It is not enough for a softball player who wants to pitch to simply pick the ball up and begin unless of course she has some level of natural talent. And even then she will need to spend countless hours on perfecting the craft in order to truly be successful. Beneficial softball pitching characteristics include physical and psychological strengths that can be developed if they do not already exist.
Softball Pitching Characteristics
A pitcher who has long limbs has great potential for success in softball. The length of the arms for example will give her leverage which will increase the speed of the pitch. If you think of using a hammer to put some nails into the wood, it works similar. If you hold the hammer close to the head when you are hammering, you will not have much leverage which will not give you much strength on each hit to the nail. If you hold the like most people do, at the end furthest from the hammer head, you will have more leverage which creates momentum and strength, resulting in the need for fewer hits to get the nail into the wood. This is because what happens is that the hammer head travels a longer distance to its destination allowing you to add more velocity.
Pitching works in the same way because the path that the ball travels with a longer arm is greater than if her arm is shorter. This gives her more time to pick up the speed through momentum in the arm, which transfers into speed or velocity on the ball. This advantage can have different effects, depending on the pitch being thrown. Flexibility will also have an impact on this characteristic because a greater range of motion will allow the ball to travel a greater distance, therefor generating more velocity.
Another physical characteristic is size. A bigger pitcher can basically put more weight behind the ball which adds to what is referred to as torque, which again adds to the speed of the pitch. You have probably noticed if observing pitchers that one who weights less than the other has a more difficult time getting the same speed on the ball as someone who weighs more. A larger or heavier pitcher can also be intimidating to a batter. This can be good and bad because if the pitcher is not consistent, and has hit batters, the batter will not be able to concentrate because she will be afraid of getting hit by the ball. This is more prevalent in the younger ages as pitchers are gaining experience and batters are gaining confidence.
A pitcher who is physically fit will be able to withstand tournaments and multiple games in one day easier than one who is not. This is why the physical training is so important during the off season and in the preparation phase or pre season. During the regular season or competitive phase, pitchers, as with other players, should be maintaining their fitness levels gained as they are preparing for the main competitions or finals.
It is still important though to emphasize control first and then bring on the speed. There are many theories on this and there are just as many opinions. Mechanically though, if the ball does not go where it is meant to go, it does not matter how fast it gets there. Having speed without control may generate confidence in a pitchers strength and make her feel good about how fast she can throw, but that will not last long when she is not having success at the plate, and she is watching batters curl away from her in fear.
A Pitcher is almost like a goaltender. It is an individual position that is a part of a team. The pitcher can be the determining factor in whether the team wins or loses a game. I know 99.2% of coaches will agree with me. For this reason, a pitcher needs to have a good solid psychological disposition. One where she can take failures and can learn from successes in the same way. This position is one where a good pitch strike percentage is 70-75% which is high for young players. So when you think about 25-30% failure, and add the number of hits that might be home runs, singles, doubles or triples, there are many opportunities to feel the failure.
It is important for pitchers to keep their position in perspective and to develop strategies to get through the hard times during a game. Some coaches will switch a pitcher out when she is having trouble and some will leave them in to work through it. The effectiveness is entirely dependent on the psychological abilities of the athlete. Some may take on the challenge and others may be crushed. It is the job of the coach to determine the most beneficial path for the player. I will never agree with the practice of leaving a pitcher in to teach her a lesson or to punish her for the innings that got her there. We are developing people as well as athletes, and one of our jobs is to give them tools to take with them into the real world. Have that discussion with your pitchers and make sure that they know why you are leaving them in or taking them out and let them be a part of that process.
As we know, pitching is not an easy position to excel at. It takes a long time and many hours to develop the ability to throw a variety of pitches, on command, to selected spots. The difficult and time-consuming learning process will test the drive and determination of any athlete. New pitchers need to be aware of requirements that will bring them to success if they want it. Patience, a positive attitude, and the ability to place victories and defeats in proper perspective are critical to longevity in this position.