How to Catch a Softball

Did you know that the most common cause of errors in softball is throwing? However, what can perpetuate throwing errors is the inability to catch the ball. Softball revolves around throwing and catching — a throw cannot be completed unless it can be caught. So if you’re new to the sport, this guide is for you! Read on and learn the most basic principles of catching, and from here, you’ll be ready to advance your level of play.

Body Squared & Balanced

The first thing you need to focus on is how your body is positioned in relation to the ball. You are the target. As such, it is important for new softball players to square their entire bodies to the thrower. That means your hips, toes, and shoulders should all be lined up with the player throwing the ball.

The next area you need to focus on is your lower body. Your feet need to be squared to the ball, but your knees should be bent in an athletic position. Having dexterity in your stance will give you more leeway to react if the ball is thrown off-target.

Hands Out & Open

After your body is positioned correctly, the next focus is on your hands. You have to remember that you are the target, so you want your glove to look as big as possible:

  • Start with both arms extended forward.
  • Then, bend and bring your elbows into your sides, so that your arms form roughly 90-degree angles.
  • To get the right position of your hands, imagine that you are pushing your hands against a wall — this is the position they should assume when you’re preparing to catch a ball (fingers up). Your hands should be in the middle of your chest at about chest-height.
  • The fingers of your glove should be behind the ball so that your pocket is entirely open.
  • Your throwing hand needs to be poised next to your glove. The reason for this is that you want to catch every ball with two hands. If you take one thing from this guide, it is to always catch the ball with two hands.

Hot Tip: Hands Should Form a “W”

 To get a better understanding of how your hands need to be positioned to catch the ball, take your glove off. Now, position both of your hands as if you were going to catch the ball. Bring your hands together so they are only about two or three inches apart. Take a closer look at them, what letter do they form? You’re right! It’s a “W.” This position is perfect for learning how to catch. Now, put your glove back on and you’re ready to get started!

Two Hands & Cover

As the ball is approaching, watch the spin and keep your eyes on it. You may have to re-position your body to get behind the ball, so be ready to move. If your catch completes the play, just make sure to secure it with two hands and you’re all done!

However, if you need to continue the play by throwing to a new target, follow these steps:

  1. As the ball is coming in, catch it as you cover it with your throwing hand. Immediately start bringing your glove back to your throwing-side shoulder once the ball hits your pocket.
  2. When the glove gets to your shoulder, take a small step with your throwing-side foot towards your new target. Your foot needs to land perpendicular to your target (your instep facing her).
    • As you take this small step, you should be taking the ball out of your glove and raising your arm for the throw (make sure your palm is facing away!).
    • Take a step forward with your glove-side foot, point your shoulder towards the target, and release!

If you want more in-depth instruction for the footwork, read iSport’s guide devoted solely to that, Proper Footwork for Throwing [linked guide]. To learn the mechanics of a throw, check out How to Throw a Softball.

Like a Clock

New players often hold their gloves the same way for any throw. This is a bad habit to develop.

To figure out how you should catch it, think of your movements as the face of a clock:

  • 12 o’clock Extend your arm straight up. Your fingers should be behind the ball with your glove above your head.
  • 3 o’clock: Swing your arm towards the right and stop when it’s parallel to the ground. Your thumb will be below the ball.
  • 6 o’clock: Swing your arm down until it’s completely vertical. Roll your wrist over (to the left) so that your fingers are below the ball.
  • 9 o’clock: Swing your arm up towards the left and stop when it’s parallel to the ground. Your thumb will be above the ball.

Unless the throw is right in the middle of your chest, follow these tips when catching an off-target throw. Practice a few rounds and get comfortable with the natural movement of your arm and wrist. However, if you are always moving your feet to get behind the ball, you should catch everything in the middle of your chest anyway!

Go On, Catch It!

The greatest challenge in softball can be learning how to catch. Eventually, you’ll be more comfortable and your feet will begin to move automatically through muscle memory. Soon enough, you’ll be moving your feet as you throw! But don’t get carried away and work yourself beyond your abilities just yet. It takes practice to learn, so take it one catch at a time!

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