transitions to throwing.
- Basket Catch Drill: Field fly balls using only one hand, much like the famous “basket catch.” This emphasizes hand-eye coordination and tracking. Although it’s a non-traditional catch method, practicing it enhances focus and reinforces the importance of watching the ball into your hand.
- Gap Communication: With two outfielders, hit or throw balls into the gap between them. They must communicate who will catch the ball and who will back up. This drill promotes clear outfield communication, reducing chances of collisions and misplays.
- Fence Awareness: Field fly balls close to the fence to familiarize yourself with its location and how to avoid it while keeping an eye on the ball. This boosts confidence in catching balls near obstacles and ensures safety during high-pressure catches.
- Situational Awareness: Simulate game situations, where the outfielder must decide whether to throw to a cutoff or directly to a base. It’s not just about fielding but also making smart decisions to shut down the offense’s game plan.
- Angle Pursuit: Instead of hitting balls directly to the outfielder, hit them at angles, forcing the outfielder to run diagonally to make the catch. This enhances the ability to read trajectories and improves route efficiency.
- Sprint and Settle: Have the outfielder sprint in any direction before a ball is hit, then adjust to field the ball. This simulates situations where outfielders are caught off guard or out of position.
- Diving Drills: On a soft surface, practice diving to catch fly balls. This prepares outfielders for situations where a standard catch just won’t do, and a game-changing dive is needed.
For an outfielder, the expanse of the field is both a playground and a battleground. Each of these drills is designed to equip you with the skills and instincts needed to reign supreme in this vast territory.
Pitching in fastpitch softball is an intricate art that requires impeccable technique, power, and control. Whether you’re working on speed, movement, or accuracy, there’s a drill tailored for you.
- Wall Drives: Stand close to a wall, facing it. Go through your pitching motion, driving your pitching hand past your hip and ensuring your hand doesn’t hit the wall. This drill promotes proper hand path and hip drive, ensuring a smoother motion and increased velocity.
- Stride Drill: Focus solely on the stride portion of your pitch. Stride out and drag your back foot. Emphasizing this phase aids in establishing consistent stride length and fosters a stable foundation for your pitches.
- Knee Pitching: Kneel on your post leg (non-pitching leg) and pitch from this position. This drill isolates the upper body and forces the arm to produce most of the power, thereby strengthening arm muscles and refining mechanics.
- Pitching Ladder: Use a ladder or draw boxes with chalk, and work on hitting each rung or box with your pitches. This enhances accuracy and command over different zones, making it tougher for batters to predict pitch locations.
- Towel Snaps: Hold a towel in your pitching hand and perform your regular motion, snapping the towel down at the end. It helps in refining wrist snap and arm speed, which are critical for pitch velocity and spin.
- Resistance Bands: Incorporate resistance bands in your wind-up and delivery to build strength. They add resistance to your motion, strengthening core pitching muscles and improving overall power.
- Long Toss Pitching: Just as it sounds, pitch the ball over a longer-than-usual distance. This drill enhances arm strength and endurance, crucial for maintaining pitch velocity throughout a game.
- Balance Drills: Lift your stride leg and balance on your post leg for a few seconds before completing the pitch. This improves stability and balance throughout the pitching motion, ensuring more consistent deliveries.
- Spin Drills: Using either a colored ball or one with distinct markings, focus on the ball’s rotation to gauge the quality of your spin. Perfecting spin is essential for pitches like curveballs, screwballs, and riseballs.
- Pitching with a Purpose: Simulate in-game scenarios with a batter at the plate. For each pitch, have a clear intention (e.g., inside fastball, low changeup). This not only sharpens your skills but also cultivates a strategic mindset, preparing you for actual game-day scenarios.
The role of a catcher in fastpitch softball is vital. They are the field general, managing the game’s flow and being involved in every play. With that level of responsibility, their skill set needs to be top-notch. Below are 10 drills to ensure catchers stay agile, accurate, and alert:
- Framing Drills: Receive a pitched ball and subtly adjust it to appear as a strike. The goal is to make borderline pitches look better to the umpire. Framing is an art and when done correctly, can sway close calls in your team’s favor, making it a crucial skill for catchers.
- Blocking Drills: Have a partner throw balls in the dirt in various locations. The catcher should use their body to block, not catch, keeping the ball in front. This drill ensures that errant pitches don’t pass by, which is essential to prevent base runners from advancing.
- Throw-Down Drills: From the crouch, practice throwing to various bases, especially second and third. Perfecting this movement helps catchers control the base paths and makes would-be base stealers think twice.
- Pop Up Drills: Simulate foul balls by having someone hit or toss balls overhead. The catcher should shed their mask and catch the ball. This improves agility and readiness for those high, unexpected foul balls that can be turned into outs.
- Bunt Defense: Simulate bunt situations. Catchers should spring out of their crouch, field the ball, and throw to a base. This enhances reaction times and ensures the catcher can thwart those sneaky bunt attempts effectively.
- Communication Drills: With the entire infield, simulate different scenarios, ensuring the catcher leads and communicates effectively. As the on-field general, a catcher’s clear and decisive communication can orchestrate tight defense and outmaneuver the offense.
- Backhand Reception: Instead of always catching the ball head-on, work on backhand catches for those tricky outside pitches. This drill hones a catcher’s ability to handle wide pitches without shifting their entire body, ensuring a better frame and minimizing passed balls.
- Tag at the Plate: Simulate plays at the plate where the catcher must receive a throw and tag a sliding runner. Perfecting this ensures you make the out without risking injury, especially in those high-stakes game-ending plays.
- Quick Feet Drills: Use a ladder or cones to enhance footwork speed. A catcher’s agility in their footwork can significantly reduce the time it takes to throw down bases or adjust to erratic pitches.
- Pop-Time Drill: “Pop time” refers to the time it takes a catcher to receive a pitch and throw a runner out at second base. To perform this drill, from the crouch, catch a pitch, quickly rise, transfer the ball, and fire it to second base. A partner or coach with a stopwatch can then time from the moment of catch to the ball’s arrival at second base. Perfecting your pop time is paramount for any catcher; it measures your efficiency and speed in one of the most critical plays in the game
Being a catcher is both physically demanding and mentally taxing, but with the right drills and commitment, it’s a position that offers immense rewards. Embrace the grind, trust in these drills, and watch as your game reaches new heights.
In the grand arena of fastpitch softball, success doesn’t happen by accident. It’s meticulously crafted through hours of practice, repetition, and dedication. These 55 drills offer a comprehensive roadmap to mastering every facet of the game. But remember, while drills provide the foundation, it’s your passion and commitment that will truly set you apart on the diamond. So, lace up those cleats, grip that ball, and embark on your journey to fastpitch softball greatness. With every practice, you’re not just perfecting a skill—you’re sculpting your legacy.
Hunter Tierney is a passionate writer, loving dad, and true sports fanatic. His experience helping his two daughters through softball, in addition to playing baseball at the collegiate level, gives him a fresh perspective on all things softball. He earned his business degree from the University of Phoenix where he also took writing and journalism courses.