Thursday, 24 January 2013

Competitive Fastpitch Pitchers Don't Just Have a Strong Arm

ByRachel A Gavin

As any young or old person begins their journey as a competitive fastpitch softball pitcher, there are many things about the sport itself to keep in mind. Good mechanics, the mental aspects, and physical fitness are the most important areas. I will discuss each one in detail in order to portray a better picture of what success should look like.

First, every pitcher needs to learn good mechanics which should start with the basic fundamentals. This is where drills come in. Drills are taking each part of the pitching wind-up and breaking it down to simplify the whole process. You should begin with simple wrist snaps. Wrist snaps are simply flipping the ball with your throwing hand while trying your best to get back spin on the softball. After wrist snaps, move to the "K" position. In the "K" position, you will simply stand with your body in the shape of a "K". Your toes will face perpendicular to home plate with your body slightly angled towards your catcher. Your Throwing arm should be outstretched pointing to the sky and your glove hand pointing towards your catcher. Once in position, throw the ball down as fast as you can snapping your wrist (like from the previous wrist snap drill) right as it passes your back leg, and release the ball. Once you begin to feel comfortable with this, move on to walk throughs. Walk throughs are simple. It is basically the final pitching motion with a little extra step in the beginning. Do a couple of these to loosen up, and remember to incorporate the first two drills. Your mechanics will surely improve in no time with practice and patience, which leads me to my next point.

The game of softball is incredibly mental. Many things are required to be good at pitching a softball, but a steady mind is crucial. Having patience can be incredibly hard, but going through tough times as you learn will help in the end. Mental toughness can be gained merely through practice. Practice with a catcher until you get comfortable on the mound. After that, move to live batting practice with the boys or girls on your team. Having a live batter helps get the feel for what a real game situation would feel like. Then of course, when you feel comfortable enough (and your coach feels comfortable enough with you) you will move on to an actual game situation. Nothing builds confidence like a few good games against decent teams. Naturally, you will encounter bad games as well, but remember this is also what builds that poise you need to succeed. Those bad games will teach you all the things not to do, and the good ones will teach you all the things to do. Being able to step onto that mound with confidence and a slight edge of cockiness will put out results I guarantee.

Finally, I will talk about having that endurance you need to strike people out. Pitchers have to work harder than any other person on the field, so having the strength to go a full game is very important. Cardiovascular workouts are a must. Most pitchers should run at least one mile every day, and then run again after every time they pitch. Other cardio exercises I would suggest are things such as ladders, sprints, leaps, etc. Next, you will need to weight train. While still stressing cardio, you can train on weights and build up strength which will not only make you last longer but also help improve the speed of your pitch. I believe weights are important in every sport, but different sports weight train differently. In softball you will still emphasize endurance but while building muscle mass at the same time. Do light weight and a lot of repetitions. This simply means for example, instead of doing four sets of twenty pounds, do eight sets of ten pounds. This gives you a wider variety workout all in one and builds long, lean muscle. Now for the areas of the body to focus on, we need to incorporate everything. Some theorize that legs are the most important, some say arms, some even say wrist. I personal believe it's all just as important as the other. Your core is frequently left out, but it along with legs, arms, wrists, buttocks, and neck are all important components. You are using your whole body to pitch, so it is all vital to be successful.

You now, have the three main areas to focus on to become a successful fastpitch softball pitcher. Good mechanics, the mental aspects, and physical fitness will lead to lucrative career if you put in the hard work and dedication required. It's not easy being a pitcher, but being the hero of a team is well worth all you put into it.

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