Speed – it’s an essential ingredient in good pitching. It’s also difficult to build, particularly when players are focusing on so many other things, like power, control and accuracy. While there are multiple drills out there that can help players build speed, the circle speed drill is one of the simplest and most effective. With that being said, there is the potential for injury here, so players and coaches should exercise caution here. Pressing ahead despite pain is never a good decision – pain is the body’s way of warning us that we’re doing something wrong.
A Look at the Drill
The circle speed drill is really exactly what it sounds like. It focuses on the whirlwind motion necessary to send a softball across the plate at speed, but it differs somewhat from the conventional pitching process. It’s all about increasing the player’s arm rotation speed and imparting more momentum to the ball on release from the pitcher’s hand.
To get started, the player should stand with her feet slightly more than shoulder width apart in the stride stance (as though a single step were taken). The drill involves making three rotations with the arm, as fast as possible, and then releasing the ball at the right moment during the third rotation. During the three rotations, the player’s shoulder should stay relaxed and loose, but controlled (not whirling wildly).
Aiming accuracy can be difficult to achieve with this drill, and to help, players should keep their glove hand out and pointed toward the catcher (or the catcher’s position if no catcher is actually present during the drill). The glove hand should be in the same position as the player wants the ball to release. After practicing with three rotations prior to releasing the pitch, reduce it to two rotations while still focusing on speed. Once two rotations have been mastered, change it to just one rotation prior to releasing the ball.
Tips and Tricks
Arm rotations at speed help improve performance during pitching, but they can be problematic. If the player experiences any pain during the rotation, she should stop the drill immediately. Players should never, ever push through shoulder pain. Any number of detrimental conditions can result, including damage to the bursa, rotator cuff injuries and more. The arm should be loose and relaxed, but controlled, and the player should not experience any pain during rotation.
The circle speed drill can be performed at home unsupervised, but only if the player understands the importance of not pushing through shoulder pain. Coaches should ensure that players are under no pressure to perform despite physical pain, particularly in this drill.
If practicing this pitch indoors (in a basement, garage, etc.), it should be performed with a softie, rather than a standard softball. This is particularly true if the indoor area was not designed for softball pitching practice and has walls made of sheetrock or other materials that can be damaged by the impact of a softball.
If performing this drill outdoors, a pitchback can be used in the place of a catcher. A pitchback with a target painted on its surface can help players develop better aim and can work in conjunction with the correctly placed glove hand to help players improve accuracy and release the ball at the correct position.