How to be a Softball Pitcher

What does it take to be a fastpitch softball pitcher?

So you think you want to be a softball pitcher?  Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman, Dallas Escobedo, Keilani Ricketts and many names come to mind when you think of great softball pitchers. I think every girl who decides to play softball will start out wanting to be a pitcher. It looks like fun, you get to be the center of attention and they are usually one of the best known players on the team. What does it really take though in terms of dedication, time, practice and money to become a good or even great softball pitcher?

Amazon Image Softball Power Drive Pitching Trainer – Teaches getting power from legs and hips, delivery timing, correct posture and exit angles.  Designed for youth, college and pro players

The minimum requirements most youth pitchers will need to meet just in order to be considered for game time pitching in a Rec softball league is:

  1. Know the Game –  and be able to catch the ball accurately. If a Pitcher cannot follow the game she will not be prepared to receive the ball. In addition, the ball is returned to the Pitcher after every play and just about every pitch. If the Pitcher has problems catching the ball, the game will become frustrating for both teams and their spectators.
  2. Pitching Coach – to teach you the basic mechanics of pitching. Softball pitching coaches charge about $35-50 per ½ hour lesson. The minimum commitment is 4 lessons, 1 per week for 4 weeks then as needed.
  3. Practice pitching – for approximately ½ hour every other day with your adult catcher.  This is in addition to team practices and pitching coach times.

Those are the bare minimums. If you want to be competitive and pitch on B level Rec League, All Star, Travel Ball, Elite Softball, A Ball, high school or even college level softball teams it will require more.

  • Training with a pitching coach on a weekly or every other week basis
  • Practice pitching several times per week
  • Eat well, stay healthy, take care of your body and continue learning the defensive game of softball

You may have heard the saying “Eat, Sleep, Breath – Softball”, for a competitive pitcher at the elite, high school or college level this is definitely true.

How many pitches should a softball pitcher throw each week?

Each pitcher is different just like each player is different but some general guidelines for number of pitches can be made. It really depends on what your goal as a pitcher is. Softball pitchers who want to improve their skills and move up to the next level will be dedicated and put in the practice time required daily. If you’re not willing to practice almost every day your pitching skills will not improve. Unfortunately, pitching isn’t like cramming for a test. You must practice consistently to just maintain your current skill level. If you want to improve you have to be both dedicated and consistent.

Pitchers 12 and under should be pitching about 400 pitches per week. This includes game time pitching and warm ups. So if they pitch one game per week and throw about 100 pitches per game then they need to pitch 3 additional days during the week also throwing about 100 pitches per practice time.

Pitchers 13 and older should be pitching about 600-700 pitches per week. This includes game time pitching and warm ups. If you pitch 100-120 pitches per game and play two games per week that will be about 240 pitches so you’ll need to throw another 360-460 pitches or 100-150 pitches an additional three times that week.

If you look at the numbers above you will see that a pitcher will need to pitch 3-5 days per week just to hit the pitch count without stressing her arm out on any one day. You don’t want to try and pitch 300 pitches one day to make up for a missed day of practice. These pitches need to be spread out throughout the week. Again, you can’t “cram” for a pitching session. Consistency is the key!

What about the “off season”?

There is no real off season where softball is concerned and that is especially true for pitching. You don’t want to burn out or risk injury but even when the softball season is not in full swing you still must practice and throw the same or close to the same number of pitches per week.

Amazon Image  Softball Power Drive Pitching Trainer – Teaches getting power from legs and hips, delivery timing, correct posture and exit angles.  Designed for youth, college and pro players.

Muscle memory is easy to lose when you’re a pitcher. If you take a couple of months off you can expect to lose mechanics, accuracy and speed. You should take short breaks, maybe a week or two off during the “off” seasons to help ensure you don’t get burned out and that your body is healthy but any more time than that and you will start to see your pitching skills decline and you’ll have to work harder just to get back to where you were at the end of the season. Taking a week off after the end of the season and then another few days here and there staggered throughout the period when you aren’t actively playing is usually a good approach.

You can look at it like this for most softball pitchers; if she pitches 2 times per week her skills will either stay the same or diminish slightly. If she pitches 3 times per week her skills will stay the same or improve slightly and if she pitches 4-5 times per week her skills and speed will improve. Pitching requires hard work, persistence and patience. If you are diligent in your practices, the accuracy and speed will come.

What is the softball pitching distance by age group:

  • 8U and 10U pitch at 35ft with an 11″ ball
  • 12U pitches at 40ft with a 12” ball
  • 14U and up pitch at 43ft with a 12″ ball.

Pitch speeds will also vary by age. Read here to find out the average softball pitch speed by age group.

***The pitching distance may vary state to state or depending on which national softball organization your team is affiliated with (ASA, USSSA, NSA etc.)

What can the parent of a softball pitcher expect?

As a parent you also need to be ready to make a bigger commitment in both time and money. You will need to invest in pitching lessons for your daughter. You will most likely be the person sitting on the bucket catching for your pitcher hour after hour, especially at the beginning levels. You will have more practice time, more travel time, more of everything softball if you are raising a pitcher. It really is a family commitment if your daughter wants to be a pitcher.

If you want them to progress to the next level you’ll need to be ready to have them pitch in All Stars or Tournament leagues which are more time and more money. You’ll be the one to help assess if they are pitching enough or even too much. You’ll be part nurse, cheerleader, chauffer, banker, teacher, coach and proud parent. It can be very rewarding to watch your daughter standing in the pitcher’s circle, pitching strike after strike but just be aware it takes a lot of discipline, dedication, money and love to get her there, both on your daughter’s part and yours.

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The bottom line on pitching in youth softball

The most important thing about pitching and determining a practice schedule is desire. If you want to be a pitcher you will want to put in the practice time necessary to improve and become better. It may mean you have to miss out on play time with your friends or limit other extracurricular activities. It may mean you get pitching lessons for a birthday present rather than the newest video game your friend got. It may mean you have to ice down your arm after every practice and game.

You will get sore, there will be days you don’t want to pitch, you will have to make sacrifices to become a better pitcher, you will hit batters, you will pitch poorly in a game, your team will lose games, you will be tired and hot. In the end each pitcher must decide for herself if the hard work is worth it to achieve the goals she has set as a pitcher, whether that is to be the starting pitcher for a 12U Rec team or ultimately play for a D1 college team. Most important of all the qualities of a great pitcher is love of the game. You will spend hour upon hour practicing and pitching if you don’t love the game it will be a chore but if you do love it the time will fly by and it will all be worth it to be standing in the circle, playing the game you love.

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