Teaching Throwing is hard – particularly if you’re coaching younger players.
Bringing the ball backward and forward can get all messed up so make sure you know how the Big Ball Drill can help.
There isn’t another skill in softball that’s as hard to teach as throwing. Younger players really struggle with bringing the ball backwards properly, and then trying to move their arm forward for the throw. It’s amazing how messed up the whole motion can get, and as coaches, most of us get so frustrated we don’t know how to help our players. So we simply resort to saying “just watch me” louder and louder, hoping it’s simply a volume issue – which of course, it’s not.
If young players don’t master the skill of throwing correctly, they’ll retain the same problems as they get older. Simply getting older isn’t a cure for throwing problems, in fact, it means that the player will still throw poorly, and but just a little faster.
There are two reasons why throwing is so hard for younger players:
- We learn to throw when our hands are small and our bodies are weak – and we’re throwing a ball that is waaaaay too big for our hand and strength (11 or 12 inch softball versus a 9 inch baseball). As a result, we tend to push the ball and struggle against it.
- When we’re young it’s hard to move smaller joints independently, so instead we tend to move big limbs. To throw correctly, we have to move our elbow, wrist and shoulder joints individually, while also keeping them coordinated with one another. Sounds simple, and it is if you’re 18 or older. But for younger players whose body development isn’t as advanced, instead of moving their elbow and then their wrist, they move the entire arm together.
If you think about both of these points it makes perfect sense why younger kids don’t throw very well. However, the game of softball still requires players to catch and throw the ball, so as coaches it’s our job to teach them how to throw correctly.
Fortunately, there’s a throwing drill I’ve found that works pretty well. Of course it’s not guaranteed to cure all throwing problems but it goes a long way in teaching players how to throw properly:
- Lead with the elbow
- Keep the ball above their ear
- Keep their hand behind the ball during the release
The drill I’m talking about is called the Big Ball Throwing Drill, and here’s how it works:
Step 1 – 2 Handed Throws:
- Have your players split up into pairs; one with a soccerball or volleyball (any big ball will work that is weight appropriate for the age group you’re coaching) laying on her back on the ground and her partner standing up about 4-5 feet in front of her.
- The player on the ground places both hands on the ball, brings it behind her head by bending her elbows (yellow arrows in pictures to the right), and then tosses the ball forward to her partner. This simple drill really helps players work on having their elbows lead their hands into the release position (instead of the ball or hand leading as some players do).
- Have the partners switch after 5 throws.
Teaching Throwing is hard – particularly if you’re coaching younger players. Bringing the ball backward and forward can get all messed up so make sure you know how the Big Ball Drill can help.
Step 2 – 1 Handed Throws:
- The next step is for the player to then use one hand to hold the big ball by placing her hand below the ball – still bending her elbow and tossing the ball forward to her partner. This more closely resembles the throwing motion and really helps players practice the proper skills at release.
- Players then switch places after 5 tosses each.
Step 3 – Standing Throws
- The final step is for the players to toss the Big Ball while standing. To do this the partner with the ball will get into the Palm High position – which means that she faces the palm of the hand holding the ball by her head and facing UP to the sky.
- She makes sure that her stride foot is forward, and from this position she then tosses the ball forward to her partner by leading with her elbow and pushing with her fingers. This is much more challenging and will really show players if their hand is staying behind the ball and pushing it forward, or if it’s twisting more to the side (incorrect) or getting more underneath and throwing up (also incorrect).
- Players then switch places after 5 tosses each.
NOTE – if you’re coaching older players that have stronger hands and shoulder joints then you can modify this drill by using a basketball. It’s bigger and heavier than a soccer or volleyball and will really challenge the hand strength of these players.
This drill also helps your players learn to push the ball FORWARD out of their hand by using their fingers at the release. The big ball forces the players to use their hands and fingers better to control the direction of the ball instead of simply letting go.
Here are some more great resources to help your players master the art of throwing:
“THUMB TO THIGH, ELBOW UP, REACH BACK, LET IT FLY!”