Rushing into anything rarely pays off in life, but this is especially true of beginning softball pitchers. What most beginning softball pitchers (and sometimes their parents/coaches) don’t realize, is how very difficult this skill actually is, and to be successful, you have to be willing to not be considered awesome at the start of it all. To quote Cindy Bristow’s Pitching Seminar at the 2016 NFCA Conference in New Orleans, “Everybody starts in Crapville.” Even the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), Lisa Fernandez admittedly had a rough go in the beginning. However, she didn’t let that stop her from ultimately earning 3 gold medals in the Olympics. For beginning softball pitchers to become successful veteran pitchers, they need encouragement, correct mechanics, desire, and time to develop.
I remember stepping on the pitcher’s mound for the first time in 5th grade! Long story short, I was TERRIBLE! Thanks to my supportive parents and coaches, I had no idea I was awful. I LOVED every minute of being on that mound, and the fire was ignited. So, I wanted to do it again and again. It was something I enjoyed doing and my parents were willing to catch (more like chase balls in the woods) for me in the back yard. But, when was I going to get good at it? Beginning softball pitchers and often their parents and coaches expect too much too soon. That leads to a very short pitching career.
When working with your beginning softball pitchers, it is important that you give them positive feed back. Trust me, they are trying to please you!!! However, that doesn’t mean to constantly tell them how awesome they are when they aren’t yet. Try to pick out the positive in every pitch (ex: spin, aggressive stride, arm plane, etc.) However, be sure to constructively let them know what they need to work on to improve. Do not try to pick out every weakness. Pick one aspect and try to improve that before focusing on something else. If you pick apart every pitch that she throws, she will feel frustrated and give up quickly.
By the beginning of 6th grade, my dad realized he knew nothing about teaching me to pitch properly and better find someone who did. Enter Rita Lynn Gilman. She was the first person to show me the windmill style of pitching. This was extremely foreign to me, but she worked with me through it. I went home and I practiced to get consistent, not with strikes, but rather with my mechanics! I remember working to get my arm to make that smooth circle. It took a while, but eventually it came around. I remember doing tons of glove snaps to learn release point (didn’t know this was also developing whip too). Pretty sure there are still scuff marks on the wall of my parents’ house where I missed my glove a few times. Never once in this process did I hear “stop missing your glove.”
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with beginning pitchers is trying to force them to throw strikes too early on in the learning process. Remind yourself that many beginning softball pitchers are very young (8-10 years old) when they start this journey, and haven’t developed the motor skills required to handle all aspects of this very complex skill of windmill pitching. Often, to please their coaches and parents, pitchers will create unorthodox movements to simply get the ball across the plate. While she may find a way to accomplish this when someone yells out to her “slow down and throw a strike,” it’s doesn’t help to create the dominant pitcher that ultimately she wishes to become.
A pitching camp/clinic is a great place to start to give your beginning softball pitcher a basic feel for the pitching mechanics, but ultimately, pursuing a good pitching coach that you feel is knowledgeable and has a good relationship with your pitcher is definitely crucial to her success. As a parent or coach, you will need to learn as much about the mechanics as your beginning softball pitchers. She will need your reinforcement of the good mechanics in between lessons with her pitching coach. You Tube is NOT the answer. While there is some valuable and helpful information out there on the web, it is important you find a pitching coach that can help you decipher which is the best information for your beginning softball pitchers.
Give It Time
Learning to pitch is a journey. It takes years to master the technique. In my earlier pitching days, I once heard an instructor say “it takes 50,000 pitches” to become a pitcher. This sounded absurd! Now I understand how accurate that number really is. To develop consistent mechanics and accuracy, it takes many repetitions perfecting that arm circle, whip and release point (not to mention the footwork). Pitching is a long process that is not developed in a day, week, month or even year. Do the math. If a pitcher does 100 repetitions every day, it will still take 500 days to reach that 50,000 mark. There’s only 365 days in a year so…. Time is necessary to achieve the mechanics to build a solid foundation and throw consistent strikes. As mechanics improve, so will everything else. Patience is key to becoming a successful pitcher.
Practice with a Purpose
Remember that line saying “As mechanics improve, so will everything else?” Just throwing hundreds of pitches does not make beginning softball pitchers better. All pitchers must practice with a purpose, and be willing to make adjustments throughout their career. Practice makes permanent, and if a pitcher practices with poor mechanics then that’s exactly what she can expect come game time. Although beginning softball pitchers need lots of repetitions, it is important that the repetitions are done with good mechanics. Softballs are EVIL! It is imperative that beginning softball pitchers spend time rehearsing and doing airthroughs in the mirror to practice the correct mechanics. Don’t settle for mediocre. To be the best, you have to have desire and dedication!
One of most common questions I get asked is “Does my daughter have potential?” My answer is always the same – “Does she like it? Is she willing to work at it?” If the answer to those two questions is yes, then ABSOLUTELY! However, regardless of her talent level, she’s going to need a great support system to help her achieve her dreams. Softball pitching is a TOUGH skill and just like most things in life, it takes the help of others and a lot of hard work to make it happen.
Consider checking out some of our favorite beginner tools, including Rita Lynn’s Basic DVD “Pitching My Way.” It’s over 2 hours of detailed information that explains the entire pitching motion. More can be found in our online store! For more videos with tips and drills, subscribe to our YouTube channel! If you wish to train with us in person, please check out our contact page to train in our indoor facility!