Help Your Players Overcome Their Natural Aversion to Obstacles with This Fielding Drill
One of the most difficult skills for a softball player to master is catching a pop fly ball close to an obstacle. And while the field itself is wide open, there are plenty of potential obstacles out there. Fences, dugouts, walls and more all present issues. In fact, many players shy away from the obstacle, missing the ball entirely, even though it could be easily caught. This drill is designed to help your players overcome their natural aversion to crashing into objects (the reaction that’s causing them to miss balls). Not only will they become more adept fielders, but they’ll overcome their natural hesitancy and become better all-around players as well.
A Look at the Drill
The out of bounds pop fly drill is actually very simple. It requires nothing more than a bucket of balls, the coach (or another player to throw the ball), and the fielders you want to be involved in practice. Really, you could feasibly train the entire team with this drill, which is a very good option with teams where players rotate through different positions, rather than focusing on playing in one position game after game.
To get started, you’ll need to line your players up about 10 feet away from a fence in foul territory (either left or right field). The coach (or throwing player if the coach isn’t participating), will stand with a bucket of balls and arc them up and out toward the fence, being careful not to actually toss the ball over (in the case of a low outfield fence being used).
The first player in line will run toward the fence and catch the ball. She then returns the ball to the bucket beside the coach and moves to the back of the line. Make sure the ball is coming down from its arc at the fence line, and not too far before it, otherwise the point of this drill is lost. Any player that flinches from the fence should be penalized (think of a fun, lighthearted penalty rather than having them run laps).
Rotate through the entire line, and then start again, giving each player two to three turns fielding the ball against the fence.
Fielding a ball against a fence is a bit different from catching it on the field. Players should field the ball with their glove hand forward, extended out. This allows them to feel the fence before they get there. It’s also perfectly acceptable to catch one handed.
Change Things Up
There’s no telling where a ball is going to go when hit off the bat, and your players need to be awake to that reality. You can help by varying things up with this drill. Every now and then, throw the ball toward the infield rather than the fence, forcing your players to adapt, think on their feet and be aware of the possibility that the ball could go anywhere.
Tips and Tricks
While the drill as outlined above requires multiple players and a softball field, it can be adopted for use in other situations. For instance, it can be adapted for practice in the back yard with just a few changes. You’ll need at least two people (one to catch and one to throw), as well as an obstacle. Almost anything can be set up as an obstacle, though. A sheet hung from a clothesline works well as a mock fence, and a little imagination will show plenty of other configurations that will work as well.