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Softball Pitching - Frequently Asked Questions

By Chuck Watters, Sr.

1) How many pitching coaches/instructors should a pitcher take lessons from?

One is ideal. However, a pitching coach should be able to teach it more than one way. Individual differences such as attitude, experiences and other sports played must be considered. Find out what the pitcher’s mind and body knows and go from there. Teach from where she is now, not where you want her. A demonstration or a video of the motion is worth a thousand words from a coach.

2) Is warming-up and practicing the same thing?

No. Warming-up is stretching, jogging and overhand throwing, etc. Practice pitching is: working on specific drills, throwing different pitches at different speeds, different spins and locations or using game situations.

3) How long should a pitcher warm-up before a practice or a game?

Softball PitchingIt depends on the pitcher. 10-20 minutes is average. Less, if it is hot. More if it is cold and keep warm between innings. Always wear a jacket after the warm-up, to keep the muscles loose and prevent injury to the pitching arm.

4) Is leg drive and “closing the door” the same thing?

No. Leg drive has to do with driving the body forward, by exploding (pushing) against the pitching rubber or the ground. The door “closes” when the throwing side knee comes forward and pitcher’s body un-turns (rotates) at the end.

5) What is the most common problem you see in pitchers throwing motions?

Lack of leg drive and Balance. This usually happens at the start (first move) and at the power position. The pitcher’s knees don’t bend (flex) enough at the start and when the pitcher’s stride-foot plants. Too many pitchers start trying to throw the ball, with their upper body, before the Stride-foot is planted.

6) Which part of the pitching motion comes first?

The Weight Transfer (Shift) is the Initial or first-move in the pitching motion. The pitcher’s body weight should move from the Glove-side to the Throwing-side and the Arm-Circle should start with the stride. This is the proper order for the timing sequence, for beginning pitchers. Advanced pitchers can start differently.

7) How and when should the pitcher push-off from the pitching rubber?

How? BEND the throwing-side KNEE and EXPLODE from the rubber, by pushing down, against the pitching rubber or the ground.

When? It depends on the pitching style: Instructions for right-handed Pitcher.

 Walking style; Left-foot strides, Right-foot turns to 3rd, Right-knee BENDS, Right Leg pushes Pitcher’s body Forward. Inside of Right-foot drags for BALANCE.

Extended Style: Right foot turns to 3rd, Right Knee BENDS, Left Foot Strides, Right Leg Pushes Pitcher’s body Forward. Inside of Right Foot drags for Balance.

Regardless of the style, each pitcher gets to the Power Position, then throws the ball.

8) Why is dragging the toes of the Pivot-foot after the pitch, important?

A couple of reasons come to mind.

  1. It allows the pitcher’s body to go towards the circle and not turn too soon.
  2. Dragging the Pivot Foot, inside of the Big Toe, helps the pitcher’s weight to transfer to the Stride Foot naturally and allows for Better Resistance.
  3. It’s extremely important for Balance, especially during a Change-up, to let the pitcher feel the Release-Point and not guess where it is.

9) How long should a pitcher’s stride be?

It depends on the pitcher’s body and pitching style.

 Walking style: The Stride length should be at least from the pitcher’s hip to the ground. It should automatically increase, as the pitcher gets comfortable with a stronger Leg-drive, that pushes her Stride-foot towards the circle.

Extended Style: As long as the pitcher can comfortably take and plant the Stride Foot with a slightly bent knee. If the Stride knee locks and the pitcher falls to the side or backwards….the stride is too long. The pitcher should be able to go Knee-to-knee, towards the circle, after reaching the power position.

10) Does the pitcher always step/stride directly towards the catcher’s glove or target?

No: There are times when the pitcher strides to the right or left, to get a better angle for a certain pitch. Beginners should step/stride on or near the imaginary Line-of-force from the mound to Home Plate, to keep the body and ball in-line with the target.

11) What should the pitcher’s glove do, if anything when she is pitching?

The question has several answers….depending on what the throwing shoulder and glove does….when the pitching motion starts. The glove can be used to Balance or Aim with. The best thing to do is the same thing it does when the pitcher throws overhand, or leave it alone. If moved forcefully…it makes the pitchers shoulders turn too quick, and her legs go straight (lock). Relax the glove-arm.

12) What causes the pitching arm to ache at the shoulder or elbow?

Too much STRESS on the shoulder and/or elbow. Bending the elbow, before snapping the wrist, is usually the cause of elbow pain. The pitcher will get elbow snap instead of Wrist Snap. Having the throwing -side elbow too far from the body or the shoulder up too high is usually the cause of shoulder problems. Both of these will cause too much STRESS in the joints. A more common reason is over-use. Even with an elastic arm, there can be some aching in the arm.

13) What can a pitcher do to get more power into her pitches?

a) RELAX the upper body.
b) BEND the throwing side knee and push the pitching rubber backwards to 2nd base.

Stronger leg drive cures lots of problems.

14) How does a pitcher know where the Release Point is or where to let go?

When the throwing side Hip and Shoulder are directly above the ball and the inside of the forearm Brushes the thigh. That’s the RELEASE POINT! It is time to release the ball. Release too soon and the goes low. Release too late and the ball goes high. If the pitching arm brushes the pitcher’s clothes. SPIN the ball out of the hand with the fingers….NOW!

Note: If the pitcher fears hitting her leg with the ball when she brushes, ask her to do this: Get the Throwing Side knee next to the Stride-Knee quickly. This will create enough space for the ball to get by and not hit the leg.

15) If a pitcher is having trouble making a Perfect-Circle, what can be done?

Try using the backswing (double-pump), instead of pushing both hands forward. Backswing: As both hands go down….LET the pitching hand Drop towards 2nd and LET the glove touch the throwing side Thigh or Knee. When the pitching hand swings with the pitcher’s body. Take a Step/Stride. Starting the Arm Circle at the same time. The pitcher must LET the arm Swing and not Force the arm to the back and then to the front. The arm muscles know how to make a Perfect Circle, if the pitcher will LET it happen.

16) How does a pitcher aim the ball at the target or glove?

There are several ways:

1) Follow the stride foot until the knees come back together and the chest (belly-button) is facing the target.

2) Plant, dragging the toes forward, pointing the throwing-side knee at the target, when the ball is RELEASED. The ball ALWAYS goes where the Thumb and the Palm of the Hand go (points) when the ball is released.

17) When does the pitcher need the fastest Arm-Speed?

When the Wrist of the Pitching Arm is: AT THE BACK OF THE THROWING SIDE KNEE. There are three basic speeds for the pitching arm.
1) Take-away from the glove speed. Up swing is relaxed and slow.
2) Down-Swing and Fore-Arm speed. Aggressive arm and Elbow Drop…Just.
3) Explosive Wrist Snap-speed. The pitching hand Whips at the Release-Point.

18) When should a pitcher’s shoulders rotate (turn) towards home plate?

The shoulders should rotate (un-turn), when the Throwing Side Hip comes to the Front and forces the Glove-Side Hip to the back (Knee-to-knee) Turning the shoulders, causes the hip drag, loss of speed and power and creates back problems.

19) When should the knee of the Stride-Foot be completely straight?

The glove-side knee should never be forced to lock. The pitcher needs to RESIST/BRACE against that leg and she can’t if the Knee is completely locked. If the knee is completely locked, the pitcher’s body will go up (vault) over the top or off to the side. The pitcher’s body should go up to Stride Knee, Brace and fall slightly back, to the fielding position (follow through). Let the knees flex, as much as possible. Bent (flexed) knees are the keys to Looseness and Looseness is the key to Balance and Explosive power from the pitcher’s lower body.

20) What is the Primary job of the pitching arm?

The primary job of the pitching arm is: Delivery and Direction (2 D’s). The arm delivers the ball in the direction that the palm is pointing. Ball speed is the primary job of the Wrist Snap, although arm speed is necessary.

21) Does the term “Arm-Speed” mean the pitching arm should always go fast?

No. Arm speed means: The proper speed, at the proper time. A fast take-away makes the pitcher hold the ball too tight, the wrist to be stiff and actually throw slower, not faster. The fastest speed comes from the whip-snap of the wrist.

22) What does Hip-Rotation mean and is it the same as opening & closing the door?

Hip Rotation means the pitcher’s glove side Hip TURNS towards the target as the pitcher strides forward. Then the Ball side hip TURNS towards the target as the pitcher PUSHES from the rubber and closes the space between her KNEES. YES! It is the same as “opening and closing/slamming” the door. The pitcher’s Hip Rotates (turns) twice during the pitch or “Opens and Closes”.

23) What is a Crow-Hop and a Re-Plant?

A “Crow Hop” is when a pitcher “hops” forward off the mound and Both Feet are off the ground, at the same time. A “Re-plant” is when a pitcher “hops and drags” her Pivot Foot to a new starting point. (in front of the rubber), PLANTS and PUSHES from the new starting point. A “Crow Hop” can cause a “Re-Plant” and both are illegal under ASA rules. If the pitcher keeps her Pivot Foot in contact with the ground and drags her toes throughout the pitch, it is a legal delivery.

24) What causes a long striding pitcher to Crow Hop?

There are a couple of reasons:
1) The pitcher doesn’t bend her knees enough at the start of the motion. So, she HOPS to a new starting point, then BENDS her knees to throw the ball.
2) The pitcher does not ROTATE (turn) her Pivot Foot enough. She HOPS to get her body turned at the Power position, then pushes to throw the ball.

25) What is meant by arm extension and when should the pitchers arm be straight?

This is a little tricky. Arm extension should happen when the pitcher starts her Arm Circle. The Arm should swing and extend towards the catcher, to make the “Perfect Circle”. When the Arm is at the top of the swing (12 O’clock), the ball (Hand) TURNS towards 3rd base/1st Base (Right/Left handed pitchers), to allow the Pitcher’s Elbow to bend slightly, so she can “throw” the ball from the Hip area. The pitcher’s arm should be “mostly straight”, at the Release Point, as It is in the overhand throw, when the WRIST SNAPS.

26) How many pitches (balls) should a pitcher throw in a practice session?

It depends on the pitcher. In my opinion, it is better to measure the pitches by time (minutes), then the number of pitches. If the pitcher concentrates too much on the number of pitches, it takes her focus away from the quality and the location of the pitches. Practices should be “Short and Frequent”, when a pitcher is learning fundamentals. Advanced pitchers should practice until tired, then a little more to help build her endurance.

27) What is the role of the “fingers”, when throwing a pitch?

The fingers are you find the “Spin and Control” of a pitch. Finger pressure on the opposite side of the ball causes the ball to move away from the pressure. Fingers pulling OVER the top causes the ball to spin down and DROP. Fingers cutting UNDER the bottom causes the ball to spin backwards and RISE. Finger pressure around the SIDE of the ball causes the ball to spin sideways and to CURVE. The ball should spin fast enough to create “Friction” and “burn” the Fingers. If not, the ball probably isn’t spinning fast enough for good movement. Moving pitches are harder to hit than speed. Speed and movement is a better combination.

28) To what location should the “change-up” be thrown?

It depends on where the coach wants it. Change-ups are effective at the Low inside and Low-outside locations. Change-ups are not usually thrown to weak hitters or hitters with a slow swing.

29) Should a pitcher throw two change-ups in a row?

It depends on the situation and the hitter. Nobody on base and a Power hitter at bat, why not? Especially, if you have more than one kind of change-up. Batters don’t normally expect two in a row. It could also be the 1st pitch of the game, if the batter is a slapper and will step out of the box too soon.

30) What is the best pitch to throw in a Bunt situation?

Again, the situation dictates the pitch. A high inside Rise-ball, a Low-outside Drop Ball, or a Change-up to a slapper.

31) What is the most common problem when a pitcher loses speed?

Early in the game is usually “nervous” tension and thinking too much. Late in the game it is usually “tired legs”. If the pitcher is tired, the legs quit working, the pitcher “tries harder, but can’t get the “Leg-Drive” and “Wrist-Snap”.

32) What is the average speed a pitcher can gain in a year or a season?

After reaching 55 miles an hour, it is hard to add more than 5 miles of speed. As the pitcher gets older, stronger in the Lower Body and relaxes more, 5 miles can be added up to a point.

33) What is meant by the words Concentration and Focus?

The words are used a lot, but nobody explains or shows how to do it. Concentration is something that you “do”, not think. When you’re concentrating, you won’t be aware of it. You either act or re-act to something from practicing it. Everything just “flows” and the player is in a “Zone.” Focus: means putting all of your attention on one or two things. It’s also called “Centerina”. By putting your attention on (centering/focusing) something specific the mind does not wander too much or interfere with the body’s action.

34) What is the most common reason for a person to fail as a pitcher?

There are several reasons:
1) Fear of failure, lack of confidence
2) Unable to keep her body under control (Lack of Balance) Example: The pitcher’s glove moves, her knees lock, her head moves or her elbow bends too soon. She doesn’t want these things to happen, but they happen anyway.

35) What kind of person makes the best pitchers?

Nobody knows. Successful pitchers come in all sizes and shapes. I’ve worked with pitchers who could barely put one foot in front of the other and developed into Division 1 pitchers. Since footwork and balance are key to pitching, people who do gymnastics and/or dance seem to do better than most. However, if she can’t handle the mental part of pitching, footwork and balance doesn’t matter. It has to fit the Pitcher’s mind and body or it will not work. That’s why it seems to take a long time for a pitcher to develop. They’re being asked to throw the ball over the plate 80 to 90 percent of the time and they’re just kids. They need lots of encouragement and patience, especially if they’re young.

Note: The Answers to the questions are my opinions from playing, pitching, coaching, teaching and observing FastPitch Softball for a long time. However, they are just my opinions. Hopefullly, my questions and responses have helped and not confused. The pitcher’s individual difference’s prevents a specific answer that fits each pitcher’s mind and body. The only thing absolutely true about pitching is……..nothing is absolutely true.

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