Saturday, 26 January 2013

Girls Softball Drills: Pitching Machines Hinder More Than Help

Attention all girls softball coaches and hitters. This will explain why performing softball drills with pitching machines hinder more than help. Due to pitching machines, most girls softball  hitters never really reach their greatest hitting potential!

Girls softball teams use pitching machines because it is very difficult to throw strikes from a live hand in batting practice. A pitching machine is the tool most used in softball drills for helping hitters practice their swing mechanics. The reality is that the machine alters a players swing and timing more than it helps.

It is commonly known to most, if not all, baseball hitters and coaches, to stay away from pitching machines. Pitching machines do not have the same action that a live hand does when the ball is delivered in either sport. The spitting action that a pitching machine depicts when the ball flies out of it, is deceptive to the hitter. This deception adversely affects the hitter's timing and, ultimately, the hitters' swing.

Although baseball players and coaches know this intuitively, the message has not been made clear to women's fast pitch softball and girls softball. Women and girls softball relies on these machines far too much.  Most girls softball coaches have not figured out the proper way to use the pitching machines for softball drills or how to help players improve their confidence when using a pitching machine.

Softball drills for hitters should always be performed at a slower speed and the human pitcher or pitching  machine should be a good 3 to 5 paces in front of the pitching rubber. This is the only way to improve the confidence of the hitter. The hitter should have every opportunity to know what it feels like to connect with the ball efficiently; this type of set up will give the hitter that opportunity.

Unfortunately, in girls softball, the pitching machine is placed to close to the pitching rubber and the coaches set the speed of the pitch near the speed of what the hitter would see in a game. This does not help the hitter for 2 reasons:

1. The machine "spits" the ball harder when the machine is turned up and causes even more deception. Most hitters have to change the mechanics of their normal swing just to be able to contact the pitch. Because of this, hitters tend to throw their hands at the ball and do not have the time to adjust to the timing of the machine. This can only lead to improper use of their body and hips, not to mention, the hitter is practicing incorrect swing mechanics that will not be used during a game. Over time, continued use of pitching machines in softball drills will train a hitter's muscles to consistently swing the wrong way, even during games. This results in decreased levels of performance as well as confidence.

2. The hitters confidence goes down because most hitters swing and miss or just foul off the majority of the pitches when a machine is improperly placed and the speeds are increased. If you are a believer in achievement through visualization, then you should agree that a hitter who gets continuous images in their head of swinging and missing or bad hits, will not get better, but worse.

The key is to pitch batting practice out of a live hand if at all possible. Just pitching under hand close up with the L-screen at a slow pace will greatly improve the confidence and skills of the hitter. If you have no choice but to use a pitching machine for softball hitting drills, please adhere to the following proper use guidelines.

Proper Use Guidelines for Pitching Machine Drills
When using a pitching machine for softball drills, set the machine between 30-40 mph depending on the age of the player. Place the machine 3-5 strides ahead of the pitching rubber. This will simulate the right pace that a hitter needs to see and feel in order to get her rhythm, timing, and swing down.

Proper use of pitching machines will also improve a hitters confidence and enable the coach to instruct much more efficiently. There is no reason why female softball hitters cannot be just as consistent as male baseball hitters. From a training perspective, this is the reason why baseball players experience more success with batting average and slugging percentage than softball players do. Most baseball players practice off live arms and if a tosser is not available, the player, more often than not, knows how to use pitching machines properly.

Girls softball needs the machines because it is hard to throw strikes from a live hand in batting practice. Use them properly and hitting will improve dramatically.

Coach Huber's hitter training program for softball players and coaches shows you which drills are best, how to do those drills, how to hit for power without extra strength or effort and how to build confidence. You can read more about it at http://aboutsoftball.net or find loads of great articles on softball tips and drills at http://hubiemagicblog.com

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