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Softball Pitching Techniques - Control Makes A Pitcher

By Don Sarno

What is Control?

General definition: To execute a regulating influence over; direct (Webster)

Softball Definition: To consistently deliver a quality pitch to a good location and the difference between a pitcher and a thrower (Sarno).

Control is critical to effective pitching. With control, a pitcher is in command. She’s confident, poised and focused on the mound. Her ability to perform at high levels under pressure greatly increases with good control, as does her ability to carry out the strategic game plan. The ability to consistently locate a pitch both inside and outside the strike zone is usually the difference between winning and losing. Smart pitchers with good control keep hitters in the hole. They get the first pitch over and they get the first batter out. They understand that leadoff walks score 75 to 80 percent of the time.


Control Problems

Control problems can occur as a result of “flaws” in one or more of the following critical areas of pitching: technical skills, tactical skills, mental skills and physical conditioning. Here are a few examples in each of these important areas.

Technical Skills

  1. Insufficient/ineffective pre-game warm-up.

  2. Inconsistent release points.

  3. Change in delivery mechanic and/ or grips.

  4. Aiming the ball

  5. Rushing the delivery

  6. Excessive body motion


 

 

Tactical Skills

  1. Trying to pitch “too fine” on each pitch

  2. Poor/non-existent game plan

  3. No purpose for each pitched ball.

  4. Poor communication between pitcher and catcher

Mental Skills

  1. No pre-pitch routine

  2. First inning jitters

  3. Lack of concentration/focus.

  4. Failure to make timely adjustments.

  5. Fear of putting ball over the plate and getting hit.

  6. Lack of confidence/fear of failure

  7. Failure to concentrate on fixed target

Physical Condition

  1. Injury, recovery from

  2. Poor flexibility, strength and/or cardiovascular condition.

Gaining Control

Here are a few pitching tips on developing and/or regaining control:

  1. When control disappears, get back to basics quickly

  2. Make control a priority. Work on control in practice sessions; string targets, simulate critical count situations, etc.

  3. Develop a pre-pitch routine. A sound pre-pitch routine keeps the pitcher focused on the here and now of the next pitch, and her mind off all potential distractions around her. The routine helps the pitcher narrow her focus of attention for each pitch to the target. Performance cues, visualization and/or self-talk may be used by the pitcher in her routine. Keep the routine simple and consistent. The routine helps develop the “one pitch at a time-best effort” attitude.

  4. Develop a sound pre-game warm-up program
  • Remember, we’re warming up mentally as well as physically

  • Rehearse the game plan

  • Identify what’s not working quickly and try to make the necessary corrections.

If a pitch is just not working that day, don’t panic. Use it as a “show pitch” outside the strike zone to set up pitches that are working. Bottom line: Find a way to win with what’s working that day.

  • End the warm-up with pitcher “retiring” three batters (use three players at bat.) This gives the pitcher a feeling of confidence, having successfully pitched the “first inning,” and helps reduce first inning jitters.

  • Develop a strategic plan for each opponent based on its strengths and weaknesses. A game plan takes a lot of the uncertainly out of the pitcher’s mind and helps reduce the anxiety and tension that affects a pitcher’s control.

  • A pitcher needs to understand that she must first gain control over herself before she can expect to have control over her pitches. Work on commitment, planning, practice habits and perseverance - among the critical ingredients for developing good control.


 
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