In today’s blog post, we are talking about 3 killer softball catcher drills that focus on building powerful catcher mechanics, while providing a great workout for your catchers!
“Pop-up” Catcher Drill
This is the pop-up catcher drill. The object of this catcher drill is to teach our catchers how to put themselves in proper position to field a pop-up.
On the shorter pop-ups, they won’t have time to remove their helmet. On the higher pop-ups they will remove their helmet, locate the ball, and once they know where the ball is at, then they throw their helmet away. The purpose of that is so she doesn’t step on it, trip and injure herself, or affect her ability to make the play.
When the catcher comes up on a high pop-up that’s behind her or along the line at all, the catcher needs to put their back to the infield. The purpose for this is that most all balls that are popped up off the bat will tend to flow back towards the infield as they come down. If your back is facing the backstop, you will have to try to extend for the ball and it makes catching the pop-up far more difficult.
So in this catcher drill, we’re going to do five repetitions to start on short pop-ups. You can make the final reps whatever you’d like — I would recommend 20-25 for each area.
While the catcher is running the drill, you want to make sure she has nice balance, and gets back in quickly. You want to see her moving to the ball. And this is a good basic fundamental for whatever position you might be playing – you need to move to the ball with your lower body first. If the catcher comes up, extends and reaches and the ball ends up being farther, she’s not going to be able to make that play. You want your first reaction to any ball to be lower body first.
When you do have to extend, it’s a good idea to pull your glove back into your chest and trap the ball to your chest protector. This way, if it is bouncing or bobbling in your glove, you can still pin it to your chest protector to make the play.
Next you’re going to do some higher pop-ups and she will remove her mask. Make certain that her back is towards the infield, keeping a wide base. Once she locates the ball, she will throw her mask far away so as to not worry about stepping on it during making the play.
You want to make sure that she gets rid of the mask before actually moving into the catching position so that she doesn’t hinder the ability to make the play. You want to avoid extending the arms early. That’s a last resort. You use your lower body to move to the ball and then extend your arms as a last resort.
“Framing” Catcher Drill
This drill is a framing drill for catchers. The purpose of this catcher drill is to basically buy strikes.
You want to be as motionless as possible as a catcher behind the plate and as you receive the ball, you tend to twist the ball towards the strike zone. As you extend across the plate for an outside pitch, if it’s outside, you twist it into that outer edge. The ball that is for a right-handed hitter on the inside, you twist it to the inside part of the plate.
You want to present a small, motionless target. As you catch and as you frame the pitches, it’s not a big, huge, exaggerated motion. It’s a little twist of the wrist, so every pitch looks like a strike.
You want to repeat this catcher drill 25-50 times. In addition to your repetitions, you’ll be catching pitchers every day during drills. When pitchers are simulating innings pitched and what-not, that’s another great time to practice your framing mechanics. And just like throwing, you catch and throw every day. There’s no excuse at all to not have perfect or near-perfect mechanics when throwing and catching the ball.
Another variation of this catcher drill is to have a partner who is standing just short and have them toss the balls in to you as a catcher, so that you can practice these framing mechanics. One thing that’s good about these shorter tosses is the ball is more in control. It’s easier for your catcher to work on the actual wrist turn because the ball is easier to track.
“Up-Down” Catcher Drill
This is a up-down catcher drill. The purpose of this drill is to teach your catcher to block balls efficiently that are essentially straight at them, or balls in the dirt coming directly at them.
The idea is to replace your feet with your knees. So, she’ll go down and as she does this, you do not want to sit down. There will be space between the hamstrings and the calves. She stays fairly straight. If she’s replaced her feet with her knees, then she will have created an angle or kind of a bowl up over the ball. The idea is as the ball hits here, she wants to make it ricochet off her and drive straight down into the ground. If she’s up, the ball hits and flies and ricochets out into areas that we don’t want, and allows for balls and runners to advance bases.
So as she’s down, the glove comes back in between her knees. Her throwing hand’s behind the glove to avoid injury. And she’s smothering the ball and trying to drag it back down towards home plate.
And then the idea is to hop back up into your stance. This is to help strengthen your legs and increase your mobility and agility.
I like to time this for a minute, and find out how many they can do in that one minute. Again, the purpose of this is to maintain mechanics as your body fatigues. This will help strengthen your legs, help perfect your mechanics, your speed, agility and quickness in blocking balls.
If you don’t have the strength to go for a full minute, start in 15-second increments. Go 15 seconds. Maybe take a 30-second break, and then go 15 seconds again. As you strengthen, you’ll go 30 seconds as many times as you can. Take a 30-second break, then go 30 seconds again. Do this for three sets.
If you are looking for more great catcher drill tips, be sure to check out my Softball Drills & Practice Plans series, complete with video demonstrations. And don’t forget to Become a Fan on Facebook, where I will share more great catcher drill ideas, tips and techniques!