Daily Archives: October 13, 2012

Fighting ignorance

I saw a “fact check” website yesterday that had a great motto. The first part was “Fighting ignorance one day at a time” or something to that effect. Then in parentheses under that it said “It’s taking a lot longer than we thought.”

I know the feeling. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort studying, evaluating and re-evaluating the optimum techniques for executing fastpitch softball skills, I’ve also had a number of years’ experience teaching those skills to players of varying levels of athletic ability. So I have a pretty good idea of what works and the way things ought to be done.

I won’t say I know everything — there’s always more to be learned and new information comes out all the time — but I do my best to remain current, and confirm my thinking with what other top coaches are doing. That’s what I share here on Life in the Fastpitch Lane and other places as well.

Yet sometimes it can get awfully frustrating when I hear that there are still people teaching drills and techniques come from the era when mullets were in style, i.e. the ’80s. Especially when they try to foist that junk on one of my students.

I’ve seen it happen with hitting, where some team coach will start telling girls who can really rip the ball to squish the bug, take the knob of the bat to the ball, swing down on the pitch and other stuff that will actually prevent them from continuing to hit well.

Recently it happened with one of my pitchers. She was at a practice with her new team, which is connected to one of the local high schools, when the team’s “pitching coach” came over and started talking to her about snapping her wrist and pointing her elbow at the catcher (aka using “hellow elbow”). I put “pitching coach” in quotes because the guy’s only qualification is that his daughter pitches at that school and he’s work with her some.

Luckily the girl’s dad texted me right away, and he’s going to talk to the head coach, who said he knows some players have private coaches and let him know if there are conflicts. Still, until it’s resolved you have yet another person who doesn’t have a clue about how top pitchers actually pitch offering advice that was either told to his daughter at some point or that he got off some VHS tape.

People, listen up! Focusing on forcing a hard wrist snap is a gigantic waste of time! I can’t emphasize that enough. There are no muscles in the wrist. The muscles run from the elbow through the forearm to the hand. The wrist’s primary contribution is flexibility and quickness, not power.

The wrist snap occurs as the result of whipping the lower arm past the elbow in release. It’s nothing you have to or even want to try to do. Trying to force a hard wrist snap actually gets in the way of the wrist making its contribution because it slows it down. It’s not where power comes from. The best the wrist can do is add a little bit. But if you make it the focus – for example doing endless wrist flips — you’ll actually defeat the whipping motion and slow the pitch down.

If you don’t believe me, how about seeing what NFCA Hall of Famer Cindy Bristow, one of the fastpitch world’s most accomplished coaches and instructors has to say about it? Or what about Bill Hillhouse, a former men’s National Team fastpitch pitcher and another highly sought-after pitching coach thinks about the wrist snap? If those two authorities tell you don’t waste your time on it, why would you continue to do it? Or listen to anyone who says you should?

The same goes for the hello elbow. It’s completely unnecessary as well as unnatural. Follow-throughs should be long and loose. You don’t need to touch your throwing-side shoulder after you pitch. You don’t need to point your elbow at the catcher. Again, that kind of stuff will get in the way of maximizing the pitcher’s potential.

For my part, I guess all I can do is keep trying to bring good information to people as best I can, and teach my students to remain strong and steadfast in their commitment to learning why we do the things we do. We’ll continue to fight ignorance one day at a time – even if it takes a lot longer than we thought.

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