The importance of throwing
One of the core skills of fastpitch softball is throwing. The ability to throw well is often the difference between winning and losing games. Yet it also seems to be one of those aspects a lot of coaches gloss over.
I make this statement after watching the technique I see used as I travel from place to place. Everyone will warm up throwing, but it doesn’t seem like much emphasis is given to what’s being done. Many players will stand flat-footed, stride toward their partners without ever turning their bodies, and just sort of chuck the ball in their general direction. There’s no power, and no precision.
I think the reason a lot of this happens is that coaches are in a hurry to get to other skills. Yes, all the skills are important. But the statistic I continuously hear quoted is that 80% of all errors are throwing errors. If you could spend an extra 15 to 20 minutes of practice time to cut out 80% of your errors, don’t you think that would be time well spent?
To do it, coaches have to put strong emphasis on it. They have to provide a little “tough love” on it for their players. The players have to know the coach is serious not only about getting the ball there but how it’s being done.
A few years ago my team was having problems making basic throws. So I challenged them to throw and catch for one minute — just one minute — without throwing a ball away or dropping it. That little exercise took about 30 minutes to complete. But by the time we were done, the girls knew I was serious about it.
These days we still spend a lot of time on it. We will run a four corners drill of some sort every practice. Sometimes it’s what half the team does while the other half is hitting. With four corners you put players at each base and have them throw in different patterns. Sometimes we use throw-down bases with shorter distances, and other times we use a full 60 feet.
Sometimes we do a combination of throwing and running. We put an even number of players at each base. The ball starts at home. Each player throws to the base to her left then runs to the base to her right. When we got really good at it last year, we used only one player per base and had a competition to see which group could complete it the fastest. It was fun, it was great conditioning (you really have to sprint to get to the base before the ball does) and it emphasized the importance of making good throws.
One final note. When our girls are warming up, we don’t just let them throw randomly. We walk through and correct their form. It’s the little things that eventually wind up costing you games. We try to make sure those little things are taken care of. It doesn’t mean we win every game. But it does put us in a better position.