The softball sidearm throw is one that occurs not only as a natural throwing form, but also as an intentional way to get rid of the ball quickly. Many softball players who have been playing for a long time without coaching will sometimes naturally gravitate to the sidearm throw. This may be because they see it on television as they watch baseball games, or it could also be because it just feels easy. The truth however is that the thrower who throws this way naturally gives up some velocity and accuracy on the throw which will often take a path to the side of the receiver. Not to mention the potential for injury.
It can be a very difficult habit to change so I would recommend that if you are working with an adult or someone who is over 16 and they are doing fine with this type of throw and without any pain, then they should be allowed to continue. If they are experiencing any pain or discomfort in their throwing shoulder then we need to assist them in transitioning to a more mechanically efficient and ergonomic throwing form.
Softball Sidearm Throw
There is a time during the game when a sidearm throw is more effective than an overhand throw. The distance from the receiver will have an effect on the throwers decision about which one to use. If she is too far for an underarm toss or not in the right position for a backhand flip, and there is not enough time to get a good overhand throw to the receiver, this is the one to use. Using the side arm throw after a bunt or a slow roller for example that is not too far from the play will allow the fielder to get a quick throw to the receiver.
The fielder remains low to the ground, turning her shoulders toward the target in a horizontal like position. The shoulders with hip rotate and step in the direction of the target helping the throw to be more direct and increasing the velocity. The throwing arm comes down and through a horizontal and forward path towards the receiver. This contributes to the speed of the throw because the arm is almost fully extended on the release. It is important to prevent the hand with the ball from traveling in too much of a circle. A direct motion slightly down and forward will minimize flight errors.
Due to the throw being the most susceptible to errors because of the potential for the throwing hand move to the side or even over the receiver, it is critical that the receiver be in a position so that she can move easily to catch it if it veers away. Timing is very important with this throw because of the huge consequences of releasing the ball too late or too early. When you think of baseball pitchers, one of the reasons that some like to use a side arm delivery is because it can provide more movement. This is a consideration for softball throwing as well but not in a good way.
Another difficulty that some throwers have is that they push the ball rather than snap their wrist on the release. Pushing the ball will not allow the speed or velocity that is required to not only get the ball there on time but also ensures an adequate velocity.
Softball Sidearm Throw Injuries
The other difficulty which is a reason why this throw is not recommended as a consistent throw for everything is that it can cause damage to the throwing shoulder. The throw puts very high stress on the joint and can result in a rotator cuff injury. This can occur also as a result of only using the arm to throw without using the rest of the body. If the player is experiencing pain in her shoulder, she should seek treatment from a qualified professional.
Potential for injury is a good reason to correct young athletes who have developed this habit of throwing. It is a good throw for an infielder who fields the ball low and needs to get it to a receiver quickly from the ground. It should not be used as a shortcut unless the situation warrants it. Practice the throw along with other throws and practice when they should be used.