Jerry Johnson, pitching instructor and creator of his own instructional pitching DVD series, took a few moments to answer some fastpitch softball pitching questions for you!
Without further ado, here are 10 softball pitching questions answered by Jerry…
1) What got you started in fastpitch softball?
I’ve been involved in softball for over 30 years. I started off pitching in a men’s league when I was in high school. I saw one game and I said “I can do that” (meaning windmill)…and the rest is history.
2) Where did you learn the most about pitching from?
Being in the Military for 26 years you travel all over, I’ve been to Japan, Korea and all over the US and learned a lot. I’ve always said if you want to see the game of softball played correctly watch women play, they play the game right.
3) Are you still actively working with pitchers? If so, what is your favorite thing about instructing/coaching?
When I start working with a new student, I always tell the parents to be patient. It takes time to be a good pitcher. After the second or third lesson they expect her to be pitching like she 18. I work with my dedicated students once a week, NOTE I said dedicated. You must be committed! And the parents must be as well. I really enjoy seeing students mature each year and grow into pitching.
4) What is one of the biggest problems you see in pitchers today?
Commitment! I always tell my students “you’re in here pitching with me when you could be with your friends.” You must be committed and willing to “work smart, not hard” to become a good pitcher.
5) What should parents look for when choosing a pitching instructor for their child?
Their are several pitching instructors in different areas of the country that teach very bad mechanics which can cause injury and, sad to say, very bad muscle memory which is very difficult to undo. I tell the parents to look around at other good pitchers in the local area and find out who they works with. Talk to their parents and coaches. If an instructor doesn’t pitch, I would be leery. My method of training a young pitcher is…
Step #1. Talk about the subject matter, stride for example and then…
Step #2. I demonstrate what I want the student to do.
If am working with a student on a new pitch I demonstrate what I want her to do after we have walked through the entire pitch step by step. It’s easy to explain what to do, it something else when the instructor demonstrates what he wants you to do.
6) How often should a pitcher practice?
In my opinion, a new pitcher should practice 3 or 4 days a week. Remember we are trying to establish good muscle memory and prevent bad muscle memory.
If you’re just starting off, and wait to long between practices, you have the possibility of developing bad habits. New pitchers have a tendency to forget what they were taught in that very first lesson. If we don’t have another practice within the next day or two, we are sometimes back to square one. I my opinion I believe we can have speed and accuracy from the beginning. As an instructor or coach, “You get what you ask for.”
In any pitching session, once a pitcher gets “tired” and can no longer perform quality reps, they should stop pitching since all reps after that point may actually cause the to train bad muscle memory.
7) What do you think a pitcher “must have” to be effective?
You must be effective in hitting your locations. It’s important for you can go North, South, East and West on different pitches. The other important factor again, in my opinion, is you must have effective spin on your pitches and the correct spin. I would recommend using the RevFire when working on spin, to increase your RPS (revolutions per second) and velocity.
8) What if a pitcher doesn’t have top speed in their league? Can they still be successful?
Again we want to focus on location, location, and location. Some times we get to wrapped up in speed. Don’t get me wrong, a pitcher must have a certain amount of speed. However, if you work on location and continue to work on your speed, you will be just fine.
9) What would you say separates the most successful pitchers you work(ed) with from the rest?
Work ethic, commitment, and dedication; an “I want to” attitude. Again work Smart, not Hard, and have a plan just don’t wing it.
10) Anything else you’d like to tell pitchers or parents of pitchers (or even coaches wanting to learn more about teaching young pitchers)?
Parents be patient, as I stated earlier. Being a good pitcher takes time it doesn’t come over night. If you, as a parent have to make your daughter go out and practice and pitch, she may not want to pitch. Again, this is only my opinion, you can’t make her pitch. She needs to get Dad off his favorite chair and say, “Dad let’s go out and pitch.” She has to want it. Parents, we can’t live or lives through our kids, she may not make be pitcher but, there are eight other positions on a team that she can play.
Stacie’s note: I couldn’t agree more with Jerry on this last point. In order to be a good pitcher, it must be something you dedicate yourself to. That doesn’t happen if the only reason you pitch is because someone else wants you to. The best pitchers pitch because THEY want to. It’s their desire and enjoyment of what they do that drives them to willingly put in the extra time and work it takes to be great at their craft. That can’t come from a parent or from anyone else but themselves. You can’t make anyone love pitching. They either do or they don’t…or they’re interested enough to give it a try and grow to love it. Either way, it comes from within them.
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