Proper footwork and body positioning are the foundation for catching fly balls successfully. Coaches should use the following basic footwork drills every day to help players develop good balance and proper reaction to the ball. The coach should throw balls to fielders instead of hitting them. This enables the coach to place the balls exactly where they need to be in order to isolate each technique. Players must also practice reacting to balls hit off the bat, but in these drills, hitting rather than throwing the ball takes a lot of time and creates difficulty placing the ball in the desired location.
Purpose: To learn to react and drop step to the appropriate side.
Procedure: The coach faces the players, who are in a staggered position in three or four lines. The coach points in a direction with a ball. Players react with a drop step in that direction. They then assume the ready position (exactly where they are) and repeat. When the drop step becomes automatic, players add the turn with inside and outside rolls.
Purpose: To execute proper footwork on the inside roll, good balance, and quick feet for fielding. This is a good warm-up drill.
Procedure: Players stand side by side in a line about 10 feet (3 m) apart from one another and face the coach. The coach points in either direction to begin the drill. Players run diagonally back using a drop step, run three steps, and then use an inside roll to change direction. They run three steps and again reverse direction. They continue zigzagging down the field.
Ball Toss for Inside and Outside Rolls
Purpose: To practice proper footwork for catching fly balls.
Procedure: Each player has a ball and lines up behind the coach or a tosser. The first fielder takes a position facing the tosser about 20 feet (6 m) away. All the players in the line complete each step before they move to the next:
1. The tosser points in a direction for the initial drop step and diagonal movement and then tosses a ball to that side for the fielder to catch. The fielder catches the ball and goes to the end of the line.
2. Inside roll: The tosser points in a direction for the initial drop step and diagonal movement, then tosses the ball to the opposite side, forcing the fielder to use an inside roll to catch the ball. The fielder catches the ball and goes to the end of the line.
3. Outside roll: The fielder executes the previous step but with an outside roll, then goes to the end of the line.
4. Ball overhead: The fielder runs directly away from the tosser and turns her head to find and catch the ball; then she goes to the end of the line.
Purpose: To work on catching fly balls with good balance, glove work, and footwork.
Procedure: Each player has a softball. The player gives the ball to the coach and then starts running straight ahead with her back to the coach. The coach calls right or left and throws the ball in that direction. The fielder catches the ball and sprints to the end of the line behind the coach. A throw of 30 to 60 feet (6 to 18 m) is sufficient and allows for more practice than a very long throw.