Last updated on September 5, 2023
Most softball catchers have heard of pop time and likely wonder what it is, or what your time is. Pop time is an essential skill for softball catchers to master. It refers to the time it takes for a catcher to receive a pitch, transfer the ball from the glove to the throwing hand, and release a throw to second base. All in an attempt to catch a base runner attempting to steal. The term “pop” comes from the how the catcher seems to “pop” up quickly to make a throw.
An elite pop time is normally 1.70 seconds or less, which is extremely fast. This is the magic number for college players. However, catchers of all levels can benefit from improving their pop time. A faster pop time can help catchers throw out more runners and prevent stolen bases, which can be a game-changer in close games.
There are several factors that can impact a catcher’s pop time, including throw accuracy, footwork, arm strength, and transfer time. Catchers can enhance these abilities with targeted drills and consistent practice. By honing in on these crucial aspects, you can refine your pop time and boost your efficiency when behind the plate.
Understanding Pop Time
Your pop time is a vital measure as a softball catcher. It’s the time you take to catch a pitch, swiftly transfer the ball from your glove to your throwing hand, and then launch a throw to second base. Trying to beat out a base runner attempting a steal. This duration is clocked using a stopwatch that begins the moment the pitch lands in your mitt. It halts when the ball lands in the second baseman’s grasp.
Having a swift pop time is crucial to deter opponents from stealing bases. The quicker your pop time, the tougher it is for runners to succeed in their thefts. Usually, a pop time below 2.0 seconds is seen as pretty good, whereas one that’s 2.2 seconds or longer is viewed as below average.
For a commendable pop time, you’ll need sharp reflexes, impeccable footwork, and a powerful arm. Additionally, accuracy in throwing the ball to second base is even more important. Consistent practice, coupled with feedback, can be your best ally in achieving a faster and more efficient pop time.
Pop Time By Age
|Age Group||Average Pop Time|
|10 & Under (Youth)||2.4 – 2.9 seconds|
|12 & Under (Youth)||2.2 – 2.7 seconds|
|14 & Under (Junior)||2.0 – 2.5 seconds|
|High School (Freshman & Sophomore)||1.8 – 2.3 seconds|
|High School (Junior & Senior)||1.7 – 2.2 seconds|
|College (Division I)||1.6 – 1.9 seconds|
|College (Division II & III)||1.7 – 2.1 seconds|
|Elite/Professional||1.6 – 1.8 seconds|
Remember, while a good pop time can be indicative of a catcher’s throwing ability and quickness, it’s only one piece of the overall skill set required for the position. Catchers must also excel in receiving pitches, blocking, pitch calling, and building rapport with their pitchers.
Training and Practice
Training and practice are essential components of improving a catcher’s pop time. Coaches should focus on developing a routine that includes drills that target specific aspects of the pop time sequence. These might include catch, transfer, release, and throw velocity. Catchers should practice these drills consistently to create muscle memory and improve their overall performance.
One effective way to improve a catcher’s pop time is by using training aids. Softball training aids such as weighted balls and throwing targets can help catchers develop their throwing accuracy and arm strength. Coaches should consider incorporating these aids into their training regimen to help their catchers improve their pop time.
In addition to training aids, catchers should also work on their footwork and body mechanics. Catchers should focus on their footwork, ensuring they’re in the proper position to make a quick and accurate throw. Proper body mechanics can also help catchers generate more power and velocity in their throws.
It’s always important to make sure catchers are practicing in their full catcher’s gear. Practicing without the gear too much can make a game situation; when you have to wear your helmet, chest protector, and shin guards, feel abnormal.
Techniques for Better Pop Time
Proper glove positioning is essential to ensuring a quick and accurate throw. The catcher should position their glove in a way that allows them to catch the ball and transfer it quickly to their throwing hand. The glove should be positioned in front of the body, with the palm facing up and the fingers pointing towards the pitcher. This allows for a quick transfer of the ball from the glove to the throwing hand.
The catcher’s body positioning is also critical to achieving a good pop time. The catcher should be in a low crouch, with their weight evenly distributed on both feet. This allows for a quick transition from the catching position to a throwing position. The catcher should also keep their head and eyes up, allowing them to see the runner and make an accurate throw.
Footwork is another essential factor in achieving a good pop time. The catcher should have quick and efficient footwork, allowing them to transition from the catching position to a throwing position quickly. The catcher should use a two-step approach, with the first step being a cross-over step towards the throwing side, followed by a step towards the target.
Arm strength is also critical to achieving a good pop time. The catcher should work on building arm strength through regular throwing drills and exercises. The catcher should also focus on proper throwing mechanics, including a quick and efficient arm motion.
The transfer of the ball from the glove to the throwing hand is the most critical factor in achieving a good pop time. The catcher should work on developing a quick and efficient transfer, with a smooth and fluid motion. The catcher should also focus on keeping their throwing hand close to their body, allowing for a quick and accurate release.
Importance of Accuracy
Accuracy is a critical component of a catcher’s pop time. While it is important to have a strong throwing arm, it is equally important to be accurate with throws. A catcher who can consistently throw to the correct base with accuracy will be able to prevent runners from advancing and make it more difficult for the opposing team to score.
In addition to helping catchers throw out runners, accuracy also helps infielders make plays. If a catcher throws an inaccurate ball, it can be difficult for an infielder to catch and tag the runner. This can result in missed outs and potentially allow the opposing team to score.
Scouting and Recruitment
Scouts and college recruiters pay close attention to a catcher’s pop time. A fast pop time is a valuable asset to any team, as it can help prevent stolen bases and increase the likelihood of getting a runner out.
High school players looking to get recruited should focus on improving their pop time by practicing their throwing mechanics and footwork. Attending softball showcase tournaments is also a great way for players to showcase their skills in front of college coaches and scouts. These tournaments are typically multi-day events where teams from all over the country come together to compete. Showcase tournaments are different from regular tournaments in that the focus is on individual player performance rather than team performance.
College recruiters look for catchers with a pop time of 2.0 seconds or faster at the high school level, while a pop time of 1.8 seconds or faster is considered outstanding at the collegiate and professional levels. Catchers who consistently demonstrate a fast pop time and strong throwing arm are highly sought after by college recruiters and professional teams. If you have an impressive pop time, be sure to include it anywhere in your applications that ask about athletic strengths.
You’ve embarked on a fascinating journey exploring the intricacies of pop time, an essential metric for softball catchers. With the right understanding and consistent practice, refining this skill can make a world of difference on the field. Remember, it’s not just about the speed; it’s the combination of reflexes, footwork, and accuracy that truly sets great catchers apart.
Dot Wilkinson, Stacey Nuveman, and Lauren Lappin are shining examples of excellence in this domain. As you lace up your cleats and don your catcher’s gear, always keep in mind that every throw, every practice, and every game is a step towards perfecting your craft. So, step onto that field with confidence, passion, and the knowledge you’ve gained. Here’s to catching your dreams, one pitch at a time!
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.