NHAA Coaching Handbook - NEW!
First Aid Guidelines
Note - this is only a reference guide for First Aid. It does not take the place of qualified help. In the event of a true emergency, you should always dial 911
How to Keep a Scorebook
A good scorekeeper is always hard to come by, and is both the coaches and fans best friend. It's a job that nobody wants to do, but once you learn you will not be able to put it down. Each scorebook comes with a detailed explanation of how to keep score and there are also many instructional videos on YouTube.
As hitters have many preferences when it comes to position in the batters box, so do pitchers when it comes to position on the pitching rubber. Some will pick one spot and some will move around depending on the mound or the situation. Whatever the preference the most important factors are comfort and balance.
Some pitchers will stand with both feet lined up and some will stand with the stride leg slightly behind.
The position of the glove and pitching hand also changes from pitcher to pitcher. Some will hold the ball in the glove with the pitching arm dangling by their side. Others will have that same position but keep the ball in their hand (If any of your pitchers choose this method, make sure they use the same grip every time so the don't give away a pitch). Others will have their hand inside their glove. For the majority of pitchers the glove is held somewhere between the waist and the chest.
Most young pitchers don't have any idea how the stance can affect the final outcome of the pitch by either allowing or taking away from a smooth efficient delivery. For young pitchers, try to get them comfortable with the least amount of movement. From the stance to the windup, the least amount of movement is to have the hand in the glove gripping the ball at about chest high.
Try to get your pitchers comfortable pitching from different parts of the rubber. The main reason for this is the fact you don't have a grounds crew fixing the mound between innings or even before the game. Some mounds will be in such poor condition that fixing them at game time will be impossible. A pitcher will need to be able to pitch comfortably from different areas of the rubber to utilize the best possible landing zone for the stride foot on a poor mound.
Take A Step Back
If the pitcher starts with one leg back this can be a weight shift back.
Not So Big
A common problem is taking to large a step back. Again, the more movement the more difficult it will be for the pitcher to be balanced during the windup. Watch most major league pitchers and you will see they take a very small or no step back to start their windup.
As the weight is transferred to the back leg, the front foot will be turned and placed parallel to, in contact with, and in front of the rubber. The feet are now in position to begin the kick.
When working with pitchers, have stop when they reach the top of their kick. They should be able to hold this position, if they cannot, correct this balance problem before moving on to the rest of the delivery.
At the same time the pitcher takes the step back, the arms will also move. Pitchers will either swing both arms over the top of their heads as they step back and begin pivoting their front foot, or they will keep their hands at waist level and move directly into the top of the kick from that position.
Top Of The Kick
Once the front foot has pivoted and the hands have reached the top of the pump. The pitcher will shift his weight onto the pivoted foot and pull the back leg forward and up swiveling as he does this until the his thigh is parallel to the ground or a little higher. His body should be sideways to the plate. Make sure your planted leg is not locked at the knee, it should be slightly flexed. Again the critical element is balance. The pitching motion is a combination of many movements that need to be executed exactly the same way with every pitch. Without balance at this point consistency in the pitching motion is impossible and with it good control.
Pitching - From The Stretch
The stretch position is used whenever there are runners on base. You start with your back foot against and parallel with the rubber. Your feet should be approximately shoulder width apart with most of your weight toward your back leg. You move into the set position by bring your hands together in the center of your body. Some right handed pitchers will have a slightly open stance when they come set, this allows them a better view of the runner at first base. While the view may be better, it will open up your left shoulder and make for a longer delivery and could cause poor rotation. Strive to be in a good position to pitch from and work on your ability to see the runner by turning your head.
From the set position, lift your leg to its highest position and make sure to have your back knee flexed, not locked. If you're a right handed pitcher you will want to develop a slide step to help out your catcher in trying to throw out a runner trying to steal. The slide step will require that you don't lift your leg as high before striding. The slide step is difficult to master and younger players shouldn't worry about it. A common mistake when trying to deliver the ball quickly to home is falling towards home in one motion from the stretch. If you want to deliver the ball quickly to home you must still remember to bring your leg to its highest position before you go forward. Once you have reached that position you will throw the ball with your normal pitching motion.
Left handed pitchers are at an advantage with a runner on first in that a normal leg kick will allow them to go to the plate or to first base. A slide step isn't necessary with a runner on first base.
It's essential to remember that pitching from the stretch doesn't require a different pitching motion. Once you get to the highest point of your leg kick everything should be exactly the same as when you pitch from the windup.
Pitching - Pickoff Moves
The key to keeping the opposing team's running game under control is to keep the runners uncomfortable when they are on base. Many pitchers fall into a rhythm and make it easy on the runner to get a good jump. Or they do the same thing each time they are going home and something different when they are making a move. Left-handed pitchers for example, often look at first when they are going home and look at home when they are coming to first. When you are on the mound, do what you can to keep the runner from knowing or having a good guess what you will do on any particular pitch. You can accomplish this by:
Vary the time you stay set before delivering the ball.
Step off the mound occasionally.
Throw over to the base using a variety of speeds. (i.e. You're intention should be not always be showing your best move. Use your best move when you think you have a real chance to pick someone off.)
Once in awhile, (Not often and only if you think the runner is going to steal and you have thrown over a couple of times) stay in the set position for a long time, until the batter has called time or you count to 7 for example. It's hard to get a good jump when you're sitting still in the leadoff position for a long time.
Runner On First
For the right-handed pitcher, you'll either have to step off the mound and then step and throw to first base or do a quick jump pivot move. The pivot move will be used the majority of the time, but the step off move should be used occasionally, even if you don't always complete it with a throw to first.
The left-handed pitcher has a distinct advantage over a right-handed pitcher on a move to first. You can step off the mound and throw to first, and unlike the right-handed pitcher you can throw to first from your delivery. The key is to appear to the runner as if you are going home, but not stepping too much toward home as to have a balk called by the umpire. As you pick up your leg, you want to make sure you don't cross your leg or foot back over the rubber. This will be called a balk if you attempt to throw to first. It's a good idea to not crossover even when you are throwing home. This will keep the runner from getting a good jump as he will have to wait longer to determine whether you are going home or to first. Try to make your kick the same for both your move and throwing home. When your leg is at the top you will want to drive your shoulder at an angle toward the home plate side of first base. Your leg will come down in the same direction and you can make a quick throw to first.
The step off move also has an advantage over a right-handed pitcher in that you can develop a very quick step off and throw move since you are facing first base.
Runner On Second
Stealing third requires a great jump off the pitcher. Most good base runners look for pitchers that either don't pay much attention to them and/or fall into a certain pattern - come set, one-thousand-one, then deliver. This type of pitcher is inviting the runner to steal and a good baserunner will take advantage.
The good news is that since stealing third requires such a good jump, you as a pitcher can make the runner feel very uneasy at second if you pay attention to him. Besides pickoff or fake pickoff moves, other things you can do to keep the runner uneasy are:
Vary the time you stay set.
Look at second as you start your leg kick instead of always looking back towards home before you start your kick.
Step off the mound occasionally and just hold the ball, looking the runner back.
In addition to those strategies, you can also attempt a pickoff move or fake a pickoff. There are a few methods for making a pickoff move to second. One is to spin towards your glove hand side after you come set, or you can come set and then as you pick up your leg you simply let your leg continue back towards second, planting it and making a throw. Finally, you can step off the mound and then whirl which ever way you are most comfortable with.
Runner On Third
With a runner on third or second and third only, you may prefer to work out of the windup instead of the stretch. Most teams don't attempt to steal home, but if you take a long time delivering to home from the windup, you may want to work from the stretch with a runner on third. No team will attempt a straight steal of home with the pitcher working from the stretch.
The 12 Steps of Pitching Fast-pitch Softball:
If you are naturally right handed, hold the ball in your right hand with your index, middle, ring, and little fingers on a straight seam, while your thumb grips the straight seam on the opposite side of the ball. Try to allow some space between your palm and the ball.
Place your feet on the pitching mound with the ball of your right foot on the front edge (nearest home plate) and the ball of your left foot on the back edge. Your hips should be square to home plate.
Shift your weight back onto your left foot while bringing your gloved left hand and your ball-hand together and up toward your face.
In one smooth motion, extend your right arm down past your hip and bring your left arm in to your chest while placing your weight onto your right foot. This is the beginning momentum for your pitch.
Kick your left foot forward and push off the rubber with your right foot.
Pivot or "open" your hips so that your left side is facing home plate and your front is facing third base. Simultaneously with your foot movements, keep your arms straight and bring both of your arms up in front of you. The left gloved hand stops at about eye level and the ball hand continues its circle up until it is extended toward the sky.
Cock your right wrist back.
Bring both arms down quickly at the same time. Your right arm should cross in front of your "open" hips.
Snap your wrist forward, releasing the ball at the same time that the glove hand reaches your side.
After the snap, drag your right foot forward to your left(don't lift your foot off of the ground or it could be considered an illegal pitch), "closing" your hips. Your body should be square toward the plate again. Do not close your hips before you release the ball.
Follow through with your right arm bringing it forward and bending it at the elbow so that your elbow points toward home plate.
End your pitch so that your knees are bent and your glove is ready to field the ball in the event it is hit.