Defensive execution is essential when the game is on the line. One miscue can cost a team a chance at a win
For the Alexander High School softball team, located in Douglasville, Georgia, that requisite mental toughness is a focal point throughout practice early in the season. It’s vital to create positive habits that will be sustainable. It has helped later in the season when those big moments come around.
“At the beginning of the season we really focus on the fundamentals and get back down to the basics,” Graham said. “Towards the end of the season when you’re playing four to six games a week and you only get a couple practices, you kind of lose your sense of the basics a little bit. So it’s important to instill it early on.”
One of the ways Graham mentally sharpens his defense is with the Three-Corner drill.
All of the infielders lineup at either third base, first base or home plate. Graham hits the ball to one of the players. If a player is at third base, she’ll get the ball and throw to first base. After her throw, she sprints over to first and waits for her next ground ball. If the player is at first base, she fields the ball and fires home, then follows her throw and waits in line to receive a throw at the plate. This continues as players constantly rotate between the bases.
“It’s 4-5 minutes of continuous ball movement and moving your feet,” Graham said. “By the time you get back to your line, you get a 3-4 second breather and then another ball is coming at you.”
The grueling nature of the drill serves the players well when it’s time to perform under the bright lights.
“Once you get rolling, it’s fast. It gets them tired and it brings them down physically. That’s where I’m trying to get to the mental side of things,” Graham said. “Late in the ballgame when you’re exhausted, you’ve got to be able to withstand it and rise above it. If you don’t let your mind tell you you’re tired, you won’t be.”
Ultimately, this drill can help players develop endurance when out in the field and help build those fundamental fielding skills. The more tired a player gets, the more she has to focus on her fundamentals when fielding and throwing the ball. The hope is that when the big moment comes, the players will be ready to make a strong play in the field.
“The goal of the drill is to be as good on the 30th throw as the first throw,” Graham said. “You can overcome and adapt in any situation if you have your mind in the right place."
From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa
Check out more fielding drills here.