Sliding is a fundamental base running skill in softball. Sliding can help you avoid outs and score runs. If you are teaching a softball player how to slide they are likely at a young age still devolving the basic skills for softball. The first thing you should do is address the primary fear of most young players, strawberry patches. They go by many names depending on your upbringing but essentially they are the scraps that a player receives when they slide on the abrasive dirt. Young softball players often like to go out and slide in the rain for fun, and can be helpful in building their confidence. Take the player to a grassy area after a rain storm to ensure the grass is slippery. At a young age you should always teach players to slide feet first rather than head first to avoid injury. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
First thing you need to teach is the proper way a player tucks her leg. You can do this by teaching the player to stand on one leg and bring the other leg behind the former's thigh. Have the player practice with both legs since the tuck leg will depend on the play (if the throw is to the back of the back they will slide with the left tucked and vice versa). I tend to slide on my off leg but the skill should be strong on both legs.
Once they have the idea you can now have the player sit on the ground in the same fashion. This is where you want to teach the player to raise their arms above their head. The reason for this is to ensure they do not jam their fingers or sprain their wrists. My dad always taught me a softball player is no good without their hands.
Now the fun part begins, the actual slide itself. Sliding comes very naturally to most children, especially athletic ones so it should not be too much of a problem to explain how to slide. When I first learned my coach told me to jump into the slide. My dad later taught me that you do not what to jump but rather dive into the bag. Have the player start slow so they get used to the forces that will act on their body, especially their ankles. Once the player understands the slide then you can start to work on sliding to different parts of the bag and avoiding tags.
Part of avoiding the tag is the player understanding the physics of the ball when it leaves an opponent's hand and being able to read the player who is catching the ball. That topic could be covered in a whole different article. The best way for the player to learn is to practice. The player will want to read the throw and the player covering the bag to predict where the ball will be. Have the player try to slide to the inside and outside of the bag on both legs.
Always remember to teach the player to grab the bag with their hand if they can. This ensures they will not slide off and be tug out after they made it to base safely. Also teach your players to always call time as soon they are called safe so they can get up and dust themselves off for the next play.