While pitchers have a specific role to play, they’re also part of the team as a whole and may well be called on to fill other positions on the field. This is particularly true when you have multiple pitchers, since only one player can pitch at a time, but you need skilled arms and hands at all positions during the game. The bucket relay drill is designed to build teamwork, but also to teach throwing skills that will be valuable to pitchers on and off the mound. It will also help develop the throwing skills of your other players.
What Skills Does It Teach?
As the name implies, this drill focuses on relay throwing. It teaches catching and throwing skills, but also works on hand-eye coordination and on building your players’ ability to work as a team. It also teaches skills like pivoting and throwing immediately.
Setting Up the Drill
To set up the drill, you’ll need the whole team, as well as two buckets filled with softballs, and another six empty buckets. Divide your team into two – you’ll want a group of players and a “coach”. Each player should have her glove as well. One group should be stationed at right center, and the other group at left center. You won’t need a catcher at home plate. Each team has a bucket of softballs. The remaining buckets are setup as a pyramid on home plate (invert the buckets and stack then on top of one another).
Here’s how you need to set everything up:
Position one coach and one player as an infielder in each section. Next, position the rest of the players per section as outfielders. The coach will throw the ball high over the outfielders toward the outfield fence. The ball should hit the fence and roll back. The outfielder turns, runs and scoops the ball up, then throws it toward the infielder. The infielder should catch the ball, pivot and throw it immediately toward home plate and the pyramid of inverted buckets. The goal is to hit the buckets and knock them over.
Once the infielder throws, she goes to the back of the line in the outfield, and the outfielder who threw the ball becomes the new infielder. Repeat this process until everyone has had a turn. Many coaches find it beneficial to give every player two to three turns as both infielder and outfielder.
Tips and Tricks
While this drill focuses on teaching relay throwing, it also teaches pivoting, the ability to quickly locate the ball in the outfield, agility and even accuracy in throwing. Score the players based on the number of buckets knocked over with each throw. The one with the highest number of buckets at the end wins.
You can also change things up by varying how your outfielders deliver the ball to the infield. On one throw, they should catch it in the air. On the next throw, they might have to snatch it cleanly from the ground. Mix things up to match the chaos that can ensue in a real game, and your players will be much better prepared to handle the real thing.
Pay close attention to each player’s throws toward the plate. The results of their efforts will tell you several things. Obviously, you’ll be able to tell who needs to work on her accuracy or power more (those with lower scores need to improve accuracy, but those who struggle to reach the plate need to work on power as well). You can also determine who needs more work on things like pivoting and immediate throwing as well.