Proper backhand technique is crucial when attacking balls that fall outside of that 90% range that we’ve discussed in many of our earlier drills. In this drill, we isolate the hands by getting the fielder on his knees. His legs should be just wider than shoulder width, simulating a proper base.
The key is to make sure your fielder uses their waist as a hinge, keeping his back completely straight—younger players tend to curve their spines, which is less efficient: when a fielder bends at the waist, that fielder is using his legs rather than his back, which is what we want.
To perform this drill, a coach or another player stands roughly 10 ft away, and throws short hop groundballs to the receiving player. As the ball comes in, the fielder accepts the ball with his fingertips. We like to call this receiving a ball with soft or relaxed hands.
We also instruct our fielders to get on plane with the ball, that is, to track the ball as it’s coming towards his hands, rather than to stab at the ball, which dramatically increases the chance of his missing the ball altogether, or of that ball bouncing off his glove. A fielder that gets on plane can then track the ball into the glove using his elbow as a hinge, then pull the ball back and into his throwing slot, finishing with the transfer.