As we all know, pitching is very technical. So it is great that we have appropriate drills for each part of the pitching mechanics. By incorporating these drills, you’re going to increase muscle memory in each part of the pitching activity.
But I would quickly like to preface it with a short review about the grip, the wrist snap and the release. When we’re gripping the ball for a fastball and running fastball drills, you want to make sure that you find the seam of the ball and put your fingertips firmly on the C. And when you’re going to release, you’re working on that 12 to 6 rotation – 12 to 6 on a clock – and you want to get four seams rotating.
Now, let’s take a look at four softball pitching drills to hone your pitching mechanics.
Drill #1 – The Wrist Snap
The first drill I’m going to talk about is a wrist snap drill. The purpose of this drill is to work on strengthening your wrist, getting familiar with the feeling of the ball snapping under fingertips, and working on your release and follow-through.
Make sure that you’ve visualized your pseudo mound. Now draw a line right through to your catcher. The T represents your power line, which is the line that goes directly from the middle of your circle all the way through to your catcher, and it helps keep you straight and balanced so that at release you’re in a good, powerful position.
Get your toes on the line, and get into a balanced athletic position, bending the knees. You’re going to grip the ball on the C and your fingertips.
Starting with the arm tight and wrist bent back, you’re going to snap and finish. You’re going to work on your muscle memory of your release point and your snap and your finish; but you’re also going to be working on strengthening the important factors in that release point and finish, which are your wrist, fingers, and forearm.
When you’re doing this drill you want to make sure that you’re throwing in a direct line, that you’re not throwing a loopy ball (which means you’re not snapping and throwing it up). You want to make sure that at release you stay long all the way through, snap, and come through so it goes in a direct line to your catcher. And you’re also looking for as much spin on the ball as you can get.
You may feel like the ball’s falling out of your fingertips and you’ll go to snap the ball and it’ll go in the dirt. And that’s a good thing. That shows you that you’re actually starting to throw it with your fingertips. A lot of young pitchers will try to put it in the palm and push it, which means you won’t see a lot of spin and speed on the ball. So if you’re doing this drill and it’s falling out of your fingertips, that means that you’re actually starting to throw it from your fingertips which is what we want. But it also means your fingertips are weak if it’s falling out. So you need to work with this ball and work on strengthening those fingers.
A couple of things you want to check are:
- - you’re not taking a step
- - you’re coming through an open hip
- - after release is when the shoulders will turn and face the catcher. You have to be aware that your shoulders don’t turn too soon, which will bring your hip through too soon. So make sure the shoulders are open, you snap, and then bring your shoulders close to your catcher.
Another thing I want to touch on is the distance between myself and the catcher. You want to be about 10-15 feet away from her. You want to be close, but not too close to be able to do the drill appropriately.
From this point, we’ll either move on to the next drill, or, if the player needs, we’ll spend a little bit more time working on the wrist snap drill.
Drill #2 – The Leg Drive
If the player is ready, we’ll progress on with the same drill, but make it a little bit more complicated so we can work on the legs, while continuing to work on the release, snap, and the follow-through.
Make sure that when you’re doing your follow-through, you stay nice and long, are pointing the elbow towards your catcher, and that you’re getting a full snap all the way through. You don’t want to shorten, turn over or rotate through. Stay right on the path. Snap, release, finish.
This is a very simple drill, but it can also show a lot of problems in your pitcher’s mechanics.
Drill #3 – The Drag
For the next drill, we’re going to take a couple steps back. And then do the same thing, we’re going to draw our power line through our catcher. We’re going to get on the line and now we’re going to use our arms a little bit and include the legs.
The first part of this drill we’ll start with the hands forward. This is great for young pitchers because a lot of times they’re very rigid and stiff. And they don’t understand the idea of staying nice and long. That’s another reason why this drill is so terrific. It helps the pitcher to stay long. It helps them feel the weight in their fingertips so it doesn’t allow them to try to force the ball, push the ball. It forces them to snap the ball.
Now, with our arms forward, we’re going to swing back, get into the proper position, and then snap, drag and follow through. We’re going to include the drag and a little bit more of an arm swing. And then there’s two ways you can do the finish. If you have a pitcher who really has a problem with their hips – meaning they are pivoting the hips closed too soon – then you can work this drill and they can just stay open. If that helps them and they master that, then you can work on the close.
Make sure you’re dragging into the four and then the back of the leg and bringing all this weight into this front leg.
Another very important part of this drill is that your pitcher starts to trust her release point. She’s got to make sure she keeps that arm in tight and she trusts that she’s going to snap the ball at the right place. This is where the muscle memory comes into play. If she has bad muscle memory on her release point, then this will help her to gain the proper muscle memory for her release point. And when she throws full out, it’ll be where it needs to be and the ball’s going to go where it needs to go.
Drill #4 – The Close
After you’ve worked on the previous drills and your players are getting the hips open, work on the close and the timing of the close.
There’s just a couple other things I want to talk about before we close this out.
I like to go through all of these shorter drills with the weighted ball. We want to do about 15 or 20 of these drills each, unless they’re really struggling with it, and then I would do more. But I would incorporate the regular ball into the drill so they’re not using the weighted ball too much, ESPECIALLY if they’re young.
Another point to watch for is that players don’t let their shoulders get forward and they’re not throwing with too much arm. This is what we would refer to as bowling. You want to make sure that they’re always keeping their weight back and head even through the middle of the body, and that they’re not trying to throw forward – even in these drills.
You want to remember while doing these drills to watch the stride foot. Make sure that you’re landing on a 45-degree angle. If you’re having problems with that, there’s a couple things you can do.
Make sure you draw your power line, and that you’re stepping ON your power line. Give yourself as many visual tools as you need to get it correct. If you’re having problems stepping over the line to the right or left, grab yourself a cone. Put a cone down behind or in front of the foot to help remind yourself to step where you need to step.
By incorporating these drills, you’re going to increase muscle memory in each aspect of the pitching mechanic, and your pitcher’s speed and accuracy will increase dramatically!
Will you be trying this drill sequence with your players? Do you have any other suggestions or comments to add? Feel free to share them below! And don’t forget to Become a Fan on Facebook, where you can talk with other softball fans!
Be sure to check out our Softball drills and practice plans, for a complete blueprint to a successful season!