JUGS Sports | Newsletter 34: Fastpitch Softball: The Windmill Pitcher

An excellent reference for both coaches and pitchers, written by Barry Sammons.

As Sherry Werner, the lead researcher on the International Olympic Committee's Submission on Biomechanics and Physiology, has said, "Barry Sammons' book is "...the comprehensive reference book...about pitching. The chapter on increasing ball speed is outstanding. There is an incredible need for this book and I thank Barry for writing it."

Here are some excerpts:

Using a wall or a catcher: Many coaches are adamant in their belief that beginning pitchers should not throw to a catcher. Instead, the basic mechanics should be taught by throwing against a wall. A catcher forces the pitcher to worry about controlling the pitch, and this diverts attention away from the primary purpose of learning mechanical skills. Throwing to a catcher can also inhibit a pitcher from trying new techniques, for fear that she will lose control of the ball. And, finally, some players may be discouraged by their inability to pitch well to a catcher. I allow beginning pitchers to throw to a catcher when they are not working on mechanics, and only after they understand that they may not be very successful. If the player becomes discouraged or frustrated under these conditions, it is likely that the player does not have the temperament to be a pitcher.

Teaching Pitching Mechanics: It is intimidating to coach a player who has never pitched, because it is not clear where to start. It is much like an artist facing a blank canvas or a writer facing a blank sheet of paper. The task of editing, or correcting, is a more structured and well-defined activity than starting from scratch. The good news is that it is often easier to teach new skills than to correct ingrained bad habits.

There are two approaches one can use to teach the windmill pitching motion. First, the player can be taught the entire motion and encouraged to perform it right away. Or, second, the player can be taught a series of drills which lead to the entire windmill motion. There are pros and cons to each approach, and, as with most coaching activities, the coach must judge which will work best for each particular athlete.

Attitude: The coach should be aware that some players simply do not enjoy playing the game under the constant pressure typically encountered by a pitcher. Some players thrive on the continuous challenge of being a pitcher. Others would prefer to be part of the team and play a less conspicuous role. Unfortunately, a player may not realize this until after she has pitched a few games, and a dislike for the pressures of pitching may manifest itself in behavior that is otherwise inexplicable. Self-confident and adventuresome athletes are probably more likely to thrive on pitching; but don't bet on it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author of Fastpitch Softball: The Windmill Pitcher, Barry Sammons, has been a pitcher in men's fastpitch softball leagues at all levels, for 35 years. Also a student of art and design, Sammons used his knowledge to develop many of the easy-to-understand illustrations. In addition to being available from Just Books, at 1-800-874-4568, this book is also available from www.masterspress.com. There are not a lot of books out there aimed specifically at the art of windmill pitching, and Mr. Sammons' book is an essential resource for anyone who is serious about learning this craft.