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Softball Pitching Techniques - Weight Distribution Plays Key Role

By Lori Sippel
Assistant Coach - University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Head Coach – Canadian National Team

The key to being an effective pitcher at any level lies in one’s ability to be accurate with her pitch. I have found that in many young pitchers, there is a misconception that accuracy comes from the release of the pitch alone. It is this attitude that forces pitchers to use the release as a “fix all” rather than a “fine tuner.” It is my belief that more emphasis should be placed on a pitcher’s preparation to release rather than on the release alone. The preparation to throw is what gives the pitch its strength and consistency. It is the release that gives the pitch its character.Softball pitching techniques - weight distribution plays a key role in pitching.

Let’s visit consistency. If we want to be consistent as a pitcher, we must then be consistent in how we prepare ourselves to release the ball. One portion of the preparation phase that breaks down most in young pitchers is their ability to control and distribute their weight throughout the pitch.

Let’s use the example of someone walking down the street. A person encounters that one slab of concrete that is higher than all the others. As soon as the toe makes contact with the slab, the body’s balance is upset. Arms and legs begin to flail and the upper body bends and contorts in order to regain balance. If we, as pitchers, do not control our balance (weight distribution) on touchdown, then all effort will be going to the regaining of balance, rather than into the release of the ball.

We talk about pitchers having bowling legs…stiff legs…collapsing legs….pitchers that don’t open their hips or pitchers that do open their hips, but fail to close them….pitchers that stride too long, stride too short. There is also the kamikaze pitcher whose body parts flail in every direction or the constrained pitcher whose movements are so mechanical she barely leaves the mound. All of these problems occur in the preparation phase of the pitch and every one of these “flaws” are affected by the pitcher’s weight distribution prior to and at touchdown.


How can we become more consistent?

First, we must understand that all pitches rise, drop, change, curve and screwball, require the pitcher to have her weight distributed back on touchdown, not forward. Having one’s weight back is the genesis of all pitches, as it is from this position that all pitches can be thrown.

The rise ball, or high targeted pitch, requires the pitcher’s weight to be back and body angle to be opened upward.

The drop ball, or lower targeted pitch, requires the bodyweight to be transferred slightly forward. The change up, curveball and screwball, require the bodyweight to be shifted somewhere in between, based on how the pitcher throws the pitch.

As you can see, transfer of weight directly affects the pitch you want thrown.

If you start with your weight back, you will have the ability to make the proper adjustments to throw all pitches. If your weight is consistently forward, you will then have to make all of your adjustments in your release point.

How do we keep our weight back?

The No.1 skill that needs to be developed is body awareness. Often pitchers are unaware as to what their body is doing in the middle of the pitch. Here are some suggestions to help them become more aware.

Fact: From foot touchdown (stride touchdown) and the actual release of the ball occur almost simultaneously. Therefore, if we are in a balanced state on touchdown, we are pretty much guaranteed a balanced position on release.

Drill # 1 - Exploding Slides with Mirror (no ball required)

Exploding slide defined: That part of the motion where the pitcher launches herself forward while maintaining contact with the ground and lands in an open position.

Have your pitcher work off a mound and in front of a body length mirror so she can see her body angle throughout the slide. If the pitcher needs to take an extra step, or falls off to one side in order to regain balance, she has not controlled her weight prior to touchdown.

The mirror gives her the opportunity to see where she may have broken down.

Drill # 2 - Advanced Exploding Slides

Execute the exploding slide. Once touchdown has occurred and you have stopped yourself in the open position, jump up from that position.

If you have to bend your knees in order to propel yourself forward, then you are probably too stiff on your landing.

If you propel yourself forward when you jump, then your weight distribution is still too far forward. If you jump straight up or slightly back, then you have distributed your weight well.

Drill #3 - High Target Pitching & Drill #4 - Distance Pitching

Obviously, when we talk about being balanced when pitching, we are talking about having dynamic balance, balance in motion.

Drill No.1 and Drill No.2 help the pitchers become aware of their balance in the middle of the motion. Drill No.3 and Drill No.4 allow the pitchers to work on weight distribution within the contest of the completed motion. Both of these drills create an atmosphere where the pitch needs to be thrown in an upward direction. Therefore, the pitchers need to keep their weight back on release.

The High Target Pitching drill can be done with a catcher, however, I prefer to have them throw against a wall.

I caution against using a catcher because the pitcher may become more concerned with hitting the target than weight distribution. I have the pitchers throw against a wall on which I have set up levels of lines (You can use tape - Horizontal - 4 lines above each other).

I then challenge them to pitch above the lines.

By creating multi-levels, you also challenge the pitchers to control their weight distribution by asking them to make adjustments based on the targeted level. 

Distance Pitching again allows the pitchers to work on keeping their weight back while allowing them to stretch out their body and air out their arms.

Drill #5 - Slide Board Exercise 

The slide board is the apparatus that skaters use for conditioning. If you have one of these available, have your pitchers work out on it and experiment with controlling their weight.

As well as being a great tool for conditioning the legs and the heart, the slide board also forces the pitchers to control and propel their weight, while maintaining their balance in motion.

A pitcher’s success lies in their ability to “OWN THE ZONE.” Owning the zone requires the pitcher to be able to make the fine adjustments in order to propel the ball to the spot. The fine adjustment cannot be made without first having the body awareness required for the different pitches.


 
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