Softball 101: How To Teach Your Child To Swing A Softball Bat

Follow these six steps for a successful lesson.

Every softball player starts somewhere. For most, it’s the backyard or the neighborhood park where they’ll first pick up a bat and glove, learning the basics as they hone their skills.

And those early moments, however small, are especially critical. This is when young players learn good habits, good form and a good stance — not to mention a healthy love of the game.

To teach your child the fundamentals of hitting a softball here is a step-by-step guide. Remember, for young players there’s no substitute for regular one-on-one practice. So it’s important to stay patient and focus on the fundamentals. Over time, your child’s swing will improve and their confidence will grow, helping to ensure they’ll enjoy playing for years to come.

STEP ONE: FIND THE RIGHT BAT

Keep in mind that smaller players need smaller bats. Begin with the lightest youth softball bat you can find that meets your local league guidelines, and work your way up from there. When in doubt, use the arm test: Have your child hold the bat with their arm extended outward, parallel to the ground. If the bat is an appropriate size, and weight they should be able to hold it for about 30 seconds without their arms drooping.

Always consult with your coach or local league official before purchasing a bat, since many leagues may already supply bats or place restrictions on the use of specific types of bats for game play. For example, composite bats may not be approved.

Tip: A bat’s “drop” is its length-to-weight ratio, denoted as a negative number. The lesser the number value, the lighter the bat. The lighter the bat, the easier it is to swing. Most youth bats range between -10 (heavier) and -13.5 (lighter).

STEP TWO: HELP THEM GET A GRIP

Ask right-handed batters to wrap their left hand around the bat handle below their right (opposite for left-handers). Their grip should be snug but not too tight, and the middle knuckles should align. Keep in mind that the littlest batters might benefit from “choking up,” holding the bat a little higher up on the handle away from the knob.

STEP THREE: IT’S ALL IN THE STANCE

Next, show your future slugger how their body should face the pitcher, perpendicular to the plate. It is helpful to have a practice home plate or an object representing the plate available. Their knees should be slightly bent, and their feet should be shoulder-width apart. Make sure their hips, knees and shoulders are square.

Instruct your player to keep their lead shoulder facing the pitcher, with the tip of the bat pointing upward to the sky (many players have a tendency to put the bat on their shoulder and point it behind them). Tell your kids to “hide their hands,” which is an easy way for them to remember that the bat should be held behind their head,not drooping downward toward their chest.

STEP FOUR: SWING IT THROUGH

Now, have your child stand in position and practice swinging all the way through, carrying the bat level and through a full twisting motion. Remember to focus on two things: developing a level swing and training your child to watch the ball through the plate.

The secret to a successful “whole” swing is in the hips. So try to get them in the habit of twisting their whole body, rather than just swinging the arms. As they take a small step toward the pitcher, their hips should begin to rotate, and their hands should follow their hips through the strike zone and extend out over the plate.

When your child is done swinging, their hips should be facing the pitcher and their back foot should pivot, not come off the ground.

STEP FIVE: SKIP THE SOFTBALL

Start out with a practice softball, whiffle ball or tennis ball. These lightweight balls are easy to hit and help instill confidence into your budding ballplayer. An alternative ball helps them master form, stance and a full swing — good habits they’ll need for practice and play. Over time, you can incorporate an actual softball into your backyard training.

STEP SIX: TEE OR NO TEE?

Again, early batting practices are a great time to learn about a proper batting stance and swing. So it makes sense to start practicing these techniques with a batting tee first, rather than hitting balls thrown by a pitcher.

Master these steps, and you and your child will be ready to start making memories on and off the field together.