Base running is one of the most crucial parts of a softball game. The success or failure of the batting team greatly depends on this single skill alone. Being able to run effectively between bases without being called out add scores on board and confidence to the team morale. It also reflects well on the team and shows off that the team members are well-drilled in all aspects of the game.
Unfortunately, this is also a rather neglected part of the game practice. Many softball players focus all their energy on hitting the softball right, forgetting that they will inevitably have to run between bases in order to be a good player. So it falls to team coaches to make sure players are drilled and practiced well in the art of running.
Here are some excellent practices for running effectively in softball. Ultimately, good running between bases involves a whole range of body muscles and these practices take that into consideration.
One of the key areas of running between bases that needs training is the transition. You are hitting the ball at full momentum and are completely immersed in the hitting posture.
The next moment, you are required to switch to the sprint posture and start running at full pace. This transition needs to be executed perfectly for effective running between the bases.
Single-leg stand enables you to master this transition. To practice this drill, stand on one leg with your other leg off the ground in front of you.
Keep your body rigid, tighten the core and hold up the leg in front of you a little high so that it makes a 90-degree angle at the bent knee.
At the same time, keep the toe of this leg pulled up. Stay in this position for half a minute. Then put this leg on the ground, lift the other leg and perform the same routine.
The drill reinforces your core and hones the muscles of your body from the neck all the way to the toes in such a way as to facilitate the transition from hitting posture to sprinting. You can perform this practice three to four times a week and do three to five sets each time.
Lean Fall Sprint Drill
This is a more advanced drill to practice running between the bases. At the same time, it is highly effective and lets you emulate the real sprinting that you are actually going to do in a softball match. To begin this drill, maintain a rigid body and stand with your feet apart.
Now, start leaning forward slowly without bending your body at the waist. As you lean forward, let the balls of your feet rise from the ground so that your body weight starts to weigh on your toes.
Keep leaning forward and just when you know you will either fall or stop the lean, push off the ground using your legs and sprint straight ahead.
So basically you start to lean forward, raise the balls of your feet and just when you absolutely need to break the fall, you sprint forth.
The sprint should be sharp, with your arms at 90-degree on your side and their movement using the shoulders as the main pivot, not the elbow.
This exercise is not only very effective, it is also quite exciting and fun. Sprint for 15 to 20 yards and then walk back to the starting point. Repeat 7 to 10 times.
The Tennis Ball Drop
This is another fun drill that can be used by coaches to help softball players achieve greater sprint speeds when running between bases. The drill is performed so that the practicing runner is standing at one of the bases in ready position.
The coach stands at the next base and holds a tennis ball at eye level. The runner starts sprinting the moment the coach lets go of the ball. The aim is for the runner to be able to catch the ball after a single bounce.
The coach can make the drill easier or harder by adjusting the distance between the starting point of the runner and the tennis ball drop point.
The Belt Drill
The Belt Drill essentially uses resistance equipment to train the players to garner the strength and speed for between-base sprinting. The drill is performed by placing a belt around the player’s waist and then tying a rope to it.
Another player stands behind this player and holds the rope so that it is taut. The runner leans forward so that she is in the sprinting position, all the while the player holding the rope supports the forward lean.
The runner should position the feet in the running position. This is achieved by placing the rear foot a little to the side and behind the front foot.
Once the runner is in the proper leaning position, the coach or the other player shouts, “Go.” At this, the runner starts sprinting by using rapid leg movement and shoulder-pivoted arm movement. Let the runner run for 8 to 10 yards with the player at the rear keeping the rope taut without pulling or tugging at it.
Ideally, at the end of the 10 yards, the rope should be plucked from the belt without disturbing the runner’s position. In this way, the runner is freed from the rope during the sprint and can continue to run a free sprint for a few more yards.
Read Your Opponent
A large part of successfully running between bases is to be able to read your opponent right. Like other skills, this skill also requires significant practice.
The immense advantage of this is that you are able to discern the outfielders who can throw accurately, the infielders who get under pressure quickly or the fielders who have a hard time sprinting laterally or head-on.
By spotting these gaps, you can play to the weaknesses of your opponent team when running between bases. For instance, you may want to run the extra run when you know it is going to put pressure on the opponent team. Or you can only pretend to do so in order to confuse the fielders and get to the base safely.