No shortcuts on the road to success

Like many softball programs, our Mundelein Thunder organization just completed tryouts for the 2008 season. Man, that can make for a grueling couple of days. But in the end it’s worth it when you know you have your team together and can start plotting and planning for the next year’s tournaments.

During the tryouts I was observing a pitching tryout. The girl was someone new, a 12U. I was chatting with her mom and bit and she told me where she’d been taking lessons and from whom. As I sat there, the girl seemed to go through an elaborate (to me) warm-up, beginning with some wrist snaps and then staging her throwing arm through about four or five starting locations. At no time did her feet move during these. Finally, her last drill was from full distance; she did what is usually called the “stork” drill, where she stood on one leg and then launched herself and pitched. So one leg at least got involved.

I guess different people have different philosophies or ideas or whatever, but it didn’t make much sense to me. I subscribe to the Bill Hillhouse school on warm-ups and drills — the more you make it like the actual pitching motion and get the whole body involved, the better off you’ll be. It looked like the girl was practicing to be an arm pitcher. When she went to full motion that’s exactly what happened. No leg drive, no body drive, just an arm thrower. It was too bad, because she looked pretty athletic and it seemed like she could get a lot more out of her body than she was getting.

I mentioned all this to another of our coaches, and he said that maybe she was being taught that way because it would be easier to throw strikes if she wasn’t going fully into it. I suppose that’s true. If you’re only using one body part there’s less to go wrong. But that seems like a shortcut to a dead end. Sooner or later if she wants to compete she’ll have to learn to throw her body into it, at least if she wants to develop speed. At that point she’ll probably have some setbacks and will have to relearn how to pitch. By then she’ll be behind the other 14Us who started out learning a more dynamic way of pitching and who were willing to walk a few more batters early to become better later.

Of course, that’s only one assumption. For all I know her pitching coach may be telling her to use her legs and she just doesn’t like to do it. But again, based on the warm-up drills I saw, that doesn’t appear to be the case. It seems like the arm is the focus, and the weak muscles in the wrist, and nothing else matters much.

There are no shortcuts on the road to success. It takes a lot of the proper work to learn to do things right. Parents, before you go shelling out for lessons, see if what your daughter is being taught is what you see from the players in the NPF or the Women’s College World Series. If it doesn’t match up, you may want to find another coach.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on August 28, 2007, in Coaching, General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The arm drills are practice work for the wrist snap, the ball release and follow through. These drills are all about the final delivery and accuracy of a pitch. As the drills progress, the pitcher should be adding in some hip movement and leg stepping. The pitching coaches that our league uses teach similar drills as part of the warm up. But these are just part of the warm up, eventually you work up to drills that emphasize the hips and legs before going to the full motion.What does Bill Hillhouse recommend for a pitcher warm up? What do you see most 12U pitchers do to warm up?

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  2. Bill Hillhouse doesn’t like the isolation drills. He believes they detract from pitchers learning to use the full motion. He says practice should simulate game conditions.I use arm drills when starting a very beginning pitcher. But once they get the idea of what the arm is supposed to do I move them into using the legs with the arm. When a pitcher is warming up to pitch a game it doesn’t make sense (to me) to put too much emphasis on one single aspect. Pitching requires a full body motion. You need to use the whole body from warm-ups on. Because as with anything else you are what you practice. If all your warmups are for the arm you will most likely be an arm pitcher.

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