It might surprise you, but young athletes who have taken no lessons at all often end up doing markedly better than the athletes who have been a victim of bad instructional techniques or pitching “myths.”
Athletes who have been forced to learn bad habits have to then fix those habits in addition to learning correct habits. This often means that the athlete has already invested several years and several thousand dollars in learning something that she now has to spend several more months (or years) fixing.
There is so much bad information out there. There are so many people who are not really qualified to teach pitching who are teaching it anyway. Therefore, pitchers and their parents really need some information to separate the facts from the garbage. If you are currently struggling with accuracy, speed, or discomfort, it is probably a result of the fact that you never learned how to deliver that ball correctly to begin with or you have been exposed to one (or more) of the pitching myths below:
Myth #1: Softball pitching is a more natural motion than baseball pitching and you can therefore throw several games in one day.
Why it is wrong: Dr. Jeff Corben and I spent several years measuring softball pitchers’ strength before and after games for our study on “The Performance Demand of Softball Pitching.” There was a statistically significant decrease in strength in almost all measured muscle groups after only five innings of pitching. Imagine the decrease in strength after a full game or several games. This decrease in strength can compromise mechanics and can leave the body susceptible to injury. That is assuming that the motion was correct to begin with. If the body is moving incorrectly from the very beginning, then the odds of an overuse injury increase substantially. Additionally, as any qualified trainer will tell you, muscle is not built as you are working out. It is instead built after the workout: when you are recovering. Without optimal recovery time, the body will just keep breaking down.
Myth #2: You need to “clear your hips out of the way” in order to release the ball correctly
Why it is wrong: If I handed you a fifty-pound box and asked you to hold it for five minutes, you would hug it close to your body. If you tried to hold it away from your body, you would surely drop it. So why do we try to get the arm as far away from the body as possible when we pitch? Although we never want to contact any part of the body so violently that we bruise or hurt ourselves, without any kind of brush contact, we are relying solely on the shoulder to slow the arm down in the deceleration portion of the motion. This leads to taxing the shoulder unnecessarily. It also pulls you off of your “powerline,” (the most direct line between you and the target) decreasing your velocity and compromising your accuracy.
Myth #3: You need to twist your wrist to get into a good snap position
Why it is wrong: For some reason, so many pitching coaches teach their students to twist the thumb backwards before releasing the ball to “create a better snap.” The only thing that this technique really ends up doing is creating unnecessary tension and a potentially crooked circle. Your wrist and finger motion is an extremely important part of your pitch. It is part of what produces spin on the ball. Leading up to the release of the ball, the pinky should face the catcher. This movement creates a natural, fluid downswing and avoids unnecessary tightness. It makes it easier for your arm circle to stay straight and for you to produce an appropriate amount of “brush contact.” It also allows your shoulder to “slot” or stay in ideal alignment with the rest of the body. Once at release point, the pinky can stay forward to “feather” the ball or the palm can go down to create 180 degree range of motion. Either option is good. You can decide what is best based on your unique anatomy and comfort.
Myth #4: You need to squat at the beginning of your pitch
Why it is wrong: You want to be powerful and efficient with your leg drive, which is why you don’t want to spend any time at the beginning of the pitch squatting backwards. Most girls who do this find that they “get stuck,” and can’t push into the pitch quickly. After transferring your weight, you should be in what we call the “nose over toes” position. This means that the chest is leaning into the target and the right leg (if you are a righty) is bent, but the left leg (if you are a righty) is going to be straighter. This gives you the explosive force you need to drive forward without getting stuck on the rubber.
Myth #5: You need to square off your hips at the end of the pitch to field the ball
Why it is wrong: If you went to a hitting instructor, and that instructor told you to get into running position as you were hitting the ball, you would think that she is nuts (unless, of course, you are a slapper). So why doesn’t anyone think it odd that so many pitching instructors teach girls to get into fielding position before even finishing the pitch? This reduces leg drive and pulls us off of that wonderful powerline. After landing at 45 degrees, you should drive the leg you push with behind the ball all the way up to the land leg. It will improve power, accuracy and efficiency.
Please share this article with as many pitchers as possible. You will be helping others to reduce their risk of injury, throw harder, and have more control over pitch location. www.flawlessfastpitch.com