Taken from Candrea on Coaching, a monthly softball-related newsletter from an Olympic softball coach...On behalf of the Amateur Softball Association, welcome to the August issue of the ACE Coach monthly email from ASA Director of Coaching Education and two-time Olympic Coach Mike Candrea: Candrea on Coaching. As a youth sports coach, you naturally want to prepare your team to win as many games as possible, and as a Responsible Coach, you want to prepare your players to win off the field, too. The Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports program is proud to bring you this series in which Coach Candrea will provide you with coaching tips and resources that you can use for the betterment of your youth softball team.
The short game is, and will always be, a key component of offensive success in fast-pitch softball. Our ability to maximize scoring opportunities by moving runners is crucial to the success of any team. The development of short game skills is the foundation for success in fast-pitch softball. Short game skills are much easier to perfect than the swing itself. By having the proper knowledge of the fundamentals and consistent practice of the skills, anyone in your line up can have productive at-bats and increase your opportunities to score runs.
One of the most underrated aspects of executing the short game is the pressure it puts on the defense. By having the ability to put runners in motion and getting the ball on the ground, you increase the chances of defensive mistakes and forcing quick decisions that must be made by the defensive players. Speed kills in our game, even with average speed and forcing the defense to move laterally, you open opportunities to move runners and score. As you get to higher levels of fast-pitch softball, you will find that the game is played on the ground. A groundball has to be fielded properly, thrown with accuracy and caught. A fly ball just has to be caught. The successful execution of the short game will win championships and the inability to execute those skills will increase your chances for defeat. Obtain proper knowledge, practice the execution and be 100% confident that your team can perform in game situations. Everyone can be a good short game player!
The most often used short game skill is the bunt. The most common bunts are:
1. Sacrifice Bunt
2. Push Bunt
3. Drag Bunt (Sneak Bunt)
The sacrifice bunt is named as such because the hitter is sacrificing their at bat to advance a runner already on base. The sacrifice is used to advance a runner into scoring position. Every hitter needs to be able to execute the sacrifice bunt.
The two basic techniques used to execute the sacrifice bunt are squaring around both feet and pivoting the back foot only. Which ever method you choose to teach your team, here are some common thoughts to execute the sacrifice properly:
The drag bunt, or some call the "sneaky bunt," is sometimes used in a sacrifice situation but most commonly used to get a base hit. The drag is shown much later than the sacrifice and depends on the element of surprise.
From the right side, the drag bunt is executed by dropping the right foot back into a sprinters position as the bat is placed in a bunting position. Having our hands and bat head out in front of our center of gravity is crucial to our contract position. This allows for better vision and increases our ability to keep the bunt fair. Once again, it is not so important the direction of the bunt but the distance from home plate. Far enough from home plate that the catcher cannot field the bunt too quickly.
From the left side, the drag bunt becomes the foundation for any slapper that is an offensive threat. Most left hander's will use the same footwork as they would for the slap which are the straight-crossover, the step-back and crossover, and the shuffle.
A key factor for quick left handed slappers is their ability to explode out of the box. By running hard through the box, you gain valuable distance & time in getting to first base. The drag can be executed off any of these foot works with effectiveness. Everyone can be a great short game player if they choose to understand the importance of proper execution and the tremendous affect it has on developing a productive offense. Watch for a future article where we will go into more detail on the left-handed slap and how you can utilize speed to become an offensive weapon.
All things current and DBGS!