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Fastpitch Tip: On Teaching Underhand Throwing

A lot has been written by some well-known and respected coaches and clinicians like Bill Redmer, Dr. Ron LeFebvre and Mike Lamson, about which pitching style is best and how adults (in age only) are ruining the game for the kids who play it. As long as a score is kept and the best scholarships are given to pitchers, people are going to do whatever it takes to get the advantage for their child, including cheat.

The pitching position is so political that many dads and moms start teams with their daughter as the pitcher so they can get pitching time. The kids are remarkable. The rules change but they find a way to excel. They just want an umpire who is consistent, a coach who is fair, and another team to play ball against.

My role is to help each pitcher develop and be able to compete at every level. A coach's role is to teach his/her team how to play and win games. One is team oriented and the other is individual. My opinion on styles is just that. From what I've seen as an instructor, and having been a fastpitch pitcher, the best style is the one that works for that particular pitcher. Don't get hung up on teaching styles. It is our job to help each pitcher find her own style. The style should be the one that fits her mind and body, not ours. Most reference materials, videotapes and books show or tell about getting the body to look like the letter "K" or "X" at the power or throwing position, then throw the ball. Whether using the slingshot, windmill, waling or leap and drag style, pitchers throw the ball from a slingshot position. What counts is what the pitcher does after she gets planted in the throwing position. The ball can't be thrown effectively until the foot plants.

Much of what I teach is based on "Efficiency of Human Movement," by Marion R. Broer. This is, in part, what her study says about throwing. "The primary objective in throwing is to transfer momentum from the body to the ball. Force and accuracy must be controlled to attain the purpose of the throw. A number of mechanical principles can be applied to the three patterns of throwing. Overhand, sidearm and underhand. The interrelationships of these affects the speed, direction and distance of the throw." When the correct fundamentals are taught, the player will learn to throw the ball with an underhand motion. Unfortunately, many girls aren’t taught to throw well overhand. When the overhand improves, so will the underhand (pitching). It's almost the same.

Many people have seen some local kid become really good or an All-American. They have asked me, "Did you teach so-and-so to pitch?" My answer is always no. Here's why. The kids who do well and become outstanding pitchers teach themselves, with a lot of guidance, patience and encouragement from instructors, coaches and parents. In fact, when I first realized that they didn't need me all of the time, my ego really got deflated. Then I remembered that my coach hadn't taught me to pitch, either. He showed me how to hold the ball to make it rise and throw the ball, not pitch it.

Pitching instructors teach many of the same things. Kids will learn to pitch because of or in spite of us. They did before we came along and will after we're gone. Kids have an incredible capacity for learning. Problems usually occur when we can't find the right format or words to teach them correctly. We owe it to the kids to commit to the same thing we ask them to do, continue to learn and improve our skills. Probably the best thing we can do for the 10 and under kids is offer them lots and lots of encouragement and patience. They are going to have problems. After all, they are 10. When I was 10, I had problems tying my shoes. Strangely enough, at age 65-plus, I'm having the same problem again. I'm a little kid in a big body, having fun at softball.

During lunch break at a clinic, I asked a visiting six-year-old if she made her lunch. She said that was her mom's job. She said the same thing about making beds. I asked her what her job was and she said playing. Experts come in all sizes and ages. Are pitching coaches and instructors necessary? Absolutely. However, I’ve never made a pitcher. Pitchers are developed over a period of time. How long? I don't know the answer. Each kid is different and each kid is special. It's not about teaching pitching, it's about teaching someone's kid to pitch and making it fun. My primary job as a pitching instructor is sharing information. So, let me share a couple of poems that guide my approach to teaching the kids to throw a softball.

The authors are unknown, but right on the money. Softball is a great game. The kids deserve our best effort. Good luck and remember to make it fun! A Poem for Teachers and Coaches I'd rather see a lesson Than hear one any day. I'd rather you'd walk with me, than to merely show the way. The eye's a better teacher, and more willing than the ear. And counsel is confusing, but examples always clear. The best of all the teachers, are the ones who live the creed. The counsel you are giving may be very fine and true. But, I'd rather get my lesson, by observing what you do. The Indispensable Man Sometime when you're feeling important Sometime when your ego's in bloom Sometime when you take it for granted You're the best qualified in the room. Sometime when you feel your going, would leave an unfillable hole. Just follow these simple instructions, and see how it humbles your soul. Take a bucket and fill it with water, Put your hand in it up to your wrist, Pull it out and the hole that's remaining is the measure of how you'll be missed. You may splash all you please, when you enter You may stir up the water galore, But, stop, and you'll find in a minute That it looks just the same as before.