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#AnythingButSoft: In-Season Drills for Speed and Endurance

We believe that softball is more than a sport - it makes players #AnythingButSoft on and off the field. This season, we'll be sharing tips and insights from leading coaches, nutritionists, and parents alike and talking about how softball makes athletes #AnythingButSoft.

Core work is critical for any athlete, whether they’re training during the season or in the offseason. Proper exercises allow muscles in the arms and legs to work together for effective movement, quickness, and explosiveness.

These characteristics are especially important for increasing a player’s speed and endurance, says Mari McGuire, owner of McGuire Sports Academy in Weatherford, Texas.

“Softball is not a sport where you go for long periods of time,” said McGuire, a former catcher and team captain at Texas A&M from 1994-98. “You burst. It’s important to burst off the ball for short periods lots of times.”

At MSA, McGuire trains athletes to maximize their overall physical performance. Many of the drills she uses for softball concentrate on middle and rotational core strength, lateral and directional foot movement, rhythm and fast-twitch muscle response, cardiovascular work, and an explosive first step.

The following four drills emphasize these traits to increase speed and endurance, particularly for outfielders and base runners.

Basic Plank Drill

Skill Set: Outfield and base running

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Number of Athletes and Coaches: Individually or as a group

Average Time to Complete: 5 minutes

Equipment Required: None

Goal: To develop core strength

Description of the Drill: Lay on your stomach, then get up on your toes and elbows. Hips should be level, with no arch in your lower back. Shoulders should be positioned directly over your elbows, with hips tucked under and core engaged. Your hands can be either straight out in front of you or tucked together. Posture in your elbows is most important. Hold the position for 20 seconds, then down for 10 seconds. Repeat the sequence for five minutes.

Add Difficulty: Remove one of your elbows off the ground, putting it straight out in front of you as if reaching out, maintaining your hip level to stay in the plank.

Jump Rope Series

Skill Set: Outfield and base running

Difficulty Level: Easy to Intermediate

Number of Athletes and Coaches: Individually or as a group

Average Time to Complete: 8 minutes

Equipment Required: Jump rope

Goal: Build fast-twitch muscle response, and rhythm both on and off the ground. Targets the shoulders and the back side of the body, which is imperative for speed

Description of the Drill: Stay on the balls of your feet, keeping your hands at your hips or in between hips and shoulders, while jumping rope. Get on and off the ground as fast as you can, listening to your cadence. The idea is to establish a rhythm with your breathing and jumping. Start with 100 in as short a time as possible. The ideal ratio should be 100 in 45 seconds, with 15-second rest intervals, then ultimately shortening the rest time

Add Difficulty: Alternate using one leg, double legs, and running with high knees, 25 times each.

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Ladder Drill

Skill Set: Outfield and base running

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Number of Athletes and Coaches: Individually or as a group

Average Time to Complete: 8 minutes

Equipment Required: Two cones and a speed ladder

Goal: To establish footwork and mechanics of directional movement

Description of the Drill: Put a ladder on the ground, setting a cone about 10 feet in front of it. Place another ladder 45 degrees diagonally behind the first, along with a second cone. Accelerate to the first cone, then break down your footwork in a chop-chop-chop motion, planting your outside foot at the cone. Open your hips at a 45-degree angle toward the next cone, run toward it, slow down again in the chop-chop-chop motion around the cone, then accelerate out. Go through the ladder using different foot combinations: two feet in each hole; two feet in, one foot out; two out, one in, etc. as fast as possible.

Add Difficulty: While in the ladder, throw a softball glove-to-hand or up and down to increase hand-eye coordination.

Plyometric Sprints

Skill Set: Outfield and Base Running

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Number of Athletes and Coaches: Individually or as a group

Average Time to Complete: 7-8 minutes with 10 sprints

Equipment Required: Cone and outfielder’s glove (optional)

Goal: To simulate running from home to first or going after a ball, executing an explosive, dynamic first step.

Description of the Drill: Place a cone about 20 yards away. Start on your knees, reach back with your arms, thrust through and explode to your feet in a quick first step. Accelerate into a sprint as fast as you can to the cone. Outfielders can wear their glove as if they’re tracking a ball. If sprinting is not ideal, you can substitute a broad jump-to-run movement, or a tuck jump-to-run, pulling your knees up, landing and taking an explosive first step.

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr. 

Softball, #AnythingButSoft, Softball Player Development, Softball Tips & Drills

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