Converting to Fastpitch Slapping
So, your team coach has suggested converting to fastpitch slapping. Or, you have observed a team member or a player on an opposing team having great success slapping.
In any case, you think converting to fastpitch slapping might be a productive change.
In this article, Building Rome Series offers a list of ten considerations, some “food for thought,” to help you make the best decision.
What is Fastpitch Slapping?
Click the link for a demonstration of the five techniques involved in left-side slapping.
Benefits of Converting to Fastpitch Slapping
A good slapper will typically hit around a .600 batting average in High School. This impressive feat is rarely possible with stand and hit hitters.
Even though slappers are not typically power-hitting sluggers, slappers are in high demand by travel ball teams and colleges. They are valued for their ability to get on base and then steal. For the smaller, quick athlete, if the desire is to “open the door” for a possible college scholarship, slapping may be the best route.
Just as relevant, slapping is fun. Especially for the strategically-minded player, identifying and taking advantage of the hole in the defense adds an extra element of excitement. For sure, opposing defenses are pressured and challenged when a good slapper comes to the plate.
10 Considerations To Think About Before Converting to Fastpitch Slapping
#1 Converting to Fastpitch Slapping is a Big Project!
Converting to fastpitch slapping involves much more than getting a running start from the left side of the batters box.
First, all right-handed hitters must traverse the initial period of awkwardness when switching to the left side.
If the hitter is a natural lefty, the learning curve is somewhat reduced. Yet, even for the lefty, converting to fastpitch slapping is a large undertaking. Complex skills must still be trained, and game confidence developed over time.
To add even more challenge, the slapper must also be a proficient hitter. The slapper must train their hitting skills just as any non-slapper. It is crucial to understand, the slapper who can’t hit the ball out of the infield can be easily defended.
In sum, the slapper has not one but two offensive abilities to achieve. They must be able to:
- Stand and hit with high average and some power.
- Consistently execute each of the four slapper skills (drag, soft slap, hard slap, and bouncers) as the situation dictates.
#2 Best Age to Convert to Fastpitch Slapping?
Age ten is the earliest age Building Rome Series recommends beginning slapper training. Starting before this age can damage fragile confidence and put at risk the youth player’s growing love of the sport.
Conversely, it may not make sense to convert to fastpitch slapping after the sophomore year of High School. In short, there is a lot of work with too little time to reap the rewards.
#3 Should a Pitcher Convert to Fastpitch Slapping?
Fastpitch softball pitching is a challenging and complicated skill. Pitching takes year-round practice, tremendous desire, and commitment to succeed.
Therefore, mixing pitching and slapping is not recommended.
The only exception might be for the athlete who lives and breathes the sport and has little or no other activities outside school. Even still, they will be busy!
#4 Already too busy?
Is the prospective slapper heavily involved in academics, music, theater, or other sports? If so, think about how time will be carved out for slapping lessons and extra practice.
Don’t rely on your team coach, or any coach for that matter, who does not have a comprehensive understanding of how to successfully teach slapping.
In the long run, slapping will be a frustrating experience without expert training. It is critical to find a good slapping coach.
The typical slapper will need about 50 to 75 lessons before they are ready to compete successfully at the High School Varsity level.
#6 Will Your Team Coach Be Patient?
Typically, during the first season, after converting to fastpitch slapping, offensive production may be down.
Yet, it remains imperative the slapper get game exposure to begin applying their new skills.
Will the player’s team coach be patient as expertise grows? Will the coach think of how much better the team will be once the slapper reaches their potential?
Or, will the coach reduce playing time after a few unsuccessful games slapping. This can be disastrous for confidence and love of the game.
Coaching is an important consideration before deciding to switch to slapping.
#7 Is the Slapper Prepared for the Initial Period of Awkwardness?
As we have said, natural lefties have a small advantage when learning to slap. The learning curve is a little less steep.
For right-handed hitters, left side swings will feel unnatural for awhile. The less dominant arm is now the rear arm, the stride is now with the right foot, and rotation occurs in the opposite direction. Bat speed will be slow, and barrel control inconsistent with lots of swings and misses. It feels like learning to swing all over again. It is important to set these expectations from the beginning.
Now for the good news! It is amazing how fast kids adapt. With consistent practice, the initial period of discomfort does not last long. Within the first year, most right to left converted players are hitting the ball as hard and often harder than they did from the right side.
#8 Power, Speed, and Athleticism?
First of all, if the hitter is already looking like they could be a powerful slugger, then stay the course and don’t switch. Good power hitters are also at a premium.
Secondly, speed is essential for a slapper since they must commonly beat out infield hits. The prospective slapper should be one of the top three fastest runners on their team. Hitters with blazing speed can definitely gain an edge by learning to slap.
Thirdly, if the young hitter is lower on the athletic scale, taking a little longer to learn new athletic skills than other kids, don’t make the switch to slapping. The complexity of slapping and the body control required will end up frustrating the athlete. Instead, a focus on strength conditioning, bat speed generation, and training swing paths to increase batting average (click for details about our new book series devoted to hitting) is a more promising path to softball success. This path will help ensure softball is a life experience the player will look back on fondly.
#9 Desire, Goals, or Frustration?
What is the hitter’s desire to learn to slap?
If the desire is in question, a good idea is to try a few slapping lessons and then decide to proceed further.
What are the athlete’s goals for softball? Are they old enough to be thinking about playing into college? Are they trying to get on an A level travel ball team?
Or, are they playing the game primarily for fun and camaraderie?
Don’t switch to slapping if the athlete isn’t serious about the sport.
Also, consider how the player takes to coaching? Are they willing to make a lot of adjustments to their movements? What is their frustration level when these adjustments and game success doesn’t come quickly or easily?
Converting to fastpitch slapping requires patience and persistence.
#10 Best Time of Year to Convert to Fastpitch Slapping?
The best time of year to start learning to slap is in the fall. If the player is playing fall ball, they can try out their developing abilities in the more relaxed environment of fall competition.
Then, the player has all winter to hone techniques and be prepared for the next spring season.