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Reader question: I’ve never pitched, but my team needs help!

Got a question from reader Sunny today that I’ve gotten a handful of times now:

Hi Carly. I am a Junior and I moved to a new school. This is the 3rd year that they have had a softball team and they need HELP, but my question for now is… they need a pitcher and I have been playing ball since the 6th grade. I’ve played for some very competitive teams, played every position — aside from pitching. Since I am the most experienced player I am more than candidate for the position. I need help I have the “BASIC” things down but I’ve only been pitching for 3 days and our season starts Feb 10. Anything could be of help to me.

This is a very common conundrum; when you’re the best athlete on a weak high school team, they often want you to pitch, not realizing that this is a HUGE thing to ask of a high schooler who has never pitched before (it’s difficult even for a freshman! Sophomore + is extremely difficult).

If you’re a serious softball player, chances are college coaches are coming to watch you play on your travel team instead of a team like this, so there’s not much harm in trying to pitch if you really want to help your school out. To determine the best course of action, ask yourself this question:

Do I really want to become a good pitcher for MY OWN sake, or am I going to give it up as soon as my high school team doesn’t need me anymore?

I just want to help my school temporarily, then go back to my regular position

If this is the case, especially if you need to get ready within an extremely tight time frame like a few weeks or a month, you’re probably better off not trying to learn true windmill pitching. Using the techniques we promote here at Fastpitch Power, it usually takes well over a year of steady practice to get yourself ready to pitch in a game, even against weak competition. Getting there in a few weeks with no prior pitching background is an unrealistic expectation.

So what can you do? If your school league allows it, I recommend pitching slingshot style. That’s when you simply take the ball straight back and throw it underhand, without making an arm circle. This leaves much less time for things to go wrong, and it’s easier to learn it quickly. Among modern women’s fastpitch players, this is probably what you remember from back when you were a little kid and your parents tossed the ball in for you, but it’s actually possible to generate some speed this way. Since we do not teach this style I can’t recommend any of our own articles, but here is a short video of Joan Joyce explaining the difference between slingshot and windmill, and demonstrating slingshot a little.

If you HAVE to pitch windmill by your school rules, I recommend simplifying the motion to make it easier on yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Focus on posture more than push. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be winning any strikeout awards. Your team probably just needs someone who can get the ball over the plate consistently. Make the motion easy on yourself by not pushing too hard off the rubber. Step into the pitch with a rhythm that you can repeat easily, in a way that allows you to land with tall natural posture over and over again.
  • Know your aim points. To throw a strike, point your glove at the target and keep it there until you’re ready to drop it (don’t let it drift too much). When you step, point your front hip at your target. If you maintain this position, you can release with your arm close to your hips and know that it’s heading for the strike zone. Finish with your pitching hand pointed at your target. This is explained in greater detail here.
  • Get speed from acceleration. Don’t try to throw your whole body into the pitch; keep the motion very simple, and then speed up your arm and drive-through leg at the very end.
  • Don’t worry about mastering forearm fire. Relax your arm and try to whip like you would overhand. However, if this doesn’t come naturally to you underhand, don’t stress; it really takes time to learn. If you don’t have time, just try to generate as much wrist snap as possible as you release the ball.

I decided late, but I really want to be a pitcher

Sadly, there are no shortcuts to becoming a real windmill pitcher. The best thing to do in this situation is explain to your coach that learning to pitch properly takes time, and that the earliest you could start pitching in games would be next season (that’s still a tall order, but if you really dedicate yourself, it’s possible). Then, make a commitment to work hard at it for the next year plus.

I recommend our getting started guide if you’re teaching yourself, but nothing beats a good instructor at the beginning. If you’re in the first category and you’re feeling ambitious, this guide may help you too. Just don’t be too hard on yourself!

 

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!

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