When it’s the bottom of the ninth and you’re down by three runs, a well-executed slide into home plate could mean the difference between winning and losing. The keys to a game-winning slide are to drop down to your butt, fold one leg underneath you, and keep your core tight and your hands up in the air for stability. With a basic understanding of the basic mechanics of the maneuver and a little bit of practice, you’ll have a slide that both you and the umpire can agree is “safe”!
EditApproaching the Plate
- Perform a slide when you’re in danger of being tagged out. Before you launch yourself into a wild slide, make a split-second assessment to determine whether it’s necessary to go to the ground. If the outfielder hasn’t yet returned the ball, you can simply keep running. If they’re poised to catch the ball as you’re arriving at the plate, sliding may be your safest play in order to make a narrow save.
- Sliding allows players to make it to the safety of the plate while avoiding a tag out. However, it can also be used to avoid speeding past the plate by accident or prevent contact with another player on base.
- Keep in mind that sliding has the potential to be dangerous, as other players will often be running over and around the base. If you mistime the maneuver, you could get trampled.
- Build up your momentum. Once you’ve made the call to slide, pick up your speed as you near the plate. Keep your steps smooth and steady, with your body leaning forward slightly. Unless you’re moving at a decent speed, you won’t go anywhere when you hit the ground.
- As you sit, your momentum will be transferred into the slide, carrying you to the plate swiftly and without wasted movement.
- Start your slide from the plate. Depending on how fast you’re traveling, a slide may only carry you about the length of your own body. If you go into the slide too soon, you may come up short of the base. Waiting too long, on the other hand, could cause you to overshoot the base or lose control, resulting in a collision and possible injury.
- The key to a successful slide is getting low right away and staying just out of tagging range.
- Make a note of the distance you achieve when you begin practicing your slide so you’ll be able to find the best starting position for you.
EditExecuting the Slide
- Drop down to your butt quickly. You’ve now reached top speed and you’re coming up on the base quickly—it’s time to initiate the slide. Without slowing down, push off with your rear foot and lower your weight straight down onto your backside. There’s more cushioning there, making it the safest and least painful way to catch yourself.
- While many players mistakenly believe that slides should be performed on one side, doing this can lead to knee, hip, or shoulder injuries.
- If you’re unsure what part of your anatomy is touching down first, check the stains on your pants. If they’re on the side and not the rear, it means you need to work on centering your body.
- Tuck one leg underneath you. Keep one leg pointed straight out in front of you in the direction of the plate as you sink. Pick up the other leg and bend it out to the side until your foot rests behind the knee of your straight leg. Your legs should form a figure-4 shape when viewed from above.
- The foot of your outstretched leg should be slightly off the ground, with your toes pointed towards the sky. A little clearance will prevent your cleat from catching as you slide.
- You can bend whichever leg is most comfortable for you. Try both ways and see which feels better.
- Don’t fold your knee straight back underneath your body. This will place a dangerous amount of strain on the joint.
- Keep your core tight. The moment you feel your butt touch the ground, squeeze your stomach muscles hard to keep your torso upright. You want your head high and your eyes on the plate throughout the entire slide.
- It may help to imagine that you’re doing a sit-up—in both movements, the goal is to keep your back and shoulders off the ground.
- A relaxed core takes away stability in the slide, which could kill your momentum or even cause you to hit your head.
- Raise your hands above your head as you complete the slide. Countless jammed fingers and sprained wrists have occurred because players tried to use their hands to steady themselves. The higher your hands are, the less tempted you’ll be to place them on the ground. Make sure they stay at least at eye level until you come to a stop.
- Keeping your arms up will also aid your balance, allowing you to make slight adjustments to your center of gravity.
- Fighting the urge to put your hands down while falling will be difficult at first. It may take quite a bit of practice before you’re able to do it instinctively.
EditGetting Your Slide Down
- Break your slide down into multiple phases. On your first few attempts, focus on one part of the slide at a time. First, walk (don’t run) up to a predetermined mark that indicates when to begin your slide. Then, stop, sit down, and assume the position that you’ll ultimately end up in. This way, you can learn the technique in bite-sized pieces.
- Give yourself mental cues for each step—run, drop to your butt, bend your leg, engage your core, lift your arms. With time, these small but important details will become second nature.
- Work your way up to a faster speed. Once you have a feel for each phase of the slide, pick up the pace. Go from a walk to an easy trot, then from a trot to a jog, then to a run, and finally to an all-out sprint. Make sure you perform the move the exact same way each and every time to avoid picking up bad habits.
- You may hurt yourself if you practice the slide at full speed without smaller progressions.
- Set up markers to help you get your distance down. Place an object on a flat, level stretch of ground. Lay a second object 3-5 feet behind it. Make an effort to sit down as you pass the first marker and stop when your outstretched leg reaches the second. Sticking to a preset distance will help improve the timing and precision of your slide.
- The objects you use can be cones, bats, your gear bag, or anything else as long as they’re plainly visible.
- Check the marks left behind on the field to see exactly where your slide started and ended.
- Practice safely. The baseball slide may look simple, but it takes hours of dedicated practice to pull off without putting you or other players at unnecessary risk. Be patient and force yourself to do too much too soon. You’ll likely discover that it becomes a little easier with each session.
- After you become confident in your high-speed sliding abilities, you can begin incorporating the maneuver into games.
- Along with your speed, the type of surface you’re playing on may affect the overall distance you get with your slide. On grass or turf, you’ll encounter less resistance, whereas packed dirt creates drag that may slow your momentum a bit.
- To cut down on bumps, bruises, and scrapes, be sure to wear pants that cover your entire leg.
- Hitting the dirt over and over again takes a lot of energy, so wait until the end of practice to run through your sliding drills.
- Use a well-timed slide to coast to safety on a run or steal a base while the opposing team’s defense is distracted.
- Sliding is a technique that should be in every baseball player’s repertoire, but it’s one that can lead to injury if not pulled off correctly.