How Does The Lookback Rule Work in Softball?

The lookback rule is one of the rules that you need to know if you play softball. It may sound confusing when you read it in the official softball rulebook, but it is actually simple. Let me explain.

The lookback rule can be different depending on the type of softball that you are playing. Usually, if the pitcher gets the ball back, a runner who is between two bases can stop and choose whether they want to go back to the first base or go ahead to the next one. Basically, the runner is looking back to see what they should do next.

How Does The Lookback Rule Work in Softball?
How Does The Lookback Rule Work in Softball?

Let's dive deeper into this. This is because there is a small difference in the NCAA softball rules.



How Does The Lookback Rule Work in Softball?

Some people think that the lookback rule is a rule that stops runners from looking back when they are running. It is not. Runners can definitely look back while they are running. They just have to be careful when they do that.

As I said, the rules can change a little bit depending on the kind of softball that you are playing. However, the only one that changes a lot is NCAA. So, I will explain that separately. For all the other kinds of softball, these are the rules.

When the pitcher has the ball, any runner who is between two bases can stop one time. Then they can choose whether they want to keep running forward and get to the next base or whether they want to turn around and go back to the base that they just left. They cannot change their mind after they stop. If they do that, then they are breaking the lookback rule, and the umpire will not like that!

In the NCAA softball rules, the basic rules for the lookback are almost the same. If the runner stops when the pitcher has the ball, they have to turn around and go back to the previous base. If they keep running forward, then they have to get to the next base.

But, they can change their mind if the ball goes out of the pitcher's circle or if the pitcher drops the ball by mistake. This is different from the other kinds of softball because runners cannot change their mind once they make a decision.




What Happens When The Lookback Rule Is Broken?

When a runner breaks the lookback rule, that runner is out of the game right away.

The problem is when more than one runner breaks the rules, which happens sometimes. The rules say that more than one player cannot be out on one play. So, the umpire of the game has to decide what to do. Their job is to find out which player on the field broke the lookback rule first. It is that player who is out of the game. All the other players can stay in the game.

Even though only one runner will be out of the game, the play is not valid, and all runners have to go back to the base that they started from.



What Is The Purpose Of The Lookback Rule?

The lookback rule was created to stop players from being unsure. Before the lookback rule was created, you would see players going back and forth between the bases, trying to decide whether they should keep running or not.

This would have been frustrating for the other players on the field because they wouldn't know who to try to get out of the game since the runners could change their mind at any time.

As we said at the beginning, the lookback rule doesn't stop looking back, even though some people may think that. As long as the player is not stopping (except for NCAA rules), they can look back as much as they want. It is only when they stop that they have to make the final choice about how they want to go.




How Can You Practice To Make Sure You Don't Break The Lookback Rule?

First of all, don't stress too much if you break the lookback rule sometimes. It is a rule that the experts break from time to time. Sometimes they do it on purpose, but in most cases, it is easy to accidentally break the rule if the umpire thinks something is a stop, even though you didn't think that it was.

Maybe the only way to learn how to not break the lookback rule is to work on your awareness of the situation and your skills of making choices. Remember, the rule only happens when the pitcher has the ball. This means that you need to be always aware of where the ball is. When the pitcher has the ball in their hands, you have to think about whether you are stopping or moving on.

You also need to learn to be aware of your own skills and running speeds. For most runners, there will be a specific point between two bases where they know that they can get to the next base, even if the pitcher makes a good play. So, try to find out where that point is. It is something that will change from player to player, and you will need to learn how your own skills work here.




When you are a runner in softball, it is important that you learn how important rules such as the lookback rule work. If you don't, then you may find that you end up 'out' every time you try to run between bases.

Thankfully, the lookback rule isn't too hard to understand. If you stop between two bases, you have to make a choice. You either keep running or go back to the previous base. Whatever choice you make, it is one that you have to stick to.

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