Practice makes….? People like to think it makes perfect. And I guess there’s some validity to that. But, if the thing the pitcher is practicing is bad or creates a bad habit then it could hardly be said that the pitcher is making anything perfect. The answer is, Practice makes PERMANENT!
Regardless of the intentions behind what people are working on at a specific time, unless it’s of benefit to the overall motion and mechanics of pitching, there’s a very good chance that the pitcher could be doing more harm than good. I see this a lot in the drills pitchers do. Moreover, the drills pitchers are doing to warm up are often useless and harmful to the pitching mechanics.
Think of it this way… I think we’d all agree that pitching requires a great deal of muscle memory. And if you agree with the point above that practice makes permanent, then it’s safe to say that the way a pitcher practices and is training the muscle memory in his/her body is the way he/she is going to throw in a game. Warming up with some drills that are not reinforcing correct muscle memory is completely insane! The equivalant of this would be watching Tiger Woods swing his driver like a baseball bat before his tee shot, instead of practicing his golf swing before he hits the ball.
To illustrate an example of this, lets take one of the most common drills pitchers use to warm up today: the wrist snap. Firstly, I’d really like someone to explain to me how this got started. Does something magical happen in the wrist by doing these snaps that can’t be accomplished throwing overhand? More often than not, the pitcher stands squared up with the catcher at about 4 feet away and just flicks the wrist. Several things are happening while this is taking place without the pitcher even realizing it. #1. She’s teaching herself to release the ball squared up with the catcher and not sideways. Remember, to get her legs and hips into the pitch correctly, she needs to turn her body sideways in order for the hips to snap. #2. She’s teaching her body to release the ball on the outside of her hip, instead of in front of her body. This means the hip is going to be closed too soon during the release. #3. It’s very likely she’s doing these snaps with her elbow locked and using wrist only. That is reinforcing bad muscle memory and taking away the snap of her elbow.
Think of this in terms of baseball pitching, because baseball and softball pitching are not totally different. Imagine a baseball pitcher trying to throw without use of the elbow! Imagine if the baseball pitcher brings the leg/hip through at the SAME TIME as the arm… it would look ridiculous and take away almost all of the power. Just like in baseball pitching, the softball pitcher’s elbow should be bent, leading the way through the delivery. The leg and hips follow the arm, they don’t go through together.
This is only one example of the brainwashing going on today by some pitching coaches out there. Brainwashing is a strong word but, I don’t know of another one! This idea, along with others, have worked their way into the mainstream of thinking that it’s hard to think of pitching any other way. But, when you think about it logically and cut out the junk which has worked it’s way into pitching… it just doesn’t make sense!
Then there’s always the fear of changing too many things NOW, as the season is approaching. Personally, I don’t think there’s a bad time to make things right in the mechanics of a pitcher but, some people don’t want to take the chance. I recently read somewhere: Improvement begins with change. How true. I can guarantee that if any pitcher works hard at the improvements needed, they will have a season much better than if they don’t make the changes and continue on the same path… regardless of the time of year they decide to “change”.
As the season approaches, clinics and scheduling become more and more scarce. My own season begins in late April/early May and goes through Labor Day. I do have Clinics scheduled in Cleveland March 5th, Fostoria Ohio March 12-13, Indianapolis March 21… then I’m off to Europe with my family for about 12 days. The Fostoria and Indy clinics are in conjunction with Softballone.com’s Cara Johnson-Hirsch who will conduct a hitting portion while I do the pitching!