A common error I see with pitchers at take off of their pitch is a foot-turn in.
Let me explain, in a right-handed pitcher, the right foot is forward and the pitcher loads the leg to take off, and as she does, her right heel turns in…as a result she is launching her full body weight violently forward off the inside of her foot relying on the ankle, groin, hip flexor for power and LOSING HER ability to use the hamstrings and glutes for power. This is NOT an equal exchange of power and efficiency.
What coaches commonly do, though, is think it’s a bad habit the athlete has gotten into, and tries to coach the girl to keep her foot straight. Or to use her glutes or her legs. Sometimes coaches will put a box around the girl’s foot to help force her foot straight. (not saying these are wrong, but these don’t usually fix the issue, long-term)
What is most often happening, is the athlete has a weakness or joint instability on the that right side knee, hip or ankle joint. Determining what the issue is for the instability is the first thing we need to do as coaches. Secondly we need to help the girl “find” and “feel” her glutes, hamstrings, and foot load in more basic positions before we ask her to aggressively apply power to a new pattern of body movement.
I’ll show you some of how I do that, below.
1) Check her squat.
You will see here this young athlete’s right heel lifts off the floor and rolls in as she squats. I have never seen her pitch before, but I asked her if she struggles with her right foot/heel rolling in at take-off and she asked how I guessed that. She said her coach is always telling her to keep her foot straight.
2) Check her step down positioning.
As you see here, the athlete’s ankle stays straight up and down and facing forward, but her knee caves in and her hip juts out due to instability in her leg. So in this girl’s wind up, I would assume her foot stays straight at take-off, but her knee does the inward rotation, instead. Which is NOT any better. She is still by-passing the power muscles of the butt, but losing her knee position.
In these cases, the athlete needs to work in less advanced positions to relearn how to maintain a preferred rib over hip over knee over toe position at take-off. This is why the weight room lifting sessions are invaluable for the athlete to be practicing good movement in and are a prime place to work on these issues.
- Single leg stance exercises
- Lengthening exercises of the groin, glutes
- Side lying core/ab strengthening positions
- Anti-rotation banded exercises
Anna Woods, founder of sheSTRENGTH works with fastpitch softball players from all over Central Kansas out of either of her gym locations in Buhler or Maize. She provides strength and corrective exercises for the girls to follow through her hands-on small group softball classes or through her online virtual app, called sheSTRENGTH. To inquire about using her services, Click the link below: