With bunting mastered, it's time to find the next Crystal Bustos.
First 15-20 Minutes (Warm-up)
The warm-up routine is standard: stretching, moderate jog to a finishing
sprint. Then, catching, throwing and ground-ball lines. Always stress
mechanics. At this point, the girls should be proficient enough at throwing
and catching to do it on their own. Have them pair off into two lines, facing
each other and let them throw to themselves. Make sure you leave plenty of
room between each girl. If they struggle with this, you can go back to the
two or three lines, with coaches tossing them the ball.
Next 2 Minutes (Water Break)
Keep your players hydrated with a water break. But have
them hustle back on the field.
Next 10 Minutes (Review Bunting)
Focus on the stance, hip turn, the angle of the bat and catching the bat
with the ball, Also, focus on directional bunting. Remind them how to do it.
Call out the direction and pitch the ball. You can do two to three kids at a
time, depending on your number of coaches.
Next 15 Minutes (Hitting)
Stumped about Crystal Bustos? She's a one of the great hitters of U.S.
Olympic softball fame. Now's your chance to develop some excellent young
Hopefully, you have access to a cage with more than one tunnel. If not, you
can do this outside. Once again, explain the strike zone and let the kids
know the object is to swing at strikes. Start with the grip. The bat should
be in the fingers, not back in the palms, hands together with the knocker
knuckles lined up. The stance should be balanced with the feet outside the
shoulders, knees flexed slightly, hands back about three to six inches above
the back shoulder, with the front shoulder tucked to the chin. Now the batter
is set to attack the ball.
Teach it as a dance, 1-2-3. One is the stride (keep it short; 3-4 inches is
sufficient to affect a weight shift). Two, squish the bug with the back foot.
Three, swing (make sure to get the arms extended and rotate the back side hip
through the ball).
A trick to teach the proper hip turn:
Have the girl stand facing a wall, about arm's-length away. Get in the
proper stance - with a bat and swing without hitting the wall. You can't do
it without a proper hip turn and keeping your hands inside of what would be
the ball. Finish the swing strong by snapping the wrists. The idea is to
accelerate the bat head through the ball. The biggest key to hitting is for
the batter to keep her eye on the ball. You can't hit what you can't see.
When you move them into the box, center them to the plate and make sure they
can reach the outer half of the plate with the bat.
See the ball all the way into the
bat. Get your arms extended and finish with your hands.
Next 2 Minutes (Water Break)
Keep your players hydrated with a water break. But have them hustle back on
Next 15 Minutes (Hitting
Set up three stations: a tee station, a soft-toss station and live pitching.
Have one coach handle each station. Have the kids rotate through each
station. There are a number of different drills you can incorporate into each
station. You can use a short, light bat and have them do one-arm swings off
the tee (this is good for developing strength and working on extension). You
can soft-toss or use the tee with deflated soccer balls (again, a means to
build strength and to teach them to use their hands to accelerate the bat
head through the ball). The key to you as the pitcher is to throw it where
they're swinging. Nothing builds confidence in a kid as a hitter better than
contact. That's why it's better for you to pitch to the kids when they're
learning to hit than it is for them to hit off a machine.
It's time to put in your signs. Keep them simple. Tell the kids you're going
to give a series of signs. If you touch your chin, that means you want them
to bunt the next pitch, if it's in the strike zone. If they're on base and
you touch your belt, it means you want them to steal. Emphasize that the sign
only applies to the next pitch and they need to step out of the box and look
for the signs before each pitch. At the young ages, they only need three
signs: bunt, steal and take (which means they don't swing, no matter where
the pitch is).
Congratulate the kids for 'crushing' the ball.
Give them the next practice time (or game time) and follow up with an e-mail
to the parents.
Starting out as a softball player is no easy task. There are many elements to the game and it can be overwhelming without the right guidance. Coach Jodie Ricciardi makes the process of coaching players at the rookie level easier with 75 softball drills, skills and coaching tips developed for beginner and intermediate girls' softball players. This collection of instructional video courses provid...