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SOFTBALL 2DAY COACHING JOURNAL

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Fastpitch Softball Articles: Suggested Reading
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3 Great Fastpitch Softball Pitching Drills
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Softball

Coaching Tips of the Month: Teaching Catchers Proper BLOCKING SKILLS
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 The Hit2win Trainer not only is a great batting trainer. It can also be used to allow catchers to practice the proper techniques and fundamentals of BLOCKING. Strong catching skills do not come natural. They must be developed through proper teaching, training and practice. Top quality catchers not only have above average arms, they are great defensive players too! These skills are often overlooked until they decide "single-handedly" the outcome of a game. Then it becomes evident that ample time must be dedicated to this position. Every game's outcome is affected by catching skills. Agressive baserunning teams always exploit "weak" catchers. Her blocking skills are a vital part of the scouting report. Runs scored on passed balls are "moral killers" for the team!

BLOCKING PITCHES.....SIDE TO SIDE BLOCKS....Pitch location determines the techniques used to block it. On pitches wide to either side, the catcher should take a step to the pitch side and toward first or third base while dropping your backside knee down in the same direction. The catcher should tuck the shoulders forward keeping the chin and rear end low. The mitt should be on the ground to block the "leg hole". The catcher should try to "get outside" the ball and angle it back to the plate if possible....MIDDLE BLOCKS...The catcher should drop straight down, fan the legs outward, and place the mitt between" the legs. The main concern is to block the ball and keep it in front.

USE THE HIT2WIN TRAINER to work each type of the block techniques. Have the catcher assume her regular receiving position when runners are on base. Move the HIT2WIN TRAINER'S ball to various positions having her react and execute the proper technique for each location. Vary the locations from side to side and to the middle.

5 COACHING POINTS.....

1) When the mitt is placed down, it should be tilted slightly forward and down to prevent the ball from being "ramped" upward into the catcher's chin.

2) The outside pitch should be "rounded " to the inside. Tell her to "get outside" the ball and try to bouce it toward the middle and front of the plate.

3) Make sure she tucks her chin down to prevent injury.

4) Make sure the upper body is bent forward to force the ball's bounce downward.

5) It is best that the "chest protector" not be strapped too tightly. This causes the ball to bouce off harder and farther. Have a bit of slack or loose fit that will "deaden" the ball's bounce. However, it should not be so loose to hamper throwing or fielding.

"LINEDRIVE WAR" - "Maximise Your Indoor Practice With This Great Indoor Hitting Activity!"
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 "LINEDRIVE WAR" formally known as "WALL BALL" is a great off season skill building activity. It develops both offensive and defensive skills. The game is played with 3 players on a team, On defense, one pitches and two play defense. The object of the game is to be the first team to score 21.

You score by hitting a linedrive or ball in the air that hits the wall in a designated or target area. The target area is normally a 6' x 12' rectangle that is attached to the wall or fence. The target may be larger if space so allows.

The rules for "LINEDRIVE WAR" are as follows: Each team gets three outs per inning. Outs are hit balls caught before they hit the wall or floor, foul tips, foul balls, and swing without contact are outs. Each players gets one swing of the bat. Something must happen, if the ball is a strike, The batter decides if a ball is a strike.

Ground balls are not outs. They serve to keep the inning alive. You do not get a run for ground balls. Flyballs that go above the target are outs. Balls may be batted down by defenders to prevent a score. However, batted balls that touch the target before they touch the floor are scored as a run. The winning team must win by two. A tournament bracket is drawn and teams play for the championship. Coaches and parents are encouraged to play on teams Each team may use only one bat. The bat never touches the ground or floor until the inning is over. This game or activity can also be used outside with 8 ft fences or using a building's wall as the "target area".

Cut-off Relay - Great Drill for building skills, speed, accuracy and confidence.
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This drill is a great skill builder. There will be at least 5 players on a team. They line up about 30 feet apart and stretch about 120 feet across the field. You will have two teams or "lines" competing against each other. Make sure to have you catcher, first baseman, and third baseman on one end. Have an outfielder on the opposite end. Your middle infielder should be in the middle. The drill will start for both lines at the same time. The first team to take the ball to the other end and get it back is the winner. The ball must be caught and thrown by each player in the line. Teams may not skip a man. The catchers should practice catching and tagging a runner. The middle infielders should be taught to properly "round" the ball, make a proper relay catch and quick throw. We often do this drill and the losing team must do 5 or 10 pushups or squat thrust.

C-----x------x-----x------OF

The distances should be matched to the age. You may also have the outfielder let the ball go and hit the fence, before he goes retrieves it and makes his throw to the cutoff man.

You may also want to make this a "total team" drill with the whole team having to catch and throw the ball to cover a long distance. If you have the room to do this, it is great to have the team work together to beat the clock. They must beat a set time or they "pay".

You may also want to have the "line" make more than one trip down and back. It is great to make each "line" take the ball to the other end three times.

3 Keys To A Successful "Hit and Run" by Coach Nick
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 Key #1....Put the Hit and Run on only with the count in the hitter's favor. ex. 2 and 1, 2 and 0, or 3 and 1. The better the pitch, the better chance for success. With these counts the pitcher will likely come in the zone with a good pitch.

Key #2...The batter MUST SWING THE BAT TO PROTECT THE RUNNER! The batter should "top the ball" and hit it to the right side if possible. The baserunner must "look in" on the "third stride" to see if contact is made. If the ball is "up" the runner retreats.

Key #3...The batter should keep the hands high before the the pitch. It is much easier to "go down" than it is to "go up" to a ball..

Another important aspect of executing a successful Hit and Run is the "jump" that the runner gets. Make sure your runner gets a quick start with a "timed sprinters start" off the bag. It is a skill that runners must pratice often. Allow your baserunners to practice this skill during "onfield" batting practice. It allows players to develop great timing and improve their ability to "read the swing" when they "look in".

Trick Play Alert - SWITCHED BASERUNNERS - Don't get cheated!
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 "It is a coach's responsibility to learn, know and understand this great game we play. I think a coach's greatest sins are not doing their "Homework", not knowing the game and not properly preparing their team for every possible "move" the opposition may make. You have to know all trick plays to prevent falling victim to them. If we are all aware of them, then we can keep each other honest and concentrate on the most important tasks, teaching and executing correct fundamentals!" Coach Nick Dixon '98

The following is a true example of a trick play that is pure "cheating". The purpose of this article is to educate all coaches to the fact that this has been done and some coaches will try it. Make sure to inform your score keeper to always double check every runner after every offensive conference.

Switched Baserunner - Don't get cheated! The situation is that the offensive team has two or three runners on the bases. Like in most cases the three runners have varying running speeds. The defensive team has called a time out so that the coach can go out to talk to his pitcher. The 3rd base coach calls his runners over for a conference. The coach that will cheat will decide where he needs the speed the most and will move fast runners in front of slow runners to give his team an advantage. To prevent this from happening to you make sure to have your score bookkeeper check the locations of all runners after runners have had conferences with their base coach.

Good Luck! For more "Tick Play Alerts" go to Hit2win.com. Coach Nick's "Trick Play Alert" Guidebook is very popular reading for both fastpitch and baseball coaches.

Indoor Hitting Tip: Try The "Small Ball Blitz"
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One of my favorite off-season or early season hitting drills is what I call the "Small Ball Blitz". To do these drills your are going to need at lead 12 dozen small plastic wiffle golf balls. There are three different activities that make up this drills sequence. make sure to consider safety and have the players locate far enough from other pairs to prevent a mishap. (at least 15 feet)

SET #1..... Have your players pick a partner. The pair will take turns throwing "soft toss" at 6 feet and "long toss" at 15 feet, with the small golf-sized wiffle balls. - Do 12 swings a set..Do three sets of each.

SET # 2....The players will throw two balls to the hitter at 20 feet. The hitter must hit the designated ball determined before the drill starts" "Top ball or bottom ball". - Do 6 swings per set...Do three sets of each

These are excellant indoor hitting drills. Your players will enjoy this change of pace. The smaller ball really improves optical concentration skills.