Frequently Asked Questions
By Chuck Watters Sr.
1) How many pitching coaches/instructors should a
pitcher take lessons from?
One is ideal. However, a pitching coach should be able to teach it more than one way. Individual differences such as attitude, experiences and other sports played must be considered. Find out what the pitcher’s mind and body know and go from there. Teach from where she is now, not where you want her. A demonstration or a video of the motion is worth a thousand words from a
2) Are warming-up and practicing the same
No Warming up is stretching, jogging and overhand
throwing, etc. Practice pitching is working on specific drills, throwing different pitches at different speeds, different spins and locations, or using game situations.
3) How long should a pitcher warm-up before a
practice or a game?
It depends on the pitcher. 10-20 minutes is average. Less, if it is hot. More if it is cold and keep warm between innings. Always wear a jacket after the warm-up, to keep the muscles loose and prevent injury to the pitching arm.
4) Are leg drive and “closing the door” the same
No. Leg drive has to do with driving the body forward, by
exploding (pushing) against the pitching rubber or the ground. The door “closes” when the throwing side knee comes forward and pitcher’s body rotates at the end.
5) What is the most common problem you see in
pitcher's throwing motions?
Lack of leg drive and balance. This usually happens at the start (first move) and at the power position. The pitcher’s knees don’t bend (flex) enough at the start and when the pitcher’s stride foot plants. Too many pitchers start trying to throw the ball, with their upper body, before the stride-foot is planted.
6) Which part of the pitching motion comes
The weight transfer (shift) is the Initial or first move in
the pitching motion. The pitcher’s body weight should move from the glove side to the throwing side and the arm circle should start with the stride. This is the proper order for the timing sequence for beginning pitchers. Advanced pitchers may start differently.
7) How and when should the pitcher push off from
the pitching rubber?
How? BEND the throwing-side KNEE and EXPLODE from the rubber, by pushing down, against the pitching rubber or the ground.
When? It depends on the pitching style: Regardless of the style, each pitcher gets to the Power Position, then throws the ball.
8) Why is dragging the toes of the pivot foot
after the pitch, important?
A couple of reasons come to mind.
1. It allows the pitcher’s body to go towards the circle and not turn too soon.
2. Dragging the pivot foot, inside of the big toe, helps the pitcher’s weight to transfer to the stride foot naturally and allows for better resistance.
3. It’s extremely important for balance, especially during a change-up, to let the pitcher feel the release point and not guess where it is.
9) How long should a pitcher’s stride be?
It depends on the pitcher’s body and pitching style.
Walking style: The stride length should be at least
from the pitcher’s hip to the ground. It should automatically increase as the pitcher gets comfortable with a stronger leg drive, that pushes her stride foot
towards the circle.
Extended style: As long as the pitcher can comfortably take and plant the stride foot with a slightly bent knee. If the stride knee locks and the pitcher falls to the side or backwards….the stride is too long. The pitcher should be able to go knee-to-knee, towards the circle, after reaching the power position.
10) Does the pitcher always step/stride directly
towards the catcher’s glove or target?
No: There are times when the pitcher strides to the right or left, to get a better angle for a certain pitch. Beginners should step/stride on or near the imaginary line of force from the pitcher's plate to home plate, to keep the body and ball in line with the target.
11) What should the pitcher’s glove do, if
anything ,when she is pitching?
The question has several answers….depending on what the throwing shoulder and glove does….when the pitching motion starts. The glove can be used to balance or aim with. The best thing to do is the same thing it does when the pitcher throws overhand, or leave it alone. If moved forcefully…it makes the pitcher's shoulders turn too quick, and her legs go straight (lock). Relax the glove arm.
12) What causes the pitching arm to ache at the
shoulder or elbow?
Too much STRESS on the shoulder and/or elbow. Bending the elbow, before snapping the wrist, is usually the cause of elbow pain. The pitcher will get elbow snap instead of wrist snap. Having the throwing- side elbow too far from the body or the shoulder up too high is usually the cause of shoulder problems. Both of these will cause too much STRESS in the joints. A more common reason is over-use. Even with an elastic arm, there can be some aching in the arm.
13) What can a pitcher do to get more power into
a) RELAX the upper body.
b) BEND the throwing side knee and push the pitching rubber backwards to 2nd base.
Stronger leg drive cures lots of problems.
14) How does a pitcher know where the release
point is or where to let go?
When the throwing side hip and shoulder are directly above the ball and the inside of the forearm Brushes the thigh. That’s the RELEASE POINT! It is time to release the ball. Release too soon and the ball goes low. Release too late and the ball goes high.
15) If a pitcher is having trouble making a
perfect circle, what can be done?
Try using the backswing (double pump), instead of pushing both hands forward. Backswing: As both hands go down….LET the pitching hand
Drop towards 2nd and LET the glove touch the throwing side Thigh or Knee. When
the pitching hand swings with the pitcher’s body. Take a Step/Stride. Starting
the Arm Circle at the same time. The pitcher must LET the arm Swing and not
Force the arm to the back and then to the front. The arm muscles know how to
make a Perfect Circle, if the pitcher will LET it happen.
16) How does a pitcher aim the ball at the target
There are several ways:
1) Follow the stride foot until the knees come back together
and the chest (belly-button) is facing the target.
2) Plant, dragging the toes forward, pointing the
throwing-side knee at the target, when the ball is RELEASED. The ball ALWAYS
goes where the Thumb and the Palm of the Hand go (points) when the ball is
17) When does the pitcher need the fastest
When the Wrist of the Pitching Arm is: AT THE BACK OF THE
THROWING SIDE KNEE. There are three basic speeds for the pitching arm.
1) Take-away from the glove speed. Up swing is relaxed and
2) Down-Swing and Fore-Arm speed. Aggressive arm
and Elbow Drop…Just.
3) Explosive Wrist Snap-speed. The
pitching hand Whips at the Release-Point.
18) When should a pitcher’s shoulders rotate
(turn) towards home plate?
The shoulders should rotate (un-turn), when the Throwing Side
Hip comes to the Front and forces the Glove-Side Hip to the back (Knee-to-knee)
Turning the shoulders, causes the hip drag, loss of speed and power and creates
19) When should the knee of the Stride-Foot be
The glove-side knee should never be forced to lock. The
pitcher needs to RESIST/BRACE against that leg and she can’t if the Knee is
completely locked. If the knee is completely locked, the pitcher’s body will go
up (vault) over the top or off to the side. The pitcher’s body should go up to
Stride Knee, Brace and fall slightly back, to the fielding position (follow
through). Let the knees flex, as much as possible. Bent (flexed) knees are the
keys to Looseness and Looseness is the key to Balance and Explosive power from
the pitcher’s lower body.
20) What is the Primary job of the pitching
The primary job of the pitching arm is: Delivery and
Direction (2 D’s). The arm delivers the ball in the direction that the palm is
pointing. Ball speed is the primary job of the Wrist Snap, although arm speed
21) Does the term “Arm-Speed” mean the pitching
arm should always go fast?
No. Arm speed means: The proper speed, at the proper time. A
fast take-away makes the pitcher hold the ball too tight, the wrist to be stiff
and actually throw slower, not faster. The fastest speed comes from the
whip-snap of the wrist.
22) What does Hip-Rotation mean and is it the same
as opening & closing the door?
Hip Rotation means the pitcher’s glove side Hip TURNS towards
the target as the pitcher strides forward. Then the Ball side hip TURNS towards
the target as the pitcher PUSHES from the rubber and closes the space between
her KNEES. YES! It is the same as “opening and closing/slamming” the door. The
pitcher’s Hip Rotates (turns) twice during the pitch or “Opens and Closes”.
23) What is a Crow-Hop and a
A “Crow Hop” is when a pitcher “hops” forward off the mound
and Both Feet are off the ground, at the same time. A “Re-plant” is when a
pitcher “hops and drags” her Pivot Foot to a new starting point. (in front of
the rubber), PLANTS and PUSHES from the new starting point. A “Crow Hop” can
cause a “Re-Plant” and both are illegal under ASA rules. If the pitcher keeps
her Pivot Foot in contact with the ground and drags her toes throughout the
pitch, it is a legal delivery.
24) What causes a long striding pitcher to Crow
There are a couple of reasons:
1) The pitcher doesn’t
bend her knees enough at the start of the motion. So, she HOPS to a new
starting point, then BENDS her knees to throw the ball.
2) The pitcher does not ROTATE (turn) her Pivot Foot enough. She HOPS to get
her body turned at the Power position, then pushes to throw the ball.
25) What is meant by arm extension and when should
the pitchers arm be straight?
This is a little tricky. Arm extension should happen when the
pitcher starts her Arm Circle. The Arm should swing and extend towards the
catcher, to make the “Perfect Circle”. When the Arm is at the top of the swing
(12 O’clock), the ball (Hand) TURNS towards 3rd base/1st Base (Right/Left
handed pitchers), to allow the Pitcher’s Elbow to bend slightly, so she can
“throw” the ball from the Hip area. The pitcher’s arm should be “mostly
straight”, at the Release Point, as It is in the overhand throw, when the WRIST
26) How many pitches (balls) should a pitcher
throw in a practice session?
It depends on the pitcher. In my opinion, it is better to
measure the pitches by time (minutes), then the number of pitches. If the
pitcher concentrates too much on the number of pitches, it takes her focus away
from the quality and the location of the pitches. Practices should be “Short
and Frequent”, when a pitcher is learning fundamentals. Advanced pitchers
should practice until tired, then a little more to help build her endurance.
27) What is the role of the “fingers”, when
throwing a pitch?
The fingers are you find the “Spin and Control” of a pitch.
Finger pressure on the opposite side of the ball causes the ball to move away
from the pressure. Fingers pulling OVER the top causes the ball to spin down
and DROP. Fingers cutting UNDER the bottom causes the ball to spin backwards
and RISE. Finger pressure around the SIDE of the ball causes the ball to spin
sideways and to CURVE. The ball should spin fast enough to create “Friction”
and “burn” the Fingers. If not, the ball probably isn’t spinning fast enough
for good movement. Moving pitches are harder to hit than speed. Speed and
movement is a better combination.
28) To what location should the “change-up” be
It depends on where the coach wants it. Change-ups are
effective at the Low inside and Low-outside locations. Change-ups are not
usually thrown to weak hitters or hitters with a slow swing.
29) Should a pitcher throw two change-ups in a
It depends on the situation and the hitter. Nobody on base
and a Power hitter at bat, why not? Especially, if you have more than one kind
of change-up. Batters don’t normally expect two in a row. It could also be the
1st pitch of the game, if the batter is a slapper and will step out of the box
30) What is the best pitch to throw in a Bunt
Again, the situation dictates the pitch. A high inside
Rise-ball, a Low-outside Drop Ball, or a Change-up to a slapper.
31) What is the most common problem when a pitcher
Early in the game is usually “nervous” tension and thinking
too much. Late in the game it is usually “tired legs”. If the pitcher is tired,
the legs quit working, the pitcher “tries harder, but can’t get the “Leg-Drive”
32) What is the average speed a pitcher can gain
in a year or a season?
After reaching 55 miles an hour, it is hard to add more than
5 miles of speed. As the pitcher gets older, stronger in the Lower Body and
relaxes more, 5 miles can be added up to a point.
33) What is meant by the words Concentration and
The words are used a lot, but nobody explains or shows how to
do it. Concentration is something that you “do”, not think. When you’re
concentrating, you won’t be aware of it. You either act or re-act to something
from practicing it. Everything just “flows” and the player is in a “Zone.”
Focus: means putting all of your attention on one or two things. It’s also
called “Centerina”. By putting your attention on (centering/focusing) something
specific the mind does not wander too much or interfere with the body’s action.
34) What is the most common reason for a person to
fail as a pitcher?
There are several reasons:
1) Fear of failure, lack of confidence
2) Unable to keep her body under control (Lack of Balance) Example:
The pitcher’s glove moves, her knees lock, her head moves or her elbow bends
too soon. She doesn’t want these things to happen, but they happen anyway.
35) What kind of person makes the best
Nobody knows. Successful pitchers come in all sizes and
shapes. I’ve worked with pitchers who could barely put one foot in front of the
other and developed into Division 1 pitchers. Since footwork and balance are
key to pitching, people who do gymnastics and/or dance seem to do better than
most. However, if she can’t handle the mental part of pitching, footwork and
balance doesn’t matter. It has to fit the Pitcher’s mind and body or it will
not work. That’s why it seems to take a long time for a pitcher to develop.
They’re being asked to throw the ball over the plate 80 to 90 percent of the
time and they’re just kids. They need lots of encouragement and patience,
especially if they’re young.
Note: The Answers to the questions are my opinions from
playing, pitching, coaching, teaching and observing FastPitch Softball for a
long time. However, they are just my opinions. Hopefullly, my questions and
responses have helped and not confused. The pitcher’s individual difference’s
prevents a specific answer that fits each pitcher’s mind and body. The only
thing absolutely true about pitching is……..nothing is absolutely true.