Carving Away The Unneccessary

Carving Away the Unnecessary – and It Feels Good

A few nights ago I was working with three of the pitchers on a 14U team at their team practice. Two of them have been students of mine since they were 10. The other was brand new to me.

As I normally do with a new potential student, I told her the first thing I wanted to do was to watch her warm up and throw some pitches with no instruction or interference from me. As soon as she started I could see that she had been taught “hello elbow” (HE) mechanics, i.e., turn the ball toward second base at the top of the circle, push it down the back side, hard snap the wrist and finish with her hand touching her throwing side shoulder.

But I also noticed that her body seemed to be fighting those mechanics. At certain points, on some pitches or warm-up throws, she had the ball more face-forward or facing the side, with a hint of elbow lead and a more natural finish.

Once she had thrown a half dozen full pitches or so I stopped her and we talked about what she thought she was trying to do. Sure enough, she’d been taught HE.

I then started working with her on the mechanics we advocate here at Fastpitch Foundations, such as:

· Face the ball toward home at the top of the circle (show-it position)

· Lead with the elbow/upper arm down the back side of the circle

· Internal rotation of the upper arm as it reaches the ribcage, where it gets trapped

· Accelerate the forearm/hand with a brush trigger at release

· Finish loose and natural

It was like the sun had come out on a cloudy day for her. She recognized immediately how much easier it was to throw that way than what she’d been doing, even though she had been doing the old mechanics for at least a couple of years.

Her speed jumped up a couple of miles an hour, and even though we weren’t focused on accuracy at all she was throwing mostly good strikes.

After a bit of that I explained to her that the reason it felt so good is that we were carving away everything that wasn’t necessary. It was like she started as a beautiful statue, then people came along and added clay and paint and other stuff to her.

We were removing all the extra stuff that had been imposed on her so that she could use her body the way it was meant to be used. Every movement in the arm circle was exactly what she would do if she was told to move her arm in a circle without trying to pitch.

Hopefully it was a lightbulb moment for her. It certainly seemed to be at the time. We’ll see what happens the next time I go to one of their team practices.

But it does illustrate a point. There is so much junk teaching out there, and belief in myths (like HE) that are easily disproved.

Pitching a softball should feel easy, natural and in many ways effortless. If it doesn’t, or it feels incredibly complex, you may want to re-think what you’re learning.