Last week we held our second annual Pitching Summit and it was another great success. With the best pitching coaches in college softball gathered to improve pitching, discover my 20 brilliant take-aways.
In an event packed with the top names and schools in the college game, this Pitching Summit is all about sharing, humbleness and helping someone else improve. While we could all learn a huge lesson from these great coaches…learn mine.
This event was created to help college coaches improve their pitching by creating a place to come and learn through networking, honesty and open discussions. 150 coaches came to Tampa last week, packing the Intercontinental Hotel and experienced terrific speakers, awesome panels sessions and in-depth roundtable discussions.
This year’s speakers included: Beth Torina – LSU, Beverly Smith – University of South Carolina, Mike White – University of Oregon, Stephanie VanBrakle – University of Alabama and Rhonda Revelle – University of Nebraska. They were all extremely approachable, honest, open and vulnerable. They each shared what might be considered their “secrets”, answered every question with complete honesty and commented on how much they learned as well.
We know many of you would love to be a part of this summit, and while we do limit attendance to college coaches, we filmed the entire Summit for release later this Fall. Meanwhile, here’s the first part, of a two-part article on 20 of my top take-aways from this year’s Pitching Summit:
- Sometimes a pitcher’s “out pitch” is their ability to throw every pitch in every count – every pitcher won’t have 1 outstanding pitch, and that’s ok. But look out for pitchers who have the ability to throw all of their pitches in all of their counts. Allow for pitchers to be unique and use that uniqueness to their advantage.
- Screwballs don’t really spin in that direction – they’re really just fastballs that tail in that direction – Mike White said it and all of our speakers agreed, that our bodies can’t really spin the ball in that direction. What that pitch really is is a fastball that runs in toward a righty hitter and away from a lefty hitter. We think fastballs are “baby pitches” until they’re thrown with precision, and movement.
- Calling 2 of the same pitches in a row works great, as long as those 2 pitches aren’t thrown in exactly the same place – If you call 2 of the same pitches in-a-row, your pitcher has to make them appear different to the hitter – when you throw a pitch that the hitter really struggles with, throw it again. Just give a slightly different location or height. Making just a slight change will change the pitch enough and yet still expose the hitter’s weakness.
- Whenever throwing a pitch to the edges of the zone, make them believable – make the hitter make a decision – if you don’t and instead, throw the ball way out of the zone (as in most “waste pitches”) then you’ve simply wasted a pitch and put the hitter at the advantage. What you want to do is put the hitter in a position to make a decision.
- Control is a dominant pitch!! Can you throw 1 pitch in so many different places that they know it’s coming and still can’t hit it?! – Every single speaker emphasized over and over that pitchers come to their schools throwing too many pitches and not enough control. “Control is a pitch” was one of the most brilliant things I heard stated all week!!
- Throw your changeup more than 15% of the time or else the opposing hitters don’t even have to worry about it – if you turn that around, hitters don’t need to worry about your changeup if you don’t throw it very much. It doesn’t even have to be good, just throw it and put it in the hitter’s mind that at least around 20% of the time they’re going to have figure out if the pitch will be fast OR slow, in addition to high or low, in or out. Put speed in their mind…and slow is a speed!
- Work toward only throwing 13 pitches per inning – the more pitches your pitcher throws per inning the more vulnerable she is so aim for your pitchers to throw 13 pitches per inning. Keep in mind that strikeout pitchers will throw more pitches. Practice 13 pitches/inning with a 13 pitch scrimmage – can your pitcher get 3 outs in 13 pitches or less.
- A swing and miss percentage of 33% or more is great – ideally pitchers want to get swings and misses so look for that when charting your pitchers. Riseball pitchers will have the chance for higher percentages but anything 30 to 33% or higher is considered excellent. Keep in mind that Dropball pitchers don’t get as many swings and misses so they’re percentage will be a little lower.
- Ask yourself, would you want to be coached by YOU today! – too often we see our players as our problem, when we’re a far better coach by reflecting on our coaching from our player’s point of view. Ask yourself every day, would you have wanted to be coached by yourself, today!
- Recruit pitchers that are different from each other – having all of your pitchers throw the same pitches only makes it easier for your opponents to prepare for you. The more difficulty they have preparing for your pitchers they more difficulty they’ll have in hitting them.
My remaining 10 take-aways from the Pitching Summit will be in the next issue of the Softball Excellence Insider.
For more help with your pitchers, check out the following: