The following softball pitching drills are designed to help players master the components of the pitch before putting the whole pitch together. It is absolutely essential that pitchers understand the details and the movements making up the entire pitch instead of launching straight into learning a drop or curve ball.
By taking things one component at a time, you can focus your team in whatever area you feel is most important. This also gives you the freedom to separate out any skill that is weak among your players and help them improve it with intense practice.
Arm Swing Drills
Wall Throws—This drill focuses on speed and only involves the arm rotation instead of the feet as well. Pitchers stand as close to a wall as possible while still being able to complete the entire movement freely. This drill should use a softie instead of a regular ball.
Pitchers wind up like normal and pitch as hard and fast as they can into the wall. Though this may sound strange because this is a speed drill, players should not focus on speed. They should focus on putting 100% power behind each pitch, which will translate to more speed. If they focus on speed they will actually slow down because of the mental component that is not usually there.
After a few pitches directly into the wall, pitchers back up a bit but continue the drill, focusing on total power instead of control or speed. When the pitcher continues to back up but feels that she is losing her power, bring her back closer to the wall. The point is that eventually she will have the same power right next to the wall as she will at her normal pitching distance.
There is a variation on this drill that targets endurance. Standing in the original spot next to the wall, pitchers throw as many balls as they can in a one-minute period, focusing as always on completing each pitch with total power.
Circle Speed Drill—This drill improves a pitcher’s arm rotation speed, leading to more powerful throws and controlled speed. To do this drill, the pitcher’s feet should be wider than shoulder width and in a stride position, as if she has taken a small stride.
She will make three fast circles with her pitching arm, releasing the ball on the third rotation. The shoulder should stay relaxed but controlled. The purpose of this drill is to increase arm rotation speed and help pitchers release the ball with more momentum.
To help aim the ball, the pitcher should have her glove hand at shoulder height and facing the catcher, where she wants to throw the ball. After working on three rotations before a pitch, reduce it to two rotations before the pitch and finally, one rotation and the pitch.
If players feel any pain during this drill, they should stop immediately. The shoulder must be relaxed enough that it can rotate quickly without pain, but players should never push through shoulder pain.
Walk-Up Drill—This drill begins with the pitcher behind the mound. The pitcher gets only one step onto the mound before the pitch. The pitcher will take a step onto the mound as they are presenting the ball and then throw a pitch. The step should be aggressive and long, helping the pitcher to extend her pitching range and get momentum.
Full Motion Pitching Drills
Dummy Batter Drill—The dummy batter drill involves a cardboard or wood cutout of a batter, standing in their first stance at the plate. This drill is best for pitchers already understanding the mechanics and simply wanting to improve their accuracy and aim.
The dummy batter should have a line coming down in front of it, made from some stiff material that will not blow about in the wind. This line is the proverbial “bulls eye” for a pitcher. Since pitchers are working here to improve their aim and number of strikes, having a visual cue denoting the perfect strike line will help as they experiment with pitches.
The dummy batter is also great because of the safety concerns with pitching. When a pitcher is learning a new pitch or tweaking their aim, the chances of a batter getting hit with a ball are pretty high. With the dummy batter, batters stay safe and the pitcher is free to experiment as necessary.
The dummy batter drill can be used for much more than developing proper aim. It is also a great pitching tool for learning new pitches, especially pitches like the drop, curve, rise, and screw. Since pitchers will have to practice over and over to develop the proper ball movement, having a dummy batter there will lend consistency to their practices.
Pitching Distance Drill—For pitchers needing to improve or practice control and accuracy, this pitching distance drill can do the trick. The catcher starts at the plate like normal and does not move. The pitcher starts at a designated line, about half her normal starting distance from the catcher. After throwing a few strikes from this closer location, the pitcher backs up to another designated line, about 10 feet behind the first. She repeats the drill, throwing several strikes before moving back to the next pitching line.
The lines should start about half the normal pitching distance and end at twice the pitcher’s normal pitching length. The coach can determine how many strikes are necessary before moving on to the next line.
The important point about the pitching distance drill is that pitchers should essentially keep their form the same as they pitch, regardless of where they are in relation to the catcher. It is important that they provide the right amount of power, which will depend on where they are standing, but the body mechanics and pitching technique stays the same.
As pitchers move farther out, they should focus on:
• Taking a longer stride
• Making a more controlled final down swing
• Getting a good flick of the wrist at the release
20-4 Drill—The 20-4 drill, or the 10-3 drill if you are working with younger players, focuses on strike accuracy and ball control. Pitchers start at their normal pitching distance or somewhat closer, depending on the development and skill of the pitcher. It is fine to start at half the distance and work back up to the normal pitching distance.
This drill requires pitchers to pitch 20 strikes for every 4 balls they pitch. If the pitcher gets the forth ball before getting the 20th strike, they start over. Be careful not to overwork pitchers in this drill, because it requires lots of repetitive pitching.
One of the points of this drill is to keep players from focusing on speed and instead, to focus on accuracy. Pitchers should be encouraged to pitch slower, at about 60% of their normal pitching speed. This is because the drill is repetitive and requires pitchers to pitch much faster than usual, with less downtime between pitches.
If enjoyed these drills and would like to see more, go check out this free softball drills video now. It reveals my favorite activity for youth and high school teams (something we use almost EVERY practice).