Game to teach softball players how to slide
Sliding is one of those softball skills that can be a problem for some players. Many who have the issue are afraid of getting hurt so they avoid it at all costs. That can be a problem in a game, where a good slide (versus running all the way to the base) can mean the difference between safe or out.
How do you get them to overcome that fear? Part of it is teaching them good technique. If they’re confident they won’t hurt themselves too badly they’ll be more likely to give it a try. Still, doing it in practice is one thing. Doing it in a game, well, that’s something else.
This fall I was working with a team that had several players who didn’t like to slide. That led me to create a game that not only gave them lots of practice but made it fun.
Of course, before we played the game we worked on basic technique. I took them into the outfield and had them take their cleats off. That was important so they wouldn’t catch a cleat and turn or break an ankle.
We set up two lines, with a base about 20 feet away. We went over the technique, stressing the importance of running full speed and then driving out instead of sitting straight down. That when on for 15 minutes or so, when everyone was at least giving it a try. Then we did a few other things before coming to the game.
For that, we set four or five bases spaced somewhat randomly, i.e. not in a square. Then it was basically a game of tag. The rules were simple.
One person was “it,” just as in regular tag. If you were standing on a base you were safe. But, and here’s the important part, only two people could be on a base at any given time. There were more than eight players, so that meant some were always off a base. You could run to a base to be safe, but in order to occupy it you had to slide. Once the “free” player slid in, one of the players who had been on the base had to get off. She could not come back to that base, but she could go to another. If the player didn’t slide, she wasn’t safe on the base and could be tagged. If a player was tagged by “it” she became the new “it.”
Once the element of competition was introduced, the players forgot their fear. They were so focused on not being it they were sliding freely and frequently. They were also laughing and having fun. It was great conditioning too – they were huffing and puffing after all the running.
I was told it translated into their next game – a couple of players who hadn’t been willing to slide before did it – and were safe.
If you have players who don’t like to slide give this game a try. I think you’ll like the results.
Now it’s your turn. Have you had any players who didn’t like sliding? What did you do to help them?