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A team’s defense is an underrated entity in many sports. In softball, your defense can make or break the success of a game. A lot of coaches glaze over regular drills for their defense and shift their focus to hitting and pitching. Think of your defense as the foundation of your team. Without them, the talent of your pitchers and hitters becomes a moot point. It’s unlikely they can cement a win all on their own.

If you were to observe the practice of highly successful teams, you would see coaches teaching and reinforcing softball fundamentals through strategic drills. The following are some great fielding drills that reinforce your team’s defense and how you can implement them in your next practice

Fence Fly

As a coach, fan, or player, you’ve probably seen the following scenario a million times. A player is running fast, all the while keeping their vision glued to the ball as it flies through the air. As it heads towards the fence, their running slows and their concentration falters. Perhaps they even run straight into the fence, upending their ability to catch the ball. The thing is, defense is going to face this situation many times, so understanding how to handle it is key.

For this drill, gloved players should form a single line 10 feet from a fence in foul territory. The coach, standing 30 feet in front of the line, should begin throwing balls in a high arch, aiming to land between the line of players and the fence.

The first player must catch the ball against the fence, deliver the ball back to the bucket, and then sprint back to the end of the line. Immediately following the return of the ball, the coach repeats the procedure with the next player in line.

Keep in mind that this drill is used because players are scared of getting hurt. Fence fly, when performed properly, reinforces that players should lead with their arms while keeping an eye on the ball. In doing so, their arm will notify them they are about to crash and give them time to prepare for impact.

Three Man Down

In business, relationships, and sports, communication is key. Without it, trouble and frustration are bound to arise. For the defense of a softball team, communication is absolutely essential. This drill reinforces communication fundamentals and teaches players how to work together to efficiently and effectively make a play.

The Three Man Down drill will need three cones placed five yards apart from each other. A player will be positioned, laying down on their stomachs, at each cone. Another player will roll a ball towards the cone. As soon as the ball is rolled, each of the three players will jump up. The player closest to the rolling ball must catch it and communicate to the other three that it has been caught.

It may sound a bit trivial in theory, but drilling these fundamentals in at practice help them become route when players are under pressure during games.

A common misconception about any sport is that a player or team’s success comes from physical prowess, innate ability, and luck. In reality, it’s an intense amount of practice multiple times a week and great coaching. Effective practices contain so much more than an excessive amount of running or repeatedly pitching, fielding, or hitting balls.