The purpose of any warm up in softball is to prepare the body and mind for action. A good basic softball pitching warm up includes physical, mental and cognitive warm ups that we don’t always consider. It is a good idea for pitchers and catchers to participate in a regular warm up with the team for cohesion and then proceed to their individual warm ups with their catchers. Many teams have two pitchers warm up so that the relief pitcher is basically warm and simply needs to maintain her readiness through the game so she can be substituted in at any time.
Basic Softball Pitching Warm Up
Pitcher As An Infielder
The pitcher needs to prepare with some ground balls as well during the warm up. This is often forgotten as the focus is mostly on having her prepare to throw. The thing to remember is that she becomes a fielder as soon as she releases the ball. The follow through needs to leave the pitcher in a good defensive position and ready to field the ball which is not easy.
This preparation is essential to a good warm up. Now is not the time to be thinking about past failures or things that the pitcher is not going to be able to execute if called upon. The coach hopefully has a good grasp on what is going to work for the day by the way of a report from the pitcher. Focus on what the pitcher is good at and on being in the moment and prepared for the game ahead.
Use cue words, relaxation techniques and other mental skills to practice zoning in and focusing on the pitch to be thrown. Being ready for a ball to come back up the middle is an important part of the pitching warm up.
Physical preparation for pitching starts at the beginning of the season. A good conditioning program in the off season followed by a specific strength and conditioning program will be what prevents physical fatigue which can create mental fatigue.
The pitchers and catchers should be educated on the available batters tendencies for all opponents. Before the game, the pitcher and the catcher should review the information on the opponents that they are up against. If the coach calls the pitches, then the coach should review the information with them. If the coach does not call the pitches then the battery should discuss the team and their plan of attack.
As mentioned, the catcher needs to be aware of what pitches are working in the warm up to plan the most success for the game. The coach should be kept in this loop. A good rapport is critical for the battery for this reason exactly.
Relief Pitching Warm Up
The relief pitcher needs to be ready to go at any time. She needs to keep an eye on the game so that she can anticipate to some degree when she will be called in. The pre game warm up should be as the starting pitcher which will be easier to get back into gear if called in. A relief pitcher who has not warmed up will have a limited time to get completely prepared. Her basic softball pitching warm up will be different than the starting pitcher in that she is getting loose and then maintaining that readiness for the duration of the game.
She must also warm up mentally and be able to regain that focus if she is called in. Being engaged in the game will help with that focus. Distractions such as friends at the game or parents or even team mates can negatively effect her readiness. She also needs to be prepared to go in and then have the coach change their mind because things seem to be going better than when they were going to call her in.
Some relief pitchers might be playing a different position on the field due to the player availability. For this reason she will need to throw some pitches in between innings and still keep an eye on the game in case she might be called to switch with the pitcher during an inning. This can add more stress as the expectations when called in to relief during an inning has high expectations. Mental preparation is critical for this position.
Sometimes we forget about this part of the game. Pitching in the rain of course gives pitchers the challenge of pitching a wet softball. Making sure there are enough towels available to keep the ball dry is important. Even if she brings a new one out every inning, this will be the best way to keep a grip.
Heat is another condition that can have a big effect on performance for all players and even more for a pitcher. Fatigue can increase due to heat exhaustion and focus can be difficult. Hydration and staying in the shade when not on the field is very important.