Throwing, smijten or pitching? Pitching from top till toe to the top
Eva Voortman - Insideout softball science, April 2020
Fastpitch softball gets her name from the high velocities (fast) that are reached by the throwing of the pitcher. ‘What an arm’ and ‘she has a gun’, are terms you hear people say quite often in our sport. Terms that clearly relate to the velocity of the pitches. However, these terms make it appear a pitcher would only throw with that ‘gun’, in other words, the throwing arm, which is just not right, if you really want to throw fast.
What do you need to throw hard? Well actually, everything. From the big toe of the push-off foot, to the hand in your glove, and from the toe of your landing foot to the fingertips of your pitching hand. To accelerate the ball in an optimal way, you need the fingers of your pitching hand to go as fast as they can, and this acceleration literally comes from your big toe. The reasoning behind this, and how you can accelerate your body from that toe to your fingers is what I will explain the coming weeks along findings from scientific articles combined with my experience as a pitcher(trainer).
The body fundamentally moves the same in every sport or motion. Quite often softball (and baseball) are seen as a “profession in its own right” (Dutch saying). In many ways it is a profession of its own, mostly because all aspects of athletic ability are required. You ask your body to be more explosive than a 100-meter runner, with the precision of a darts player, while you need the breaks of a Formula 1 car and then it would be nice if you could do that about a 100 times in a row, without getting less effective.
A profession of its own, I will elaborate on that, because in ‘our’ sport you do get away with hitting a ball every once in a while, turn around your arm a few times and do something that looks like a sprint before you start a game. There is a spot for everyone. However, if you really want to get everything out of it, and staying fit at the same thime, it is important to look at this ‘profession of its own, as a real sport. A sport, played by athletes, initiated by the most influencing factor of our game: the pitcher.
The pitcher, the athlete. I can hear you think, but I see quite some non-athletic looking pitchers out there. That is right. Throwing optimally does not automatically mean you will become one of the best pitchers in the world, and the other way around, not throwing optimally does also not mean it is impossible to become the best in the world. In top sport it works like this: an athlete is the one who can optimally use his/her own body for the goal he/she wants to achieve. Easily said, the rules do not tell you how to play softball. There are rules, in other words, conditions that you have to take into account when playing, but the one playing the game the best wins. The pitchers’ job is to, working with the defense, keep the other team from scoring. How you do that, is up to you.
I started the introduction with the message that I would tell you how you could throw the ball fast, which could imply that there must be some kind of rules to it. This is not the case, and throwing hard does not mean you will succeed either. Throwing fast, nevertheless, is one major factor that could lead to a pitchers’ success. Besides speed, command and spin are important factors for success. In short, I am not going to give you rules. I am going to show you what conditions you need to meet in order to accelerate the ball in the desired direction. So, it could be that if you get 9 out of 10 right, you throw quite a bit faster than when you would only get 5 out of 10. However, it could also be that someone who only gets 7 still could make it to the top because they score higher in other abilities.
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Until the next one!