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Pitchers fighting against muscle memory

halskinner

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May 7, 2008
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Pitchers fighting against muscle memory.

Here is something I heard more times than I can count when questioning Dads that catch for their daughter/pitchers in practice.

I will ask them how their practices go, and do they have a regular normal routine? Most of the time the reply will be something on these lines; “After she warms up we will throw 25 riseballs, 25 drops, 25 curves, 25…..” whatever other pitches she is working on.

I tell them great and then ask them to think back to the last practice session they had. How was the first riseball she threw? Answer; Not good. The 2nd ? Better but not great. The 3rd ? Great.

Ok, when you switched to the dropball, after those 25 riseballs, how was the first one? Awful. The 2nd ? Much better but not great. The 3rd one? Awesome.

I then ask them if at the end of the session, once they have thrown 25 of everything, do they ever go from throwing one movement pitch, to another, to a different one, and back and forth like that, never two of the same in a row? Answer; “Uhhh, no.”

Then I will suggest they do exactly that during their practices the next week and let me know how it goes.

The next week they come back and the report is usually something like; “We jumped back and forth between different pitches like you said to. We did this for about 20 minutes. The first 6 or 7 minutes of this part of the workout was awful, nothing seemed to work well and they were all over the place. The rest of that part she did great and everything was right on the money and movin good”.

Does anyone see the emerging pattern here?

You pitch like you practice. If you have just thrown 25 riseballs, your short term muscle memory will be in a riseball frame of mind. That short-term muscle memory takes over. Now you ask your body to throw a dropball and the first one does not work well at all. The 2nd one is better and on the third one it all comes back and it works exactly like you want it to in a game.

THAT IS A HIDDEN PROBLEM and more serious than you think. In a game situation you DO NOT have the luxury of throwing three dropballs in a row before one actually works. The FIRST one had better work. However, if you never practice jumping back and forth from one movement pitch to the other, you should expect things like that to happen.

This is a battle, especially for a young pitcher. This is a battle of a pitcher fighting their own short-term muscle memory.

This is where a pitcher must rely on their brain to think to win that battle and, they must think quickly. Too many young pitchers rely on muscle memory ALONE to do ALL their thinking. You have to practice your pitches to build muscle memory and perfect those pitches. However, when it is game time, your brain MUST take charge and make all the correct decisions AND you usually have about 2 seconds to make those correct decisions.

My suggestion is obvious here. Do your normal practice routine throwing multiples of the same pitch. At the end of the session, mix them all up and do not throw 2 in a row of the same thing, jump back and forth from one movement pitch to another movement pitch, just like you will have to do in the game.

Practice that too and make it the last thing you do at your practice sessions and it will be the first thing you do in the game.

Get in the habit of making those decisions quickly. You cannot afford to ‘practice’ that dropball with a batter in the box.

Pitch smart. Practice smart and have a great season.

Coach Hal

Winning Fast Pitch Softball
 
Jul 17, 2008
65
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in the dugout
great advice. this is something we've been doing for while and i'm sure one of the multitude of pitching coaches we've had taught us this.

would you also suggest doing this in pregame warmups too?
 

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