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Softball Ground Ball Fielding Fundamentals

My daughter attended a mini-clinic focused on defense with a local college coach. The players at the clinic were some of the best local young players in the area, including one player who started for last year's ASA 12U national championship team, and the coach knew that fact coming in so I figured I'd be treated to watching some really advanced defensive drills. Much to my surprise, the coach focused on the very basics of fielding, and I am very glad she did. It was clear after these elite players struggled with their footwork and fielding during the drills that the coach focused on the right thing for the clinic.

Talking with her afterward, she told me that she and her staff have to spend time at the beginning of the season teaching (not reviewing, teaching) their Division I players the fundamentals of fielding a ground ball, and that nobody at the youth level seems to spend any time on the details of the fundamentals. What my daughter learned (and what I learned) was definitely worth the price of admission, and has definitely changed how I teach catching ground balls in the future.

Repeat after me: Right Left Catch, Right Left Throw. This is the cadence that the Coach taught our girls for fielding an infield ground ball. As the ball is closing on the player, she steps out with her right foot, then brings her left foot forward so that it is even with (or maybe *slightly* ahead of) the right foot, and then she scoops her hands toward the ball. The arms are extended, the hands are soft, and the back of the glove (not the web or the fingers) is on the dirt (see picture to the right). Her chest should almost be parallel with the ground and her butt down as far as she can get it, with her feet wide (wider than shoulder-width). Looking from above, her hands are the top point of a triangle, and her feet are the base. Then once she has the ball, she steps with her right foot to where her glove was, and steps with her left foot toward where she is throwing, and throws the ball.

Because Softball is such a speed game, I have always taught my infielders to field a ground ball with the left foot forward (for right-handed throwers). The rationale was that the player already had her body aligned in a throwing position and could therefore quickly get a throw off by doing a little crow hop with her feet. However, the Coach pointed out that with this position, the crow hop typically moves the back of the body to the side behind the glove, taking away momentum from the throw. By stepping forward into the throw (stepping the right foot to where the glove was), the player not only makes the distance of the throw slightly shorter, she has the full momentum of her body behind her making for a stronger throw. Additionally, the player cannot adjust to a bad hop as well if they field the ball left-foot forward.

This was definitely an "Aha!" moment for me and made perfect sense. Definitely need to "un-fix" my players to get them to use this improved technique!

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