Popularized by great athletes such as pitcher Jennie Finch, softball for girls and women came of age in the late 20th and early 21st century. Now there are elite leagues for girls who might be headed for college scholarships or Olympic glory, as well as leagues for girls who mainly want to play the game for fun. In either case, players enhance their potential and help avoid injuries through conditioning drills specifically geared toward the demands of softball.
The shuttle, a classic drill in many sports, also has a softball variation, good to start practice. Place three or four balls at age-appropriate distances in front of a player, who runs to get the first ball and brings it back to the starting point, then continues until she retrieves all of the balls. You can ratchet up the intensity by racing two girls at once.
The players form a wide circle with a softball in front of each girl, in this drill recommended by veteran softball coach Becky Wittenburg at the Softball Drills & Coaching Tips website. The first girl starts in the middle of the circle, runs to one of the balls and tosses it to teammate on the opposite side of the circle. Continue until all the balls are picked up and tossed.
SoftballPerformance.com, the website of longtime Canadian softball coach Marc Dagenais, offers a drill that enhance conditioning while players practice fielding fundamentals. The Star begins with infielders at their normal fielding positions. The catcher is crouched in her stance with the ball and there is no pitcher. The shortstop breaks for second base and receives a throw from the catcher. Then the third baseman breaks for her bag and receives the ball from the shortstop. The ball then goes to the first baseman, who must break for 1B, and back to the catcher. Running the drill continuously for several minutes increases player stamina. Coaches should insist on proper footwork and a quick transition when receiving and throwing the ball.
An excellent conditioning drill is to hit a quick succession of grounders to an infielder, who throws to the first baseman and then resumes her starting position. Continue until the player's legs become fatigued, which could be after 15 to 25 plays.
Sports conditioning expert Susan D'Alanzo at IDEAFit.com recommends a number of drills for a team of 14 and under teenagers at "an awkward age." "Socializing is huge," she notes, so set up relays with groups or partners and pair up the "cool" girls with the "uncool" girls. Play music during drills, and incorporate jumping jacks, jumping rope, bear and crab walks, lunges, squats and pushups.
- Softball Drills & Coaching Tips: Coaching Tips for Softball -- Conditioning Drills & Practice Tips
- SoftballPerformance.com: Softball Conditioning -- Drills to Work on Stamina
- IDEAFit.com: What Do You Suggest for Training Drills for a 14U Softball Rec Team Who Want Strength and Conditioning in Addition to Skill Practice
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.