When working with any youth softball player it is critical to have a good mix of drills to develop strong habits and the foundations of an elite swing. Most of the time, It does not matter if you are playing at the professional level or just getting started at a young age, good drills are good drills.
For those softball coaches and parents out there that are looking for some softball hitting drills they can pass on to their youth players, these four drills are a few of our favorites here at The Hitting Vault.
In order to be a good softball hitter, you have to use your entire body. Trying to drive the ball consistently using only your upper half is a great way to set yourself up for disappointment. Remember, most of your power comes from your lower half. Now when we discuss power, we are not talking about some Giancarlo Stanton tape-measure home-run power, but driving the ball in the gaps with optimal exit velocity and launch angle. If you are new to these fancy metrics, check out Coach Lisle’s blog post where he breaks down launch angles for softball.
The best part about half turns drill is that it’s easy, you can do this pregame, in the on-deck circle, in the dugout, in your bedroom, really anywhere.
But just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s not important and won’t make a major impact.
This is one of our favorite drills at The Hitting Vault for our youth softball players. Let’s dive into it.
- Start with the bat pinned up against your back leg, that would be the right leg for righty hitters, and left leg for the lefties.
- Take your stride into launch position, keeping the bat pinned to our back leg.
- Rotate your lower half to the point of contact while keeping the bat pinned to your body.
The point of contact is where you have your belly button facing the pitcher. An important part of this drill is that we do not want to “squish the bug”, or having our back foot anchored to the ground. We want to drive off our back leg and generate power. See below for an example of the Half Turn Drill.
See Saw Drill
Having a solid path to the softball is one of the most important parts of hitting. If you drop your back shoulder or extend your front arm, you’re going to have a tough time making good, consistent contact with the ball. The see saw drill is a drill you can do anywhere as long as you have a bat available, and the more that you do this and practice this, the better.
This is really one of the first and most important movements in the swing. If this part of the swing is off, then the rest of the swing will also be off. By establishing muscle memory in the early movement of the swing, it allows the hitter to be short to the point of contact.
Step 1: Point the knob of the bat towards where the catcher’s feet would be
Step 2: Move the knob of the bat towards the pitcher while taking a short stride
That is it, it is short and simple. While it is a simple drill to do, it is very important to helping the rest of the swing. Not only does this drill reinforce the correct start of a great bat path, but it also helps with rhythm to the ball. You want to be comfortable at the plate, and having a good rhythm with each pitch on your stride and your swing will make a huge difference.
The Bat Path Drill
As we build towards the full swing, it is important to take what we just learned in the See Saw Drill and apply it in the bat path drill. To start this drill, we’re going to have the hitter start in launch position, so the stride has been taken and we’re ready to launch. This is where the See Saw Drill immediately plays into effect. When striding into launch position, the knob of the bat should be pointed at the catchers feet, ready to explode towards the pitcher. See the picture below:
Our hitter here has the knob of the the bat working towards the catchers feet and a good launch position, with her front foot at about 40-45 degrees and heel in the air. As the left heel hits the ground, we use what we learned in the see saw drill, pointing the knob of the bat towards the pitcher. This drill really emphasizes rhythm and the bat path.
Now that we have established a solid launch position and began on our good bat path, we pause to feel this position. After a short pause, we will integrate the lower half of our body from the half turns drill we practiced earlier an finish our swing.
This is an excellent progression through the swing, while integrating the two prior drills. The hitter goes from a perfect launch position in the first frame to the point of contact in the third frame. When working with your softball player, make sure they are really working on perfecting the first two drills before getting into this one. You want to have a good foundation and feel for the swing before putting all of these movements together in the bat path drill.
Slow to Fast
In order to work on a good swing, you need to build towards it. The slow to fast drill is the final drill in our list of top four softball hitting drills for youth players because it integrates everything we have worked on so far. At The Hitting Vault, Coach Lisle always says we need to build towards a powerful swing. Regardless of what you might here from the softball hitting guru’s out there, there is not one drill or one magic tip for hitting with power. It’s a progression of several movements, and more than anything, it’s hard work.
The slow to fast drill focuses on having a slow load into a fast swing (hence the name). In most cases, slow and steady movements allow the hitter to be explosive to the ball and in control throughout their swing.
Start in the normal stance, whatever is comfortable for the hitter. Then slowly load against the back leg while pointing the knob of the bat towards the catcher’s feet. Then from there, drive off the back side towards the point of contact while maintaining the bat path practiced in the drill before.
Notice the progression and application of the three drills preceding this one as well. The load includes the see saw drill, the stride and swing incorporate the half turn and bat path drill.
The most important aspect of the slow to fast drill is having control of your rhythm. Really focus on slowing down the load and stride but exploding through the point of contact. This drill is a great way to round off this set of drills for young softball players because not only are these all simple drills, but also they are all important to becoming the best hitter you can be. These drills are done at all levels, as they are foundations for becoming a better hitter every day.
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