One of the most instrumental forms of assessing a players overall softball skill is the phrase “ The 5 Tool Player.” What is a 5 tool player? A 5 tool player is a player that has a skill set that encompasses skills important to a softball player. These five skills are;
-a player that hits for power
-a player that hits for average
– possess speed skills on the bases and in the field
-a players throwing ability
-a players fielding ability
So how do you get your players closer to becoming a 5 tool player by developing their speed skills? Here’s my top five ways to develop speed and quickness in a player.
1.Teach proper speed mechanics- I rarely see a softball player that has great speed mechanics, which is too bad, because it’s the easiest way to develop a speed in any player, regardless of their natural speed.
What do proper speed mechanics consist of? The player has the ability to quickly transition from one speed skill to another, for example a shuffle to a sprint. Proper speed mechanics also regulate a correct sprinting form; a good forward lean, shoulders and hips square, knee drive at a 60% angle and a great stride.
Lastly, players need an accelerated first step quickness which allows them to react quickly within the first two steps rather than a lazy acceleration then slowly picking up speed.
- Strength Training. One of the best ways to increase speed is to increase a player’s strength capacity. Players should and need to be on a well-developed strength program that is designed to create strength in the muscle groups involved in the running motion. Some of these exercises involved should be; squats, deadlifts, lunges, split squats, lateral lunges. I could go on forever but those are some great standards to develop strength in the quads, hips, glutes and hamstrings. As you choose a strength program please make sure your strength coach is well educated in designing a safe and productive program.
- Sprint work. Yes, to become a faster player you must run sprints. Players need to start developing fast twitch muscle groups and increase their speed skills. I have seen coaches and even some trainers have their players run a mile or two to get in shape, that’s a big NO, NO. The topic here is getting faster and running miles at a time or even one mile will slow a player down. The longest I ever have player run for is two minutes, and its usually pitchers to work on endurance.
- Agility skills- I really believe that creating the skills in a player to make a player more explosive will translate into a faster player. For example, jumping knee tucks may not seem like they would help develop speed but they absolutely do. This movement is developing initiation of the same muscle groups and fast twitch power systems used in sprinting. I also think that ladder drills are good if performed correctly, same with cones drills. The player must have a clear understanding of how to perform the drills correctly.
- Flexibility and Mobility skills- This seems to be one of the least popular skills developed for players, though it is one of the most necessary. Mobility skills like; dynamic stretching, active dynamic, foam rolling is all piece of the speed puzzle. These skills not only prepare muscle groups and the neurological system for speed but they prevent injury, open up and lengthen muscles, and mentally prepare a player for speed work.
If you notice your teams time to first are slow, they move slowly to a ball, they don’t react quickly or are consistently getting thrown out stealing try incorporating these skills into your players development program.
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