What a month it’s been! Traveling around, doing clinics, even doing an entire coaching seminar/instructional class for the ISF (International Softball Federation) last week in Guatemala. 22 different countries were represented from all over Latin and South America along with several Caribbean nations. I’m pleased to say, according to the participants, it was the most informative and effective clinic they’ve ever attended, according to them.
So, now I’ve worked for the ISF and ISC (International Softball Congress). I even did one clinic for the ASA many years ago. But, it makes me wonder why the ASA and other organizations that, more or less, specialize in girls fastpitch softball do not hire a full time clinic giver to travel, give instruction, seminars, teach coaches, etc. ASA claims they don’t have the funds for this but, I maintain the funds would be generated at each event.
There are so many pitching coaches in the USA today and so many young American girls pitching softball. Almost all have the Olympic dream and/or want to be the next UCLA or Arizona pitcher. But, cold hard reality is, very few make it to the top. I don’t know about you but, I wonder why that is. When you think of the sheer numbers involved around the country, how many girls are playing/pitching fastpitch but, so few become ELITE pitchers. There are so few household names out there. Why is that? How is that possible?
I believe a lot of it has to do with the instruction they are given. Every place you go, there is a local pitching “guru.” Someone that does the majority of the pitching instruction for that area and is considered the local expert. He/she may have some minor pitching experience of their own but, not too often. The male coaches may have played at a local level or maybe a state tournament or 2. The female coaches, for the most part, have played at college and maybe were all conference wherever they went to school. However, it’s very, very rare to find a coach who’s actually been at the highest level of the sport. And this isn’t just for softball, think of any sport – basketball for example. Does Michael Jordan give private lessons? I doubt it.
Now, let me preface all of this by saying there are 2 types of people in the softball world. One is the kind that believes only a former or current pitcher should coach pitchers. Two is the type that says you don’t have to be a pitcher or former pitcher. Quite honestly, I don’t know where I stand on this. There are pros and cons for both theories. One of the better known pitching coaches in the world is out west and I don’t believe he has ever pitched in his life. How is he successful? It could be a sheer numbers game. Having thousands of students is an easy way to have a few be “diamonds in the rough.” I don’t know. Many of the male pitching coaches out there were not pitchers and most of the ones that did actually pitch were never at the World class level. As for the females, most played some college ball at one level or another but were not at the top of the game.
One of the fundamental reasons for there being so many pitchers and so few elites is, the girls today are being taught the same bad mechanics and mistakes as those of yesteryear. Coaches with no experience are teaching things they have no clue about and ones with experience are teaching what they were taught, which in reality, is only going to limit how high the pitcher succeeds at various levels. Drills in use today, in many cases, reinforce bad mechanics, which is going to hurt a pitcher in the long run. A dominant pitcher at a younger age may only be dominate because she is purely more athletic than her opponents. As the ability levels grow in the opposition, bad mechanics and bad pitching habits are going to keep her down while the others improve.
One of the more common things I hear about is how men and women are different, therefore how they pitch is different. Nothing is further from the truth in my opinion. While it’s true that men are different from women, the cold hard reality is GOOD MECHANICS KNOWS NO GENDER! While men are stronger and can muscle the ball and throw harder, it’s important to remember that the best men’s pitchers in the world are not the fastest ones! They are the ones that have great mechanics and move the ball effortlessly. Many of the coaches today, especially the ones without actual experience or ones that do not have the utmost success, are teaching things that are going to limit the pitcher’s ability to progress. Simple things like the pitching hand follow through to the pitching shoulder (pointing the elbow at the catcher) is commonly taught but, in reality is taking power and movement away from the pitcher. Another example is the “step pitcher.” I don’t understand how anyone who understands pitching even in the slightest, can advise a pitcher to do this. Just like in baseball and in batting, pitching softball is primarily in the legs. To take away that leg power is going to really harness the pitcher and keep them down. There is no way to teach someone to be a great pitcher unless they are exploding off the mound and using their legs/hips to the fullest.
I shall close this month’s column by saying my video/DVD is still in the editing phase. As soon as it’s done, it’ll be announced on this website and through emails! Thank you to everyone that has shown interest. I’m also still booking clinics for the spring and early summer, if you’re interested in having me come for a clinic, please drop me an email and I’ll see what we can do! It’s never to late or early to get pitchers on the right path.