Whether you’re playing fast pitch, slow-pitch, orthodox, or modified softball, you’re going to need the same basic softball skills, including throwing, pitching, catching, and hitting. Although softball is a team sport, you can hone your skills on your own if you have the right practice tools. Pitchers can spend hours learning to master the fast pitch, change-up, curveball, and tricky drop pitch, and fielders and batters will develop throwing muscles, hand-eye coordination, and reflexes. Avoid injuries by ramping up in the off season, so players are ready to hit the ground running when softball season starts.
The best way to practice with weighted balls has been debated, but most research has shown that when used properly, weighted balls can improve pitch velocity, help players increase throwing speed, and strengthen the arm muscles needed for every aspect of the game. You can find weighted ball training programs online; just make sure you choose a program that incorporates the softball drills and skills you’re looking to enhance. When you’re ready to purchase weighted softballs, there are a few factors to take into account.
Weighted balls come in a range of weights. You may want to purchase balls in several different weights so you can slowly progress through a training program. Weighted balls should feel just like baseballs and softballs, but they’re heavier. Because weighted softballs don’t travel very far, this is the best softball training tool for advanced players who don’t have room for softball nets or rebounders.
While pitching and throwing are the most common skills practiced with a weighted ball, this softball training aid can improve your batting game exponentially. The best weighted balls replicate and exaggerate the feel of a regulation ball. Batters can increase bat velocity and receive feedback as they learn to connect and drive the bat through the ball. A weighted baseball will accentuate and amplify the way you bat, so you instantaneously know how you’re connecting. Whether you want to improve your pitching and throwing or master batting technique, weighted balls are a truly versatile tool for improving all aspects of the mature player’s game.
Softball, baseball, and multi-sport nets come in every size, quality, and price point. What should you look for when you want to buy a softball net?
High Quality Materials
Netting should be made of several layers of materials. Each layer is called a ‘ply,’ and the higher the ply, the thicker and more durable the net will be. Some nets are knotless; knotless nets are stronger and, if made of a high quality material like nylon, will last you much longer than a less expensive knotted net. One pro of the knotted net? Although they tend to break more frequently, they are easier to fix – just retie the knot! Of course, each time this happens your net will lose structure and tensile strength, so we recommend a knotless net for serious players who want something that will last season after season.
A long-lasting softball or baseball net will be made of a durable frame. If you’ll be using your net outdoors, frames should be rustproof and weatherproof. Bow frames are typically used for baseball nets. This structure lends flexibility to the poles supporting the netting, decreasing the impact stress on the net so it lasts longer. Before you purchase a net, download the manual or instruction guide so you can see how complex the components are. Although bending hooks and pins are prone to break, they can be replaced. A welded net is only as good as the welder, and are not as easy to fix.
The frame base is one of the most important components of the softball training net. Whether you’re practicing indoors or outdoors, a softball net is useless if it topples over every time you pitch a fastball. Frames should be thick and made from heavy materials like steel. This will give your softball net rigidity as well as heft so you can give it everything you’ve got, every single time.
In general, the bigger the better when it comes to softball nets. The bigger the net, the bigger the target – literally! Of course, you may be limited by the amount of space you have to work with. Nets should be at least 5’ x 5’, but you can’t go wrong with something bigger. The more square footage you have to bat, pitch, or throw into, the less likely you are to break a window.
Ease of Use
Many softball players and coaches want a portable softball net that’s light enough to transport and easy to take down and put up. Do you need to bring a hammer or screwdriver set along every time you want to practice with your softball net? Does it include a carrying bag? How long does it take to set up or take down? Softball net reviews and the specification sheets for the nets can give you a clue as to how user-friendly the net is.
If you don’t want to lug a bucket of softballs around, a sock net is the best choice for you. This type of net has a ‘sock’ that collects the balls as you pitch, throw, or bat. When you’re ready for another round, simply gather your softballs from the sock and start over again. No more chasing softballs around your yard or field!
A target or strike zone can help a player determine exactly where the softball is landing in the net. Consider purchasing a softball net that includes a strike zone target so you can improve accuracy and aim. If the softball net you’re looking for doesn’t include a target, see if you can purchase one separately and attach it. This inexpensive addition to your training tool set will have exponential returns on your game.
Softball rebounders have many of the same qualities of softball nets. You’re looking for high-quality materials, a thick net that can take hundreds of fastballs without breaking, and a sturdy base that won’t topple over at your first frozen rope. Rebounder nets, also known as pitch backs, are incredibly versatile. Players can practice specific skills like catching and pitching, and also develop reflexes and improve agility.
A high-quality softball rebounder should be durable and made of strong materials. Frames that bend and bow will take the sting out of your line drive. If your rebounder is going to stay in one place and you won’t be taking it up and down, look for a frame that’s put together with heavy duty carriage bolts. Want to practice inside? Use this rebounder; it’s one of the only pitch backs that include silicone pads on the base, so you can set it up in a gym or in your basement without scratching up the floor.
Stationary rebounders are great multi-season and multi-sport tools. These pitch backs can be altered slightly to simulate up to eight angles. They often allow players to try out two different angles of attack at once without adjusting the net. Beginner players who want to focus on their softball form and other basic skills will find these nets easy to use.
An adjustable pitch back is more nuanced. The angle can be adjusted to mimic line drives and pop-flies, so it’s a more realistic imitation of what you might see in an actual softball game. Switch from one pitching angle to another so you can practice and master every type of softball pitch. Some adjustable rebounders are specifically designed to perfect your softball pitch (see how it works!). The angled edges provide instant feedback; any ball that doesn’t land directly in the center will be sent flying. Whether you choose a stationary or an adjustable rebounder, consistent practice with this tools allows you to develop your hand-eye coordination and commit your form to muscle memory.
Rebounders don’t come with socks, so a softball rebounder with a ball return feature will make your life easier. An automatic pitch back ball return allows you to easily retrieve your balls, so you can spend your time improving your hand-eye coordination, honing reflexes, improving reaction speed, and strengthening muscles – not chasing softballs around your yard.
Softball barricades protect property and bystanders from any rogue balls. A flimsy barricade or a barricade net with a hole in it isn’t worth much if it doesn’t do the job it’s made for. Unlike a rebounder or softball net, the barricade isn’t going to be taking the repeated stress of continual hits – at least, it shouldn’t be! You don’t need the thick, dense netting necessary for a softball net or rebounder, but you do want a heavy, solid base and a sturdy frame made from durable, weatherproof materials like steel. If you’re planning on using the barricade to split up indoor courts or protect fans inside a gymnasium, find a barricade with rubber feet so your playing surface isn’t damaged.
The most important factor when choosing a softball barricade is size. If your barricade isn’t large enough to catch stray balls, what’s the point in setting it up? The more square footage you can cover, the better, although the barricade needs to fit within your given space. Barricade backstop netting isn’t just for softball; it’s useful for any sport involving projectiles, from golf to Ultimate Frisbee! Coaches, gymnasiums, and multi-sport trainers will find that purchasing a well-made barricade net will save them money in the long run. After all, no one wants to pay for a broken window.
How to Choose the Best Softball Training Tools
There are dozens of options for weighted softballs, softball nets, rebounders, and sports barricades. Because you may not be able to see these items in person before you purchase, the spec sheet and online reviews are your best sources of information on the product. Look through softball net reviews to make sure that no one is consistently mentioning any specific issues, like poor construction or the tendency to fall over. A little research can save you money and headaches when you get your softball rebounder, weighted softballs, or barricade set up!