Pitching in college isn’t easy. Being successful at it is even tougher, but you might be surprised to learn what 2 qualities are missing from most college pitchers.
The road to the College World Series has gotten shorter and only 16 teams remain. Discover the 2 essential qualities every successful pitcher must have!
We’ve just spent the past weekend watching all the top college softball pitchers battle it out with only a handful surviving. Now the battles get even tougher at the Super Regionals and the margin for error even smaller.
So what makes only a few pitchers really successful, while others simply live in the world of “potential”?
There are 2 glaring qualities that all top pitchers have, and the huge pile of “other” pitchers simply do not. And while these 2 qualities might seem over-simplified, believe me, they are as rare in college softball as gold nuggets are on your street.
Out of everything we try to teach pitchers, the 2 absolutes missing from most pitchers are:
Of all the positions on the softball field, we seem to complicate the crap out of pitching. We make it super technical, insist pitchers throw a million miles an hour and have at least 10 pitches. Yet these 2 qualities – Toughness & Accuracy – determine how hard and how long your pitcher will battle, and how successfully she can attack the hitter’s weakness. Period. Everything else you teach is either adding or taking away from these 2 qualities:
- TOUGHNESS/HUNGER – This doesn’t mean “she really wants it”. It means she’s suffered through the extra conditioning and grind to get herself into shape to physically last the season and to mentally endure the tough times. Because the season is long and hard, and there will be tough times!
Toughness comes from Hunger, and without both of these a pitcher is simply a bullpen thrower – someone who looks good during practice or warmups but can’t get it done in games.
Hunger is internal and toughness is mental. Grueling physical conditioning is about the only way to really develop the mental and internal drive to keep going, to do just one more, and to give all you have and then give more. Having a stronger body and a fortified self-confidence are mandatory for success in the circle.
People who are tough and hungry don’t whine, they don’t give excuses, and their parents don’t jump in a rescue them. Tough and hungry people just show up and get the work done, on their own when nobody is watching or pushing them. And they do this solitary grind so they can come through for themselves and for their teammates when it matters. Are your pitchers dedicated enough to build themselves up over the summer? Are you recruiting pitchers that are capable of being tough and hungry? The good news is that toughness can be developed, but only by doing things that are tough – which means HARD. Super Hard!
- ACCURACY – Once our pitchers have toughness and hunger, then the discipline to become deadly accurate is easier. We’ve lost sight of the importance of Accuracy by falling in love with the quantity of different pitches instead of their accuracy.
We’ve gotten mesmerized with fancy and have completely lost sight of the fact that the purpose of a pitch, any pitch, is to weaken a hitter. Ultimately you want to get the hitter out, but some hitters are so good that having them hit a single versus a homerun counts as weakening them. Think Lauren Chamberlain a few years ago with University of Oklahoma, or Katiyana Mauga from University of Arizona this year.
Hitting an exact spot within either the strike zone or within the batter’s swing zone is the difference between that batter hitting into the shift of your defense, and hitting into the gap. It’s the difference between getting a hitter to pop up in a bases loaded jam, or hitting it out and clearing the bases.
Movement pitches are supposed to simply add a layer of difficulty for the batter by making it harder for the batter to predict the ending spot. But instead, pitchers have started thinking movement, regardless of where the pitch ends up is what beats hitters. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Accuracy doesn’t mean fancy with tons of pitches. It means the pitcher can hit her spots with laser dependability on all speeds on all sides to all locations – all the time! If that means throwing fastballs most of the time, then throw them. The fastball isn’t a “baby” pitch, not if you can hit your spots like a sniper. It’s only a “baby” pitch if you throw it down the middle every time like you did when you were 10.
Accuracy means you can hit the intended spot. Period. Not kind-of hit it, not close-enough to hitting it. You either hit it or you’ve missed it. Hit it, and you’ve got the edge over most hitters you’ll face. Miss your spot, even by a little, and you’re probably not finishing the inning let alone the game.
So, to hit your spots and do it all game, all weekend, and all season there are 2 things you should start doing, immediately:
No Catchers in Practice: This sounds harsh, but a catcher’s glove is forgiving and an umpire’s strike zone is not. When you’re throwing to something the size of a toaster and the person calling strikes isn’t your parent, they don’t care if you “just missed it”. Yet that pitcher is practicing for that environment with a moving glove. Doesn’t make sense. Does this make it harder – of course it does – but being a successful college pitcher is harder!
Net with Separate Zones: If you’re not pitching to a catcher then you’ve got to pitch to a net. Any kind of net will work, but the best kinds are the ones that have separate zones for each part of the strike zone (I like the Jugs Backyard Bullpen model shown here). Separate zones with nets for each zone tell your pitcher just how strong she is in certain parts of the strike zone and how weak she is in others. If all balls dump into the main net, your pitcher misses out on the feedback about her accuracy within each part of the zone. Sure, this is super hard, but if you can’t do hard, then you can’t be a successful college pitcher – it’s that simple.
Playing college softball is a privilege that’s earned by a small percentage of all softball players, and being a top college pitcher is a rare experience indeed. For a pitcher to be successful, against 9 opposing hitters 3 times through the line – every game – pitchers must increase their Toughness and Accuracy. They must learn to battle on every pitch, to mentally & physically handle the grind of the season, and most importantly to hit their spots with laser dependability on all speeds on all sides to all locations – all the time!
- Help your pitcher start improving her Accuracy and Toughness today – get your own Backyard Bullpen – which includes the net, frame, radar gun readout cube, tripod, homeplate, 12 balls and a bag, plus Free Shipping (while it lasts)
- Sign up for our Pitching Summit – if you’re a college coach then join your peers at this exclusive event that reveals the drills, the workouts and the details the top coaches in the country use with their pitchers so you can help improve yours!