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Practice warming up on a "STAR".

While coaching fast-pitch at the U. of Evansville, I began looking for a drill that would develop a pitching level and create a feeling of pride.

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Coaches will often do such things just for exercise, and, I admit, that was my excuse. As I started to become more involved in the fine points of fastpitch, I become acutely aware of the need to work on the drills not just for exercise but to aid in the total development of the player and team.

The moment we started to do the "STAR" drill, I knew that I had a drill that could develop into something special--a drill that could be used to create an outstanding pitcher in both softball and baseball.

The first day I tried the STAR at the U. of Evansville, it took almost 15 minutes to do it correctly. The players started encouraging their teammates to catch and throw, and the STAR progressed from being just a drill to a drill with a tradition!

I'd advise anyone working with young players to start with the fundamentals of catching, throwing, and field positioning.

Coaching point: Safety is of prime importance in implementing this drill. When I moved on to Greenfield-Central H.S., I immediately introduced the safety factor and it produced the same results as it did on the college level.

The STAR drill can be used either indoors or outdoors. If the pitcher is inside, he will need a space large enough for a five-man infield: catcher, 1st, 2nd, SS, and 3rd. In lining up the players, you will want to make sure that your infielders stay out of the path of the ball.

As you can see in the diagrams, line up everyone else about five feet behind the catcher in a single line (Diag. 1). We always placed the pitchers at the end of the line, but this can be a matter of choice.

When we had extra minutes for practice, we would include the outfielders--and we often discovered that we had infielders we never knew we had!

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As a STAR(t), we have our catcher (with the ball) stand behind the plate (Diag. 2). She has to throw the ball to the SS and immediately follow it up by sprinting to the SS's position.

Important coaching point. Start this drill at a "walk through speed." Have the player throw the ball over easy and then have them walk to the next spot.

Have the player who caught the ball hold on to it until the other player has reached her new spot.

Go as slow as you need, depending on the level at which you are working. Do this (walk through speed) for as long as it takes your players to understand the drill.

As you can see, this drill incorporates many facets of the game--throwing, catching, and running. It's also a good idea to have some extra balls around with which to replace bad throws.

After we have practiced this drill a few times, we try to prevent the players from becoming complacent. Anyone who makes a bad throw or drops the ball has to start over from the beginning.

It takes a long time to do the STAR drill right, but we know that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. We also prevent the players from making soft throws by calling: "Throw like you mean it!"

This can be frustrating at the start, but as time moves on we no longer have to push hard to achieve excellence. And that the drill produces team leaders!

After the SS catches the ball, she must throw it to the 1st baseman and follow the ball in the same fashion (Diag. 4). We make sure to emphasize, "catch first, throw second, and run third." The 1st baseman, after catching the throw from the SS, must throw to the 3rd baseman (Diag. 3).

After the 3rd baseman catches the ball, she will throw it the 2nd baseman and follow the ball (Diag. 6).

After the 2nd baseman catches the ball, she must throw it to first person in line back at home plate and follow the ball to the END of the line at home plate (Diag. 5).

The drill is continued with the next person at home plate in the catcher's position, repeating throw 1A. Repeat the same order throughout the drill, with each fielder getting the opportunity to throw, catch, and run. The drill is finished when the original infielders are back in their starting positions.

This is a great practice and/or pre-game warm-up drill. My teams always started each pre-game warm-up with the STAR. They took extreme pride in completing it without an errant throw or missed ball ... AND they sprinted to each position--without me having to make them! As a coach, it made me feel that the players had taken charge of a drill and demanded their own perfection.

I hope you will give the STAR drill a try!

If you have any questions please feel free to email me @ oocoachhawkoo@yahoo.com.

By Brent Hawkins, Fastpitch Instructor

Extra Innings Baseball & Fastpitch Academy, Evansville, IN
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Title Annotation:SOFTBALL
Author:Hawkins, Brent
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Apr 1, 2007
Words:867
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