Dailies: softball improvement comes little by little
For some of you softball veterans this may be old hat. But for the rest, I want to tell you about a routine called “dailies” that can make a huge improvement in your fielding.
Basically, dailies consist of short hop practice. There are different variations, but the routine we used this past summer consisted of 10-20 short hops right in front, then 10-20 to the forehand side and 10-20 to the backhand side.
The purpose is to work on your glove skills. You can do them on one or two knees, or from a standing (but low) position. I’ll talk about the mechanics a little more in a moment.
As the name implies, you do these exercises daily. With my team this past summer, we would do them at the start of every practice, and thanks to my assistant coaches they became part of our routine before every game.
What was interesting is it wasn’t necessarily the coaches who said the girls got better. The players themselves felt like their skills had improved. Not with the first or second time, but as a result of doing them over and over. They felt more confident fielding balls on the ground, and were more sure-handed as a result. Doesn’t mean we never made any errors. But we made very few on ground balls.
Ok, now for a little more on the mechanics. Dailies are something you do with a partner. Have the partners set up about 10 feet apart facing each other. We always started with straight-in balls. Most of the time the players were kneeling facing each other, although they can also do it from a fielding position on their feet.
The partner with the ball throws it to the partner across from her, making the ball bounce about a foot or so in front of her. The fielding partner reaches out to get the ball, and attempts to catch the bottom. This is as opposed to catching the back of the ball and giving with it. Reaching out to catch the bottom of the ball right after it bounces allows the player to play the ball instead of the other way around.
After completing the ones straight in, the partners turn with their throwing side knee down. They can either be to the forehand or backhand side first. Assuming both partners throw with the same hand, have them line up with their glove-side feet across from each other. In other words, if both are right-handed, they should line up their left feet across from each other. They then bounce the ball to the outside of their partner’s foot.
Something to emphasize on the forehand and backhand work is to use one hand, not two. When you’re reaching for a ball, you can reach farther by extending your glove hand and keeping your throwing hand back.
Dailies take a little time during practice – I usually allowed 10 minutes – but they’re worth it. Incorporate them into your routine, and emphasize quality repetitions, and watch your fielding improve.
Now I want to hear from you. Have your tried dailies? If so did you get the same results? And if any of my coaches are reading this, please share your impressions of them!