The difference between winning and losing can often be determined by which team put forth the extra effort in practice.
Heard County softball coach Matt Hornsby understands that hustling is a vital part of ending up on the right side of the scoreboard.
So two years ago he set out to ensure his team developed a “grind” mindset on the diamond, particularly in the infield.
That’s how the tire flip drill originated. And yes, it’s just as simple (and grueling) as it sounds.
Here’s how it works:
- Every player on the team, whether an infielder or an outfielder, is split up into four infield spots: first base, second base, third base and shortstop.
- One coach hits ground balls to the left side of the infield while another coach hits grounders to the right side.
- If a ground ball makes it to the outfield grass, the two players that were on that side of the infield immediately sprint out of the gate and each have to flip a 175-pound tire and sprint back into line.
While it sounds like something out of CrossFit, Hornsby explained the simple reason for the exercise.
“We started this drill because in the past we’ve given up too many runs due to infielders not laying out for balls that I thought they could’ve at least laid out and stopped from getting to the outfield or maybe a runner trying to score from second,” he said. “I told them, even if you lay out and don’t throw the girl out at first, you still keep that girl at third instead of allowing her to have a chance to score. It’s not so much about getting an out as it is keeping a run from scoring.”
Now players feel even more responsibility for their actions.
“Sometimes, because there’s two people on that side of the infield we may just hit a ground ball right at the shortstop. The shortstop boots it and it gets by her. Guess what? The third baseman who has nothing to do with the play, still has to go flip the tire,” Hornsby said. “It helps you hold your team accountable. None of them want to be that one player that has to make everyone flip the tire.”
By any means possible, Hornsby expects his players to sacrifice their bodies.
“I don’t care if they field it cleanly. I just want them trying to lay out, get dirty and save a run. I tell them I don’t care if you block it up or have to tackle it,” Hornsby said. “If there’s a ground ball to first, I want our second baseman sprinting behind her in case she misses it. I like to think we’ll never miss a routine ground ball but that’s not reality.”
The tire flip drill has created healthy rivalries and playful trash talk that makes practice more fun.
“They’ll get into little competitions with each other and they’ll be yelling, ‘Go flip the tire!’ It’s a pretty cool little drill,” Hornsby said. “Some of our girls love laying out and some of our girls hate laying out. But whenever we do the tire flip drill they’re all laying out.”
From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa
Check out other fielding drills here.