We often forget to teach the mechanics of catching a softball and how to deal with the potential stresses of receiving a throw before teaching throwing. Throwing is a critical skill that needs to be mastered in order to be successful in softball because a high percentage of games are lost due to throwing errors. Catching softball throws is the second part of that throw that can be the difference in a successful play or an error.
Of course the basic mechanics of catching a softball apply in all situations however there are some considerations that will have an impact on the receivers ability to execute the skill successfully.
Catching Softball Throws Skill Considerations
Following are some considerations when teaching players how to receive a throw.
- ability of the thrower
- ability of the receiver
- subsequent play
- purpose of the throw
- path of the ball
Skill related considerations need to be a part of the teaching process because they will determine the success of the throw and transition to subsequent plays.
Ability Of The Thrower
This needs to be something that the receiver prepares for as they are setting up to receive the throw. If the thrower throws hard for example, the receiver will need to brace themselves strongly enough yet also in a position to allow for softening the reception. If the thrower does not throw hard the receiver may need to extend the glove slightly to get the ball into the glove quicker for the out. If the thrower is erratic, the receiver must prepare to leave their position to prevent the ball from sailing into the dugout or past them into the outfield and away from the intended destination.
Ability Of The Receiver
If the receiver has difficulty with catching the throws, there are a few things that can happen. The thrower may hold up on the throw and throw the ball over the receiver because they do not want to hurt her or miss the target. The receiver could also get hurt by trying to avoid getting hurt. This happens when they place the glove in front of their face or look away as they extend their glove out to where they think the ball will go. The other consequence of course is she might simply move away from the ball allowing it to go past her.
If the receiver is confident and good at getting the errant throw, the thrower will have confidence in throwing and will throw hard and accurately. It is critical that you have someone who feels confident at first base and behind the plate. There will always be players who want to play those positions. The easy answer is that when they can catch those throws they can play those positions. It is not only a game factor but also a real safety factor.
With runners on base, the next goal once the ball is in the players glove is to either make sure the remaining runners stay on their base or to get them out as they attempt to advance on the play. Knowing who is on base and where they are will prepare the receiver mentally and physically to make a good transition once the ball is received. This is best done by using both hands to receive the ball so that the transition is easier. If there is no additional runners on base and there will be no subsequent play, then using both hands will ensure that the ball remains trapped in the glove. With this in mind, it is of course important for the receiver to leave the base if the throw is errant to prevent further advancing of runners.
Purpose Of The Throw
The throw could be coming to the receiver for many reasons. Some are as follows:
- for a force out
- as a part of a relay throw
- to stop a play
- to tag a runner
- in the warm up
Physical preparation for receiving the throw is easier when the player knows why the throw is being made. It is hard not to know but it will effect how the body is positioned and how a transition is made if necessary.
Type of Throw
The throw could also be a number of different types of throws that will also dictate how the receiver sets up for the throw at a base. These include:
- overhand throw
- sidearm throw
- underhand toss
- backhand flip
Path Of The Ball
This is the most important consideration in receiving a ball. What players need to know is the ball is the most important part of the play. For example when playing at a base for an out, if the path of the ball is going wide, the receiver must leave the base to make the catch. If the ball is going to be low then the glove needs to be lower and pointed down to receive it and if higher then the glove needs to be pointed up to get the ball. It is critical that the receiver move to the best position to catch the ball because base runners will most likely advance on throwing errors unless it is picked up close to destination by a player backing up.
Catching Softball Throws Mental Considerations
What might be the most important component of catching softball throws is the mental preparation. There are many stresses that can add to the play that will put pressure on the thrower and the receiver. Some of these considerations are:
- the score
- the importance of the play
- the inning
- the number of outs
All of these mental considerations will have a big effect on the receivers success in catching the ball. The pressure that is on the thrower and the receiver will make the skills at least 15-30% more difficult. The fear of failure on the execution can cause errors if mental training skills and strategies are not a part of every softball team training.