Anyone who has been around fastpitch softball, even for a little while, has seen it – what I call the “bow and arrow” or “Katniss” style of throwing. (Although I will admit the Katniss reference used to work a lot better a few years ago.)
The player will bring glove and throwing hand together, then draw the ball and her elbow straight back, like she is pulling back on a bow string, and finally bring the hand forward, essentially pushing the ball out of her hand.
Over a short distance that can work. But if you want to throw hard, or over a long distance, or both, that throwing pattern is not the way to go.
At some point the hand and ball need to continue moving backward past the elbow before it reverses course and comes forward. For some players, that can be a challenge.
So, I came up with the little drill you see here.
Instead of trying to throw the ball forward, the player focuses on trying to throw it backward instead. In order to do that she can’t just draw the ball back like a bowstring. She has to let the hand pass the elbow before flicking the ball away.
It’s all about finding a way to give the player the “feel” of what you want her to do in a way that breaks ingrained patterns. Giving her something different to work on – especially something she’s unlikely to do otherwise – helps overcome those previous patterns.
One thing to be careful of is not to let the player toss it backward like you would do a backhand toss from the ground. That’s not going to set up a repeatable pattern either, and could end up replacing one bad habit with another.
Instead, you want the new pattern to resemble the desired outcome as closely as possible. The backward flip will do it.
If you have a player who is having trouble learning to take the ball back properly give this a try. If you have a team full of them you can even have them try playing catch this way.
Either way, you’ll start them on the road to better throwing patterns.