Sliding is a vital skill for softball players. As the name suggests, it essentially involves running at full sprint and then deliberately falling to the ground in such a way as to slide along the direction of your sprint. The momentum of the sprint ensures that you slide along in that direction.
Softball players use a slide to get to bases faster as sliding is considerably quicker than sprinting. But as is obvious, a slide works only over a very small area, so players slide only when they are very close to the bases.
Sliding may look great when professional softball players do it but it actually involves quite a lot of practice. If you attempt to slide without proper practice, you may end up hurting your leg. So it is vitally important that you do it the right way. Here are some great tips to get you started in the right direction.
Dress the part
If you are going to slide, be dressed for the part. You will essentially be sliding along the ground, so you should preferably be wearing pants. If you don’t, you might end up injuring your legs. Better still, try to get your hands on sliding shorts which are specifically made to help you slide safely. If you dress right, this will help you be more confident about sliding.
Do a good sprint
Many new players tend to forget that a good sprint is as important for a slide as the slide itself. The sprint is what is going to bring the momentum to a slide. If you are not sprinting fast enough, your slide will be slow and you may not even reach the base with it. On the other hand, the quicker you sprint, the quicker will be your slide.
Time your slide right
A slide is typically meant to be the final move in your run towards the base. If you slide too quickly, your slide may end up short of the base. On the other hand, if you time your slide just right, this will help you cover the last few steps towards the base far more quickly. It is understandable that you may get the timing wrong the first time around. Practice is the key here. You may even evolve a formula of your own such as counting a certain number of steps towards the base and then starting your slides when you are at that distance from the base.
Get into the right posture
The slide essentially requires you to transition from a full-sprint motion to a sliding-on-the-ground motion. The transition is incredibly important part of this whole process. If you transition right, you will be able to pull off a great slide. If you don’t transition right, it may end up hurting your leg or your slide may not be as perfect as you want it to be. The basic posture when you are about to start the slide is to very slightly bend your legs. Then at the same time, shift your body weight towards the left side. Now it’s time to lower your body to the ground level.
Position your legs for the slide
You are essentially using your legs to pull off the slide. When you have lowered yourself on the ground, make sure that you bend your left knee at the same time. As a result, the left leg should slightly fold with the right leg extended right in front of you and leading the slide.
Manage your body weight
Your body weight also plays an important role in the slide. Your extended right leg should feel light-weight while most of your body weight should lean towards the left leg. Lean your upper body slightly backwards to keep your front leg light-weight and to propel the momentum of your body forward. Leaning backwards will also give you better control over the slide. As a result, you are able to stop the slide easily and quickly when you want. On the other hand, if you are leaning forward, it may slow down the slide. It might also disturb your slide posture.
Know when to touch the base
The whole point of a slide is to get you quicker to the base in difficult situations. You want to reach the base quick enough to avoid being tagged. The simplest way to touch the base is with your extended right foot with which you are leading the slide. So make sure your right foot is directly in line with the base so that it will automatically touch the base at the end of your slide.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to touch the base with your foot but instead with your hand, follow this method. Initiate your slide somewhat closer to the base. This will give you enough momentum to slide all the way past the base. As you are sliding past the base, use your left hand to drag it all the way across the home plate.
Practice is the key
There are a number of slides you can use in a softball game to get to the bases faster. You may try your hands at the more advanced slides, such as the one mentioned below, but first you must practice the basic slide. Once you have mastered the basic slide through extensive and rigorous practice, you are ready to move on to the other types of slides.
Try your hands at the Head-First Dive
It is important to note here that is a very advanced slide. So you must practice it after you have mastered the basic slides. The Head-First Dive, as the name suggests, involves diving towards the home plate from a distance so that you essentially slide to the base on your stomach. Typically, this distance is 8 to 10 feet. Make sure that you lower your body sufficiently before diving on to the ground. Keep your head high and your arms extended in front so that they are the first to touch the home plate.