For many, slow-pitch softball is just fun recreation. But if you’re a competitor who takes her softball seriously, and the game isn’t just an excuse to spend an afternoon with the girls, then softball drills can help you improve your skills, and increase your team’s chance for success. Some softball drills are good for both slow- and fast-pitch players, while others are tailored specifically for the slow-pitch game.
As with any form of baseball, sure-handed infielders are important in slow-pitch softball so your team can turn ground balls into outs. Infielders should perform drills featuring ground balls hit to their glove side and to their backhands. Practice throwing to first base, as well as to other bases. Slow-pitch softball bases are closer together than standard baseball bases, so quick throws are also key. To emphasize quick throwing, have a coach stand at the plate and hit grounders to an infielder. The infielder must play the ball and throw quickly, because the coach will hit her another grounder as the fielder throws the previous ball to first base, or to a coach standing near the hitter.
Slow-pitch softball games typically feature four outfielders, rather than the standard three. But the outfielders still see plenty of action as batters wallop that slowly-pitched ball all over the field. To learn to judge fly balls, outfielders should practice catching balls hit from the plate during practice. To work on throws to bases, hit grounders into the outfield and have the fielders charge the ball, scoop it with their gloves and throw quickly. To ensure an outfielder gets a good overall workout, position her fairly near the fence and throw her a variety of balls, including grounders, line drives and flies to her right and left, as well as in front and behind her. Throw an extra-soft ball, or a tennis ball, and have the outfielders catch it bare-handed with their normal glove hands only.
Slow-pitch softballs are fairly easy to hit, but not as easy to hit well. With an extra outfielder in place, it’s not easy to ''hit ‘em where they ain’t," as the old-time ballplayers used to say. Take batting practice against live pitchers to get used to the high-arcing slow-pitch tosses. You can also work on your swing by hitting softballs off a tee. To practice directional hitting, for example, place a target in the field, such as a cone or a plastic bucket. Place a ball on a tee and try to hit the target. As you get better, move the target farther away.
There’s only so much a pitcher can do to try to get hitters out within the restrictions of slow-pitch softball. The best thing the typical pitcher can do is throw accurately to avoid walking anybody. It’s hard enough to get softball hitters out, without giving them free passes. To work individually, mark out a rectangular strike zone against a wall, using chalk or masking tape. Throw the ball against the wall and try to drop it in the strike zone using the proper amount or arc required in your league. To pitch from a mound, set up a target at the plate, such as a batting tee with a ball on top, then try to knock the ball off the tee while throwing with a normal slow-pitch motion.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.