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“How fast are you pitching? Should we get the radar gun?”

I had the opportunity recently to work with Coach Jillian  and one of her tournament pitchers.  It was a very productive session that enabled this athlete to return to her home state with a somewhat new perspective and renewed enthusiasm.

About a week later, Coach Jillian called me during her lesson with this same student to ask how fast this pitcher was throwing during my  workout with her a week earlier.  I told her what I believed her velocity to be and she said that she thought the same thing.  She went on to say the the radar gun her father had brought to this lesson was showing a 3 to 4 mph lower speed…what should we do? My answer will probably surprise most of you…”Throw away the gun!”

I am often asked by students and, especially parents, “how fast is she throwing?”  My answer is almost always the same:

1.  Not fast enough, and

2.  Don’t worry about it.

In my experience, the quickest path to muscling up, overthrowing, compromised mechanics, and loss of velocity and command is pointing a radar gun at a developing pitcher.   The only time, in general, that I will use radar is to gauge the speed differential between a fastball and a change up.

If you are not one of those rare and fortunate few who reaches the mid to upper 60’s or higher, should you be giving up on developing this skill?  OF course not.

“Well how do I know how fast I am throwing?”  is usually the next question.  The answer is simple.  First of all, “how fast” is not the relevant question.  “How effective” is the relevant question.  The radar gun will never tell you how effective you are as a pitcher.  The opposing batters will.

Velocity is only one contributing factor to effectiveness.  But speed without control and command is like cereal without milk… it’s there,  but it’s not very effective in creating a satisfying breakfast.

Do not fall in love with numbers on a radar gun.  They paint a very incomplete picture of where you are as a pitcher.  More importantly, ask, “Are  the hitters you  face able to drive your pitches?  Are they late on your fastball?  Are they out in front of your off speed pitches?  Are they unable to square up your movement pitches?”   This is a true and complete measurement of one’s effectiveness in the circle.  Don’t stand on a scale and let the number  judge if you are fit and in good shape.  Better to look in the mirror and see the whole picture.

 

 

 

About the author

Phil

Phil Schonberg is a co-founder of Fastpitch Power, inc. He teaches all aspects of fastptich softball, specializing in windmill pitching and coaches' training.

4 comments

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  1. Joseph

    Hello and thank you for this website.

    My daughter is 12 years old and has been pitching since she was 9. I am not real concerned about the speed that my daughter pitches, but have checked her velocity over the years. She has consistently stayed at 40mph pretty much since she was 9. She only throws 2 pitches a fastball and an off speed pitch. She has always had pretty good success because she has always had great control (stays away from the middle of the plate and can hit her spots @ 75%) she is also very smart and notices things about batters, an example would be if a batter has wide open stance she will pitch to low and outside. She is also good about keeping batters off balance with her off speed pitch which is about 30mph.

    She has only had one pitching coach and that is me(yes it is a money thing), and I know I am not an expert but I do research and I record her and analyze her pitching (which is also how I check her speed, no radar pointing) and compared to what I see from your website she has pretty good mechanics. Her forearm fire is getting better, she has good vertical stacking and her throw zone is line with her target. She has a little trouble with her glove hand but even that is looking good this season.

    She is not very big 4’10” and 100lbs(I know size does matter a little). You would think that as she has grown she would have gotten faster, but she has stayed at 40mph. Any suggestions on what might be missing.

    Thank you,

    Joseph

    1. Phil

      Joseph – command and control for a 12 year old is a plus. Speed and power, however, should be the main focus at that developmental stage. 4’10” and 100lbs is certainly a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. “Smart with Heart” is always welcome on my team. Having not seen your daughter pitch, it is difficult for me to effectively assess her strengths and weaknesses. For any developing pitcher, or for that matter almost any athlete, power comes from the ground up. The more explosive her movement is off the pitching rubber, without mechanical breakdown, the more it forces her hand speed and drive-through to keep up. Take a look at Carly’s article; http://www.fastpitchpower.com/biggest-mistake-conditioning-softball-pitchers/ and you will see how sport specificity at very young ages can be detrimental to the child’s ability to develop as an overall athlete, as opposed to acquiring a specific limited set of skills. I am not suggesting that this is your daughter’s issue but, the chances are, it may be a contributing factor. Preparing the body to evolve to the next level for a 9-12 year old, in my opinion, should involve skipping around the neighborhood with friends and climbing trees. Kids don’t do that very much any more. From my perspective, it is still the best way to build a solid overall foundation for any athletic endeavor. I would not send a 12 year old to the gym. Until she is ready for that(perhaps 13-14 years old) have her do plank drills for lower body and core strength, along with triple, double, and single arm circles for hand speed. Progressive long toss is always terrific for developing overall power as well. It worked very effectively for Mariano Rivera.
      Let us know how she is progressing

      1. Joseph

        Phil,

        Thank you for the reply.

        I completely agree with you that kids specialize way to young. Luckily my daughter is a well rounded skip around the neighborhood type. We do focus on softball pretty hard from late January through June, but the other half of the year we rarely even talk about softball. We do that so she does not get burned out by the time she gets to high school. Seems to have worked so far, because by the time softball season gets here she is really ready for it.

        We took your advice and started focusing more on power. She has done lots of plank drills and long toss, but the one she like the most is the 3-2-1 drill. We do it standing up and from her knees. We have a weighted ball set but have not incorporated that yet. I am afraid it might hurt her arm. What do you think?

        As for her speed…..it has improved drastically. I know it has only been about 3 weeks or so, but she is throwing steady at 44-45 mph. She has even thrown a few 47-48 mph. I think the ability has been there for a while it just was not asked of her. Her accuracy has kept improving and she still has a 30 mph off speed pitch. I am very proud of her. And she is proud of herself.

        She threw in her first tournament of the season this last weekend and did great. She, as always, was the shortest pitcher in the tournament (by at least 6 inches) but she held her own. In my opinion she was the best overall and the only one that through using forearm fire. I think there is a need for a Fast Pitch Power branch in the Midwest.

        Well thanks again, and cannot thank you enough for this website and the technique that you teach.

        Joseph

        1. Phil

          Hi Joseph
          I am not a big fan of weighted balls especially for young girls (too much stress on connective tissue and joints). In addition, doing weighted ball work may actually engage and develop more slow twitch muscle fiber when you are trying to develop fast twitch muscle. The power drills you are utilizing are excellent and although you have not mentioned your daughter’s age, it appears as though these workouts are hitting the mark. The shortest pitcher I have trained had command of five pitches when she was 11 years old and has developed into one of the smartest and most effective pitchers with whom I have ever worked. Your no-push approach can only enhance your daughter’s enthusiasm and desire. Keep us posted on how she is doing. If we are ever on our way to the Midwest, we will certainly let you know.
          Phil

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