Is this a good or bad softball drill? This is a question I get asked all the time. A player or parent will tell me about a drill their daughter’s high school, travel, rec league or other coach had the players do, and then ask if it’s a good or bad drill.
While there definitely are some bad drills, and some terrific drills, I find that most fall somewhere in between. Because the truth is it’s not the drill itself most of the time; it’s how you use it.
Take this hitting drill for example. A coach kneels in front of a player and soft tosses small objects at her. Could be wiffle golf balls, or corn kernels, or kidney beans, or some other small object. Is that a good or bad drill? Depends.
You see, if the hitter has good mechanics and uses them while executing it, it’s a good drill. It can be very helpful in developing hand/eye coordination. But if the hitter has poor mechanics, trying to hit small objects will probably just make them worse.
In that case she’s practicing to fail not to succeed, because her measure of success is whether she hits the object, not whether she uses a good swing in doing it. Better to leave this drill behind until her mechanics are better.
There are lots of pitching drills – entire books are filled with them. Some are good, some are not so good, and again, some depend on who is doing them.
I’m not a big fan of anything that encourages a stiff arm or locked elbow. Yet that’s what I see when people try to over-complicate the arm circle and create too many “stages.”
One of the big ones is they start with the arm straight out behind them and throw from there. In order to hold up the ball they have to tighten up their arm, and they often push the ball instead of pulling it.
If you want to break down the circle, it’s better to do it only in a couple of spots, where you can get more of a free flow of the arm. Do it where everything can be balanced and relaxed and it will work. Put the arm under stress and you’re likely to get less than desireable results.
One of my least favorite drills overall is one where two players stand facing each other, anchor their feet in place, and throw back and forth by rotating their shoulders. What’s the problem with it?
There are two. First is that you’re supposed to use your feet when you catch and throw. A good throwing position has you sideways to your target, with the ankle bone of your back foot pointed at the target. Yet when the feet are locked in place you can’t get there, so you wind up throwing face-on – exactly what you will probably be trying to get away from in the next drill.
The other problem is you’re spending practice time working on a skill you will never, ever use. Think about it. What situation would have you standing face on to your target, with your feet not moving, just rotating your shoulders? You wouldn’t.
Those are rare, though. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then the quality of a drill is usually in the abilities of the player. If she can execute the drill with good mechanics, and the drill has a purpose, it’s a good drill. Same drill but with poor mechanics or reinforcing mistaken ideas about the game, not so much.
So if you’re going to use certain drills, especially those labeled advanced, do so carefully. Otherwise you could be doing more harm than good.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.