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Fastpitch Softball Drills For Outfielders: How To Improve Your Outfield
The game of fast pitch softball is evolving more and more each year. It's because of this that batters are more prepared to hit the pitches that are thrown at them. Since the batters have adjusted to the pitches, our outfielders need to be even faster in fielding and throwing the ball. These drills will help your outfield become a well rounded defense, making great plays throughout the year.
Catching a Fly Ball. Probably the most routine play for an outfielder is catching a fly ball. An effective drill to use for this is to set your defense up, infield and outfield, and hit fly balls to your outfield. Make them move. Make them run after balls so they learn to hit their cutoffs (see below). Don't make it easy on them. Another drill you can do is just with your outfielders. Have them stand in a line in the outfield while you stand along the right field fould line. They should be between right and center field. Hit them fly balls here as well. Something they need to also practice is Catching a Fly Ball In The Sun. It sounds a lot easier than you think. Every field is different, so mosre than likely, each player will have to deal with sun. Have them face the sun and hit fly balls to them. Make sure they are using their non-glove hand to shield the sun, and catching the ball with their glove. It makes things easier if you can convince them to wear a hat or visor and sunglasses, or at least one or the other. One last thing that outfielders need to practice is Catching a Fly Ball on the Run. A drill I like to use to teach girls to turn the correct way to catch the ball (you have them open up toward the ball using a drop step) is to have them stand relatively close to me and I throw a ball fairly high but behind them on one side or the other. They know which side the ball is going on and it is their job to drop step back (left foot opens back on a ball to their left, right foot opens back on a ball to their right) and have them run towards the ball, sticking their glove up to catch it at the very last minute. Running with your glove up only slows your down. Do Not Back Pedal! Bad things happen when you back pedal. To make things more realistic for your outfield, put runners on bases while they're catching fly balls to help them judge how long they have to get it in.
When and When Not To Dive. Let's face it, sometimes you need to dive and other times it's a bad idea. So when do you dive? A general rule of thumb I tell girls is that if you're in center field, you can dive at a ball whenever you think it's necessary because your right and left fielders should be backing you up. If they aren't, then they are the ones not doing their job. Center fielders have 2 lifelines if the ball gets passed them, so I tell them to dive and get everything. Right and Left Fielders do not have this luxury. I tell them that they can dive at a ball if it's a high fly ball that will land right in front of them if they miss and not roll, or a ball that is between them and center field, because their center fielder should be backing them up. A line drive that will fall at their feet is not something to dive at because if they miss it, it's going to roll. High fly balls will hit the ground and stay, and the fielder can grab it quickly. That is when I tell my outfielders when and when not to dive.
Backing Up. As mentioned in the diving section, backing up is crutial. You are the last players to stop the ball in the outfield. If it gets by you, more than likely there are going to be extra bases taken, if not a homerun. It is important to back up your outfielders so this doesn't happen. It is also important to back up your infield. As a right fielder, you should be backing up first base, and second base when the ball is being throw from the left side of the field, including the pitcher. You should also back up your second basemen when a ball is hit to her. As a center fielder, you should be backing up right field, left field, any throws to second base, and any balls hit up the middle. You have the most area to cover. When in doubt, back it up. As a left fielder, you should be backing up center field, 3rd base, short stop, and any throws made to third base from the right side of the field, including the pitcher. As an outfielder, you are the last life line for the ball. So again, when in doubt, back it up!
Covering The Bases (When Needed). There are times in the game when the infield is going to be covering other things that an outfielder needs to cover a base. Make sure to go over these situations with your players, and have base runners running for them to get a feel for how quick it happens. For example, with a runner on first base and a bunt situation, your 3rd basemen goes in for the bunt, short stop covers 2nd base and 3rd base is left unattended. It is the left fielders job to sprint in to cover that bag so the runner doesn't advance to third. The 3rd basemen can back up the throw. Another example is when there are runners on first and third in a bunt situation. Your 3rd basemen is in, short stop is covering 3rd on the bunt, 2nd basemen is covering first. The center fielder needs to sprint in and cover 2nd base in case there is a play there.
Throwing To Each Base. Throwing to each base after fielding a ball in the outfield is pretty routine. Make sure you try to time fly balls so that you are running at them while catching them so your momentum is carrying you forward. If you are standing still under a ball and then have to throw, you are wasting precious seconds and you won't have as good of momentum. Practicing throwing to each base, and home plate, is an important part of the game that could mean win or lose.
Hitting Your Cut Offs. Along with throwing to each base comes hitting your cut off. Your infield cut off is there for a reason. Hit her. Overthrowing her means the ball will be rolling to who knows where, and runners are advancing. Practice hitting balls over outfielders heads, forcing them to hit cut offs. Again, right field is throwing to the 2nd basemen, while left field is throwing to the short stop. For center field, it depends on where the ball is hit as to where they throw it. If it's hit on the 2nd base side, they throw to the 2nd basemen. If it's hit to the 3rd base side of 2nd, you throw to the short stop.
Being Vocal. Last but not least, an outfielder needs to be vocal. They can see everything that is going on in the field. Let your infielders know who is where, how many outs, and who is running whereas often as possible. If someone's stealing second, scream it to your catcher. If you can catch a ball, call off the other person. If someone's running home, scream to throw it home. Help each other out!
By using these drills and tips, your outifeld should be in tip top shape and ready to take on anything! Good luck!
Need more softball drills? Check out my other articles:
Fastpitch Softball Drills For Catchers: How To Improve Your Catcher
How To Coach The "Uncoachable"
Fastpitch Softball Drills For Infielders: How To Improve Your Infield
Fastpitch Softball Pitching Drills To Increase Speed