7 Great Drills You Might See This Summer
If you’re an aspiring softball player thinking about checking out a softball camp this summer, you may have found yourself wondering about something on the schedule: the drills. If you’ve never done drills under the supervision of a coach, you may find yourself a bit worried about what’s to come. How hard are they? Is there a lot of pressure? What do you learn?
Fortunately, drills aren’t that scary. They’re there to help you get better at the game and work well with your team, as well as making the basics more natural to you. Check out these 7 typical drills for a good idea of what to expect when you visit softball camp this summer. You can even get some friends and try them out before you go!
Touch Every Base
This is one of the most basic drills you’ll see, and is often used for a warm up. To begin, players start at home and simply run around the bases at a fixed speed, making sure to stick near the basepaths and contact every base on the way around. After you reach home, head back to first and continue the loop until your coach tells you to stop (which is usually after 4 or 5 laps.) When you run, make sure not to break out into a full sprint unless your coach specifically tells you to, as this can waste energy better spent elsewhere.
Relays are great drills because they help outfielders and infielders at the same time. To do one, you’ll need 3 people: one at home plate, one at second base, and one in center field holding the ball. It’s also good to have a coach or someone else nearby with a stopwatch. When the coach signals, the outfielder throws the ball quickly to the player at second base. She then catches it, pivots to face home, and throws the ball to the player there, who catches it and tags the base, completing the drill. This drill can be done with the fielders in different positions, but the idea remains the same: get the ball home as fast as possible.
Relay practice can be done as a basic training drill, but it’s much more fun to make a race out of it! If you can get 2 teams of 3 players, you can race to see who can get the ball to home first.
Pepper/The Pepper Game
Pepper drills are a great way for a batter to practice swing control and fielder reflexes, and there’s even a way to make a game out of this one as well! To do this drill, you’ll need to have one batter and a few infielders (usually 3, but 4 can work too.) One infielder throws the ball to the batter, who hits it wherever it comes. The fielder she hits it to must collect the ball without error and quickly throw it back. This repeats until the coach says stop.
To make a game out of it, put all the fielders in a line. The first fielder in the line throws the ball to the batter, who hits it. The fielder then runs to catch or field the ball. If they don’t catch an easy ball, or if they don’t field the ball in enough time, they’re out. They’re also out if they throw a bad ball to the batter. The batter is out if she misses a throw that would have been a strike (in which case the player who threw it becomes the new batter!)
Be careful when playing this! Because this drill encourages a lot of action in the same areas of the field, some parks ban the pepper drill. Look for signs reading “No Pepper.”
The best way to practice stealing and pickoff plays is at the same time! All you need is a pitcher on the mound, infielders at the base, and runners on every base. Runners have to lead off the base a bit. All the pitcher and her fielders need to do to score is pick a runner of the pitcher’s choice off. If a runner gets back to base in time, the runners score a point. For an extra challenge, grab a catcher and see if the runners can actually steal the bases!
For many hitters, a change-up is a dreaded pitch. The unexpected slow ball can catch even the best of hitters unaware, but the fake toss drill is a great way to help batters train their reflexes and learn when to swing. All you need for this one is a pitcher and a batter (a fielder helps if you don’t feel like running to get the ball, but it’s not necessary for this drill.) On the surface this just looks like simple batting practice as the pitcher pitches fastballs, and the batter hits everything she can. There’s a catch, though: Whenever she feels like it, the pitcher will hold on to the ball. She’ll wind up, stride forward, windmill her arm… but not release it. If the batter starts swinging on one of these fake pitches, she fails the drill. This one is designed to teach hitters not to swing too early, and how to identify pitch speed before swinging.
This drill tests the infield’s ability to relay, as well as everyone’s memory! To do this you’ll need a catcher, and a fielder at every base. For added challenge, you can add a shortstop as well. A coach is also necessary, so if you’d like to try this drill, ask your softball camp coaches. After getting set up, each position is assigned a number (for this we suggest using conventional position numbers: 2 for catcher, 3 for first, 4 for second, 5 for third, 6 for short.) Give one player the ball. To perform this drill, the coach will call out a sequence of numbers corresponding to the players. The players must then throw the ball to the correct players in order as fast as they can. For example, if the coach calls “6, 3, 5, 2,” then the team needs to begin by getting the ball to the shortstop, who then throws to her teammate at first, who then throws to third, before finally ending the drill with a throw to the catcher.
Home Run Derby
This one’s just what you think it is: a great, swing-for-the-fences way to end a good practice session! All you need for this is a pitcher and any number of batters. The pitcher pitches to each hitter (it’s up to you whether you want her to throw fastballs or slow, easy pitches,) and each hitter swings for the fences. After everyone gets the same number of chances to hit, the player who knocks the ball out of the park the most wins! If no one’s gotten themselves a home run at the end, the one who’s hit the longest ball is declared the winner. This is a fun, relaxing way to end a day at softball camp, and it’s great power hitting practice too!
Step Your Game Up
This is just a taste of the great drills and practices you’ll find at your local softball camp. You’ll to try these or similar drills, plus position work, offensive and defensive stations, scrimmages, and more. If all this sounds great to you, check out summersoftballcamp.com to find a camp near you!