Receiving the ball from a team mate requires more preparation and thought than many give it credit for. By being prepared for the ball, and having a good understanding of receiving softball mechanics, the chances for success are multiplied. Then the player needs to know what to do with the ball after that. Is there a play to made or does it need to be frozen and held onto. Are there runners moving on the bases and players and fans yelling at the same time? This adds stress to the situation.
Receiving Softball Mechanics
Mental preparation as with any skill in softball might even be one of the first considerations in receiving the ball. Often players will assume that it is going to be a good throw and so are not ready for the unexpected. such as a throw to the side, the ground, or over the head. The ball could also be traveling faster or slower than expected. If the receiver is not ready for anything, there is even less time to react if the ball is not thrown right into the glove. By being mentally ready for anything, the receiver is not only more likely to catch the ball but they can also transition to another throw or the next play if necessary.
The most obvious physical positioning for readiness is to be facing the thrower. The receiver’s feet need to be about shoulder width apart with the glove side foot slightly forward for a good extension of the glove hand to the thrower. An advanced player, can have her feet parallel in her ready position so that she can actually step towards the ball as she receives it in anticipation of the next throw. Young and inexperienced players though should follow the recommendations with the glove side foot slightly forward. The weight should be slightly on the balls of the feet to allow for quick movement if necessary. The arms as well should be slightly bent and extended toward the thrower so that the glove can give a little as the ball goes into the glove. It used to be that having the glove at the chest was the norm however moving it a little lower than the chest with thumbs pointing up to allow for quicker movement for a ball bellow the waist or to the side. This is also useful in preparation for a throw after the catch. The knees should be slightly bent to receiving the throw for balance and to allow for quick movement if needed. This is also known as an athletic stance.guy
Eyes On The Ball
The receiver should focus on the throwing hand release of the ball and the path of the ball so that she can watch the ball into her glove and react if she needs to. She can also watch for potential cues that will tell her if she needs to leave her position to catch the ball or prepare to move if she needs to. Often the receiver will be looking at the throwers eyes, the general direction of the thrower or s even distracted by the runner or other things happening on the field. There are great drills for receiving softball mechanics such as putting colored tape on the ball and having the player call out what color it is as throws the ball to her.
Receiving the Throw
The first part of receiving the throw is anticipating where it will end up. This is why the preparation phase of the throw is so important. If the ball is going to arrive above the waist, the thumbs should be pointing up on both hands. If the ball will be below the waist, the thumbs will be pointing down on both hands to receive the ball. The glove will be at a natural position with a slight angle to the inside. This will help to keep the ball in the glove or prepare to throw to someone else. Whenever possible, the receivers body should be facing the approaching ball and both hands should be involved in making the catch. The thumb of the bare hand should be in contact with the back of the thumb of the glove so that she can close the glove over the ball if needed.
The actual catch is made in the pocket of the glove, with the fingers of the bare hand closing over the ball after it is caught. The slightly flexed arms allow the receiver to cushion the throw and absorb the impact. The amount of give that the receiver allows will depend on how hard the ball was thrown. If there is another play to be made, the give on the ball actually ends up becoming part of the preparation phase of the throw after the catch. The give is often referred to as soft hands. If we imagine throwing the ball into a stiff target, it will bounce back out unless it is lodged into the target. The soft hands allows the ball to stay in the glove, partially using some of the velocity of the ball and then the closing of the glove after the reception.
It is really important for the player to keep the glove open when receiving the throw. There is sometimes a tendency for new players to close the glove slightly as the ball is arriving or to reach out to the ball. This creates a better chance for error because the player will sometimes look at the glove and not the ball. We need to have the receivers trust that the ball is going to get to the glove and that it is actually faster to let the ball get into the ball first then make a play if needed.
There is not enough time spend on receiving softball mechanics in my opinion. Often the focus turns to this skill when the receiver is having trouble catching the ball rather than before she has trouble. I like to use the catching mimic drill and have the players basically mimic using good mechanics to catch the ball. It can be done at home or in a practice situation. Half of the throwing play is the receiving play so we need to make sure it is given at least some of the attention of the throwing skills. The receiver will often save the throw with her ability to read and react to the ball. They will also be an important part of the next play by their ability to receive and then throw under pressure in the same motion.