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When playing softball, speed is one of your greatest assets as a catcher. You’re up against runners who are moving at full speed, so every second counts. Once you have your basic catching form down, the key is practicing moving into and out of your catching movements—and your throwing movements—as quickly as possible. This means learning how to go from your crouched, ready position, down to your knees for the catch, throwing that ball from kneeling, and getting back up onto your feet, all as quickly as possible. You will also need to learn how to reflexively body-block in fast-paced situations, for instances when you can’t stop the ball with your hands
The following drills will teach you how to execute all of these skills at lighting fast pace. Our recommendation is to start at the top, and work your way down through each of these drills.
Line of balls drill
Step 1: Line up a bunch of balls about a foot-and-a-half. If you have enough balls, you can line them up the length of a football field. However, you can line them up as long or short as you want, which may depend on how many balls your have. (The longer the better).
Step 2: Have a player in catching gear stand, in their crouching catching position, at the beginning of the line so that they’re staring forward down the line of balls.
Step 3: Have player drop to their knees, and turn their glove so that the top of the glove is touching the ground right in front of the first ball in the line. The glove should be in an open, catching position so that if you gave that ball a little push, it would roll up into the glove. As soon as the player gets in this position, have them pop back up into their crouching catching position in front of the next ball in the line.
Step 4: Have the player once more drop to their knees into the same position as described in step 3, but this time infront of the second ball in the line. Then, have the player quickly pop back up, repeating step 3, but each time moving forward just a little bit to the next ball in succession. Have the player do this all the way down the line of balls, dropping to their knees then popping back up into crouching position, until they get to the very last ball in the line. See how fast the player can execute this drill. The player should be exhausted by the end.
Ball off the wall drill
Step 1: Have the player with catching gear on stand in their ready, crouching position in front of an L-screen, or if you don’t have that, any regular wall.
Step 2: Stand behind the player with a bucket full of balls.
Step 3: Bounce the ball off the L-screen/wall so that it hits the L-screen/wall, then bounces once on the ground towards the player.
Step 4: As the ball bounces off the ground towards the player, have the player try to catch the ball in their glove using proper form—dropping to their knees, turning their glove so that the top points towards the ground, and allowing the ball to land in the pocket.
Step 5: After each catch, don’t wait too long before throwing the next ball off the L-screen/wall. The goal here is to get the player to learn how to improve their quickness when catching.
Here is a quick video demonstrating this drill from Rawlings Tigers baseball:
Kneeling throws drill
Step 1: Put on your full catching gear, and crouch in a ready position in front of a wall with a softball, far away enough so that you can throw it at the wall, have it bounce once, catch it, and repeat.
Step 2: Throw the ball at the wall, and when it hits the ground and bounces, drop to kneeling position and catch the ball. Then, still in kneeling position, throw the ball back at the wall.
Step 3: Try to quickly hop back into your ready crouching position, then drop back into your kneeling catching position, so that you land back on your knees just in time to catch the ball you just threw as it bounces off the ground. Once again, after catching the ball, throw it at the wall from kneeling position, and try to hop into a crouch, and back into a kneeling position in time to catch the ball. Keep repeating these steps.
Here is a demonstration of the Kneeling throws drill from the Softball coach at University of Illinois Chicago:
No hands blocking drill
Step 1: Have your player, dressed in full catcher’s gear, stand behind the plate in the normal ready, crouching position. But for this drill, the player will not have their hands out front like usual, but instead, ask the player to keep their hands behind their back.
Step 2: Stand about 25 feet away from the plate with a bucket of whiffle balls, or other light balls that won’t hurt your player if they get hit with them. Throw these balls at your player, one-after-another, with low-to-the-ground, in-the-dirt pitches.
Step 3: Have your player drop to their knees each time the ball comes towards them, as if they were doing a normal catch. But this time, have the player block the ball with anything else other than their hands. The player will learn how to block with their legs, shoulders, and chest.
Step 4: After your player gets used to this drill with whiffle balls, repeat the drill, but this time using softballs.
Practice these drills and you can improve not only your quickness but your blocking power as well. Any of your favorite catching drills not on the list? Let us know and share a link in the comments below!