Parents and pitchers alike often wonder what are the requirements to get recruited by a college coach. Like pitchers, not all college coaches are exactly the same, so there is some variation from school to school, but there are some basic factors that are more likely to get your pitcher noticed.
Recently, we had the privilege of attending the 2017 NFCA Convention in Las Vegas. Prior to the start of convention, we took a two day Coaches College (NFCC) Advanced Analysis of Pitching Course. This particular class was led by SEC coaches, Beth Torina (LSU), Rachel Lawson (Kentucky) and Bev Smith (South Carolina). While there, they spoke of “Game Changers” as well as attributes of great pitchers. Afterwards, we had some pretty clear ideas on what it takes to get your pitcher recruited by top programs across the country.
To be a contender to get recruited by the best programs in college softball, pitchers needs to have speed while hitting their spots, a killer change-up, decent movement, and be an all-around good athlete. Sounds simple right? Let’s discuss each of these aspects a little more in depth.
Speed Demons Get Recruited
A pitcher will turn a coach’s head if she can CONSISTENLY pitch 63+mph. One coach at Convention mentioned that his magic number was 65+, but many agree that 63 is a “game changer.” This does not mean that a pitcher tops out at this speed, but rather maintains this speed throughout the game. Consistent is the key word here! A pitcher who consistently throws 63 mph will often top out at a higher speed. It is also important to note that this is not practice speed. We are talking GAME SPEED. We all know that pitcher who is relaxed and able to throw fast in practice, but gets tight and tense during a game, and can’t produce the same speed. Games are what matters, so to get recruited, a pitcher must demonstrate the ability to throw fast throughout a game.
Devastating Change-Ups Get Recruited
Nowadays it’s almost impossible to get recruited without a change-up. It’s often recommended that a change-up is the first pitch a pitcher learns how to throw other than the fastball. A great change-up will keep hitters anxious and mess up a batter’s timing. What makes a change-up devastating, is being able to throw a great change-up for a strike on ANY given count in any given situation! Check out the 1:47 mark of the Youtube video below when Kelsey Nunley of Kentucky throws a change-up with a 3-2 count in the bottom of the 7th, with bases loaded! That’s guts! That’s a game-changer!
Swings and Misses Get Recruited
In a previous article, we mentioned that college coaches want a swing and miss rate of 33% or higher. It’s hard to get that number without some form of movement. However, many young pitchers misunderstand what movement really is, and overestimate how many movement pitches they really need. SPIN is the key to great movement! Pitchers must work on spin with ALL movement pitches, including their Fastball. Yes, even fastball’s should move. A dropping fastball is a “game changer.” Top spin with 12-6 rotation makes fastballs drop when thrown with good spin speed.
Great spin tools!
Create Late Break
Additionally, late break creates swings and misses. The later a pitcher can get her movement pitches to break, the more likely she is to get swings and misses. We’ve started using tunneling as a means to get our pitchers to create late break on their pitches. If you’d like to see an example of tunneling, check out this video clip.
Notice how this pitcher’s drop ball and rise ball both are at the same plane half way to the plate, then break in opposite directions. We use the Pitching Sticks with elastic bands to work on this as well as other tunneling techniques to perfect a pitcher’s break on her different pitches.
Which Pitches Should A College Bound Pitcher Have In Her Repertoire?
As previously mentioned, many pitchers overestimate how many “movement” pitches they really need. Pitchers that throw 5-6 different pitches, often aren’t GREAT at any of them. College coaches want pitchers to master 1 pitch (maybe 2) other than the fastball and changeup. Rise balls are a favorite among college coaches. The only way to get break on the ball is to have it spin in the direction you want the ball to move. Top spin (fastballs and drops), back spin (rises and flip changes), and side spin (curve balls) are going to be the pitches with real break. Screw balls and drop curves are angled pitches, and can be effective when used to locate a pitch. However, without a specific spin, they do not truly break. Corkscrew spin does NOT make a pitch move in a specific direction. Lastly, using a particular grip for a pitch does not create movement.
More great spin tools!
Athletes Get Recruited
Coaches want their pitchers to be the BEST athletes on the team! A pitcher’s athletic ability is important for so many reasons. First, it’s one of, if not, THE most grueling positions on the field. Don’t forget, catchers have a tough job too! Secondly, when a pitcher is a good athlete and really pushes herself in the weight room or during fitness tests, it sets the tone for the rest of the team. It lets the other players know that if she’s working hard to help her team, then they should step it up too. When a pitcher works hard for her team, it results in the other players working just as hard for her. Better plays get made in the field and more clutch hits find a gap when they’re needed. It’s an energy that gets created, and it all starts it the pitcher.
If your pitcher doesn’t have phenom level athletic ability in her DNA, don’t worry. Athleticism can be manufactured if a pitcher is willing to work at it. There are a few things a pitcher can do to improve her overall athletic ability. For one, good athletes play more than one sport. If your pitcher doesn’t already, find an additional sport (or two) for her to participate in, so she can learn additional skills. Gymnastics is a great sport to work on balance, body awareness, and flexibility, all of which are important in pitching. Swimming is another great sport to strengthen shoulder and back muscles, as well as increase cardio fitness. There are lots of conditioning programs that can help improve an athlete’s fitness level. Even younger pitchers can do some form of conditioning. However, weight lifting programs are not recommended for those under the age of 13.
Winners Get Recruited
Coaches want winners. Plain and simple. They want a pitcher who knows how to win, and win in pressure situations. Sometimes, it’s a pitcher’s physical ability that wins the game for her. Sometimes it’s her intensity and mental toughness that wills her to win. Regardless of how a pitcher figures out how to win ball games, winners get recruited.
A few final thoughts to consider when trying to get your pitcher recruited. If a pitcher doesn’t get in front of a coach, there ‘s no way for them to know she’s out there. It’s important that your pitcher plays on a travel ball team that is going to put her in a position to be seen. Also, if your pitcher has a few choice schools on her short list, consider going to the camps and clinics hosted by those coaches. Lastly – be realistic. If your pitcher is lacking several of the items on this list, then chances are she’s not going to get looks from a top 25 program. However, that doesn’t mean she should give up on her dream. Keep an open mind when searching for college programs to find the best fit for your pitcher, and keep working to improve and grow as a pitcher!
Would you like your pitcher to work on one or more of these aspects with us in our training facility? Check out our contact page for more information! We now offer online scheduling! Out of town? No problem! Check out our page for out of town students here. Visit our online store to see all of our pitching tools and products to help your pitcher get recruited. For more videos with tips and drills, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and/or join our mailing list (green button below).