Softball throwing is the most widely used skill in the game. It is also the skill that allows the most runs by errors and relies on good execution from both parts of the play. The thrower and the receiver. The thrower needs to be able to trust that the person catching the ball will not miss it and the receiver needs to feel confident that she can catch it and is not going to get hurt by a fast and hard throw. Coaches need to take this into consideration when setting positions such as first base and when planning practices. Not enough time is spent on receiving the ball which is much more important than some give it credit for.
The size and strength of the player can effect the velocity and the distance that she can throw. I say that it “can” effect the throw because sometimes a player who does not have the same physiological make up will most times have more speed and distance because she has better throwing mechanics than another player. Regardless of the physical differences, the mechanics and technique should be the same and the same for right and left handed players.
The first thing to remember in throwing is mental preparation. By knowing the game situation, as in the number of outs, where the runners are and where the most likely play will be, she will have a head start on where she is going to throw if the ball comes to her. Knowing where the ball is going, will give the thrower an idea of how hard and how far she is going to have to throw. It is important also to be prepared to hold onto the ball if there is no play such as if it is fielded late or it is not fielded cleanly. If there is no one at the position where the ball is going, the fielder will also need to hang onto the ball rather than throwing it away and allowing the runner or runners to take extra bases.
There are a couple of options for gripping the ball depending on the size of the throwers hand. For smaller hands, all of the fingers might be on the ball across the seams to guide the throw more accurately, to improve velocity on the ball, and to not let go of it. A thrower who has bigger hands, might have only 2 or 3 fingers or more of a tripod grip across the seams. The ball is held in the fingers and not the palm of the hand. If the thrower holds the ball up she will be able to see space between the ball and her palm. This prevents the ball from going off target because of it “sticking” in her hand as she throws.
An important skill is for the thrower to be able to adjust the ball to grip it properly either in her glove or as she is getting ready to throw it after she received it from someone else. The softball throwing transition will often make the difference between the runner being safe or out as a result of the throw. It needs to be smooth and quick. Practice as often as possible. It is an easy skill to practice because all the player needs is a ball and a glove. By simply dropping the ball on the ground then making the adjustment while picking picking it up is a simple way to perfect the skill.
When getting ready to throw, it is critical that the player look at her target and keep her eyes on it. Often players will look away or follow the ball with their eyes rather than look at the target. This will send the ball in the wrong direction even though they feel like they are doing the right thing. As she is preparing to throw, her weight moves and rotates towards her rear leg with her front foot on a slight angle inward and pointing at the target. The ball is up high and just behind the ear with the wrist cocked and ready to snap as the ball is released. The glove side elbow is pointing at the target to keep the body on a good rotation and to ensure that the player is preparing to throw in the right direction. It is also a natural movement in the transition from fielding or receiving the ball to throwing.
The throw starts with a push from the rear foot in the direction of the target. As she is rotating forward toward the target on the throw, her hips actually rotate first, then the shoulders with her throwing side elbow coming after to the front toward the target. The arm then extends toward the target with a wrist snap at the target with the ball is released. The body rotation is at a normal speed and the wrist is snapped quickly to give the ball the most speed due to the rotation of the ball. During the entire process, the thrower needs to keep her eyes on the target right until the ball is released.
Throwing Follow Through:
The player should allow her body to follow through depending on what the next play is. This will prevent her from stopping as the ball is released which can effect the success of throw. If there is no play, she can let herself follow through into a relaxed position. If there is another play to be made and she needs to get to another position or even get ready to receive the ball, she needs to follow through into the next movement which could be in any direction. This is why practicing the follow through in different situations is important.
Types Softball Throwing:
There are a few types of throws depending on the situation or how the ball is fielded. An underarm toss is used for a quick toss to a base when the ball is fielded close to the receiver. A sidearm throw might be used when the ball is fielded a further distance from the receiver and a quick throw needs to be made. This is usually used by the middle infielders. For the longer distances, an overhand throw is used. Practicing the different types of throws in different situations will give the players experience and a better chance for success.