Softball and baseball uses all sorts of gadgets for training and body awareness. One of the most useful tools for training is TENNIS BALLS!
Teaching youth and college athletes using tennis balls rather than softball and glove requires a higher level of concentration and body control.
Throwing & Catching- Youth players just learning the sport often reach their gloves out as if the ball will magically stick in. They aren’t as focused on tracking the ball when the “magic” glove is on their hand. Take their gloves off and have them play a game of catch with a tennis ball. This will help with the fear of getting hit, higher level of concentration, and development of touch on throwing and receiving.
Emphasize these 3 elements on throwing (in this order):
1. ACCURACY 2. QUICKNESS (transfer) 3. SPEED
Fielding- Again, the glove seems to take precedence over footwork when it’s on. It’s common for athletes to make their first move to a ball with their glove hand, and then their feet follow. Take their gloves off and roll/bounce tennis balls side to side. It’s amazing how much more ground they cover without a glove. They’ll also stay lower to the ground because they cannot rely on their glove to get there. You can throw these or hit these depending on space you have.
Fly Balls: By using tennis balls to work in the air, you eliminate the fear of getting hit. Players must again, focus much harder on controlling the catch, rather than relying on their glove. Drops steps are a great place to start and remember to ALWAYS make them call it. We’re trying to create good habits they don’t have to think about because they’ve done it so much.
Where to get tennis balls for FREE!
Tennis Clubs will happily give you old balls as they go through dozens of them per week. Just call your local tennis club and ask if they’ve got used balls for you to pick up. More often than not, they give me a trash bag full of balls.
Tennis balls are a great tool for all ages and levels. We often used them at the college and professional level. Softball is a highly technical sport to master. Take the time to teach the correct basic skills early and often.
Here's a couple videos on tennis ball drills-