Seasons have been cancelled, team training is a no-no, and social distancing rules the day. Current events may have us all locked down at home but it won’t be this way forever. When life resumes, the ball fields will open, practices will be scheduled, and games and tournaments will ramp up once again. In the meantime, don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Keep up your training while keeping your distance and you’ll be ready to bring your best game when the action heats back up. 3N2 has rounded up our favorite at-home drills that will take your game to the next level using only your own equipment or ordinary household items.
Pitching & Throwing Drills
Find a piece of poster board or a large mirror and create a strike zone with markers (dry erase markers if you’re using a mirror) or tape. Use balled up pairs of socks as softballs and pitch them at your target, watching your body position as you pitch. Try to isolate your movements and break down your pitch so you can see exactly what you’re doing at all points. A camera can be used to record yourself and play back. Record some pitches in slow motion to see each and every part of your pitch clearly.
X Marks the Spot
Making consistent, precise throws is important for all players, especially pitchers. It takes a lot of practice to be able to throw reliably and well. This drill allows you to create several throwing scenarios in one place so you can learn to hit any target consistently. Find objects that won’t be damaged when you hit them or objects that won’t matter if they’re damaged. Boxes, trees, cones, walls, empty containers…get creative! Make an X on each object using markers or masking tape. Set the objects around you in various places outdoors. Practice throwing a softball or tennis ball at the objects, trying to hit the center of the X each time. Make throws at objects to your left and right and behind you, slowly and deliberately at first, then faster and faster as you get better at hitting the X. Try adjusting your distance from the objects and then move them all around and start again. Think about your form and technique as you throw and start to feel what’s different about the perfect throws so you can begin to repeat those over and over.
Don’t underestimate the value of hitting from a tee; you’re never too old to benefit from this tried-and-true staple of batting practice. Keeping the ball stationary allows you to focus on the mechanics of your swing and to fine tune your form. During this drill, take a series of full-speed swings. Then slow it down so you’re concentrating on every single part of your swing, from starting stance to follow through. Keep your head down and your eye on the ball and pay careful attention to the position of your hands and arms. Be sure you’re stepping forward with your front foot and keeping your back foot planted. Swing all the way through the ball. Allow your coach’s voice to replay in your mind and work on those pointers you’ve been given during practice. Recording yourself is helpful here too; set up a camera and record some of your full-speed swings in slow motion so you can see every part of your swing clearly when you watch it back.
The simplest way to practice hitting is to grab your bat and swing away. Get in your stance and take full, hard cuts. Repetition is key here; take a lot of swings each session and do this several times a day to see improvements in both your strength and bat speed. As a compliment to this drill, alternate a series of full, hard cuts with a series of super slow-motion swings. Hone in on every single movement you make during the swing and if you find yourself out of position at any point stop the swing and start over.
3N2’s Pro Clutch Maple Wood Bat makes batting practice appealing. Its pro-grade maple construction and performance enhancing tapered handle make you look good even when nobody’s watching.
X Marks the Spot
Use the same targets from the “X Marks the Spot” pitching drill above. Place them in various locations around your yard and practice hitting at them using a whiffle ball, tennis ball, or softball. You can use a tee to stabilize the ball so you can really focus on your body mechanics and then remove the tee as your technique improves.
This one is simple. Find a good wall (preferably outdoors), throw a ball against it, and catch it when it bounces back. Any ball will do here; try different ones to practice reacting to all sorts of crazy bounces. Move closer to the wall or further from it to make it more difficult and throw at different spots each time to change things up. Work on forehand and backhand throws, long and short hops…just don’t let that ball get past you. Mix this drill up by making various targets on the wall with masking tape so you have specific points to aim for. If you want to make it even more challenging, try it on your knees about ten feet away from the wall. This isolates your upper body and helps to get your hands out in front of you and away from your feet. Also try throwing the ball at stairs so it will bounce off in unexpected directions, improving your reaction speed and your ability to field anything that comes your way.
Be one of those people who always has a ball in your hands and you’ll notice a huge improvement in your ball handling. Carry a ball everywhere you go and fidget with it when you’re watching TV or just hanging out. Pass the ball from hand to hand in circles around your body, first clockwise and then counterclockwise, increasing your speed the longer you go without dropping it. Slow down if you find you’re dropping the ball frequently. Work circles around your legs and then try figure eights around your legs. Toss the ball from one hand to the other and toss and catch with the same hand over and over. Toss a ball into the air and catch it with a gloved hand, then get the ball out of your glove and transition to your throwing position as quickly as you can. Focus on keeping soft hands as you do these drills and remember that repetition is key so do these all throughout the day.
Other Helpful Drills
Softball requires a lot of sprinting, whether you’re running bases or hustling to catch a fly ball. Seconds often count in the heat of the game so practicing sprinting now is sure to pay off when you’re back on the field. Softball baselines are 60 feet apart and this is a good distance to measure out for practice. Ask a family member to time your sprints so you can see yourself improving as you run the distance repeatedly.
The K-Nit Trainer from 3N2 Sports is feather-light and supremely comfortable to make your sprinting practice feel like a walk in the park.
Practice squatting by doing wall sits at home. Press your back to a wall and lower your body until you’re in a sitting position. Start a timer and hold the position for as long as you can. Over time you’ll be able to do this for longer and longer periods. You can also watch TV in a squatted position to build up your squatting muscles. Start by taking the position only during commercials and break when the show comes back on. Build up to squatting during the program and breaking during commercials. Make sure you are in a flat-footed position rather than on the balls of your feet.
Gear up and have fun
Even with everyone being isolated at home, 3N2 is still here to help gear you up for at-home practice and for the season that will eventually come. Be safe, be well, and we’ll see you on the diamond soon!