As a softball coach, you know the importance of having a strong defense. Today, we’re going to talk about exactly that–focusing especially on the mechanics and fundamentals of throwing the ball.
The Overhand Throw
Before we go into fielding aspect of our defense, I’d like to discuss a little bit the overhand throw.
I’ve always felt very, very strongly that I want our athletes to primarily use an overhand throw, particularly for greater distances and also for velocity.
The reason is that, number one, an overhand throw provides you with much more accuracy. In terms of a throw that may be in the dirt, it tends to bounce back up because you’re coming over the top. You have a much stronger throw. This is a much more natural throw than something that comes out from underneath. So number one is the accuracy, number two is strength.
The second point I might make on the accuracy is the pitch that comes from a side arm position has a lot of wrist and elbow turn to it. And that varies from throw to throw. So at times, the ball will tail. If it does hit the ground, it tends to spin off left or right. Keeping that in mind, I prefer the overhand throw to a side arm throw.
Another point to make is, on an overhand throw, the point of a release is always much higher up. It’s much easier for a teammate to see the pitcher with the ball higher up and follow the flight of the ball to their hands, to their target, than it is for a ball that comes out from behind the body, where it’s hidden momentarily and then suddenly it comes out.
The last point,in terms of using an overhand throw versus the side arm throw is simply injury. With all the twisting of the elbow and the wrist, this can eventually result in some kind of injury either to the wrist or the elbow.
Now getting into the overhand throw itself. First of all we’ll start with the grip. If an athlete can take a ball with two fingers rather than the whole palm of the hand, it helps keep the ball out of the palm. If you can take two fingers — you may have to take three and across the seams — you’re going to have a better, livelier wrist. And the thumb’ll be located underneath.
Now the next thing we want to take a look at is bringing the ball in into our throwing position. It’s important to bring the hand in towards the body. That immediately forces the elbow out. In order to teach that, I like to start with the side stride position.
The Side Stride Position
If you’re in the gym and you have lines, use lines. If you’re outside you can use chalk lines, foul lines, whatever. Use that line to line up on a side stride position. From that position, we’re taking the ball and bringing it back. You’ll notice the elbow goes back and goes up. As we do this, the body starts to rotate. The elbow goes back, the body goes back. We now have a straight line. As we do this, we also include the left hand, the glove hand. The thumb is down. What is happening now is we have a straight line from shoulder to shoulder to the target.
The lead foot is the stride foot–the one that will give us our direction. If we throw in that direction, that is where the ball is going to go. If I want to throw straight forward, my stride foot goes to the target.
Here’s a quick checklist for yo, as the softball coach, to see if your players have the right stride position:
- Is the arm up or is it down?
- Is the hand in or is it way out?
Throwing the Ball
When we wish to throw the ball, we’re going to actually lead with the thumb. Don’t let this wrist stop, change direction, and throw. You’ll lose some of your wrist speed and what you want to accomplish is as much velocity as possible. And you do this by arm and wrist speed as you release. You don’t want to stop and then start again. The muscles could take some time to start up again.
- Bring the arm back, coming over the top.
- Step toward the target.
- Bring the arm glove in.
The harder I throw, the greater the distance and the greater velocity will be achieved, and it may cause your player to fall forward slightly. Too many times you’ll see a person throw and lock too far back–they never bring it through. Throw that hip towards your target and finish with it.
As you make your throw, think of extending the wrist to your target. Extend all the way through and finish. You’ll also end up flexing at the waist.
One of the things we like to do is line all the players up and everybody throws at once on cue. So very quickly, as a softball coach, you can look down the line and see what their follow-throughs are. You can stop them and check down the line very quickly where their elbow’s at.
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