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Reader question: does illegal pitching really matter?

This question comes from Michelle:

I am watching the USA play in the World Cup today. When watching the Canadian and US pitchers, I noticed that their drag foot is not touching the ground. It is really noticeable in the slow-mo replays. Why is no one commenting on this? The pitcher even goes back and covers her track each time…which is funny to me. Do they stop worrying past HS, College, or does it really matter?

That’s a great question. I wish I had a great answer for you, but the truth is one of the facts about softball that I find the most frustrating: while this rule is very clearly stated, it is very rarely enforced.

Periodically, it becomes sort of trendy to enforce this rule for whatever reason; every few years you’ll see umpires causing a fuss in televised college games by actually pointing it out, but more often than not they let it slide. In the case of the World Cup, because softball is fighting a difficult battle to gain popularity worldwide, I think the officiating bodies feel inclined to let the games play out without disturbances that would detract from the entertainment value.

This is awfully frustrating because it sends mixed messages to young girls who are trying to learn how to pitch the right way. If they truly feel this rule is important, they should enforce it strictly from the youth levels all the way through college. If they never intend to enforce it, they should strike it from the book.

Now, to address the very last part of your question: IT DOES MATTER. No matter what the rules say now or in the future, it matters.

When your drive foot breaks contact with the ground before delivery, you lose command and power. Yes, even these World Cup pitchers, as good as they are, could be BETTER if they fixed this habit. However, since they are good enough, they may not care to spend time fixing it.

My advice is to remove yourself from the confusion of the rule enforcement and simply focus on making yourself the best pitcher possible. To pitch your best, you need a strong drive through.

Plus, even if only one in 100 umpires enforces this rule, what if you run into one of those umpires in the championship game of an important tournament? Trust your hard work and mechanics, not inconsistent officiating.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

I missed this comment, but Coach Jill makes an important correction below that I want to highlight here:

During yesterday’s World Cup game, the announcers stated that the foot leaving the ground is NOT considered in illegal pitch in World Cup Ball, however it IS considered an illegal pitch in NCAA college ball.”

Again, the question of WHY comes into play (why is this NOT a rule in the World Cup, and/or why is this even a rule in the first place). But again, that’s not really the point. Every single one of the Team USA pitchers played NCAA softball, where their hopping was illegal but likely not enforced. I’m sure it’s a relief for them to be guaranteed a free pass now…but regardless, as this relates to YOU, focus on the end goal of having the best mechanics you can manage :)

About the author

Carly

Carly is a windmill pitching specialist and co-founder of Fastpitch Power. She has coached teams at every level from 10U to NCAA. She also designed and built fastpitchpower.com. Please feel free to leave questions and site feedback in the comments or via our contact page!

3 comments

  1. Jill

    I would also like to comment on this. it is 100% correct that the biggest issue with crow-hopping is that the pitcher is losing power. I would also like to say that during yesterdays World Cup game, the announcers stated that the foot leaving the ground is NOT considered in illegal pitch in World Cup Ball, however it IS considered an illegal pitch in NCAA college ball. That is why they were talking about how some of the USA team members were finding it difficult to switch between College and Team USAm because the rules are so different. So in short, if you want your daughter to have speed and play NCAA college ball, keep that foot on the ground

  2. jordan

    great article.
    there are other illegal moves that TB players and even the best in college sometimes do. their drive foot takes a step off the pitching rubber and pushes off. some leap thru the air with both feet off the ground.

    if it is a rule in TB or college, then the UMP’s should be enforcing it. many pitchers get away with it because it’s seldom if ever, called. the UMPS need the education too.

    1. Carly

      You’re absolutely right. The poor enforcement coming from the umpires is what makes this such a controversial issue in the first place!

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