A common question asked by high school and summer ball coaches is, “how often should pitchers practice pitching during the season?” There isn’t one right answer to this question, and most of the time, it depends on the pitcher. No matter the age or the level of the pitcher, it’s important that there is some structured pitching practice completed during the season. Again, the amount and number of days depends on the pitcher and what part of the season they are in.
High school softball is structured differently than summer ball. Often times, high school conference games will take place during the week and there will be a few weekend tournaments scattered throughout the season. The end of the season will bring Section tournaments with the winners moving on to play in the State Tournament. Reaching the state tournament and competing for the State Title is the ultimate goal for many teams.
The teams who reach the playing field of the High School State tournament often times have strong pitching and a dominant offensive force. High school teams can make it to the end with just one dominant pitcher, as long as they play to their strengths.
The high school season can be a lengthy one for pitchers, especially on teams that don’t have the pitching depth. High school softball is a spring sport in many states, and with spring comes unpredictable weather. It is not uncommon for high school games to be postponed and rescheduled. When this happens, teams will play multiple games in a week. Add the weekend tournament dates in and you may find that your team is playing more than they are practicing. If this happens, it’s important that coaches communicate with their pitching staff and make sure the pitchers are still getting in practice reps to maintain proper pitching mechanics.
Games are the worst thing for pitchers when it comes to maintaining their pitching mechanics. During a game, the pitchers main focus is to get the ball across the plate and deliver a strike. As games and seasons wear on, the pitcher’s mechanics and form will begin to deteriorate. This happens to pitchers at every level, especially at the younger levels where pitchers may not have the body control or mechanic awareness.
It’s important that no matter what level of play, pitchers find time to practice a few days a week on their mechanics. These mechanic practices could be as short as 30 minutes and as long as an hour, depending on what the pitcher needs. Mechanic practices should consist of warm up drills where pitchers break down their fastball and movement pitches into drill form. Pitchers don’t need to throw a full pitch on these practice days.
Breaking down pitches into drill form will benefit the pitcher in the long run. Drills allow the pitcher to focus on different parts of their pitch, that they often times can’t feel or control when they are throwing full. Good mechanics will lead to good form and bad habits are less likely to develop. It’s even more important for pitchers with bad habits to take the time to break things down in an attempt to correct their form and full pitch.
If the high school or summer ball schedules consume teams, and team practice time is limited, coaches can encourage their pitchers to use their warm up before games as practice. Pitchers don’t need to throw a ton of pitches full, to warm up before games. Warm ups are designed to get pitchers loose, focus on form and good mechanics, and get the pitcher mentally and physically ready for the game. The average pitcher will throw around 30 total pitches in their game day warm up. It’s more important for pitchers to break their pitches down and then throw 5-10 full pitches of each to make sure they are game-ready.
Games do not count as pitching practice. The high school and summer ball season can get long for pitchers who throw multiple games in a week and tournaments on weekends. Games break down pitching form and it’s important that coaches acknowledge this and find a way to implement pitching practice for their pitchers without a batter in the box. Pitching practice also doesn’t mean the pitcher must throw their full motion. There are plenty of drills pitchers can do that break down and will benefit the full pitch when they go back to it. Drills also don’t tire out the pitching arm as much as throwing full will. It’s critical that coaches keep an open dialogue with their pitchers during the season. Pitchers who find time to practice their craft outside of games during the season, are more likely to remain healthy and lead their team to victory.