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Recently-Received Questions (and our answers) 

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Gerald Warner, Softball Pitching Instructor
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We want to hear from you!  E-mail or call us with any questions or recommendations that you might have concerning girls fastpitch softball pitching. 

Here are some of the questions we've received recently from other pitchers, coaches, and parents:

 

                                                                                                   

Summarized question from several parents, pitching instructors, and team coaches
RECOMMENDED PITCH COUNT
"I see that many other coaches are often using the same pitcher in back-to-back doubleheaders and tournament games.  My daughter is 13 and is of average build.  I don't want her to be doing anything that could have negative consequences later in her career I've heard of young girls being overused as pitchers and causing shoulder injury that takes them out of the game for years.  What should be a recommended pitch count for one game, for a weekend tournament, or per week?"

Certainly you have reason to be concerned.  Some overly-aggressive parents or even coaches push their kids too hard in competitive sports, even to the extent of risking injury that could have lifelong consequences.

Although the Little League Softball organization and some local rec and competitive leagues around the country establish limits for pitching, the majority of them are based on fairness...giving pitching time to all pitchers...not necessarily as a need to prevent injury.  As you likely are aware, even though player safety is always a concern, none of the largest national softball sanctioning organizations have any restrictions on number of pitches thrown.
 
As you said, the underhand pitching motion holds considerably less likelihood of injury UNLESS the pitcher's mechanics are not good...even if they are off just a little.  Every time we track it, we always find that the biggest causes of injuries to girl softball pitchers are (1) incorrect mechanics and (2) overuse.  So the potential for injury is primarily based on each girl's physical development, stamina, and the correctness of her pitching motion.  As you likely saw on my PitchSoftball.com website, even some instructors are teaching pitches and releases to young girls that can lead to injury.  It only takes a few snapping releases, twisting of the arm, "chicken wing" releases or follow-throughs, bending forward at the release, etc. to start a bad habit that could lead to chronic problems.

I am certainly not recommending that a pitcher should be overused.  However the majority of developing pitchers at this age do practice pitching 3 or more times a week for 45 minutes or so.  And in addition, in their ASA, USSSA, NAFA, etc.- sanctioned fastpitch tournaments, it is not uncommon for a 14-and-under pitcher to throw as many as 60 to 100 pitches in a game, 2 or 3 games in a day, 5 or more in a weekend tournament, without risk of injury...PROVIDED she is doing things right.         - GW

                                                                                                   

From T.N., CA
SIDE-STEPPING
"
I have a question concerning staying in the 24" pitching lane.  My daughter is twelve and does the side step when pitching.  She has to start on her far right with her foot against the outside of the rubber to ensure she stays in the lane.  I would like her to have the right foot ON the far side of the rubber to give her a better push off.  How can I best get her to work on staying in the lane?"
Talk with her pitching instructor...likely s/he had a reason to teach her to side-step and to not have her entire foot on the rubber.  Typically an 8, 9, or 10 year old beginner defaults to the side-step if she has a problem with her opening and/or closing rotation.  In your daughter's case, my guess is that the extreme side-step is already limiting...or at least soon will be...her pitch speed.
As you are likely aware, depending on which local or national organization(s) her team is playing under, most have rules similar to the ASA and USSSA:

ASA:  Both feet must be on the ground within the 24-inch length of the pitcher's plate.
USSSA: Both feet must be on the ground within or partially within the 24-inch length of the pitcherís plate.
Regardless of the rule, your daughter is losing the primary contributor to a quick drive off the pitching rubber when she doesn't use the pitching rubber.  We always have a pitcher place the entire ball of her foot on the front edge of the pitching rubber.  That way, when she pushes off she always drives against the rubber, and not against loose or packed dirt, which may or may not be there (because of the drag trench created by other pitchers). 
 
As you might have noticed in college games this year, the NCAA is chalking the sides of the pitching lane for each game...a 24-inch wide path from the pitching rubber to the edge of the 8-foot circle.   In your daughter's practice sessions, you might do the same...use a chalk line to lay down lines straight ahead from the sides of the rubber.
 
For girls who are physically capable of the straight-ahead power line stride, we have found that those who side-step lose about 1 mph for each 2 or 3 inches they land short of the power line.  So a pitcher who falls short of her power line by a foot is likely losing 4 or 5 mph.  Check out this page on my website:

http://pitchsoftball.com/ThePowerLine.html

- GW
                                                                                                   

From C.F., WI
CONDITIONING AND WEIGHT TRAINING
"My daughter is 15 and throwing mid 50's.  What are the best drills during the off season for her to pick up 3 to 4 more MPH?"

Have your daughter focus on work that will increase: (1) the explosiveness of her drive off the pitching rubber, and (2) the speed of her final "arm whip" going down to, and through, the release of the ball.  Speed training with a harness and resistance band is a great way to build up leg muscles and consequently body speed off the rubber.   An inxpensive ($25 or so) speed harness system is available from World Sport, Inc. on their website: www.worldsportusa.com, and Amazon.com and e-Bay.

Previously on my website, I responded to a question about what areas to target with weight training:
  • Shoulder (pectorals in particular) ...don't focus on bicep...the pec is THE muscle used for arm whip
  • Wrist and hand (for pitches that she will be working on in the future that will require wrist snap or peel)
  • Core muscles (abs and lower back) for trunk opening and closing rotation
  • Legs (for an explosive drive off the pitching rubber, and for a strong front side at the release)  

    If your daughter is in a weight-training class in high school, the trainer there (or one at a local fitness center) can help her with a program for (a) her pecs, (b) wrist and forearm, and (c) core muscles.  Also, the "pitch-into-a-hanging-rug" drill that I mentioned on the website has alone helped a lot of high school-age pitchers pick up the 3 or 4 mph that you are looking for.  Here is a link directly to that page:

    http://pitchsoftball.com/DrilltoIncreaseSpeed.html

    Finally, a lot of pitchers, even many with 6 or 8 years of experience don't finish their fastest pitch with a good "front wall resistance" from their landing leg.  Have your daughter look over the information here to make certain that she is getting a good pushback:

    http://pitchsoftball.com/ForMoreSpeed-FinishthePitch.html 

    It will help if you video 2 or 3 of her pitches from her throwing side to use the comparison of the photos in the article vs. the frame-by-frame example that you get from the video.               - GW

                                                                                                       

    From Miranda, 17, Sacramento, CA
    "My pitching coach taught be to throw a rise ball 2 years ago, but it doesn't spin in the direction that you show on your website, and it doesn't really move.  And she tells me to keep my weight forward, not back.  Do you have any pictures of someone releasing a rise ball with a good form?"
    Sure, these should help:

    rise sequence 2.png  Img111.png  rise sequence 4.png  rise sequence 5.png

    This is a pretty "classic" release: weight back, shoulders open, short follow through straight up.    - GW

                                                                                                       

    From D.M.
    CURVE BALL - "What is the most effective curveball grip and any other points to really focus on for success with this pitch?"
         Like with other breaking pitches, the curve is far more dependent on the timing and intensity of the wrist snap at the release than it is with the grip.   Although we typically like to see a 4-seam side-to-side rotation on the ball, some pitchers feel more comfortable with what results in a 2-seam rotation and they still get a good break.
         In general, men often have good success with a palm down release (it requires exceptional wrist strength and flexibility) ;  girls and women are most often successful with a palm-up, fingers-up release with a release and follow-through side-to-side across the pitchers abdomen.
     
        I generally encourage most pitchers to start with a 3-finger grip that allows two fingers to be placed against the sides of seam ridges.  Put your index and ring fingers against the sides of the U-shaped seams...the middle finger therefore can rest at the top of the U, or on smooth leather.   By gripping it that way, those two fingers then drive against the side of the stitches at the release to give the ball a tighter spin.   Otherwise, for a 2-seam grip, put the middle and ring fingers against the stitch ridges on the "narrows" where the seams are closest together...the index finger can lay loose against the side of the ball.
         The effectiveness of the curve is going to be determined not by which grip is used, but by the direction and speed of the spin.   Ideally we would like to see a side-to-side spin (going in the direction of the curve, as seen by the catcher) , but often end up with a sideways rotation that also angles downward.   For a palm-down curve, the hand must "snap" around the outside of the ball precisely at the release point.   For the more common fingers-up, palm-up release, the fingers need to be pointing skyward at the approach, and the wrist snap needs to be short and quick across the waist or slightly below it.  Often, bending your trunk backwards at the release helps to achieve the fingers-up position.   Otherwise, if the fingers are bent slightly forward at the release, it results in a screwball spin...opposite of what you want to achieve.
         Finally, with either style, a stride substantially across the power line can help with both spin speed and pitch placement.   So a right-hander, that means stepping up to a foot to the right of the power line, and pitching around the left leg.
                                                                                                                  - GW

                                                                                                       

    From K.Y. - 
    Please give me some information on the effects of the rotation of a softball, and the release of a pitch and how it can affect a pitcher's speed.
         The rotation of the ball...the spin that a pitcher imparts at the release of the pitch...obviously has an effect on the direction that a pitch breaks.   However, the spin does not have any noticeable effect on the speed of the pitch.   Pitch speed is a product of the speed of the pitcher's arm coming through the release point, and the added speed that correct wrist position and the wrist's forward movement (wrist snap) at the precise moment the ball is leaving the pitcher's hand.
         SPEED - The pitcher's arm speed must have reached its maximum at the exact point of the release of the ball.  Consequently, although arm speed should be fast through the first 2-thirds of the arm rotation, a pitcher must further increase arm speed during the final 120 degrees during the final arm swing and through the release point.  
         Additionally, correct position of the pitcher's wrist at the release point is essential to obtain maximum speed.   A thumb-first release with the fingers behind the ball, driving it through the release, is proven to be the way a pitcher can achieve the best speed.  Simultaneously, a forward wrist snap (straight ahead, without twisting the hand over the top or around the outside of the ball) can add an estimated 3 to 5 mph to the pitch.   Pitchers who use an over-the-top drop ball release on their fastball can lose much of the speed increase that comes from a forward wrist snap.
          ROTATION OF THE BALL and THE "MAGNUS EFFECT" - The direction AND speed of a ball's spin determine the effectiveness of "breaking" pitches in softball (drop, screw ball, curve, rise ball, etc.) .   If the ball doesn't spin in the right direction OR doesn't spin fast enough, it won't have the intended drop, curve, or rise effect.
         The ability of a spinning projectile to curve (up, down, or sideways) in flight is caused by the Magnus Effect.  It can best be demonstrated by using a lightweight table tennis ball to impart spin...even backspin...to cause it to actually rise in flight.  As a ping pong ball or a standard weight softball spins in flight, a slight vacuum is created on the side, top, or bottom of the ball.  For instance a correctly spinning
    "rise ball" must have a true backspin (rapidly rotating bottom-to-top as seen by the catcher) to create a slight vacuum on the top side of the ball, giving it an extended lift in flight.   Although a true rise ball in softball does not make an upward banana-shaped trajectory as many people think, a fast spin in the correct direction can cause it to stay in flight longer, and therefore have a more level path instead of the natural downward arc of even a 65 mph fastball without the same spin.   Similarly a curve ball must spin rapidly in a side-to-side direction, a drop ball in a top-to-bottom direction (as seen by the catcher), etc.
         It is estimated that a drop ball needs to be spinning in the correct direction at a speed of at least 16 to 18 rps (revolutions per second) in order to have even a minimal drop due to a correct release.   Similarly, curve balls and screwballs must spin faster...more than 20 rps.   And a true rise ball must be spinning in excess of 25 rps in order to stay above the normal parabolic arc of a slower-spinning fastball.  Most softball pitchers who "think" they can throw a rise ball do not impart a correct reverse spin on the ball and/or do not have a hard enough wrist snap at the release to make the pitch work properly.
                                                                                                              
       - GW

                                                                                                       

    From a concerned parent:
    My daughter does an over the head windup, and then explodes off the mound.  In high school this year the coaches like her but want her to stop doing the overhead windup. My question is why do they want to cut her windup when she is comfortable doing it that way?
         I'm not certain why anyone should be concerned about your daughter's over-the-head pre-pump at the start of her pitching motion...there are probably a lot more important things to be concerned with. 
         Yes, we encourage new young pitchers to "keep it simple" by starting with their pitching hand and glove together in front of their body and then going into their backswing, before starting the forward rotation.   However, like your daughter, most teenage pitchers like to introduce something into their pre-motion that is her "trademark"...something that makes her look different, and maybe even a little more intimidating.   And some major college pitchers and even a few big-name Team USA pitchers do your daughter's "scare-the-bear" overhead move prior to starting their backswing:

    pitching sequence -016.png  img_10921.png

    It doesn't help, but it also doesn't hurt as long as it doesn't affect her timing.  Typically, whatever a pitcher does before she starts the forward rotation does not have anything to do with pitching speed or accuracy.
                                                                                                                       - GW

                                                                                                       

    From S.K.
    My daughter just turned 12 and pitches for a 12U ASA travel team in California.  She is  a lefty but not a large girl (5feet) tall and throws her fastball generally in the mid to high 40s.  My question relates to the fact that she uses a slow drop curve as her change up.  She learned it from a UCLA pitcher last summer and is very comfortable with it.  I have taught her to pitch from watching videos and she has had some intruction at UCLA.  In order to take her to the next level we are trying to find her a pitching coach. The person who worked with her yesterday immediately wanted to convert her to a more traditional change up.   He also wanted her to learn the rise ball but I dont think she is big enough or throws hard enough yet.  What do you think?
        Good questions.
    (1) RISE BALL - First, let me go on a rant about teaching a 12-year old a rise ball.   Because this is a very difficult pitch to learn, develop, and perfect, we typically don't have pitchers even start to work on a rise until they have gone through their major growth spurt...usually in their mid-to-late teens...and have a pitching speed at least in the 55-58 mph range.   Despite all of the bragging you hear from young pitchers, parents, coaches, and pitching instructors, most of the true rise-ball college-level pitchers didn't develop their rise until they were in late high school or college.   There's far more for your daughter to be working on at this age than a pitch release that doesn't have any meaningful effect on a batter other than to provide a sweet floating fastball through the power part of the zone.  Teaching a rise ball release to her during these pre-teen growth-plate injury prone years is a risk that is not worth taking.
       
    (2)  OFF-SPEED DROP/CURVE - Without question a low-and-away breaking pitch (curve, drop, or drop/curve) thrown off-speed should be your daughter's "take charge" pitch...the one that she can go to at any time to mess up a batter's timing.   However, I would recommend a traditional change-up (either the back-of-the-hand "flip" release, or the stiff-wrist "open palm" method) as her slowest (25% to 33% slower than her fastball) pitch.  Over the next few years she is going to face more skilled batters, many of whom can reload for a change, and that requires a pitch that comes in at a speed between the fastball and change-up.   And THAT is where I would suggest that she puts the off-speed drop/curve.   Even in a few months, just those three pitches can be a great repertoire: 50mph fastball, 33mph change-up, 41mph off-speed drop/curve.  Then, if things go on schedule, in two or three years, she can aim for speeds of 60, 39, and 48.
                                                                          - GW

                                                                                                       

    From M.C.
    I have a 10 year old left handed pitcher, should she be holding the ball with all fingers right now or go ahead and get use to holding with as little as possible. Also, how many different pitches should she have right now?
    GRIP - HOW MANY FINGERS?
    Most girl softball pitchers use a 3-finger grip for their fastball and later, for most of their breaking pitches.   Since your 10-year old is likely using a slightly smaller 11-inch ball (the standard 12-inch circumference ball is used by most organizations for ages 11 and over), it would be beneficial for her to try a 3-finger grip (4 if necessary to get started), and then stick with a 3-finger grip as she graduates to the standard-sized ball.  Also, it is best to start with a grip that places the pads of the fingers on the side of the grip - 4-seam fastball.jpghorseshoe (or "U") seams on the ball, like in this photo:

    This type of grip is called a "4 seam" because when it is pitched, the ball will rotate top-to-bottom (as seen by the catcher) with all 4-seams digging into the air.   It is a more sure grip because of the traction on the stitches of the ball, and also prepares the pitcher for future pitches.
     
     
    HOW MANY DIFFERENT PITCHES?
        This is a very important topic.   The bottom line is DON'T LET YOUR PITCHER FEEL LIKE SHE HAS TO BE ABLE TO THROW A LOT OF DIFFERENT PITCHES to be successful.
       
    There is a lot of peer pressure put on young pitchers, sometimes by other girl and sometimes by adults, to try to have a repertoire of several pitches.  Don't fall into that trap.  We have seen hundreds of pitchers brag about their 5 or 6 different pitches...BUT THEN, when they throw them all of the pitches look alike...none of them drop, curve, rise, etc.   10, 11, and 12-year old girls cannot throw a "rise ball", and the majority who think they have a curve or screw ball aren't really throwing a really good breaking pitch.  Most pre-teens also risk injury if they try to throw too many pitches that require a hard wrist snap, so we discourage our pitching students from working on a curve ball, a rollover drop, or screw ball until their growth and athleticism can safely accommodate the type of wrist snap that is required.   And the majority of pitchers who start development of a rise ball too soon never successfully throw one.
        At age 10 most pitchers should work on correct (straight stride, no bending at the waist on the release, etc.) and smooth pitching mechanics.   Then, as mechanics develop correctly, and as she develops a more natural fluid motion, start adding speed.   Then, when mechanics and speed are good, THEN work on placement...hitting her spots.   Then, work on a good, deceptive (without a noticeable slow-down of body motion or arm speed) change-up that is 25% to 33% slower than her fastball.   10 and 11 year old pitchers can be very successful with good speed, being able to "hit the corners", and keeping the batter apprehensive with her change-up.  THEN, after those things are all working well...sometime between ages 10 and 12...start working on a "peel / lift-up" type of drop ball...which is a lot less risky for a pre-teen than the rollover/snapover drop ball.   We have developed many good high school age pitchers who relied primarily on their fastball, change-up, and full-speed and off-speed drop balls.  A curve, screw, or rise ball can come after...and only after...everything else is working well.

                        - GW

                                                                                                       

    From D.L.
    I have coached various sports in the past couple of years, and I would like to start coaching softball I have no prior experience playing the game; so that makes it a little intimidating for me. I would really like to focus on being a pitching coach (and make sure that none of the pitchers get bad advice that could shorten their career).
    If you could give me any thoughts on how to get started I would greatly appreciate them.
       As you saw on my website, I and most other pitching instructors always have our young pitchers work on good mechanics...pushoff, fluid arm swing, opening and closing trunk rotation, stride and landing, arm whip, release, and follow-through.    Once the fundamental mechanics are in order (and for some it can take months, or even more than a year) THEN speed and control will not be an issue.
        So I would first recommend that you become a real student of girls' windmill pitching mechanics.   Get some input from one or two of the good pitching instructors in your area, talk with some college and local high school pitchers to get feedback on what they have been taught right and wrong, and how their experience and recommendations apply to your girls.
      
    There is an excellent book that I mentioned on my website, FastPitch Softball, the Windmill Pitcher by Barry Sammons.   It is probably the best resource available on girls pitching.  You can pick it up online through Amazon.com or E-Bay....should be $15 or so.    Also, videotapes by Cheri Kempf or Michelle Smith could be very helpful.

                        - GW

                                                                                                       

    • From T.B.
      I am 17 and I'm a junior at High School. I am a right-handed pitcher and throw between 57-60 MPH.  I have a fast-ball that I can pretty much hit any location, an off-speed that isn't always perfect but is a great pitch, a change up that is slower than my off-speed and has a spin to it (the only bad thing is that a good batter will be able to wait on it), and my screw ball which is pretty affective. Are those good pitches or do I need to work on a rise ball also? I want to gain some velocity in my fastball but I'm not really sure how I should go about doing that, any advice? Do you have any information about what colleges are looking for in a pitcher?
           What you are asking really depends on the level of competition that you are facing...both in high school and in competitive travel ball...and also what your plans might be for playing in college.
    • PITCHING SPEED - Your high 50's speed is good, but speed is a place where every pitcher can stand out...if she is willing to work at it.   Depending on your physical size and strength, you can likely pick up a few miles per hour with only slight modifications in your pitching mechanics, and especially emphasizing the "arm whip" (putting all of your effort into the final downswing going into the release) and a final forward wrist snap precisely as the ball leaves your hand.  If you aren't on a weight training program right now, get busy on developing your throwing arm shoulder (pectoralis muscle), your wrist and fingers, and core (abs and lower back) .   All of these areas contribute directly to pitch velocity.   For other possibilities, take another look at the page on my website "Increase the Speed of Your Fastball".
    • DROP BALL - You mentioned that you had an off-speed and change-up, and a screw ball.   If you don't have one, a good drop ball is an essential pitch to have.   Get advice from your pitching instructor, but typically an "over the top" snapover drop is best for a pitcher with your experience.   You can succeed in high school with good fastball speed, a deceptive change-up that is 30% or so slower than your fastball, and a good drop ball (perhaps thrown at a speed halfway between your fastball and change) .   Your screw ball is icing on the cake.
    • RISE BALL - As you likely read on our website, most pitchers work on developing a rise at your age, but often don't get it developed until they are in college.   If you plan on playing serious Gold-level competitive softball and/or continuing your pitching after high school, a rise ball is important.   Yes, start working on it now, but be prepared for a lot of hard work to get it spinning in the right direction, and at a fast enough spin speed to make it climb above the normal plane of a regular fastball.
         Finally, all college coaches are looking for pitchers.   Pitchers, catchers, good shortstops, and hitters with high batting averages get first opportunities on whatever athletic scholarships colleges might have available. 
                                                    - GW

                                                                                                       

    From S.B.
    My daughter is a 12 year old, 7th grader, who has been pitching, with a coach, for the past 2 years.  She has grown into a very fine pitcher.  Our problem is that she her school coaches think she is a machine and not a 12 year old girl....  She has worked very hard, in spite of playing three sports.  Her school coaches very seldom congratulate her on pitching a good game, but are critical when her pitching is less than perfect.  My husband and I are concerned that the stress will wear her out, and she will give up on pitching.   We as parents and coaches need to understand that young children can produce so much more when encouraged rather than discouraged.
         Well said...and you have a reason to be concerned.   Nearly 90% of the younger kids who participate in recreational and competitive sports quit before playing the game in high school...and a significant majority of them give it up because they get more reprimands for their mistakes than they get accolades for doing things right.
        
    A couple of the big business gurus 20 years ago were Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence) and Ken Blanchard (The One Minute Manager) .   Both claimed than Supervisors and Managers got better results from their subordinates if they set a goal of "...always catching them doing something right."    And Blanchard and his cohort Bob Waterman based their "One Minute Manager" series on a child psychologist's recommendations to focus on the behavior rather than the child, to limit reprimands to 60-seconds, and to focus on the praises for doing things right.
        
    Coaches have a responsibility to be counselors...not reprimanders;  and that girls are different from boys;  and that we all work harder when you tell us when we have done something right.              - GW

                                                                                                       

    From R.W.
    I just read some of the answered questions on your web site.  One was from Kelli in Ohio simply thanking you for recommending a technique for the "arm whip" to her instructor.  Tell me more.
         A majority of girl softball pitchers don't reach their fastest potential pitching speed because they haven't concentrated on increasing their arm speed on the downside swing approaching the release point.  We pitching instructors typically encourage new young pitchers to develop a "smooth and consistent arm rotation".     All too often however, we fail to take them to the next step when they are ready.   And that is to develop a faster "arm whip" during the final one-third of the rotation.

    Img107.png  hipsatrelease13.jpg

         Focus on increasing arm speed from               HERE                            to                   HERE
     
         The best drill to practice this is for the pitcher to line up from 25-or-30-feet from the catcher, and line up sideways to the catcher in the "9 o'clock position" (similar to the pitcher's open position in the first photo...pitching hand straight up, glove pointing toward the catcher), then pitch from that position...close fully, and follow-through in your normal fashion.   Concentrate totally on fast arm speed from the 9 o'clock position through the release point.
         Most pitchers can develop a faster fastball if they have their wrist bent back slightly going toward the release of the ball, and focus more on their arm whip.  Arm speed will be faster, wrist snap will be better, and her pitching velocity will increase.   
                                                                                                      - GW

    _______________________________________________________________________

    From B.K.
    My daughter is 16 and is a fastball pitcher.   I have heard that they should not learn to throw a rise ball until they are 17 or 18.     Is this true and what is the reasoning for it?
          As you likely read on this website, although most high school-age pitchers like to think that they are throwing a rise ball, most aren't.   This is a pitch that requires exceptional mechanics and a precise release to get the ball spinning in the right direction and at a sufficient rotation speed (in excess of 20 revolutions per second)...and at a speed at least in the high 50's.
          Therefore, we always hold a pitcher back from even starting to work on the rise ball until she :

    (1) has gone through her early-teens growth spurt
    (2) has gained some additional athleticism
    (3) will make the long-range commitment to work hard on properly developing the pitch.  
          And those are the primary criteria that I would recommend for your daughter...don't rely on her age to determine when to start working on a rise.
          Although there are certainly a lot of high school and travel ball pitchers in their mid-teens who are successfully throwing a rise ball, the percentage is in the very low single digits.   In general, most teenage pitchers start working on a rise ball while they are in high school, but typically don't perfect it until they are in college.                                                                 - GW
                                                                                                                         

    From R.S.
    I am wondering what position the pitcher should be facing when she releases the ball,  facing the third base, or facing the batter?  
    We have had a discussion and many feel that she should be facing the third base, but I donít see how she could get a good release of the ball.  It goes to the left of the plate all the time, because she has to throw around her body.
          This is a problem that is not only one for coaches and parents, but also an issue that could result in injury to the pitcher if done wrong.
         
    Our strong recommendation is that you should make certain that pitchers do neither.   (1) If a pitcher's trunk and hips are fully "closed" (facing home plate) at the precise instant the pitch is being released, she gets very little velocity in her pitch...the closing rotation which contributes to the speed of the final arm swing is already completed by the time she releases.  (2)  The "open" style (where a right-handed pitcher's body is facing 3rd base, or sideways to the catcher) is being taught by some pitching instructors nationally, but we recommend against it.   Younger, and even high-school age girls of average size can easily incorporate a slight bend at the waist into the open release, which can lead to lower back problems.
         
    The MAJORITY of successful pitchers release the ball with (1) their hips approximately halfway (or slightly less) closed, and their shoulders nearly fully closed (facing the catcher) .   Here is an example:

    follow-through.png        
     
          This is for the fastball release only...other pitches require different shoulder and hip placement at the release point.
         
    Below is an example of the "open" style of release (which we permit ONLY to be used by older, larger pitchers on the release of their RISE ball) ...you can likely see how it bending at the waist while in this sideways release position can lead to lower-back problems with some girls:

    Img108.png
     
                                                                                                                                                                            - GW

                                                                                                  

    From J.M.
    My daughter is 11 and has great desire to become a pitcher. She has worked with a pitching coach for 10 months now and has showed flashes of great pitches. Speed is there but control is not to good. She may throw 3 to 4 good pitches and then throw five or six like she never touched the ball. We practice pitching every other day, about fifty pitches at a time. I thought by this time her control would be improving. Am I expecting too much too soon? We seem to have hit a wall where I am not seeing any improvement. Her coach says keep working and doing the drills. Any advice?
    It sounds like your daughter is right on the borderline...usually after 6 months or a year of practicing good pitching mechanics, and then adding speed, the control issue becomes a virtual automatic.   We always have a student focus on fundamentals...good mechanics.   Then when things are starting to become smooth and routine, add in the speed element.   We don't generally start focusing specifically on placement until all of that is going well.    Without seeing her in person or on video, it is obviously pretty difficult for me to make even a moderately accurate assessment.  Here are some thoughts and recommendations:

    (1) In your practices with her, and if she pitches in games, it is really beneficial if the coaches, parents, teammates, etc. don't fall into the trap of telling her to "JUST THROW STRIKES".   She knows the objective, and such statements just make a pitcher nervous...she starts trying to satisfy the crowd, forgets the pitching mechanics she has been working on, and starts leaning over on every pitch trying to "aim" the ball across the plate.
     
    (2) If you are confident that her pitching coach is teaching her the right fundamentals (straight ahead stride, shoulders back /no waist bend at the release, focus on throwing straight ahead right down the power line, etc.) then continue working on the mechanics.   Too many drills without focusing on one-pitch-at-a-time pitching can often be detrimental.   If you daughter can learn pre-pitch visualization (mentally visualizing the trajectory of the ball before she throws it...that often helps even at her young age.   Her instructor might have already introduced her to "focus point" preparation...where she is staring prior to starting her pitching motion.   But the real problem with out-of-the-zone pitches likely is related to something she is doing wrong mechanically.
     
    (3)  In your practice sessions with her, whenever possible have a girl her own age catch for her.   Nothing wrong with you, but she needs to get accustomed to throwing to a short catcher.
     
    (4)  Instead of counting the number of practice pitches...go for a specific period of time.   At this age, 45 minutes of practice pitching 3 (or 4) times per week is about the maximum that she can tolerate without burning out.   That way she can concentrate on each pitch...determine for herself what she did right or wrong, and then make the correction on the next pitch if necessary.  Otherwise, if an 11-year old knows that she has to go out and throw 50 pitches and then she can quit, she might not put her heart into working on each pitch.   Let her make the decision...if you have to tell her it's time to practice, things won't go well.
     
    (5)  Help make pitching fun for her.   She knows when she does something wrong, and most of the time doesn't have to be told about it.   Try to catch her doing things right, and let her know when she does.   This is a sport...she needs to WANT to do it, and HAVE FUN doing it.
    Sorry if some of this might sound a little like a lecture, but we always see that kids who are stressed or tight don't perform well.   A loose muscle is a fast muscle.   Tight muscles cause control problems for pitchers.   Stay loose, stay happy, stay confident, and pitching can be great.                                                          - GW

                                                                                                  

    From Tom W.
    My Granddaughter is 16 and started throwing a curve this past summer. She is right handed. She is able to throw it quite well to the out side of the plate for right hand batters but when she tries to throw it to the inside of the plate it doesn't break.  We think her problem is that she shortens her wrist snap to keep the pitch to her right.
         It sounds like you have pretty well diagnosed what is going on.
    When the curve works to the left side but not to the right, there is usually one of two things causing the problem, and either can usually be corrected by adjusting where the left foot lands on the stride.  (1) Some pitchers are "side-steppers"...such as a right-hander whose stride-leg steps several inches...maybe even a foot to the LEFT of the power line.  (2) Even some straight-ahead steppers don't change their stride when they throw either a screw ball or a curve.
         A right-hander throwing a screw ball can usually make the pitch more effective if she side-steps to the LEFT.
         Similarly, most really good right-handed curve ballers can benefit by stepping (with her left foot) to the RIGHT of the power line when they stride.
         Obviously, any change in the delivery will take a little getting-used-to.   But have your Granddaughter try:  (1) landing her stride foot about 6 inches to the RIGHT of the power line when she throws the curve.   This creates a subconscious image that she has to throw the pitch "around" her left leg, and forces her to impart a better snap.    (2) Also, for a pre-delivery "focus point" prior to starting her wind-up, have her focus somewhere on the batter's thigh (if SHE thinks it is going toward the batter's leg, so will the batter).          - GW

                                                                                                  

    From Kim, Kansas
    I just turned 11 years old and have a pretty good fastball (my coach says it is about 48 miles an hour) and a flip-type change that works most of the time.   Those are my only two pitches.  Some of the other pitchers my age have a lot of pitches...one of them says she throws SEVEN different pitches, and she is only 11 also!  My coach says I shouldn't start on new pitches just yet.   I'm feeling like a loser.   Do you have any advice?
    I sure do!   As a pitching instructor I regularly hear from pitchers or their parents who brag that they have a lot of pitches.   But when I have them pitch, everything looks the same...sometimes there isn't even any difference between the speed of the fastball and the change-up.   Just because a pitcher learns the grip of a pitch doesn't mean that she is throwing it with the right spin or the right speed and with good control. 

    A drop ball isn't a drop ball if it doesn't drop;  a curve ball needs to curve;  and a rise ball needs to actually hop up over the bat...not just a pitch that is thrown from the knee and crosses the plate high.

    It is MUCH better to throw two or three pitches really well, than to have 5 or 6 that don't do anything.   Follow your coach's advice:  (1) Get your fastball going faster...with good mechanics...and with good control;   (2) Make your change-up look really deceptive...just like a fastball...but at a speed about 15 miles per hour slower;  (3) THEN start working on your first breaking pitch, probably a drop ball.   If you're going to be a really good pitcher, each one of your pitches has to work well.   Take your time to develop each pitch right and don't fall into the trap of trying to follow the braggers.                      - GW

                                                                                                  

    From Kanysha, Georgia
    My coach wants me to slow down the speed of my change up pitch, but he also says it should be more level...without a "hump" in it.  Do you have any advice on how to throw a change up in a straight line like a fast ball, but a lot slower. 
    Thanks for bringing this up again.  I recently had a similar question from the father of one of my students, and a follow-up to some work we had done a few years ago on change-up speed and the "parabolic arc" it must follow.  We have seen that a majority of pitchers throw their change too fast...presumably because they are trying to "keep it level."  (1) Deceptiveness and (2) off-speed are the two major components of a change-up.   We recommend that the speed of a change be 25% to 35% slower than a fast ball.    For most pitchers, that means that the "high point" in the arc of a change-up will be somewhere around letter (chest) high (or for younger pitchers with a slower fast ball, the arc of a change could go to as high as equal to the batter's shoulders).
    For more, including some diagrams of the result of the study that we did with the assistance of two university instructors, see this page:  All Pitches...Even a Fastball...Have an Arc              - GW

                                                                                                  

    From S.R.
    As high school coach I have problems with some Summer League coaches who alter the pitcher's delivery or batting stance and bunting techniques that have been successful .  Many of the things they tell the kids are not the best technique...Some of the coaches are parents, so I don't want start a feud in the ranks. Any suggestions?
    Your problem is a pretty common one.  I hear from a lot of good knowledgeable coaches who have a problem with their players getting the wrong advice from well-meaning parents or coaches.   Personally, I hear it consistently when one of my pitching students tells me that her team coach wants her to bend at the waist when she releases the ball, or "always keep your body straight ahead...never rotate sideways".   Some parents obviously feel they should be always be saying something to their daughter...even if it might be wrong. 
    I certainly don't have an easy answer.  With pitchers, I do my best to educate parents at the same time I teach their daughter.   If they hear enough of the right things, they will be less likely to give wrong advice.  With your team's success with state titles and a 4 to 1 win-loss ratio, you should have a heck of a lot of credibility with parents and the coaches of local Summer teams.   So my recommendation would be to take advantage of it:

      • Organize a 1-day clinic for pitchers...invite parents to come and listen in.
      • Do the same thing for hitting.
      • Have parents attend one of your team practices where you and your Assistant(s) reinforce some of the specific fundamentals that they might be giving wrong advice about.
      • Promote good coaching clinics that might come to your area...like Mary Nutter's National Sports Clinics for coaches.
      • Make available books and videos from nationally-recognize hitting and pitching coaches that reinforce what you teach.   (I like Barry Sammons' FastPitch Softball, the Windmill Pitcher, or Cheri Kempf's The Softball Pitching Edge books for pitching technique)
    Rather than confronting the giver-of-wrong-advice directly, you can also feel free to refer them to me...provided it is about pitching.   As you can see from my website, I am very strong on fundamentals, so likely you and I would be saying the same thing.
    It would be great if one day we had educational requirements for coaches and parents in all sports...requiring them to have the correct knowledge before they could give advice.   That probably won't happen however.              - GW

                                                                                                  


    From TC, Illinois 
    "My friends and I have been debating the following situation and whether or not the runs are considered earned or unearned?:
    Situation:  Let's say that there is two outs with nobody on.  The batter gets on by an error.  Hypothetically, let's say the next three batters hit home runs, thus making the score 4-0.  Is the pitchers ERA 0 or 3?" 
    Good question.   Most coaches and scorekeepers would have automatically given the situation 3 earned runs without giving it additional thought.  However, under typical softball/baseball scoring situations, they would (or at least SHOULD) be wrong.  Whenever a fielding error occurs, the pitcher shall be given the benefit of the doubt in determining to which bases any runners would have advanced had the fielding of the defensive team been errorless.   Since the error should have resulted in the final out of the inning, the subsequent homers should NOT be count as earned runs.   Check out Section 10.18 of The Official Online Rulebook for Major League Baseball at: www.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/official_info/official_rules/official_scorer_10.jsp 

    Here is an additional interpretation from The Baseball Archive at www.baseball1.com/
    Rule 10:18 - An earned run is charged every time a runner reached home base by
    safe hits, sacrifice bunts, sacrifice flies, stolen bases, putouts, fielder's choices, bases on balls, hit batters, balks or wild pitches
    before "fielding chances have been offered to put out the offensive team".
    "This last clause means, basically, putouts plus errors, the idea being that the pitcher should not be held responsible for runs scoring after (e.g.) an error which should have been the third out".
                                                                                                                  - GW
     
                                                                                                  

    From Carl, a parent 
    "My daughter took and year off, and has now made it to the "B" nationals.  I have recently noticed that her fast ball is coming in kind of like a screwball and you can see a dot on the spin as it comes in.  Her fast ball is now much slower, and her accuracy has suffered.  It appears that she is rolling off the inside part of the ball with her fingers, and not staying behind the ball.  She has small hands and says she is gripping the ball the same way she always has.  Is there a grip we can try to see if she can keep her fingers behind the ball?"

    And a similar question from Roger, Illinois
    "I
    have a 7 (almost 8) year-old daughter playing fast pitch softball.  She practices pitching and hitting usually at least 3 nights a week. I started her out just throwing as a pitcher would and after about a week she has somewhere out of no where come up with a twist of her wrist (not a flick, a twist) where it came from i have no clue.. but she pitches better when she does it... if she pitches with the
    twist it is usually a good
    hard pitch, with some speed and she has varying control. Is this twist normal or can it hurt her?
         You have a good question.  Often we see a young pitcher...especially one who has not yet developed wrist and arm strength... twist her wrist at the release of the ball.   For a right hander, the twist is a clockwise twist...for a lefty, just the reverse.  If you are a bowler, this is similar to what is often called a "back-up" ball.   Right-handed bowlers with weak wrists (my wife is one of them) release the bowling ball with a backwards rotation, causing it to curve to the right.  Although there is a big difference between a 6 oz. softball and a 14 pound bowling ball, the concept is the same.
         We often run into the problem with older pitchers who are developing a screwball (the one that curves opposite from a traditional curve ball).  The screwball requires this sort of clockwise twist release, and when practiced too much, can actually drift over into the release of the regular fastball (which requires the fingers to be directly behind the ball at the release point).  We had one pitcher who had learned a screwball from her previous instructor, and it took nearly two months to get her to release the fastball properly.
        
    Although I suspect that a twist release could eventually lead to wrist, forearm, or elbow problems, I have not read any biomechanics studies on that specific problem.  Nonetheless, it would be a good idea for your daughter to break the habit now, while she is just starting out, and start throwing with the good mechanics that will be necessary to her pitching in the future.
        
    A natural underhanded release of the ball requires the inside of the wrist to lead the way...driving it right down the power line toward the catcher.   The 3 or 4 fingers holding the ball are therefore on the back side of the ball, providing power to drive it through at top speed, which is lost on a twist release.  Eventually (but don't work on it just yet), your daughter will consciously add a forward wrist snap at the release of the ball, adding a few additional mph.   With the inside of the wrist going first, and the fingers behind the ball as the ball leaves her hand, your daughter should work on a good "follow-through", being careful to NOT snap the ball by stopping her arm movement at her hip.   Stopping or snapping at the hip can cause injuries.  After the ball is released, she should allow her arm to continue forward...sort of a free movement...letting it go wherever it wants to go.  Typically, a good follow-through will let the arm bend AFTER releasing the pitch, then swing straight ahead bending upward.  Some pitchers end up with their fingers coming up and touching their pitching shoulder.
        
    If you are willing to spring for the $15 or $20, I would suggest that you pick up one of the books we mentioned elsewhere on this website:  (1)  Barry Sammons' FastPitch Softball, the Windmill Pitcher
    (2)  Cheri Kempf's The Softball Pitching Edge, and (3) The Complete Book of Pitching  by Cindy Bristow.  
    Or  any video, book, or clinic done by former UCLA pitcher Dee Dee Weiman.
                                                                                                                                                - GW

                                                                                                  

    From Carla, Louisiana
    "I just changed teams and really like our coaches, but they want to call all of our pitches.  My catcher and I are both 15 and have been playing together for four years.  She is very smart and can read batters very well.  The coach who calls the pitches says he just wants to make sure I use all of my pitches, and just "mixes them up" regardless of what we might need to throw at that time.  I think we should call our own pitches.  How do you feel about this?"
         Your head coach is the person to make the final decision on this.  If you can arrange it, I would suggest that you and your catcher meet with her or him to talk it over.  Be polite, but also confident about what you believe.  Tell the coach what you just said here to me.
         Obviously, without knowing a lot more about your situation, I can't give an objective opinion.  But since you asked how I feel about who calls pitches, here goes:
         My feeling is that, when appropriate, a smart and observant catcher should call all pitches.  A coach has the scorebook and therefore knows statistically what the batter has done in her previous times up.   But from the dugout, it is hard to see what pitches are pitches are working, where and how the batter is standing in the box, and can't see her confidence (or lack of it) at the plate.   A good catcher observes all of those things, and a smart catcher knows what pitch to call in each situation.
         Most of the time, a coach wants to call the pitches if s/he doesn't have enough confidence in the catcher.   If she is capable, the catcher's job then is to convince the Coach that she is the person to call pitches.
         Finally, YES...I feel the final decision on each pitch should be the pitcher's.  The catcher calls 90% of the pitches and the pitcher throws what was called.  But in the other 10%, if the pitcher wants to shake off the sign, that decision should be hers.
                                                                                                                                                - GW

                                                                                                  

    If you have questions or need more information
    E-mail us,  or call Pitching Instructor Gerald Warner in Colorado at  (720) 200-4575

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