Best way to get off first on a steal
Today was the day we spot-checked how our players are getting off first on a steal. We used a technique I first heard about at the NFCA Coaches College . It’s pretty simple. You set up a video camera(in this case a Kodak Playsport) in a spot where you can see both the pitcher and the runner on first, and then you see whether the runner is getting off the base on time. To make it easier to see, we transfer the video to a computer, incidentally.
It’s amazing what you see when you do it. We tell the baserunners to anticipate the release, essentially getting going when the pitcher’s hand is over her head. The general rule, which I got from Team USA coach Jay Miller, is you’re either safe at second or out at first. Despite all of that, some of our runners were still late getting off first.
In looking back at the video, however, we also noticed a pattern. The players who used the “rocker” start — where you place the left foot on the base and drop the right foot back and to the side — were consistently late. Most were about four frames late (on a 30 fps video). The players who used a “sprinter” start — back foot on the base and front foot out toward second — were either early or on time. None were late.
At that same Coaches College class we were told that when a study was done, the sprinter start came out faster, even though everyone thinks that the rocker start provides an advantage because you’re already in motion. Perhaps, in looking at the video, this is why.
While those doing the rocker start may get started a little earlier, they’re not really getting going early enough. It’s much harder to time the release from the base to the release of the pitch because there is more margin for error. Using the sprinter start, as soon as you get into motion you’re off the base.
If you’ve been teaching the rocker start, it might be worth doing a recording to see if you’re really getting the benefit you think you are. You may just be surprised. And if you do happen to do the test and it shows your players getting off on-time, or early, please share how you’re teaching it. But no speculation — actually run the test.