First of all, let me admit that I haven’t actually used this drill yet. But I was thinking about it the other day and thought it might be a good idea for that softball pitcher who wants to take her game to the infamous “next level.” I have a few girls in mind who I think would benefit from it.
Here are the basics. The pitcher throws a pitch as per usual. It can be any pitch – fastball, change, drop, whatever. After she throws it, rather than the catcher throwing it back the pitcher sprints to the catcher, the catcher hands her the ball, and the pitcher sprints back to the pitching rubber.
Once she is back she can follow her usual routine to throw the next pitch. You don’t want to rush that and risk poor mechanics.
Continue until the pitcher is winded – or maybe one more pitch beyond that.
This drill will do several things. Obviously, it will help the pitcher with conditioning and building up her endurance in a sport-specific way. Pitching is basically a one-step sprint. Having the pitcher sprint down and sprint back (rather than conditioning with long runs) will help encourage that quick burst and quick recovery. It will also help her build length strength to drive off quicker and more powerfully.
It will also help the pitcher gain experience with pitching when she’s tired. All too often in lessons or practice sessions the pitcher goes for a half hour and is done. It’s not too tough to maintain good mechanics in that timeframe, especially if there are water breaks or chats in-between.
But in a game, or especially at a tournament, fatigue can set in quickly. If the pitcher isn’t used to pitching through it she can struggle. Her mechanics can break down and she’ll be doing anything she can to chuck the ball at the plate. Including things that could hurt her physically. But if she learns to pitch through fatigue in a controlled environment she’ll be much better prepared for the afternoon or evening of the last day of a tournament.
Finally, it will help her mental game, showing her that she can push past her normal breaking point and learn to focus even when she’s sucking wind. Especially if, as you should, you insist that her control, speed and movement remain consistent no matter how tired she gets.
Now, this is not the sort of thing I would recommend for every practice session. But every now and then – maybe once a week if she’s practicing regularly – it can make a huge difference.
If you want to give your pitcher a good workout, especially after the holidays as many are preparing for the high school season or the summer, give this drill a try. And be sure to let me know how it goes.
Just read an interesting and worthwhile article by Arizona coach Mike Candrea for his Liberty Mutual Play Positive monthly column. The topic was sports injuries and how to prevent or at least minimize them.
In the column Candrea talks about some of the causes, especially in softball. He says most injuries in our sport are not the result of something occurring on the field, but of overuse. He points to his own experience where a career-ending elbow injury requiring surgery was the result of over-use in Little League.
One of the big points he brings up, and the one I want to focus on today, is the need for rest and recovery. Today in youth sports there seems to be a focus on playing as many games as we can. When we’re not playing we’re practicing, and when we’re not practicing we’re expected to be conditioning, or doing speed an agility, or doing something else to get better.
All of those are good things, but you can get too much of a good thing too. The importance of rest and recovery time cannot be overstated. This article from the American College of Sports Medicine says, “Rest is a critical component to any good workout routine and time spent allowing the body to recover is a great way to prevent injuries. A rest day must occur at least one to two times per week. Even small breaks during a workout are sometimes required to get the most out of the workout and prevent injuries.”
This article from Stack gets more into the specifics of overtraining. Among the points it makes is that muscles that are worked hard tend to have their proteins break down. If the athlete isn’t allowed to rest the protein continues to break down and put the athlete at risk of injury.
While these things apply to any athlete, they particularly apply to youth athletes whose bodies are still growing and changing. They need recovery time – rest, not just a lighter workout – to avoid injury.
As parents and coaches, it is our responsibility to ensure our athletes have the rest and recovery time they need – even if that makes us unpopular, or goes against the grain of what everyone else is doing.
If you’re an athlete you need to listen to your body. Don’t just try to “tough it out.” You’re not training to be a Navy SEAL or Army Ranger. Speak up if you can’t go. Again, it might not make you popular, and it might cost you playing time today. But better that you’re still able to play a few years from now than to allow some fanatic to ruin your career.
It’s not being lazy. It’s being smart. Listen to the experts. A few less games or practices might be just what the doctor ordered.
Following is a guest post by Nathan Friedkin, founder of Maximum Performance Yoga. It presents some ideas for using yoga to help build the strength and flexibility required to play at your peak level. Keep in mind these exercises are best used during off-times or after a game. For pre-game warm-ups you’ll want to stick with dynamic warm-ups.
Softball involves quite a bit of twisting, during which the lower body stays grounded and still while the upper body rotates. Twists are involved in batting, throwing, and even trying to steal a base. A stable foundation in the lower body (strong glutes and thighs) and flexibility in the spine are the keys to executing a safe and healthy twist, which are not only important in a strong performance
but in preventing back injury. Yoga postures such as Revolved Crescent Lunge promote leg strength through isometric muscle contraction and spinal flexibility through a sustained twist.
Yoga is also helpful in maintaining both strength and flexibility in the shoulder girdle, which are incredibly important in pitching. A good pitch requires not only a great deal of power, but an extensive range of motion in the shoulder joint. By stretching the shoulders in postures such as a wide legged forward fold with interlacing the hands behind the back, and strengthening them in postures such as Chaturanga Dandasana (essentially a narrow-arm push-up), yoga may be helpful in improving pitching
performance and reducing incidence of injury.
Here are some key postures for preventing injuries for softball players:
- Four legged staff pose (chaturanga)
- Standing Bow Pulling Pose
- Chair Pose
- Half Lord of the Fishes
- Standing Head-to-Knee Pose
- Seated Head-to-Knee Pose
- Revolved triangle
- Balancing stick
- Supine hand to foot
- Revolved side angle
- Prayer twist
- Wide legged standing forward fold with bound arms
- Cow face pose
- Half pigeon
- Eye of the needle
- Side plank
Nathan Friedkin is an entrepreneur, yogi, video producer, and proud father of two sons. He is also the founder of Maximum Performance Yoga® MPY crushes convention, smashes stigma and brings the benefits of power yoga training to student athletes.
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