A solution to walking off the pitching rubber
A common problem for pitchers, especially here in the Northern climes where a lot of time is spent practicing indoors, is developing a habit of “walking off” the pitching rubber. In other words, instead of loading, transferring the weight to the pivot foot and then pushing off, pitchers will start to let the pivot foot slide forward off the rubber then plant and push off. This is often found with pitchers who practice on a flat gym floor instead of on a pitching mat. Here’s an illustration of that problem to make it clearer (those reading this on the Discuss Fastpitch forum may need to go to my blog to see the video — http://fastpitchlane.softballsuccess.com):
Ashlee stepping off the pitching rubber
Ashlee, the girl depicted here, is one of those who had developed this issue. We tried a number of the standard solutions, such has applying light pressure to her foot as she started to pitch, putting a piece of paper under her toes and having her try to drag it forward, etc. All would work while we were doing the exercise. But as soon as we went back to regular pitching she was right back into walking off. She is very aggressive in her footwork which contributed to the problem. Ultimately it got to the point where the walk off was very obvious.
This movement is a problem for two reasons. One is that it’s illegal. It’s essentially a crow hop without the hop, and because of the way it happens it’s pretty easy for an umpire to call. Beyond that, though, by not loading properly she wasn’t developing the proper level of drive she needed to maximum speed and sharpen her movement pitches.
So, rather than continue to fight her body’s desire to introduce early movement into her footwork we decided to work with it. Essentially, what we did was have her start with the heel of her front foot just barely touching the pitching rubber. Then, as she goes into the loading phase she actually pulls her foot backward so the ball of the foot is against the pitching rubber. Here’s how that looks:
Ashlee pushing off from the pitching rubber
As you can see, she still “walks forward,” which feels comfortable to her. But now when she does it she is loading better and remaining legal.
As a side note, the “after” video is her natural motion now most of the time. We actually had to take several shots to get the “before” video because it is no longer her habit. Not to say she doesn’t backslide every now and then, but for the most part this is where she is now, without having to think about it. Let’s say it’s a work in progress, but progress is good.
So if you have a pitcher with this problem, give it a try. It may be just the trick to help her overcome the issues.