What you do before the game starts can impact your success when the first inning begins. By setting up a good warmup routine for your softball team, players will be ready to throw, hit and field the ball with ease. Set up a solid warmup and then go over the routine at your next practice, so that all players know what to expect on game day. Though the pitcher should have her own routine for warmup, the entire team can take part in the rest of the warmup routine while practicing their fielding techniques.
Before you do any other work, get the players' muscles warm and loose. The best way to do this is by moving the body for five to 10 minutes, until the players break a light sweat. Have players run around the perimeter of the outfield and infield a few times to get that blood flowing.
The next step is to incorporate some stretches that will get muscles and joints flexible and ready for the explosive movements they'll be doing during the game. While static stretches of the various muscles of the body are one way to do this, dynamic stretches -- in which motion is incorporated into the stretch -- are a better way to go as they bring more blood flow into the muscle. Start with arm circles, swinging the arms forward and then back several times to stretch the arms and shoulders. Then move to dynamic leg stretches; have players jog lightly across the field and kick their legs toward their butt to stretch the quads. When they reach the far side of the field, have them kick their legs forward, perpendicular to the rest of the body, to stretch the hamstrings and glutes.
Depending on the rules of your league, you may or may not be able to get onto the field to do your warmup. If you're allowed to, have each player practice hitting a few balls at the plate. The coach should throw a few easy balls at each player, allowing them to gain confidence and focus on the quality of their swings. While one player is hitting, other players can be in the various positions on the field. For a good flow and to give each player a chance to field each position, rotate the players so that the person who is at first base is the next person to hit; from there the second baseman moves to first, the shortstop to second, and so on. Have the outfielders move from right field, to center, and then in to third base. When a hitter is done, she moves to right field. Encourage each player to jog to the next position to keep their blood flowing. If there are more players than positions, fill in with more people in the outfield. If you can't get onto the field to do hitting, practice hitting off a "T" in a corner of the field.
One way to warm up the arms is to do one-on-one catch, but you can also do the same with a rapid succession of fielding drills. Get players into their respective position, and then have outfield players lob fly balls and grounders to each other, with the center fielder in the middle, throwing to the right and left fielder in succession. In the infield, hit grounders and flies to the various positions, and then call a play, such as "runner on second," to practice proper infield play while the infield warms up. After a few minutes, get the group together and practice throwing or hitting balls to each outfield player's position. When the ball is caught, it doesn't go back to the pitcher, but instead gets thrown to the third baseman, who then throws it to shortstop, who then throws it to second, who then throws it to first, who then throws it to the pitcher.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.