Focus on Building Balance and Beating Chicken Scratch with These Two Drills
New pitchers struggling to master balance, the windmill motion and the wrist snap have a lot of ground to cover, but the right drills will help. These two drills are ideal for back-to-back use, or they can be incorporated into different segments of a practice session. Both are great options for new pitchers.
Balance is key to a pitcher, particularly during the lunge off the mound. It’s essential for pitchers to remain balanced throughout the entire motion, from beginning to end.
Have the pitcher stand 10 to 15 feet from the catcher, but only on her right leg (lefties will reverse this). The pitcher’s left knee should be bent and her leg raised to form a right angle to the ground (a 90-degree angle at the knee, with the shin perpendicular to the ground).
The pitcher should bring her arm back past her hip, and then move it forward into the windmill motion.
When her arm comes back around to her hip, the pitcher should snap and release the ball. Once the ball is away, the pitcher can lower her leg until the next repetition.
By keeping the off leg raised, the pitcher is able to focus on improving her balance. Obviously, her pitches will be weaker this way, but it forces her body to use the right muscles for balance. Don’t be surprised if players fall during this drill.
The Sideways K
For pitchers struggling with kicking their foot, rather than dragging it behind them during the pitch (chicken scratch), this drill provides some welcome relief. It can be performed immediately after the One-Legged Balance drill, on its own, or as part of a larger training plan.
The pitcher should stand 15 to 20 feet away from the catcher, perpendicular to the plate (her left shoulder should face the catcher).
The pitcher should bring her right arm backward behind the hip, and then move it forward in the windmill motion, while at the same time pushing off the ground and lunging forward using her left foot (the right should be dragged behind).
While the right foot is dragging, the player should close her back hip and snap the ball during the release.
Finally, she should step forward with her right foot so that it lines up with the left foot.
Tips and Tricks
While the One-Legged Balance drill can be completed either on or off the field, the Sideways K drill is best practiced on the field, with a catcher. One reason for this is that it’s difficult to learn the proper way to drag the foot through the dirt if you’re not using actual dirt. Grass has a different drag, which will teach different muscle actions. Carpet, cement, vinyl and other flooring types have little drag at all, so your pitcher will not receive the right conditioning.
The One-Legged Balance drill can be completed as part of team training or at home for some solo practice. If practicing alone, the pitcher should use a pitchback if doing the drill outdoors. If doing it indoors, use a softie rather than a regular softball to ensure you don’t damage the wall or other surface you’re throwing at.
These are only a couple of drills that can help new pitchers master balance and avoid lifting the right foot during the lunge off the mound. There are plenty of others that can be incorporated into any training plan without any problem.