Catching a fly ball is one of the most basic fielding skills in softball and baseball. It actually seems very easy, compared to other skills required for the game.
But for some players like very young kids and beginners, it’s doesn’t seem all that easy at all. In a real game situation, it can actually feel quite intimidating. That’s why conquering the flyball fear is a crucial step for beginners.
Obstacles in Catching Fly Balls
A fielder may not entirely feel comfy about catching a fly ball right away. That’s because there are so many unfortunate “what if” situations that can apply.
- The player may not see where the ball is, so there’s no way to track it.
- They may see the ball, but misjudge where it’s going. The ball can then go over their head and the hitter may get a double instead of a single.
- The ball may hit the player’s face. This is one of the most common fears among young players.
- The players may collide with each other in their efforts to catch the fly ball.
- The player may collide hard with the fence while sprinting.
- They may just not catch the ball, so the ball lands safely between two players who could have caught it.
The Basic Principles of Dealing with Fly Balls
If you’re a bit older while still a beginner in softball, then you can take steps to overcome any fear of this situation. Time and practice usually helps and overcoming a fear.
If you’re a trainer or coach helping with young kids, you have to understand the important rules about conquering the fear of fly balls:
- You have to take things slow. You can’t really hurry this process, and you can’t be impatient with the kids.
- You have to build up their confidence. Have them succeed at easy things first, before you try practicing with more difficult situations.
- You can’t let the kids get hurt. Aside from the legal issues that may arise, getting hurt doesn’t exactly encourage kids to keep going. If they experience having a fly ball drop at their face, then they’ll be afraid for many years to come—or quit altogether.
Overcoming the Fear of Getting Hit
It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenage beginner to softball or you’re coaching very young children. The fear of getting hit is very real and it has to be dealt with. And you can do that with foam balls. They’re very affordable and you can find them in sizes that are similar to softballs and baseballs. If you don’t have these foam balls yet, you can use tennis balls.
The important thing to these balls is that they’re soft. So even if the player makes a mistake and gets hit, it won’t result in injuries and it’s not that painful either.
Teaching the Fundamentals
Starting with these safe foam balls is great for teaching the fundamentals. So if you’re the coach, here are some steps you can take to help your young wards learn:
- Start the drills with the player using their bare hands. Using the glove right away can complicate matters. You want the player to concentrate on the ball.
- Make sure that the player’s positioning is correct. The left hand (if the player is right-handed) should be above the left shoulder, while the right hand is touching the left thumb.
- Now stand close at about 3 feet from the player, and gently toss the ball about 2 feet above their head. Do this repeatedly, until they’re able to catch the ball pretty much without fail. Be patient. For young kids, this isn’t always easy.
- Once they get the hang of catching your low tosses with their bare hands, you can then progress to using a glove. Again, do low tosses until they don’t miss the ball and they keep on using the proper technique.
- When they catch the low tosses with the glove by using the proper technique constantly, you can then toss the foam balls just a little bit higher. Again, keep doing this until they’ve gained enough confidence and mastered the proper fly ball catching technique. You can’t hurry this step—you have to make sure that your players can protect themselves.
- Now you can start tossing the ball a little bit to their left or right. This time, the focus also includes having the player learn to move to get underneath the ball. The player must learn to catch the ball above the left shoulder, and not above their head.
- Soon, they may learn to get under the ball and they can run quickly to the spot where they can catch the ball while underneath it.
- When they can catch most of the balls you toss, then it’s time to start with regular softballs.
- You then have to repeat the entire process we’ve listed here, starting with low tosses.
- Continue to run this drill for every practice. Some players may still need the drill, and some parents can help out.
As you can see, it’s all about going slow and constant practice. Players can gain confidence when they start succeeding in catching the fly balls consistently. It also helps when they don’t get hurt.
After the fundamentals, you can then start dealing with the other concerns about catching the ball.
- Dealing with the sun. Players can use visors, sunglasses, and eye black. Just make sure that the sunglasses are polarized and shatterproof. Players can also be taught to use the glove to block the sun from their view. They can also learn to admit it if they can’t see the ball, so that their teammates can help out.
- Dealing with the fence. Here players can be taught to use the warning track, and they can count how many steps from the start of the warning track to the fence. They can also slow down and extend the throwing arm to literally get a feel for the fence.
- Dealing with collisions. This is about practicing communication between the players.
Missing the ball may be terrible for games, but that’s not the most important thing. Keep the kids from getting hurt, and then teach them the fundamentals. Go slow and practice constantly. These steps will help players succeed in conquering the flyball fear.