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If you’re coming from the baseball world as many dads are, you may not be familiar with a flex. It’s not the tightening of the muscles kind, but a way a softball lineup could be written. It’s common baseball knowledge that your pitcher is usually not in your batting lineup. The same can be said for softball players as our pitchers usually do not hit at high levels of the game. In softball your pitcher is usually considered your flex position. The DP and flex are connected in a way because whoever your DP is-is essentially hitting for your flex. The flex does not hit and only plays the field so in a way two players make up the offense/defense of one. Using a flex means that 10 players will be written in the lineup with the flex being placed in the 10 spot and the DP can be anywhere in the lineup. If the DP player comes into defense for the flex then the flex player is removed and the lineup reverts to 9 players. The flex player can also come into the DP’s position which would remove the original DP from the game, and the flex will hit in the DP’s order in the lineup. The flex may also run for the DP without having to remove or change the lineup. Depending on the sanction of softball you’re playing, some allow the flex to run twice for the DP without removing them from the game. This rule is specifically reserved for the flex and DP.
The smell of dirt and fresh cut grass is a staple for softball games, but over the years we’ve seen more turf fields and indoor facilities being built. Switching from dirt to turf can come with some minor challenges, but some even prefer turf over dirt. This blog will provide tips on what to expect when playing on turf for the first time.
- Cleats. One thing people don’t always think of is that some turf fields require players to wear either no cleats or strictly rubber. If attending a tournament or camp with turf be sure to check what kind of footwear is allowed.
- Hops. We see the bad hops from rocks and clumps of dirt, but don’t expect this from a turf field. Many people love playing on turf for the lack of bad hops it presents. However, the turf isn’t as efficient as slowing a ball down like dirt and grass so expect the ball to come at you at a faster pace than normal. Along with this the ball is also more likely to bounce higher on turf which can result in misreads on balls or even high enough to bounce over a player.
- Sliding. Because there is much less friction on turf than dirt your slides may be a little crazy at first. The most common mistake when sliding on turf is sliding right past the bag. Players will slide much farther on turf, meaning it is important to make sure you can grab the bag to slow you down in case you slide past.
- Wet turf. If you’re playing on a wet turf field that doesn’t allow cleats it can be a nightmare. Certain turf can become very slick with rain and players must use caution when playing in these weather conditions.
- Hot turf. This isn’t an issue, but more of a warning that on a hot day the heat of turf surpasses that of a dirt field. Rubber pellets in turf are normally black which make them attract the sun more, creating heat waves on the field. When playing outdoor tournaments on turf in extreme heat make sure this extra heat is taken into account.
Playing softball comes with many moments of success and glory whether it’s a home run or a walk-off to end the game. While both are amazing and exciting, many players live for the diving ESPN plays that the best athletes will do. Diving is one of the biggest displays of a player’s effort and competitiveness. As players start getting older there will come a day where your athlete has to learn to successfully and safely dive for balls. This blog will discuss the tips to help your player reach their full effort and potential.
- Learning to dive. We’ve all seen the slip and slide day of sliding and diving practice, but many things can be used to safely teach the technique. Allow your players to get a running start then toss a ball where they have to run and catch it. Players can slide on a flattened cardboard box or a cushioned mat. Many players just starting will be hesitant to go full out when learning, but it is important to remember to run and dive at a good speed to prevent injury. When players run at half speed and dive they won’t slide across the grass/dirt and oftentimes players are more likely to get hurt. Players, don’t be so scared to dive that you cheat yourself out of success. Don’t let your fear of failure keep you from being great!
- Full body layout. When teaching diving whether it’s to the side or forward there is always a worry that it will hurt to hit the ground. Another mistake players will make is trying to brace themselves with their arms or knees before the rest of their body hits the ground. I believe many players feel hitting the ground full out may hurt their body or knock the wind out of them. Start players running at the mat and focusing on creating a sliding motion and flattening out their bodies.
- Superman. If your player is bracing themselves with their arms you’ll want to explain using superman. When superman flies his arms are straight out in front of him which is where the arms and glove should be when diving. Bracing your landing with arms can cause injury including shoulders hitting the ground wrong, or a wrist being landed on or getting caught. Players should also focus on reaching their glove as far as they can to prevent their glove from getting caught on the ground and rolling over their wrist.
- Ground balls. Diving in the outfield can involve laying out for a ball in the air while infielders may dive for balls on the ground. The technique is no different however when diving for a ball on the ground a player will want to think about it as their glove being the first thing to hit the ground.
- It gets easier. Our last tip is that once a player gets more comfortable with diving it becomes a piece of cake! It can also be one of their favorite things about the sport. Diving is a key part of achieving success in softball!
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