Softball Pitching Drills for Beginners
Learning Your First Pitch - The Fastball
Softball Pitching Drills recommends that the first pitch you learn is the fastball. A good fastball is a requirement before you can even consider moving on to other pitches. The first pitch taught by most pitching instructors is the 4-seam fastball. This pitch has little to no movement on it and the spin is minimal. Since there is no spin intentionally imparted on the pitch, this is the easiest pitch to control. After the 4-seam fastball comes the 2-seam fastball, which adds a slight sinking movement to the pitch.
The grip for the 4-seam fastball pitch requires that all 4 fingers are touching the seams of the ball. Ideally, the only thing touching the ball will be the pads of the pitcher's fingertips. Beginning pitchers tend to palm the ball which will slow down the pitch. In order to get maximum speed, grip the ball loosely with only the fingertips. A good softball pitching drill to get the pitcher used to gripping the ball correctly is to have them practice the grip with a baseball. The baseball will be too small for them to palm the ball and they will be forced to grip it with their finger tips.
The 2-seam fastball is gripped with 2 fingers across the narrow parts of the seams. This pitch should be gripped loosely as well. With both of these pitches, there should be some space between the ball and the palm of the pitcher's hand.
Beginning the Pitch
Start with both hands down near your waist and the ball in your glove. This is where you should get your grip so opposing batters can't see how you are gripping the ball before you start your pitch. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your weight slightly back. Picture your body as a door. At this point, the door is closed and the writing on the front of your jersey should be facing the batter. This is called the Number 1 position.
Middle of the Pitch
Begin by swinging the ball backwards. Depending on the pitcher, this backwards swing can be very minimal or it can be a violent motion. At the same time the ball is moving backwards, the upper body should move slightly past the front foot. This is the start of the stride. As your body pushes forwards, take a long stride forward towards the batter. While striding forward, swing the arm holding the ball in a full circle. Be sure to keep your arm straight the entire time. Be careful not to bend your arm too much (a very slight bend is OK) and don't lock your arm out straight. The motion should be in a straight line with your target and the motion should be the fastest at the release.
Envision your body as a door again. As you swing your arm up over your head and behind you, your body should turn sideways and open up like a door. At this point, the batter will no longer be able to see the writing on the front of your jersey. This is the Number 2 position. At least 1 foot must be touching the ground during the entire pitch.
The ball should be released at the bottom of the pendulum swing. Your body should be upright and not leaning forward. Follow through with a snap of the wrist and forearm towards the catcher. Your body should close (remember the door reference) and the foot you pushed off the mound with should close the gap in between it and front foot as your body closes. Finish the pitch by getting into the ready position so you can field any balls hit back at you.
Getting back in the ready position is a critical skill to teach new pitchers. The traveling team I help coach uses softball pitching drills where a coach stands to the side and hits balls back to the pitcher after every couple of pitches. We don't do it every pitch so the pitcher doesn't know when a ball is going to be hit back to them, just like in a game.