INTRODUCTION
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e are achievers by nature and want to be the best at whatever we attempt plus we want to have results as quickly as possible. However, sometimes, we can be in too much of a rush to achieve. We must not pass over fundamental exercises which are designed to develop our form. A good athlete may be the best shortstop in a league, but not even the coaches may notice that if she started using a crossover step (a fundamental habit that can be developed), she could catch a ball that normally is just a little out of reach.

When a pitcher follows fundamental exercises slowly and properly, learning through repetition, correct form develops. When you throw hard, old habits, good or bad take over. It is hard to introduce new ideas that produce new habits (muscle memory). Throwing too hard, too soon, could help develop improper form and bad habits, which are hard to break. Proper form, in, part, will help produce the best results.




any beginning fastpitch softball pitchers pitch with a bowling motion. The bowling motion means that the pitching arm elbow is on the trailing side of the circle when the arm is coming down in the back, and it stays there while the ball is released. The elbow of many bowling pitchers is locked. Their shoulders point toward first base and third base. Consequently, if they windmill, the ball comes out of the circle at the same speed as their arm goes around in the circle. They also stand a good chance of hurting the rotator cuff when the arm goes over the top, if the arm stays in the line of force. Usually what happens is, as the arm goes over the top, the arm then goes away from the body, out of the line of force.

I teach the whipping action of the arm, (which can be done with the slingshot or the windmill). The body movement that generates the maximum amount of speed is the whipping action of the arm.

In the whipping action, the shoulders should point toward home plate and second base. If the shoulders move, facing the plate, and the arm tries to come down in a line with 2nd and Home, the position of the shoulder will not allow the elbow to stay on the leading side of the circle. The elbow will come up losing the whipping action, and the pitcher will be throwing with the bowling motion, using their arm only. The pitcher's arm should be straight without being locked at the elbow. The elbow of the pitching arm is on the leading side of the circle when the arm is coming down in the back. Just before the release point, when the arm is at the bottom, the lower arm whips around with the elbow finishing on the trailing side of the circle. The shoulders still point toward home and second base until after the hand passes the hip. This whipping action accelerates the speed of the pitcher's hand, sending the ball out of the circle 20% faster than the arm goes around in the circle.



THE FOLLOWING ARE REASONS FOR WINDMILLING WITH THE WHIPPING ACTION

1. MINIMIZING ARM PROBLEMS.

In the bowling motion when a pitcher windmills with the shoulders pointing toward first base and third base (and the arm is going in a circle in line with home plate and second base) the shoulder, at the top of the arm circle is in a very uncomfortable position. This position can easily damage the arm as it goes over the top and past the "catch in the shoulder," at the top of the circle.

With the pitcher's body turned sideways and with the shoulders pointed toward home plate and second base, the pitcher's arm will have more freedom of movement at the top of the arm circle, as it travels in a line with home plate and second base. Try both ways letting the arm go in a circle, for 3 revolutions, in a line with home and 2nd base with the shoulders toward first and third, and then with the shoulders toward second and home.

2. CONSERVING ENERGY

Bowling action pitchers use more arm muscle leverage to produce speed. Thus, much energy must be used to create more speed. Conversely, the whipping action is most efficient when the arm is relaxed, and the natural flexibility is used. With the whipping action the energy is used more effectively, and the result is more speed with less effort. Also better pitching means less batters are faced, fewer pitches are thrown and less energy is used. Therefore, you are not only stronger toward the end of the game, but more games can be pitched in a tournament.

3. HIGH VELOCITY PITCHING

With the bowling motion the ball comes out of the circle at the same speed as the arm goes around in the circle. As the arm gets to the bottom of the circle and passes the hip, the whipping action accelerates the speed of the lower arm sending the ball out of the circle faster than the arm goes around in the circle. The result is approximately a (20%) increase in speed. Using a radar gun, no girl using the bowling motion was clocked over fifty miles per hour. But, even twelve year old girls that were using the whipping action have been clocked at speeds well over fifty miles per hour.

4. FAVORABLE POSITIONING TO THROW ALL THE PITCHES

When youngsters start out using the bowling motion, there is a tendency to bend over to gain more leverage. Consequently, the arm is not in a position to whip. Neither is the body in a position to let the hand get under the ball to throw the rise ball. Standing straight up and keeping the ball shoulder back toward 2nd base until after the ball passes the hip, will allow the pitcher to whip now and be able to throw all the pitches when the time comes.

5. GAINING ACCURACY

Because the pitcher is sideways, shoulders in line with home plate and second base, a true arm circle is easily developed. This true arm circle is a freer movement and provides greater accuracy.



SKILL LEVELS


he quickest way to pitching successfully is to develop completely at each skill level before going on the next level.

The skill levels, in order are:

  1. FORM Learning the movement of the arm and body.
  2. SPEED Using good form and throwing faster without effort. And changing speed using the same motion.
  3. ACCURACY Practicing enough to develop a consistency in the motion that will automatically bring a consistency of where the ball goes.
  4. BALL MOVEMENT Throwing the rise and the drop.
  5. STRATEGY Understanding the hitters, and situations.

Form, speed and accuracy should be learned before the season. You can achieve this, providing you start the learning process well before the season and practice until the season starts. Ball movement and/or strategy are usually incorporated into the second or third season of pitching, or until the hand becomes large enough to accommodate the grip. The key is waiting until the coordination and coachability of the pitcher is at the right level.

Speed must be developed before accuracy, and form is the foundation for speed, and ball movement. Form is best developed in stages that are slowly paced and that have enough REPETITION to form automatic actions, (muscle memory). When these automatic actions become consistent, (i.e., holding the ball the same each time, standing on the rubber the same each time, striding the same each time, following through the same) accuracy will then improve. Accuracy is a product of practice. Developing a coordination in the movements that become consistent through repetition (practice). The consistent movements in the pitching motion that are developed through time, and become habits, will assure a consistency in where the ball goes. The ball may not go into the strike zone, however if it is consistently in the same area you can adjust easier than if it was going all over the place.

The following exercises will develop new habits for inexperienced and experienced pitchers. These exercises have been outlined in the order I feel a pitcher must proceed to become a fast-pitch softball pitcher. Do not skip any one of the exercises or take any one of them lightly, because a logical and thorough progression is the best way to develop pitching skills.



MUSTS FOR LEARNING THE WHIPPING ACTION

  1. STAND UP STRAIGHT.   Do not bend over at the waist or drop the glove shoulder while releasing the ball.

  2. STAY SIDEWAYS WITH THE SHOULDERS POINT TOWARD HOME PLATE AND SECOND BASE.   Do not turn your shoulders so you will be facing home at the point of release.

  3. LET THE BALL GO WHERE IT WANTS TO GO.   Do not aim or direct the ball.

  4. THROW EASY.   Coaches, keep the distance of 10 feet or under.

  5. RELAX.   Do not try to muscle the pitch, or throw hard

  6. DO NOT FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THE PIVOT FOOT INTO A FIELDING POSITION.   The follow-through can be incorporated after comfort and coordination in the motion are developed through repetition.



GRIPPING THE BALL


evelop a grip that is comfortable, and that will be effective. To do this the fingers and thumb should be on a seam for a surer grip, which in turn will give better control. The long seam should cross the crease in the first knuckle, or at least behind the pad of the fingers and the first knuckle of the thumb.

Do not hold a ball in the palm of the hand. Hold the ball with two fingers for more speed. Unless your hand is very small, it is not necessary to use your little finger to grip the ball.The fewer fingers used, the more flexibility you will have, which means more speed. So, while gripping the ball with your thumb on a seam in opposition to your middle finger, you should throw with two fingers.

If your fingertips and thumb don't reach the seams you should throw with three fingers. This will draw the ball into the hand a little more. If you still can't reach the seams you should move the ball so you can have your fingertips and thumb on a seam for control.

Grip the ball with fingers across the long seam of the ball so that when the ball is released, the ball spins as it travels toward the plate with four seams cutting the air. The more seams that cut the air the better movement the ball will have. The pitcher should not be concerned about ball movement at this time, but if the ball is gripped for ball movement and leverage now, the grip will not have to be changed later on.

The grip should be assumed in the glove, out of sight from the opposing team, and not on the hip or out in the open.



CONTROLLING THE BALL


fter you have mastered the form, and have attained good velocity with a comfortable motion, start thinking about control. Control is the single most important ingredient for pitching successfully. And since control is an acquired skill, the more a pitcher practices, the better their control will be. However, they must practice control. The important elements of control are:

  1. The pitcher must practice enough to have a consistent motion at their top speed.
  2. The pitcher must have a true arm circle. If the arm does not go through the vertical plane of the strike zone, the pitcher will have a lower percentage of strikes.
  3. A pitcher is not trying to pitch strikes as much as they are trying to pitch the ball in the same area every time. When the pitcher is consistently throwing a ball in the same area of the target, they can compensate by concentrating on a target opposite the area the ball is going. For example, if the pitches are consistently low and outside, concentrate on throwing high and inside.
  4. The pitcher does not want to aim, she wants to concentrate. Concentrating, starting with the eyes, is like shooting a beam of energy from the pitcher to the target area. The beam (body, ball, & energy) goes from the pitcher to a point in the target area.
  5. The pitcher can adjust where the ball goes by changing where the glove foot lands. If the stride foot lands to the left the ball will go to the left, and vice versa. If you change where the stride foot lands, you may have to dig out the landing area so you will not land on the edge at the edge of the existing hole.
  6. The pitcher releases the ball shortly after the stride foot lands. If a pitcher takes a longer step than usual they will release the ball later. Consequently, the ball will go higher. A short stride makes the ball go lower. The only reason I would recommend a short step is to make the step quicker. The ball doesn't drop better with a short step, it is just easier to keep it down. The only advantage you have with a short step on a drop is that you release the ball from a higher point making it more effective.


PITCHING STRATEGY


itching is over seventy percent of the strength of a team, and control is the key to good pitching. Once a pitcher develops good control, they can incorporate pitching strategy into their game.
  1. Moving the ball around in the strike zone according to each batters weaknesses.
  2. Keeping the batter off balance by changing speeds.
  3. Trying not to develop a pattern. Batters look for pitching patterns.
  4. Throwing strikes early to prevent having to have a strike forcing you to pitch the ball to the middle of the plate.
  5. Not giving the batter a good pitch to hit on a 0-2 or 1-2 count.
  6. Pitching the ball low to force a grounder when runners are in scoring position.
  7. Pitching the ball high in a bunting situation forcing the ball to be popped up.
  8. Pitching the ball inside to a slow swinging batter.
  9. Pitching the ball low and outside (usually, percentage wise, the safest area to throw the ball) to a hitter you don't know.
  10. Pitching the ball low and outside to a left handed drag bunter.


CONTROL


good pitcher must have good control, and must be able to judge the batters they face, so they can place their pitches accordingly. Sometimes you can be fooled by a batter's stance, because when they start their stride they adopt a more effective posture before they go into the ball. Here are some suggestions that are good standards:

  1. Batters with their bats held vertical hit a low pitch well and have to change bat directions to hit a high pitch.
  2. Batters with their bats held parallel to the ground have their hands in line to hit the high pitch and have to change bat directions to hit the low pitch.
  3. Most batters have a common fault. It is a natural instinct to bail out when the ball (projectile) is thrown at them. Lefties usually try to get to first base before they make contact with the ball. This makes a low outside pitch an effective pitch in most cases. A low outside pitch is usually pretty safe anyway, for a first pitch to any batter you don't know. Be careful and don't throw those batters that bail out, high inside pitches. You will be throwing right into their power.
  4. Batters who step toward the plate can't extend their arms for power on inside pitches. They will usually miss or pop up the low inside pitch because it is further away from the eyes than high and inside.


THE LION AND THE SKUNK
A loud, noisy and especially objectionable skunk,
obsessed by it's own prominence and the attention paid to it,
challenged a lion to single combat.
The challenge was promptly and emphatically declined by the lion.

"Huh!"... sneered the skunk, "you're afraid to fight"!

"No", answered the lion, "but why should I fight you?
You would gain fame from fighting me,
even though I gave you the worst licking of your life,
which I would do.
How about me though?
I couldn't possibly gain anything by defeating you,
while on the other hand,
everyone whom I met for a month
would know that I had been in the company of a skunk".


For when the one great scorer comes
to write against your name.
He writes not that you won or lost
but how you played the game.

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumph, even though checkered by failures, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy or suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.


THINKING MAKES THE MAN

BIBLE -

As a man thinketh...so is he.

BUDDHA -

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.

MARCUS AURELIUS -

Our life is what our thoughts make it.

WILLIAM JAMES, Psychologist -

Belief creates the actual fact.

AMOS BRONSON ALCOTT, American educator -

Thought means life since those who do not think do not live in any high or real sense.

EMERSON -

There is no thought in any mind, but it quickly tends to convert itself into power.

HENRY FORD -

Whether you think you can or think you can't...

you're right.


The WILL TO WIN is important but it isn't worth a nickel unless you also have the WILL TO PREPARE.

ABILITYEstablishes what you can do, and gets you on the team.

AMBITIONDetermines how much you do, and gets you into the line-up.

ATTITUDEGuarantees how well you will do, and how much you contribute to the team, and keeps you in the line-up.