Softball Pitching Tips and Tricks
Are you a slowpitch softball pitcher? Have you ever wondered if it is possible to throw an underhand curve ball? Do you like beer?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions then this article may be for you.
A How to Guide to Pitching in Slowpitch Softball: Tips and Tricks
This is a no frills guide to being an effective and consistent slowpitch softball pitcher.
Control, movement, and strategy are the components that will make you an effective softball pitcher. To be successful I strongly recommend mastering these areas in that order. You could know pitching strategy inside and out. But if you can't throw a strike when you need it, then get ready for a walk-a-thon. You can't build a house without a solid foundation and you can't pitch if you can't throw strikes. Once you can throw strikes then things like curve balls and strategy start to come into the picture. With that in mind this guide is broken down into a three part series.
Part 1: Control
Control is the most essential part of slowpitch success. It has been said that the best pitch in baseball is strike 1. The same is true for softball. Throwing strikes is the first aspect of developing your pitching control. Your whole purpose in life as a slowpitch pitcher is to make the batter hit the ball. You can not give away walks. The odds of notching a strike out in slowpitch are minimal. If you can make the batter put the ball into play, this is your best method for recording outs.
Make Your Target as Small as Possible
So, how does one throw strikes? The answer to this is to be able to throw the ball where you want to throw it. This sounds simple, but let's examine this more. The average strike zone is about 20” wide by 20” tall (the size of a pizza box). If you can develop the ability to hit a target that is say 6” wide by 6” tall (the size of a George Foreman Foreman Special Edition Super Champ), it should be easy to throw a strike on-demand and when the pressure is mounting. To put this another way, make your target as small as possible! Here are some tips and tricks to help you do this:
Make sure your catcher presents his or her glove as a consistent target in the approximate strike zone. If your catcher is not doing this, call timeout or remind them in between innings.
Focus on the smallest part of the catcher glove you can see. This could be the glove's webbing, writing, or even a single lace.
Throughout your delivery keep you eyes fixed upon that target. Be careful to not try and aim the ball (like when you throw a dart). Just release the ball as you normally would but with the “swing thought” in mind of landing the ball on your target.
Why does this work? Although I do not know if this is scientifically proven, there is a strong correlation between margin of error and range of success. With a little bit of practice, human beings are exceptionally good at playing up or playing down to its competition. Think about driving on a road with little to no shoulder. When faced with this situation, most people are capable of eliminating any swaying or swerving of their vehicles. This is because you have shrunk your target. Your margin of error has gone from feet to inches, just like the extra space on the shoulder. Do this with your pitching target and you will be amazed at the results.
Adjust Your Release Point
Have you ever pitched one day and found everything going a little long or a little short? The way to overcome this is to modify your release point. In general there is an inverse relationship between your release point and the flight of the ball. If your pitches are landing a bit short, raise your release point. You can do this by hanging onto the ball a split second longer. If your pitches are going long, try lowering your release point. You do this by releasing the ball a split second earlier. When you pitch you will have on days and off days. You will have strong days and weak days. Pay attention to where your “standard” pitch lands and adjust accordingly.
Back Spin is Your Friend
One last tip to help improve control is the use of back spin. You can generate back spin on your pitches by letting the ball roll off of your hand. Imagine rolling an orange down a hallway and trying to achieve maximum distance. You would not just throw the orange into the ground and expect it to go very far. You roll the ball down your hand from its base to the finger tips. If you can do the same with a softball there are tow major benefits. The first is that fact that the ball will travel further with less effort. This will allow you to make fine-tuned adjustments more easily. The second is this will help the ball travel in a straight line. This can eliminate your pitch starting on the correct course and darting off target at the last second. Although there will be times you want to have that kind of movement, when you need to throw a strike, being able to throw the ball on a straight and true path will be critical.
Practice these techniques and you will have enhanced accuracy and control in no time. You will also be ready for part two in this series, Movement!