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.


About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on October 18, 2010, in Baserunning. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi Ken, great article. I too tested my team. I looked at still photos my team photographer took and noticed the late start. So we took several times with the stop watch with plenty of rest in between. I sure would have thought the “sprinter” technique would have been faster because of the photos but the stopwatch told us a different story. The “rocker” method was actually faster to the base. Maybe not quicker getting off of the base but time wise, was faster. I’m thinking the “in-motion” blast off the bag is what got them them quicker. Anyway I still try them to start their motion as the pitchers hand gets to the top of the arc. Have a great holiday and Haley says hi…………


  2. Interesting, Rick. Sounds like (based on your tests) the ideal is a rocker start that gets them off the base on time. That’s the key, though. Can they time it — and not get caught for leaving early since it already looks like they are? The speed is good, of course, but the most important factor is which gives them the best chance of getting to the next base ahead of the ball. If they’re late releasing from the base the ball is closer to the catcher, which means the catcher doesn’t have to get the ball to the base as quickly. Continuous video checks, especially under game conditions, are probably in order to see if what you think is happening is actually happening, regardless of how they start. That might be a good job for the pain in the butt parent who is always in the way. Hand him/her a video camera and a job to do!Say hi to Haley. Hope her knee is continuing to improve.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: