Written By: Megan Hillard
Parents and coaches in softball today (and all other sports for that matter) place an over
weighed emphasis on the repetitive drill work of fielding, batting practice, and playing as many games as possible.
Don’t get me wrong, those things are important, but what should be happening is that more time is carved out to develop individual players as an athlete that is faster, stronger, has a lower center of gravity, and is less likely to become injured hence why this article is about softball speed training.
There is not another sport where increased athleticism is more tangible than softball. As you will learn in this article, softball is a game of sudden “bang-bang” plays where explosive quickness and power mean everything.
An infielder with a lower center of gravity will have more range, preventing base hits. An explosive first step will lead to less extra base hits in the outfield, and of course a high on base percentage for any batter.
Regardless of age, it is 60 feet to first base! No speed training program in the country has made more athletes faster than Parisi. The Parisi Speed School at Champions Sports Performance is proud to have trained 9 girls on the ALL-LKN Softball Team this year.
Nine…And it’s no accident! Some started at 12 years old, and some came to Champions in high school, but they all got faster and more explosive in our program. In addition, they loved their time here.
Keep reading…below you will get a better understanding on why training is so important. You will also learn my story and that of Tianna Batts, one of Champions original highly committed athletes who started training at age twelve in our Parisi Speed School. The game of softball incorporates many skills; however, being able to effectively react in every aspect of the game is crucial in order to be successful. An average collegiate softball pitcher will throw the ball between 59 – 64 mph while an elite softball pitcher’s speed will range from 65 – 72 mph.
A ball being pitched at an average 60 mph from 40 feet away leaves the batter with .45 seconds to react to the pitch and decide whether to swing or let the pitch pass. This is roughly the same amount of reaction time a baseball player would have to react to a 90 mph fastball.
How do softball players pitch at this speed?
And how do batters react and swing the bat fast enough to hit the ball?
The answer is muscular power.
Power is a result of speed + strength. Softball athletes must have acceleration power in all aspects of the game. Proper speed and strength training will not only prevent injuries but it will maximize the performance level of any softball player regardless of age. When specifically focusing on defense, there are several parts of the body that require conditioning. When throwing the ball most people think only of shoulder strength. Shoulder strength is important; however, back, hips, and core strength are actually more important in order to increase your softball pitching speed. Working proper agility and quickness mechanics plays a huge role in developing fast feet for both infielders and outfielders. On average, a softball infielder has to get the ball to first base in less than 3.12 seconds, this time is significantly decreased with a left-handed slap hitter at the plate. Agility and quickness is not just important for defense, it is extremely crucial for offense as well. With only an average of .45 seconds to react to a pitch that could be rising, dropping or curving, softball athletes must have very fast bat speed. The stronger the athlete, the faster the athlete will be. As a four year starter for the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, strength and speed
training was crucial to my success as a collegiate softball player. I had never focused on strength or speed trained for softball until my junior year of high school. Even as a three sport athlete with limited time, I participated in the strength training program throughout the summer for volleyball. Little did I know that this program was going to kick start my future in softball. I got stronger and gained more confidence as an athlete. After a successful volleyball season, I moved onto softball season. My first at bat in my first game, I hit my first home run of my softball career! I was not done though, and hit another home run in my second at bat!
It was all about that off-season strength work building power through my hips and core that I did not even know I had. Motivated more than ever, I continued to strength train and found myself with a scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. I graduated from UNCP in May of 2015 setting a new school record of 892 putouts in a single season.
I owe much of my success to the work behind the scenes: strength and speed training. Originally from the Charlotte area, Tianna Batts started training at Champions Sports Performance prior to her 8th grade year. Tianna attended Parisi Speed School classes 5 times a week for four months, then seasonally for the following 2 years.
In those first four months, she took .3 of her 20 yard dash and put 4 inches on her vertical
jump. She was very close to having “D1” speed as she entered the 8th grade because of her hard work. With softball as her main focus, she set the goal to play in college. Through training, her speed and strength continued to improve significantly. Tianna and her family decided to move one hour and fifteen minutes away to Taylorsville, NC so Tianna could play for one of the best high school softball programs in the country, Alexander Central.
As a freshman, Tianna started in center field. “I think Champions had a big impact in me starting at Alexander Central,” Tianna says. She was very fast coming into her high school
career, and this earned her a starting spot, the first Freshman ever to start at AC. Batts excelled in performance training with the team and conditioning tests due to her experience at Champions Sports Performance.
Tianna was 25 for 25 in stolen bases her freshman year and then 49 for 49 for stolen bases her sophomore year. Batts came in 2nd in the most stolen bases in school history. While at Alexander Central, Tianna played on the 2x NC 4A State Champion team. She was a 3x All-American and has now signed with the University of Tennessee. For more information on how Champions can help softball players of all ages reach their potential through softball speed and performance training, contact me directly at email@example.com and at 704-439-1111. We will be running more Softball Academy sessions this winter so start planning to change your game…stay tuned!