Sometimes it’s not that you aren’t good at hitting the ball when playing softball – it could simply be that your coach is not really communicating to you the important things to look out for and concentrate on during a game or training session.
In this article, we are going to keep it simple and break down the mechanics of a good softball hit into three easy to nibble steps, then work our way from there. Combine your understanding of the principles with your practice and your hitting will improve faster than you would expect!
What’s the Best Softball Progression for In-Game Play?
When you are playing – especially competitively – the best coaches will tell you that the offensive progression is always the best way to go. No matter how complicated and ‘trademarked’ your swing might get, it can be broken down to two rudimentary steps:
- Above the belt, and
- Below the belt.
This is a no-brainer, of course, but remembering this is the first step to understanding what goes into a good swing.
Although there are several areas to the swing, it is good for you as a beginner to understand three key phases or areas of the offensive swing. Once you figure these three out, your skills will improve significantly!
Before you go into the three phases of the swing, you – the player – must be in a good athletic position. You should be standing upright with your feet far apart from each other to give you a solid base, good enough for you to swing.
The Three Phases of Your Softball Bat Swing
A sweet softball offensive progression is made up primarily of the following three things:
- The stride: This requires you to get in position. Your left leg should be in front of and away from you, with the right bending inwards a little in readiness for the hip snap.
- When you are at the hip snap (or, the pivot) point, you are now pushing your body in the direction of your left leg, with the right hip ‘snapping’ you in that direction.
- The swing itself. At this point, you are totally rested on your left leg and only the tip of your right foot touches the ground.
A good coach quickly makes his team understand these terms so that communication can be easier and smoother going forward. That way, he can walk up to you and say, ‘hey, Mike, watch it – you are over-striding’ and Mike, understanding the term, corrects his balance for a better swing.
As soon as the learning softball player can understand where he/she is doing it wrong with the swing, they can make the corrections quicker, better and with an amazing presence of mind.
To reiterate: a good coach is one where his players can break down each part of their play and explain each part of their actions.
Getting Deeper Into the Components of a Good Swing (and the Mechanics)
Remember: the key to hitting beautifully is to understand the steps that go into a good swing. We will now take a more granular look into this.
By now you realize that the first thing to do is to step into the box and get in a good athletic position with a wide enough base to keep your balance.
Have a good grip on the bat handle, and lift it up so the bat now rests over the back of your shoulder. Align your knuckles on the bat, grip it properly but allow for a little fluidity. If you are properly positioned, you should look like a towering letter ‘A’ with your elbows down. Is that how you look right now? Awesome!
With your elbows still bended, lift the barrel of the bat from your shoulders. What you are doing right now is putting the bat in its launching position. A little note here: your end goal should be to put the bat in the best launching position possible, and to do this you should ensure that the bat can follow a good arc by swinging from slightly above your shoulders instead of vertically with your body.
When the ball is hurtling towards you, you should be positioned thus: your knees slightly bent, your bat in the position of best possible launch, your shoulders slightly hunched and pointing in the direction of the pitcher. Your eyes should be focused on nothing but the ball. Your arms should be comfortable.
The muscles that take care of your hitting are all in the front. Your pectorals, the torso, your inner thighs and your wrists – the whole works. They are in the front parts of your body. If you find yourself using a lot of the muscles in your lower back and back shoulders, then you have gotten the posture wrong. It could be bad for your health and also lead to subpar hits.
A good coaching tip for when your players are using the wrong muscles is to use relaxing techniques. When players are stiff and nervous, they tend to employ the wrong muscles during their play.
Your barrel is ready to swing when your stride heel is completely on the ground – this is usually the left foot for most people. As soon as the stride heel is planted firmly in the ground, you can now take your swing.
There is some debate about which stride is better: the pre-stride or the traditional stride? I find that either stride has its utility and we cannot honestly argue in favor of one over the other. The key is to be consistent, no matter the stride you choose. Do not swap around strides too much – it’ll leave you the worse for it.
When you take the swing, you will notice your hips actually snap open. Actually, this is not something most players will notice –why should they, after all? They are in the heat of a glorious swing! But if the swing is slowed down, you can see it – a slight lifting of the heels and an opening snap of the hips as the barrel comes whooshing through the air.
Depending on where you want to aim your ball, it’s a useful technique to imagine a flashlight around your navel level beaming out. When you swing, allow the muscular contraction from your lower abdomen work for you: swing your body in the direction you are aiming for with your arc and follow through on it. This might take a while, but you will get it soon enough.
Timing is essential. You need the ball on time to hit the ball powerfully enough to hit it significantly enough. If you hit too early or too late, you lose power in your swing.
With your swing, too, there are three phases: contact, extension, and the follow-through. At the time your bat barrel hits the ball, you have not actually extended. The extension comes right afterward when you stretch your hands to the max before continuing the swing to the other side of your body on the follow-through.
These are the keys to making a good swing. To perfect your swing, you will need a lot of practice, of course, with a large number of contact drills, front-toss drills, tee drills, side-toss drills and actual battling practices with other team mates.