Softball is a fun game for people of all ages and genders. While not everyone can have a high-level coach to teach the basics, learning to play softball is easy.
Method 1 of 5: Fundamentals and First Steps
Step 1. Understand the difference between softball and baseball
Softball and baseball are two variants of the same game, with some differences. The main difference is that a softball is thrown from the bottom up, while a baseball is thrown from the top down. As the name implies, there is also a difference in the balls used.
- Softballs are larger and slightly heavier than baseballs, although they are less dense. You often find them in neon greens or yellows in addition to classic white.
- Softball fields are smaller than baseball fields and games last seven innings instead of nine.
- Bats used in softball are a little shorter and wider than those used in baseball.
Step 2. Understand the difference between “fastpitch” and “slowpitch”
There are two subtypes of softball, with the same general rules and minor differences between them.
- “Slowpitch” is the mixed game, with men and women mixed together. As the name implies, the ball is released slowly in the air
- “Fastpitch” is mostly played by women. Its main difference is the quick release of the ball.
Step 3. Understand the rules
Each softball game is played by seven "innings" (or innings), each divided into two parts, the top half ("top half"), which is when the visiting team attacks, and the bottom ("bottom") half”), when the home team goes on the attack. Each half of a turn is played until the attacking team suffers three outs.
- The pitcher throws the ball to the batter until one of three things happens: either the batter takes three strikes, which is when he fails to hit a ball that was thrown into the strike zone; the “pitcher” throws four “balls”, which is when the ball is thrown outside the “strike zone”; the hitter manages to hit the ball successfully.
- To make the hitter take an "out", the pitcher can throw 3 "strikes" or one of the fielders ("fielders") can catch a hit ball still in the air, automatically putting the hitter out.
- To put a runner out, outfield players will have to catch the ball quickly, trying to tag the runner as they run between bases. Another option is to get a forced out, which is when you throw the ball to a defensive player at the base the runner is running (first base is always the safest base to throw the ball for this reason).
- The current hitter goes to "home plate", which is the starting base, try a hit and run across the field, covering all bases, until he gets back to "home plate". Every time a player makes a complete lap, he scores one point.
- At the end of the 7 entries, the team with the most points wins the game. If the game is tied, you can choose to end it that way or play extra entries until the tie ends.
Step 4. Understand the positions
When a team is shooting, each player assumes a specific position on the field and stays in place until given a different instruction. There are two parts of the field, the inner field (“infield”) and the outer field (“outfield”).
- The "infield" is the earth part of the field that concentrates the "pitcher" players, catcher ("catcher") and first, second and third basemen, in addition to the "shortstop" player, who is between second and third bases.
- “Outfield” is the grassy part of the field and has three main positions: left, right and center. Depending on the specific league or game, the center-outfield players can be divided into 2, center-left and center-right.
- Even though the “pitcher” and the “catcher” are “infield” players, they occupy specialized roles that require chemistry. So they often train separately from the team.
Method 2 of 5: Getting Your Equipment
Step 1. Find the right glove
Your glove will be used when you are not batting. It is made of leather and is used in your secondary hand.
- If you buy a new glove, you're going to have to soften it up. There are several methods of doing this, including baking it in a special oil, leaving it in the sun, or playing games with it.
- Playing in the catcher position requires a special glove. Consider this before purchasing one.
Step 2. Choose a putter
Softball clubs are not all the same and should be chosen according to their strength and size. There are 3 factors to consider in a club: length, weight and style.
- To find a club of the proper length, stand up straight and hold the bat over the button at the top. If you put the club to the ground without stretching or bending your arm, the club is adequate.
- To find a club of the proper weight, check the measurement known as the “drop”, which is the numerical difference between height (in inches) and weight (in ounces). The difference should range between -8 and -12. Lighter clubs (close to -12) are good for weaker hitters, while heavier clubs (close to -8) are better suited for stronger hitters.
- There are two main types of softball clubs, aluminum or composite wood. Both are great for beginners or professionals, but usually aluminum is the most used. These are also available in single or double layers. Single-layer ones are cheaper but less effective than double-layer ones.
Step 3. Buy a helmet
Playing softball can be very dangerous if you don't take certain safety precautions, especially fastpitch style. Most leagues require all batsmen to wear an appropriate full helmet, but even if there isn't a requirement, it's best to wear the helmet whenever you're hitting.
Step 4. Buy the appropriate shoes
Special softball shoes are known as “cleats”, and are also used in other sports where you need a lock to give you grip to the ground while running. Choose the “cleats” with rubber or plastic soles, as metal cleats are prohibited in most leagues because of the danger they pose to players.
Step 5. Check if you need additional equipment
Gloves to improve club grip and special clothing or uniforms are the most common. If you are going to play catcher, you will also need to purchase position-specific safety equipment such as trunk and shin guards.
Method 3 of 5: Learn to bat
Step 1. Take your position
It's not enough to be in the right position when it's your turn to hit. You need to get your posture right, following the tips below:
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and aligned so that neither is in front of the other.
- Bend your knees and lean forward in the "ready" position. Your back should not be vertical, but should have a slight forward lean.
- Put your weight on your back foot. When you make the hitting move, use this weight to your advantage by pushing it forward, increasing the strength of the hitting.
- Keep the proper distance from the “home plate”. To find out how far away you should stand, stretch the putter perpendicular to your body, as if you were in the maximum position of the hitting movement. The thickest part of the club should be on the "home plate".
Step 2. Hold the putter in the correct position
Hold the thin part of the club near the base. Your hands should rest on the base.
- Align your fingers and always touch one hand to the other, one on top of the other.
- Raise the putter: it should never be fully vertical or horizontal, it should be slightly tilted over your shoulder.
- Back off the club far enough. Your hands should be very close to your ear.
Step 3. Prepare for movement
Maintain the correct position, also holding the club correctly above and behind you and with your knees bent.
Step 4. Make the move to hit the ball
When you make the move, keep the club level instead of looking for the ball. Choose the most appropriate throw and the easiest to hit, avoiding the “strikes” or being thrown out with a bad hit.
- Perform the full swinging movement from shoulder to shoulder. At the beginning of the movement, your chin should be resting on your front shoulder and your movement should go around completely, causing you to finish the movement on the other shoulder.
- Power the swing and complete the move to the end. When hitting the ball, do not stop the movement immediately after contact or drop the bat. This will cause you to lose half your strength. Use all your strength on the swing to go full circle around your body.
- Move your feet. Some hitters prefer to take a small step with the front foot, but the back foot should always be on the ground. Instead of advancing with your back foot, use the "squish the bug" technique. You should rotate on the sole of your back foot as if you were crushing a cockroach with it.
- Rotate your body with the "swing". Good hitters avoid body stiffness by moving your torso in sync with your arms and feet, increasing swing power.
- Keep your eye on the ball. Never look at the field or at other players when swinging. Always keep your eyes on the ball to ensure contact.
- After hitting the ball, don't throw the bat. Leave it, as smoothly as possible, off the baseline so that no one trips over it.
Step 5. Run to first base after your swing
Your objective in the game is to reach the bases, so take every opportunity you have to run and reach one safely.
- Once you finish the swing, no matter which way the ball goes, run towards first base.
- Don't stand by and wait for the result of the hit. Run as fast as possible. If the rally is not completed, by an "out" or "foul", the first base coach will guide you in what to do.
Method 4 of 5: Learning to throw
Step 1. Stretch your arms before throwing
If you don't warm up, you can easily get injured.
Step 2. Practice closely at the beginning
You'll be tempted to think it's easy to launch from 40 meters away from home plate, but that's not what you should do.
- Playing from far away you will have more chances of injury and probably your pitches will be bad.
- Start shooting 10 feet away from your target. Although this seems pretty close, it's just the beginning for your arm to get used to and you can start pulling away.
- To get started in the most basic mode, kneel down and place the elbow of the arm you are going to throw in the correct place. This way you will always force the correct movement of your wrist. After a while, you will be able to start doing the standing movement.
Step 3. Increase the distance every about 20 throws
Only move away when you feel more comfortable. But never stray too far from your target.
- Stay in correct posture. You must start your throw with the shoulder of the arm that you are going to throw with your back to the target. You must start sideways movement towards the target. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and not open.
- To begin the toss, you need to hold the ball inside your glove, close to your chest. Always hold the ball while it is in the glove.
Step 4. Hold the ball correctly
The best way to hold the ball is to align your fingertips with the stitching on the ball.
Step 5. Make the launching motion
Let the arm drop down and then pull it back. Next, bring it up past its head to launch.
- Don't pull your elbow as if you were pulling a slingshot or bow and arrow. This will limit the power (and distance) of your throw.
- Don't worry about dropping your arm all the way down before bringing it back up. You make this move to give power to the throw.
Step 6. Aim at the target
If you're just practicing or even playing, your target should always be your partner's chest (“catcher”).
Step 7. Launch
Bring your arm down and back and then wrap it around your head. Release the ball when your arm is fully extended in front of you, perpendicular to your body.
- You must keep moving even after releasing the ball. Your throwing hand should end the movement on your opposite thigh.
- Turn your shoulders and head always towards your target. Maintain eye contact with the target to help direct your body's muscles for release. If you look away, the launch may also deviate from the target.
- Take a small step with your front foot and rotate your back foot in a similar way as when swinging.
- Use your gloved hand to aim at your target, then release your arm to the side with each toss. Your glove should always be by your side until the end of the release.
Step 8. Don't worry about the launch speed at the beginning of the workout
The most important part of “pitch” is accuracy. When you're starting out, simply focus on hitting the target rather than trying to launch faster.
Method 5 of 5: Learning to catch the ball
Step 1. Wear the glove correctly
When you're catching the ball, it's important that your glove is in front of you, close to your chest.
- Never hold the glove so that you can see your wrist or with the tip facing down. If you catch a ball in it in this position it could roll up and hit your face.
- Avoid holding your glove directly vertical so that the ball does not fall off after being caught.
- Hold the glove open so there is room for the ball to fit. If your glove is partially closed, the ball will hit the edge and fall to the ground.
Step 2. Stand in the “stand by” position
If you're practicing, the best “upright” position is with your knees slightly bent and your torso leaning slightly forward over the balls of your feet. This allows you to reach any direction to catch a ball that doesn't make a straight path.
- Never rest your elbows on your knees in the “stand up” position as this blocks the movement of your legs when throwing.
- Keeping your feet too close together will make you more susceptible to tripping or hampering your movement if you have to catch a ball from a distance.
- Always keep your eye on the ball. Softballs, contrary to what the name suggests, can hurt you if they hit you. Always have your glove ready to catch the ball coming your way.
Step 3. Practice before the game
The best way to train to catch a ball is simply by playing the “catch game”. With a partner, toss the ball from one to the other while one is in the “standby” position.
- To start, ask them to throw balls towards your chest. This is the most basic technique of catching the ball and will help you warm up.
- Squeeze the ball into your glove each time you catch it, avoiding dropping it.
- Ask your partner to throw balls softly at the start and build up strength throughout the workout. This will help you get used to the force you must apply when catching the ball.
Step 4. Learn to catch ground balls
Balls that roll across the floor require a different catching technique.
- Stand in the “stand up” position and, instead of holding your glove in front of your chest, hold it on the floor. The tip must touch the earth or grass to prevent the ball from rolling under it.
- Be ready to change the direction of the glove, as pebbles or holes in the grass can change the direction of the ball unexpectedly.
- Although your glove should be open to the ball with the end facing the ground, do not hold the glove so that the ball rolls and hits your face. Keep it at a small angle to avoid this.
- Always stand up after catching a ground ball and then throw. Do not launch when close to the ground.
Step 5. Learn to catch balls in the air (“pop-fly”)
A “pop-fly” is a ball that flies high and will be coming from above. These can be dangerous if you don't know how to pick them up, as they can fall and injure you very easily.
- Keep your glove close to your face rather than your chest. However, don't stretch your hand too far, as you will have less control over it.
- Stand in the “stand by” position and move from side to side to catch the ball. Never run backwards, but sideways, towards the estimated point that she will hit the ground.
- Never try to reach the ball. Prefer to position yourself below her, to catch her in front of you. Reaching for the ball increases the probability that the ball will slip out of the glove.
- Cover the sun with your glove before catching the ball to help identify where it will land.
- Bring the ball back to your chest before starting a toss. This will help you get into the correct launch position.
- You don't have to be a super athlete to play softball, but you must know the rules to give your team a chance of winning.