Eva Voortman - Insideout softball science, July 2020
Throwing, smijten or pitching? Pitching from top till toe to the top – In practice
What do you need to throw hard? Well actually, everything. From the big toe of the push-off foot, to the hand in your glove, and from the toe of your landing foot to the fingertips of your pitching hand. To accelerate the ball in an optimal way, you need the fingers of your pitching hand to go as fast as they can, and this acceleration literally comes from your big toe. The reasoning behind this, and how you can accelerate your body from that toe to your fingers is what I will explain the coming weeks along findings from scientific articles combined with my experience as a pitcher(trainer). This week: in practice.
Practice, how do you learn to throw the optimal pitch? Both science and theory are not that simple. In practice it is easier to not make things more complicated than they already are. Which is said easier than done, but I will give it a try.
First of all, I would like to ask you to walk backwards for once, walk on your toes and on the side of your feet. If I am right, you discover that it is a bit more complicated than walking forward, with flat feet and on the bottom of your foot. Nevertheless, when you look at the positive side of it, you notice that you are still able to move forward. If you would do this for a couple of minutes over a longer period of time, you would probably even be able to become quite skilled in these tasks.
What do we learn about our body here: it moves most efficiently when used the way it is build, and if we practice a lot the body will adjust, even though there is a more efficient way.
These principles can also be applied to learning how to pitch. You would like to pitch like you walk, however if you practice on the backwards, toe walk or side walk version you can also be successful. But this will never go as fast as the most efficient walking.
The next step. If you go from walking to jogging to sprinting, it is necessary to also train on those running speeds. Walking fast is not the same as jogging or sprinting.
These principles can also be applied to learning how to pitch, you want to throw as fast as you can throw. You will not throw faster by throwing slower, you will throw faster by throwing faster.
What does a training look like then? Mainly you just pitch fast. I promised to keep it as simple as possible, well it will not get any simpler. A small addition to throwing fast would be to always pitch with a target and purpose. This way you get feedback whether you reached your goal or not and if not, where to make an adjustment.
Now a list, a pitching training consists of:
A physical warm-up including focus on disturbing and coordination of namely the arm motion. Warm-up to throw, do not throw to warm-up.
A long toss, relaxed, long, moving loosely to more tension leading to an explosive finish. This is the way to find rhythm and to throw harder.
A training with variation in tools that help you feel if you move the right way throughout the pitching motion or maybe not. Sometimes you make it a bit lighter sometimes a bit heavier and sometimes a bit easier and sometimes a bit more difficult than the actual pitch.
Possibly it stands out that I did not mention a catcher yet. Even though the catcher is essential in a game and very welcome as it comes to how pitches look, a catcher is not essential to become a better pitcher. A target banner to focus on is a very good alternative, sometimes even a better option when it’s about developing speed and intention to focus on the motion as well.
A nice addition to this, it is important to learn to see/read the spin on the ball. When you want a ball to move, you have to give it a spin. When you cannot see the spin you miss essential information about the pitch that can provide immediate feedback on the motion and position of the hand.
Let’s get to work! Review the articles, be creative and get to work.