By Sara Thompson
My daughter has played Little League baseball for several years and has been a star in the league. She pitches, plays short and second base and hits well. We have discussed her switching to softball and would like your advice on what to do in preparation to do this?
There are many philosophies surrounding the game and below are a few of mine regarding the different techniques used in baseball and softball that your daughter may encounter. Hitting may pose the biggest challenge for her, while fielding and throwing will generally stay the same. Pitching is a whole other story.
To assist with the throwing, I would start with how she grips the ball. Get her comfortable finding the seams (4-seams) every time she throws a softball. Her arm and wrist will take a bit to adjust to a softball. (They may become a little sore or tired because the ball is heavier. Her throw may be inaccurate for a short time until she adjusts.) With a softball throw, be sure she does the following:
- Uses her back leg to push off;
- Keeps her elbow shoulder level during the overhand motion;
- Gets good wrist snap over the top;
- Follows through.
The ball will bounce a little different because of its size, weight and the playing surface. Just start out slow, rolling balls, then slow grounders and finally going all out. A good drill would be to take her to a school that has a covered area and where she can throw against the wall (you can make a target with duct tape) and the wall will bounce the ball back with grounders.
Will she be on a dirt or grass infield? If she will be playing on a dirt infield, the ball will reach her quicker than when playing on grass. You should allow time to adjust to either playing surface.
First, your daughter will be using a completely different bat. The barrel is the main difference, but bats also vary in length, weight and loading. Be sure she is comfortable swinging the bat. Next, she will need to retrain her eyes where to pick up the ball. Your daughter will now need to look for the ball being released from the hip instead of the head.
Without seeing your daughter, because she is a girl and playing softball (a heavier ball again), she will no longer be able to "muscle" the ball. Her technique may have to change where her hips open (or rotate) at contact, not before. This allows girls to use their lower body to drive the ball. Many baseball players have the muscle to hit balls out with only their upper body. This is not true for most female softball players.
The last challenge with hitting will be ball movement. Baseballs move, but normally from high to low, in or out. In softball, the ball starts at the pitcher's hip and can move down, in, out or up. A good tip for her now would be to stay off any ball that starts at her armpits. The “riseball” has made fools out of even major league baseball players.
I would recommend practicing one-handed and standard swings off a tee, with side toss and front toss. Using different size “whiffle” balls are a great tool to improve hand/eye coordination and finally, practice hitting with a real ball to familiarize her with the “feel” of hitting a softball and hitting it well.
Last spring, Little League launched the Coaches Resource Center, at: www.littleleaguecoach.org. It has a number of video clips, articles and drills. You will need a passcode from your league president or district administrator to log-on.
I highly recommend you and your daughter attending camps and coach’s clinics, utilize instructional materials, and ask questions to determine your personal philosophies.
Thanks for the email and best of luck to you and your daughter. I’m sure she will do great!
Again, please email me with your questions, comments or topics at asksara@LittleLeague.org.