3 Reasons You Don’t Want to Blast the Ball
As a coach you want your players to be as prepared as possible for anything. You want them to be ready for any situation the game might throw at them. Coaches talk about making practice tough so that the game seems easy.
I totally understand all that and I get it. But one thing you don’t want to do if you’re players aren’t ready for it, is blast grounders at them as hard as you possibly can. I understand the idea of getting used to the ball coming that hard and the whole “if they can handle that, they can handle anything” mentality. Really I do because I used to feel the same way and I even used this “tactic” with infielder before. When I was growing up I had a coach who did it to me and it DID help me feel like I could handle anything any player would ever hit at me.
HOWEVER, there are 3 big reasons why I don’t just jump into blasting balls at players any more, especially early in the season and especially if they’re not ready for it. Here are those 3 reasons:
1. They Learn to Sit and Wait: If you always hit screaming balls at them, they get into the bad habit of sitting back and waiting for the ball to come to them even if it’s hit slooooooowwwwwww. This is NOT a good thing. Bad bounces are going to eat them alive. I’ve seen players like this. You hit shots at them, they’re fine. But hit a routine grounder and all heck breaks loose! They don’t move to the ball, the ball takes that one, last, hard to handle hop and they mishandle the ball. Then because they sat back and waited and allowed the runner to get further up the line to first, they have less time to make the play after they finally get a handle on the ball. I would much rather have a fielder who makes the 5 routine plays that come her way vs the 2 hot shots she may get during the game.
2. They Go Into Survival Mode: Another thing that happens when you hit laser shots at your players is that they often times simply go into survival mode. All mechanics go out the window and all they’re trying to do is stop the ball without it hitting their face or some other sensitive body part. More often than not this creates and reinforces the bad habit of fielding on your heels. Again, bad hops will eat them alive! Not only that, they’ll be slower and have to work harder to get the ball to first (or anywhere else) because they’re back on their heels when they field the ball and therefore, have zero momentum toward their target. If this becomes their habit and their way of fielding, you’re not helping them!
3. Mechanics Go Out the Window: As I mentioned in number 2 above, if you’re players are going into survival mode because you’re ripping balls at ‘em, all mechanics go out the window. They’re just going to do whatever it takes to try to stop that ball without getting badly hurt. Most likely they will NOT be working on good fielding habits or mechanics. Early in the season and at the younger ages is the time to teach and reinforce good habits and good mechanics. Don’t skip this part because, in the long run, it’s going to hurt the players, not help them.
I’m not saying you should never hit the ball hard at your players. It’s just not something you should do all the time if they are unable to use proper technique with that type of hit being launched at them. Get those fundamentals solid so that they can increasingly handle balls hit harder and harder at them while still maintaining good form.
Yes, every once in a while there will be a ball in the game where players throw everything out the window and just “do what it takes” to make the play. I’m not saying it’s wrong to throw that at them every now and then in practice to help them get ready for that game possibility. It just shouldn’t be the play they practice all the time.
Master fundamentals. The fancy stuff will come. Sometimes players have to dive for balls or make an unorthodox throw from the outfield just because the situation called for it and it’s all they could do to make the play at that time. However, it’s not what you want them to practice on every single play. Get those routine plays down! The “Hollywood” stuff will come, but don’t focus on that so much in practice, then come game time, you can’t make the basic plays. Become exceptional at making those routine plays and those fancy shmancy ones, if they’re made, will just be icing on the cake (they shouldn’t BE your cake, just the icing). You won’t “need” those “Hollywood” plays so much in the game if you’re consistently making the routine ones that come at you.