Coaches, pitchers, and umpires: you guys all need to read this. I will make it very brief.
There has been a big rule change regarding the start of the pitch. Whereas previously, pitchers had to start with both feet on the rubber and do any kind of weight transfer with both of those feet in contact, now we are allowed to move off of the rubber.
Yay (sort of)!
Here’s why it’s really great: having that wider stance front to back allows us to create a little bit more momentum as long as we do it properly. This is also great because pitching rubbers are very often not regulation size, so it might feel like you have to pitch with both feet touching something the size of a chopstick in certain games. Finally, when there is inclement weather or a huge hole on the back of the rubber, we won’t feel like we are slipping or getting stuck when we go to push off.
Here’s where it is maybe not so great (read: confusing as hell). The rule is different for college than it is for high school and USSA.
In college, you have a start back rule. This means that the foot on your glove side can start behind the rubber. You will step up to the rubber with only one foot in contact and then get your sign, transfer your weight, and go.
In USSA and high school, you have a step back rule. This means that you will start with both feet in contact with the rubber (as was the case previously) and then you can step off the back of the rubber as you do your weight transfer.
So what about my juniors and seniors who have verbally committed or signed letters of intent? Do we learn one thing just to have to change to another in a few months or years?
Also, did I mention that this is a year when new rule books are NOT being printed? This means that a lot of umpires probably will not know what is legal and what is not. I have tons of respect for umpires, but most don’t know the difference between a crop hop and a leap, so I think they are going to have a little trouble keeping track of everything, especially if they sometimes umpire for USSA and umpire for college at other times.
So what’s a pitcher to do? As usual, my advice is going to be pretty individualized. Here are some different scenarios:
If you have never been called for a illegal pitch and are comfortable with both feet starting on the rubber, I would suggest keeping your start for the next year. I know that seems like a long time and you probably want to play around with it NOW, but I do think this rule change will cause some confusion. After the next rule book is printed, it will become more common knowledge, and then you can start trying it out.
If you have been called for stepping off the rubber in the past and are in high school, but not yet verbally committed, try the step back. Be sure that your pitching coach is well-versed in the rule change so that you are taking your signs at an appropriate time and you still start with both feet in contact with the rubber.
If you are a high school and are already verbally committed or have signed your Letter of Intent, talk to your college coach and ask them when they would like you to start working on the start back.
If you are already in college, start working on the start back ASAP (as long as your head coach approves). Remember, this can be really helpful for your momentum when used properly, so get on it!
For girls, younger than high school, I would say you need to go on a case by case basis. If you mostly play USSA tournaments, you can try a step back. If you mostly play PGF tournaments, you can try a start back. For my younger girls, as much as I am eager to incorporate this, I am not going to be teaching it yet because I think it will confuse them if they sometimes play PGF and sometimes play USSA and then sometimes have umpires that don’t know the rule.
I hope that this is helpful! Share this information so that we are all on the same page with the new rule change.
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