The Figure-4 or Bent-Leg Slide
The Figure-4 or Bent-Leg Slide

Baseball/Softball: Teaching the Bent-Leg Slide

Dick Moss, Editor, Physical Education

The easiest and safest sliding technique is the "Bent-Leg" Or "Figure-Four" slide. It involves sliding to the base feet-first with arms up and one leg bent inwards beneath the other.

The first step in teaching this technique is to determine which leg should be tucked beneath the other. This bent leg is also the take-off leg - the last leg to touch the ground before going into the slide position.

Which Leg Should Be Tucked?
It doesn't matter which leg is bent under. However, most players will favor one or the other, so work on this leg first. Here's a drill to determine which leg that is.

Have your athletes and assume a "crab-walk" position. Instruct them to fall backward while tucking one leg under the other. They will tuck the leg that feels most natural for them, and this is the leg they should use when first learning the Figure-Four slide.

Falling Back from the Crabwalk Position
Falling Back from the Crabwalk Position

Teaching Progression
You can use the crab-walk position to teach the Figure-4 slide.Repeat the above drill, in which your athletes fall backwards from the crab-walk position, and incorporate the following techniques:

  1. The top leg will make first contact with the base. As a result, its position should be extended forward with the toes pointed up and bent slightly at the knee to cushion the impact. A teaching cue for leg position is that the legs will form a perfect "4" when the lower leg is bent under (hence the name Figure-4 slide).
  2. The hands should be thrown back over the head instead of dropping to the ground to support the upper body. If the hands contact with the ground, they'll slow the momentum of the slide.
  3. The head should be kept up so your players can see the base.

Variations of the Bent-Leg Slide

The Pop-Up Slide
The Pop-Up Slide
The bent leg slide can also be used to initiate two other sliding techniques:

  1. Pop-Up Slide
    The first variation is the "Pop-up Slide," in which the lead foot hits the base and momentum is used to carry the player back into an upright position. This allows the athlete to quickly get into position for a sprint to the next base on bad throws and broken plays.
  2. Hook Slide to the Weak Side or Backdoor Slide
    The other variation is a hook slide to the weak side - also called the Backdoor Slide. A hook slide is a technique in which the baserunner slides to the side of the base instead of straight towards it. This puts greater distance between the baserunner and the fielder, allowing the baserunner to avoid the tag.

    The traditional hook slide involves bending the bag-side leg in a hurdle-stretch position and tagging the bag with the toe as the runner slides past the base.

    Standard Hook Slide (L) Versus Backdoor Slide (Right)
    Standard Hook Slide (L) Versus Backdoor Slide (Right)
    However, just as players are right or left-legged in the bent-leg slide, they also have a good and bad leg in the hook slide. Most players have a difficult time hook- sliding to their weak side, often getting their footwork mixed up or slowing down as they try to remember which leg goes where.

    This is where the bent-leg slide can be used. The runner slides to the side of the bag using the bent-leg technique and touches the bag with an extended hand instead of the foot.

Teaching Tips

  • When teaching sliding techniques, it's best not to use cleated shoes that may become caught in the turf and cause injuries. Instead, used flat-soled shoes.
  • You can also lay sheets of cardboard on the ground that your players can slide upon. The cardboard is more slippery than the ground and will simulate the feeling of an actual slide without the same risk of injury. They can also be used for indoor sliding practice - for example, by placing it on top of firm wrestling mats.
  • If you want to have a really fun sliding practice, lay a sheet of plastic on the grass and wet it with a water hose. This improvised waterslide will allow your players to slide a long distance. It won't be a simulation of actual game-conditions (unless you play and monsoons), but it can be a good way to have some fun and break up the regular routine.

References: 1. Jerry Kendall, Sports Illustrated Baseball, New York: Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., 1983
2. Sliding Into Bases, Baseball, 2008.
3. Sliding Fundamentals, Coaching Association of Canada.

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