Does your pitcher’s foot turn out just as she’s about to push off of the pitcher’s mound? If so, she’s not alone. One of the more common problems seen among pitchers is a premature foot turn. Fortunately, with focused effort and proper technique, this is a problem that can be fixed relatively quickly.
Problems Associated with Premature Foot Turn
1) Loss of Velocity
If a pitcher turns her foot before push off, she’s losing velocity. Rotating the power foot before launch results in a minimum 30% loss of leg drive power, resulting in slower speeds. Turning the foot even slightly does not allow the pitcher to fully engage the strongest muscles in her legs.
2) Crowhopping and Leaping
Turning the power foot before push off can cause crow hopping and leaping. Crow hopping and leaping are both illegal to to do in softball pitching. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are NOT the same thing. Crow hopping occurs when the power foot skips forward, landing on the ball of foot baring weight and repushes. It looks like a hop. Leaping is when the power foot completely loses contact with the ground at the same time the stride leg is in the air. The pitcher is literally airborne. While there are other reasons leaping and crowhopping can occur, turning the foot early is definitely one of them!
3) Loss of Forward Motion
We often think the earlier we do something (i.e. the more time we have to complete the process), the result will be better outcome. Not in this case. We actually want to shorten the length of time that we have to open our hips and whip through the pitch, to achieve faster movement, thus more velocity. To do this, a pitcher must first travel forward off the mound, keeping her hips, shoulder and stride foot facing the catcher as long as possible before opening the hips. This long reach allows for a shorter distance between the pitcher and home plate, while condensing the amount of time she has to complete the pitch. The faster she is forced to move to complete the pitch, the more velocity she creates. If she opens too early, her body won’t create the urgency needed to move quickly through the pitch.
4) Heel Drag/Lack of Finish
A premature foot turn will cause the heel to drop in the pitch. The result is a pitcher who has an anchor for a drag foot and struggles to finish her pitch. A pitcher with a proper drag would keep the heel up and toe down throughout the pitch, allowing for a complete and faster finish with the legs.
Proper Power Foot Position
For so long, the power foot was called the “pivot foot” by coaches, instructors, and even the rule book. News Flash! There should be NO PIVOT when striding off the mound. The toes of the pitcher’s front foot should face toward the catcher throughout drive and launch away from the mound. We’re throwing the ball towards home plate, so we need to get momentum going forward.
So now that you know what NOT to do, let’s talk about what you should do! Keep that power foot STRAIGHT ahead with toes facing catcher. It helps if a pitcher starts with a good foot position on the mound. She shouldn’t have too much of the front foot hanging off the edge, but she does need enough to really dig into the ground and push against the rubber. We need a Goldilocks foot position, with a “just right” amount of foot over the front of the mound. We recommend a placement of somewhere between the middle of the foot and the ball of the foot for a pitcher to get her foot most adequately positioned on the mound for optimal push. When she begins to push away, she wants to drive the toes down into the ground, and begin to lift her heel.
Fixing a Premature Foot Turn
Fixing a twisting foot takes a lot of focused concentration. Many reps (hundreds if not thousands) need to be completed without a ball before attempting to try to fix the problem with a ball in hand. Focus on the correction and fix your problem faster with air throughs. (Side note: 100 air throughs each night for one month would be 3000 repetitions.) Additionally, there are several tools and drills that can assist the pitcher to teach her how to keep her foot straight. Below are a few of our favorites.
A Power Push can help greatly to assist with correcting foot position. The Power Push sits right over top of the mound, and guides the pitcher’s foot as it moves forward off the mound. It will not allow the foot to improperly twist before push off. The Power Push will prevent leaping as it reinforces getting the heel up and pointing the toe down. It also helps prevent the crowhop, because the pitcher’s heel won’t twist inward. Pitchers should use the Power Push during practice without the ball to develop muscle memory and use it during actual pitches until the proper push and drag is memorized.
Tall Drag Box
Very few of our students make it through years of lessons without stepping foot in our Tall Drag Box. This is one of our favorite tools because it helps with so many components of the pitch, but foot position is one of them. If she twists her foot too much prior to pushing away, the drag box will move, indicating the mechanical error.
Because of the height of the box, the pitcher has no choice but to get her heel up over her toe if she’s going to pitch out of the drag box without knocking it all over the place. As its name implies, it also helps correct drag issues in addition to foot turn out, but that is for another article.
After the pitcher has spent time in the drag box and has improved her power foot mechanics, you may want to add the Power Pod to begin to develop a stronger push away from the mound. At first, it’s a good idea to keep the Power Pod in the drag box to continue to keep the pitcher from turning her foot, because the Power Pod does not do this for her, and it will be a different sensation that what she’s previously felt.
However, as she improves with her power foot, try it with just the Power Pod under her foot. This will help give her the feeling of putting the toe down and the heel up in her push. There will not be anything guiding her foot forward, so it’s going to take a concentrated effort to keep the foot pointed toward her catcher. If this becomes too difficult, and she reverts to turning the power foot, have her return to the drag box with the Power Pod, (or simply the drag box) until her foot will behave!
Much of what ultimately causes foot turnout is simply not being strong enough to keep your muscles propelling you forward and in a strong athletic manner. Using strength and conditioning moves to improve strength and stability can greatly improve your pitching mechanics. Watch the video below for 4 terrific strength moves that help prevent a premature foot turn in softball pitchers.
It might seem like an inconsequential movement, however, a premature foot turn can have costly effects on your pitcher’s success. In order for her to achieve maximum leg drive, it is imperative that she keep her foot positioned properly on the mound. Take the time to fix this sooner rather than later. If you’d like us to evaluate your pitcher’s foot position and drive off the mound, come train with us in Virginia to learn our tried and true techniques. Please check out our contact page to come train in our indoor facility in Richmond, Virginia!! To purchase your Tall Drag Box, Power Push, and other pitching tools, visit our online store! Join our mailing list (see green button below) to receive helpful articles and discounts delivered directly to your email address. Additionally, for more videos with tips and drills, subscribe to our YouTube channel!