The pickoff is a play that needs to be practiced regularly. The defense needs to have the signals down and the baserunners need be able to read the coaches signals and avoid getting tagged out. This softball pickoff drill allows the defense and the offense to practice in various situations.
Softball Pickoff Drill
This is a good game for all aspects of stealing.
Put players at each of the infield positions. Have the rest of the team put on helmets and either go to a base or line up on the side of the field for their time on the base. If the play is going to be a 1 & three play, the runner at second will go to the side with the other waiting runners to prevent confusion and injury.
The base runners either be leading off the bases and the catcher and infielders will decide which base they are going to go to for the pickoff. If the team is not experienced, you may only have one runner on the bases at time. The coach will indicate which defensive play the team is working on and the runners will assume their place on the base. It might be simply a runner at first, a runner at third, runners at first and third and bases loaded.
The runner or runners get ready as the pitcher gets ready to pitch the ball. As she pitches the ball, the runners take a lead. The catcher attempts the pick-off and the runner tries to get back in time. At first the play is only a pickoff attempt. As the drill progresses, the runners can challenge the defense and move ahead if they can. At some point create a deliberate deliberate passed ball/wild pitch, which gives the catcher and pitcher a chance to practice this play. This might be a subtle signal to the pitcher to send the ball into the dirt. Some might have difficulty with this part of the drill because they don’t want the pitcher practicing bad pitches. If that is the case, have a coach do the pitching.
To encourage the runners to take big leads and to teach them what they can get away with some coaches will place little pieces of candy in the dirt as a challenge. If they can grab the candy and get back safely, they can keep the candy. After they have done this drill a couple of times, allow the runners to do a “delayed steal” on their lead offs. If the catcher throws to first, the runners can attempt move ahead. This way the catchers learn to recognize the delayed steal and run the base runner back.
The drill gives the catcher a lot of practice throwing to the bases, and allows the infielders to practice positioning themselves for and putting on the tag. It also allows the base runners a chance to practice leading off, and of course getting back to the base. You can have coaches use signals for the baserunners and the defense runs the pickoff play or the runners can simply practice the lead off and the coach can focus on the defense.