I recently came across an article called The Three Little Pigs and Softball Pitching and it got me thinking about how fastpitch softball pitching mechanics have advanced over the past couple of decades. Since the first Olympics in 1996, the sport of softball has truly grown. The growth of the sport combined with improvements in technology, has led to a much deeper understanding about softball pitching mechanics.
Softball’s brightest minds have analyzed and studied the greatest pitchers ever, including Lisa Fernandez, Jennie Finch, Monica Abbott, and even Japan’s Yukiko Ueno, just to name a few. Since that time, sports science labs have studied the pitching motion and made discoveries about the physics of pitching that actually debunks some of our prior thinking. Here we’ve compiled a list of techniques that are no longer considered “proper” pitching mechanics, and have been outdated for quite some time now.
8 Softball Pitching Mechanics That Should Not Be Taught Today
INCORRECT: Pivoting the power foot to push away from mound.
INSTEAD: Keep the power foot straight when pushing away from mound!
It is a common problem that pitchers develop, but should NEVER be taught. Anybody who pivots their power foot is going to lose power in their push off the mound. Keeping the power foot straight as it pushes away from the mound initiates a proper drag and allows for maximum drive into the launch off the mound. If your need to fix a pitcher who’s turning her foot, this correct foot turn article has some good advice!
INCORRECT: Pivot to open the upper body and hips into sideways position.
INSTEAD: A slight turn of the stride foot upon landing is enough to get pitcher sideways.
Originally, pitching coaches thought turning the power/push foot was necessary for pitchers to be able to get “open” in their pitch. However, it is now a well-known fact that this actually hinders a pitcher’s forward motion and results in a speed reduction. Although pitchers do get sideways in their motion, it’s not as exaggerated as once thought. By turning the stride foot upon landing, the hips open at enough of an angle for proper whip to happen at the end of the pitch.
INCORRECT: Turn palm of hand backward at top of the circle.
INSTEAD: Remain palm up throughout the circle.
When a pitcher turns her hand over and pushes down on the ball, she slows down and loses the ability to whip-fast through the end of the pitch. This is definitely a no-no by today’s standards. The pitcher should remain in the palm up position throughout the entire circle. The hand will naturally square up at release without the pitcher forcing the hand to turn over on the downswing of the pitch.
INCORRECT: Wrist cock.
INSTEAD: Relax wrist and keep it neutral.
Cocking the wrist only tenses the pitcher, which is the exact opposite of how we want our pitchers to feel. Keep the wrist relaxed to get rid of the ball quickly.
INCORRECT: Open AND CLOSE door.
INSTEAD: Stay open.
This is where we pay attention to those kinesiology studies that were conducted. It’s been discovered that the fastest way to throw the ball underhand is from the sideways position. Watch Rachel Garcia from UCLA, Alexis Osorio from Alabama, or Megan Kleist from Oregon. All of them are sideways when they finish their pitch. Do NOT close your hips!!!
INCORRECT: Snap wrist at release.
INSTEAD: Use your fingers.
At first it sounds like semantics, but it’s not! The wrist does bend after the ball is gone, but it’s not the action of the wrist that actually lets go of the ball. It’s the fingers pushing the ball out of the hand. Want to get a more powerful release? Increase your finger pressure.
INCORRECT: Bend and point elbow at target on follow through.
INSTEAD: Follow through long and relaxed with as little elbow as possible.
No pointing the elbow. Just No. You don’t do this when throwing overhand. Don’t do it when pitching underhand. Bending the elbow slows down the motion, takes away the fingers’ ability to release the ball, and causes the ball to go high. Imagine how silly a baseball pitcher would look if he pointed his pitching elbow at his catcher after he released.
Just like a baseball pitcher, a better finish for a softball pitcher is to keep the arm long and loose with the elbow off the rib cage. If you need help preventing your pitcher from bending her elbow too much in her pitch, check out the Throw Max.
INCORRECT: Get into fielding position as soon as ball is released.
INSTEAD: Finish your pitch correctly and REACT to the ball when it is hit.
Coaches – Do NOT tell your pitcher to get into fielding position when she finishes her pitch. She will not be able to throw with correct softball pitching mechanics. See the importance of staying sideways above! Fielding position forces a pitcher to square up too early, not to mention the balance issues it creates. Let them learn to react to the ball being hit. Even if they are in fielding position, by the time pitchers have finished their pitch, they are maybe 37-38 feet away from the plate.
As fast as exit speeds are off of bats these days, it’s purely reaction from there anyway. It’s more important for pitchers to throw a good pitch and prevent giving up a hard hit, than forcing them into fielding position for a ball that may or may not be hit back to them on the mound.
Softball pitching mechanics have definitely evolved over the years. We’ve never seen so many girls throwing 70+mph in the college game, and even rarer still, in high school. This progression didn’t happen by teaching the way it’s always been taught. Pitchers AND their coaches have to continue to learn and grow throughout their entire career.
The NFCA has been an invaluable resource in helping to grow our game by connecting the best coaches in the country to travel ball coaches, high school coaches, and even instructional coaches like us. Attending the NFCA annual convention and taking the Advanced Analysis of Pitching classes have had a vital impact, not just on what we teach, but also, how we teach pitching.
Now that you know some of the dos and don’ts of softball pitching mechanics, let us teach your pitcher! Come train with us in person!
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