Sliding in Softball: The Hook Slide
Plain and simple, softball players should never directly run into a tag! This rule also applies to sliding. On a close play, most defensive players will anticipate that you are going to slide into the bag, so that’s where they’ll be planning to make the tag. In these situations, it’s best to use a hook slide, which will let you almost completely avoid the bag and still be safe. This softball guide will teach you the hook slide, so you can avoid tags anywhere on the diamond.
Getting the Feel for It
Very basically, a hook slide is a slide to the right (outside) of the bag. The slide is started later than a basic slide, because the intent is to slide past the base, then grab onto it with your left hand. Also, you don’t need to worry about getting your legs into that perfect figure-four position. So long as you can bend your left knee and slide on that leg, you’re good to go.
Even if the hook slide sounds simple, try a quick drill to get the feel for it:
- On the dirt or grass, sit down with your legs extended in front of you.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands behind you.
- Take a small step forward with your right foot and push off the ground with your hands. Try to push your weight forward and start leaning to the left. Your left knee should be bent just enough to allow your body to roll onto your left side.
- As your legs hit the dirt, allow your left arm to extend behind you. Most (or all) of your weight should be on the left side of your body. This is how your body should be positioned during your slide.
If you are comfortable with the leg positioning, try doing this drill next to a base so you can get the feel for where you’ll be sliding, and how to hook onto it with your hand:
- With the base to your immediate left, go through the drill once more.
- As you pass the bag, “hook” (grab) onto it with your left hand.You should end up an arm’s length past the bag with your left hand extended and either on top of the bag (if it’s flat) or hooked onto it.
Hit the Dirt
After you’ve gotten the feel for the hook slide, go ahead and try it at full speed:
- Start sprinting towards any base.
- Start your slide one or two strides later than you would for a basic or pop-up slide. Make sure to really focus on shifting your weight to your left side. This will help you hook around the bag.
- Do not slide directly into the base. Start sliding towards the right side (outside) of it.
- Starting your slide later, your momentum will ideally take you past the base. As pass it, hook onto it with your left hand. You can use two hands if you prefer, but this will likely roll you entirely onto your stomach.
Hot Tip: Home Plate Hook
If you need to hook slide past home plate, you won’t be able to grab onto anything. Instead, drag your left hand across the top of the plate.
After you are done sliding, many defensive players will try to hold the tag on you for the slight chance that you let go of the bag as you get up. Because of this, try to get into the habit of calling a time-out before starting to get up.
If you need to avoid a tag when sliding, always try to hook around it! By habit, most players will naturally sweep a tag in front of the base, not to the outside of it. With a hook slide, they’ll never see it coming! Just remember not to start your slide too late — there’s nothing worse than needing to scramble back to the bag on your hands and knees!