Pitching Plan: 3-time All-American dishes out valuable coaching tips
By Greg Bach
Young softball pitchers are counting on you to guide, mold and develop their skills.
They want to throw harder, improve accuracy and have a bunch of pitches in their arsenal.
And they want strikeouts.
A lot of strikeouts.
Are you ready to take them where they want to go?
“It’s really important to have a plan and outline for them ‘Here’s where you are now; here’s where we want to get you to; and here’s how we’re going to do it,’” says Marissa Young, head softball coach at Duke University and a former three-time All-American pitcher. “Kids really latch onto that when they really feel like their coach really has a plan for them and is going to get them where they want to be.”
Young has already been down that path. She was the 2003 Big Ten Player of the Year and the 2002 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year.
So if anyone knows how to send hitters back to the dugout shaking their heads in frustration, she does.
CHALLENGE KIDS WITH THE UNATTAINABLE
It’s important that practices serve a purpose and that coaches have a specific plan for the session.
Random drills lacking purpose combined with simply having kids throw will result in unproductive sessions and disinterested players.
“I think now more than ever pitchers just go throw pitches and they do a pitching workout but they don’t really practice as if they are preparing for the challenges that they are going to face in a game,” Young says. “Coaches need to challenge them.”
The more difficult those challenges are the better players will be at handling any adversity or disappointment that comes their way during game day action.
“I would encourage coaches to simulate games and also challenge them with challenges that aren’t attainable: Like being perfect on nine out of 10 pitches,” Young says. “They know that’s not attainable but you want to see how the pitchers respond and how they are going to handle the failure. The more often they are challenged that way the better they become at overcoming it.”
BEING A BETTER TEAMMATE – APPRECIATING OTHERS
A lot of attention naturally gets directed at the pitcher during a game, but Young urges coaches to help their pitchers understand it’s a team game.
And the pitcher can be a tone setter for being a great teammate.
“More than ever in the game of softball teach pitchers not to be the princess in the circle,” Young says. “Coaches need to really get their pitchers to focus more on their team and how to be a better teammate, how to encourage their teammates, how to appreciate them and get excited when they make great plays behind them.”
After all, while pitching is a big part of softball it’s still a team game that requires plays to be made in the field.
“As much as a team counts on a pitcher they can’t win the game all by themselves,” Young says. “So as coaches we need to encourage them during the week in practice to work as though the team is depending solely on them, but on Game Day it is totally about the team and enjoying the journey with their team.”
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