In today’s blog post, we are talking about a long toss drill or a knockout drill that is great for outfield conditioning. This drill will help your outfield players gain more practice and confidence in handling that ball is quick response situations, by teaching them the proper body mechanics to maximize response time.
“Knockout” or Long Toss Drill for Outfield Conditioning
In this drill, you’re just going to start a ball and work it down to one side. And that ball’s going to come back to that same side. And when that happens, one person is going to exit the drill, so that now your players are farther apart and they’re making a little bit longer throw.
For this version of the drill, we are only using about half of the field. But ordinarily we would use the entire field. Now someone else comes out and we’re down to only three people and your center fielder will be in the middle at this point, because she’s going to be making some of the longest throws.
Now she’s been knocked out and we use one ball going back and forth. That’s the basic concept of the drill itself.
Now, let’s talk about the basic mechanics.
I’m going to assume that we have right-handed throwers. If you have lefties, just turn it around. The mechanics will be the same.
- Step with my left foot, being a right-handed thrower, directly at my target. Whatever that target is. If I’m throwing home, or third, or just back to my partner, I’m going to step forward with my left foot towards that partner.
- Another important ingredient that people forget about is the glove hand. That glove hand is also going to point right to my target. This is important. It should be high because I am going to use this glove in a pulling action. So it’s important that it’s nice and high.
- When I come back with the ball, it’s down, back, and up. This is the position you want your throwers in – the open position. The palm of the ball is away from me, and what my partner sees right now are my fingers.
- I will begin my rotation with my feet and hips and keep the ball high over my head and come through in a downward motion. Down, back, and up. Pull with my left arm. Rotate with my feet and hips. Keep my elbow high above my shoulder, reach to the sky. And throw, follow through, release.
- From the side, it should look like this: The ball is facing away. Rotate. Transfer of weight forward. Elbows nice and high. Palm first, then fingers. Follow through. Release.
The force generation that you’re going to get out of the throw comes from the legs and the trunk rotation. If you have someone who’s not coming to a good, open position, they are not going to be able to rotate and use that leg and torso to create enough force on the ball. Another problem area that you’re going to see your athletes have is that they’ll allow their elbow to sag. This creates stress on the shoulder and in the elbow and you will run into some injury problems here. So you want to be sure they keep them up. We call it coming straight over the top. Reach up, come over the top.
As you’re approaching that ball, your body or your athlete’s body has to be turning so that she can catch it on her throwing side and immediately start her throw. If I catch the ball flat footed, straight forward, or on the wrong side, I have to bring it over or across my body and then start my throw.
Also, as we progress in skill level, we want to be moving forward to the ball and we want to always have our left foot forward when we catch the ball. If I am moving forward, my momentum has already started that way so I’m generating power through that speed. If my left foot is forward when I catch the ball, I can go right into my crow hop footwork and not lose any time or space or force production.
So I’m moving forward into the ball. I’m running, running, running. When I catch the ball, my left foot is forward and then you can just have your athletes take a step with their right foot and throw the ball from there. That is the very first thing you learn when you’re learning your crow hop. You want to keep your feet turning over. You don’t want your feet to cross behind one another. Your foot comes forward with the catch, and then cross over, and throw.
Once your outfielders have learned to just catch the ball on the throwing side with the left foot forward, then they’re going to progress with the left foot forward and walk through it.
This is the same basic drill, but the person in the middle is throwing the ball so that the person catching it has to back up and get into position to move forward. And she relays the ball all the way through. They want to always be moving forward, and catch the ball on their throwing side.
When they’re in that ready position and the ball has hit behind them, above their heads, they’ve got to take a back step, a drop step. So they’ll open up in the direction of the ball. The next thing is if the ball goes the other way, the drop step is the same. Now they’re ready. They’re in an open position to where they can run backwards and field that ball.
Now they’re going to take three steps — and these are the drills we do. We’ll do that several times. Then we can add a conditioning drill to this to where you’re working on their foot quickness.
To see this entire outfield conditioning demonstration in live action video, be sure to check out my Softball Drills and Practice Plans program! It contains video deomonstrations on many important techniques and mechanics of the game! And don’t forget to Become a Fan on Facebook, where I will share more great softball outfield conditioning ideas and suggestions, and where you can talk to other coaches and players about other important outfield conditioning practices!