In fastpitch softball there are two types of starts off of the bag. These two starts are known as the track start and the rocker start. When a player is getting ready to lead-off they will either execute the track or rocker start to advance them to the next base. The question remains: Which method is better? As much as we wish there were a definite answer, there isn’t one. There have been multiple studies that advocate for either the track or rocker start. Both of these lead-off methods can produce explosive and powerful results, depending on the player.
The track start is simple. As you have probably already figured out, it is similar to a sprint start used in track. To execute the track start, you will have your dominate foot back on the edge of the bag and your other foot forward. When the ball is released from the pitcher’s hand, you simply use your dominate foot to push off of the edge of the bag and blaze forward. When in the track start position, make sure your body stays low and your head stays downward. As you gain momentum while running, your body should naturally bring itself upright as you gain speed.
The rocker start differs from the track start in a few ways. For one, your left foot should always be forward in the rocker start— no matter what your dominant foot is. Another difference is that your left foot, which you will push off of, is going to be on the corner of the bag instead of the edge of the bag. The rocker start will also require players to carry out a “rocking” motion with their bodies before parting from the base in order to create an explosive start.
To execute the rocker start your left foot will be on the upper right corner of the bag when you are facing the next base. As the pitcher rocks back into her pitching motion, the base runner should be rocking back as well and will rock forward when the pitcher does. When the pitcher rocks forward to release the ball, that is when your right foot will then come forward with the rest of your body. Unlike the track start, you do not lead with the foot that is touching the bag.
Things To Consider:
With the track start you will typically come off of the bag faster, however, with the rocker start you will gain lots of momentum with the rocking motion. It is argued that the momentum you gain with the rocker start will advance you to the next base equally has fast, if not faster than the track start. One disadvantage of the rocker start, however, is that when you carry your right foot forward, many inattentive umpires might mistake that as a false start even though your left foot is still on the corner of the bag. With this in mind, you have to be especially careful with your timing and your rocking motion.
Which Do I Choose?
Players should always choose which start suits them best. A great way to tell which one works best for you is to have a parent or coach time you. A simple stopwatch or cell phone timer will suffice. After executing both the track start and the running start at least a half dozen times each, compare the results. Use whichever lead-off method advances you to the next base the least amount of time, consistently.
Want to see the track start and rocker start in action? Check it out: