Proper Softball Pitching Mechanics

Written by VersusThu Aug 18 2022
Proper Softball Pitching Mechanics

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Jennie Finch teaches you how to get the most out of your body when pitching—by maximizing efficiency and safety.

Jennie Finch teaches you how to get the most out of your body when pitching—by maximizing efficiency and safety.

Dialing in proper movement patterns and mechanics is crucial in any sport.

The obvious reason athletes and coaches are interested in mechanics is for performance improvement. There’s no doubt that for most sports-specific movements, there is an optimum movement pattern to maximize force, speed, and accuracy.

But there is another reason that mechanics are important—injury prevention.

While it’s sometimes frustrating to take what feels like a step back to focus on technique, this is essential for any athlete who wants a long and successful career.

It doesn’t matter how well you can throw a curveball, changeup, or dropball. Or how much heat you get behind your fastball. If you blow out your arm in the process, you’re back to square one.

Pitchers who make it to the elite level, and stay there, have meticulously dialed in their throwing mechanics to maximize safety and efficiency.     

Injury prevention always starts with a warmup. So if you haven’t checked them out already, take a look at our articles on Stretching and Arm Care, and Playing Catch with a Purpose. While these are focused on baseball, most aspects directly transfer to softball.

Once you’ve got your warmup ready for throwing practice—it’s time to go deep on mechanics and technique. And we can’t think of anyone better to do this with, than softball legend Jennie Finch.

More Than Just a Talented Pitcher

It goes without saying that Finch has the skills and experience to teach proper softball pitching mechanics to players of any level.

When she left college softball, Jennie was the career leader in shutouts, innings pitched, and strikeouts, plus was tied leader for no-hitters. To this day, she still holds a spot in several top-10 lists for college softball.

Finch was a member of the USA Olympic Softball team twice—leading them to gold in 2004 and silver in 2008. She was subsequently named, “the most famous softball player in history” by Time magazine.  

Throughout her playing career, Jennie was regarded as an inspiring mentor and role model for female athletes. She has continued in this capacity since retiring from professional softball in 2010, running training camps across the country, and managing her own training academy. 

Finch was inducted into the USA Softball Hall of Fame in 2016. Her book, Throw Like a Girl, continues to inspire the next generation of female athletes.

With a pedigree like that, it’s obvious why Jennie is one of our go-to athletes for all things softball. She is an absolute technical master when it comes to pitching, plus has a talent and passion for coaching that few can match.

This article is based on an exclusive training video Finch recorded with Versus. While we’ve translated most of the essential points onto the page, some aspects simply have to be seen in action to properly grasp. 

For athletes serious about improving pitching mechanics—signing up to access the video and accompanying training materials on Versus is a wise investment. You’ll not only get all of our training content with Jennie Finch, but several other elite athletes and world-class coaches.

If you’re looking for affordable and personalized training from the best of the best—on an interactive digital platform you can access from anywhere—Versus has you covered.

Now, let's get into Jennie Finch’s lesson on proper pitching mechanics for softball.

Power Comes From the Ground Up

In Jennie’s words, 

“In pitching, we’ve got to have a solid, firm foundation. It’s from the ground up. Our feet hitting the ground are our force plates. So, our connection to the ground is where our power comes from.” 

It’s tempting to focus on the hands and upper body when looking at pitching mechanics. But Finch’s reminder that throwing is from the ground up, is a good prompt to start any examination of technique from where a pitch begins—the feet.

The chain of movements to produce a well-executed pitch begins in the feet, moves through the legs, transmits up to the arms, and ends as the ball leaves the fingertips. If we think of this movement pattern as an interlinked chain, or a length of rope, it’s clear that the force input at one end of the chain (feet) will affect the other (hands).

Finch has three main tips when it comes to getting maximum power from the ground.

Use Both Legs 

You want to get everything you can behind a pitch—which includes utilizing your dominant and non-dominant sides to their full potential. 

Both feet and legs have specific roles to play during the pitch. 

The back foot is just as important as the leading foot. Pitchers need to be aware of what each should be doing throughout the movement, paying attention the entire time. 

We’ll talk more about foot and leg placement throughout the article.

Come to a Complete Stop     

Unless you come to a complete stop at the end of a pitch, there is no way you will be able to transfer all of the force generated from the body into the ball. 

The idea is to resist as hard as you can with the front foot before you let go of the ball—which transmits as much force as possible from your wind-up into the throw. 

Check out this picture of Finch demonstrating.

Pay Attention to Foot Placement

Foot placement is crucial to a powerful and accurate pitch. 

After Jennie loads up, she launches with her front foot. When she turns, her front toe is pushing off toward homeplate, while she’s driving her back foot through the ground.

In terms of back foot placement—the drag that you should have is in the shape of a ‘C’, or a banana—like this.

Reiterating the link between ground-work and upper body mechanics, Jennie states, “That back foot stays connected to my throwing shoulder the entire time.”

Now that we’ve covered footwork, it’s time to look at the rest of the body. 

Use Your Whole Body

If there is one common theme throughout the whole video—it’s that pitching is a full-body movement. 

Finch reminds us over and over again to use every part of our body towards the pitch, giving us some solid tips and guidelines that we’ll get into now.

Stay Tall

There are two cues involved when Jeannie says, “stay tall”.

First, don’t let your nose go in front of your belly button. If it does, you will start to lean forward, which will throw off your entire positioning.  

Second, use your long levers—your arms and legs—to create the centrifugal force that results in the whip action that finishes with the throwing hand. 

As Jennie describes,

“You want to be on that straight line, but long, loose, and fully extended.”  

Arm Speed is Ball Speed

Interestingly, Finch doesn’t actually talk about arm speed directly impacting ball speed—even though this is the end result she’s using it for. 

In line with her whole body approach to pitching, Finch states,

“The faster our arm goes, the faster our body is going to go.” 

Jennie demonstrates that the fastest arm circle is achieved with the arms close to the body.

Staying tall the whole way through, and finishing in the position below.

For maximum arm speed, Finch’s tips are:

“Get loaded—relax—long and loose arms—and stride out toward the target.” 

Conceal Your Grip

Jeannie only uses two grips for all of her pitches, but still does all she can to conceal these from her opponents. 

She uses glove and body placement to hide her grip from the 3rd base coach, then a “racing dive” to keep the hitter guessing. 

To execute Jennie’s racing dive—stay tall, and focus on getting the most out of the “free bounce” from your first step. 

As long as you don’t lean forward (remember, nose behind belly button), you can use the bounce to power you forward in the pitch. Like this.

Stay on Your Power Line

This is a simple tip, but deserving of its own section. 

Keeping with our focus on speed and power—Finch reminds us,

“The fastest way from point A to point B, is a straight line.” 

What she means is that throughout the entire pitch, it’s important to focus on keeping everything lined up in the body and moving straight towards the target. 

Jennie calls this, “the power line”. Because it allows the pitcher to take every ounce of strength and power they have in their body, and transmit it to the ball—sending it through the target. 

“The moment we twist”, states Jennie, “were coming off that power line” and losing force.

Finish Strong

Finishing strong is a crucial step in pitching. 

Even if you’ve done everything right up until releasing the ball—your hard work can all come undone with a mistake in this final stage.

To tie together all of the instructions so far on pitching mechanics, Finch gives some great advice on how to finish strong. 

Transfer Maximum Power to the Ball

To come back to one of the earlier tips—you must come to a complete stop to finish strong. 

If you’re moving at all through the finish, you’re not transferring maximum power to the ball. 

Make sure to plant the front foot firmly on the ground as you complete the pitch. Resist forward motion with all your might—focusing on transmitting that force from the ground to your throwing hand.

Stay Behind the Ball

Next, Jennie advises to “snap as hard and fast as you can”, with all the muscles in your throwing arm behind the ball. 

Finch emphasizes focusing on keeping the arm behind the ball, as this follows the straight power line we are aiming for. 

If the throwing hand crosses the power line—even after the ball is released—the pitch won’t be on target.

Be Ready to Field

For her final point on finishing strong, Finch reminds us, “When you release the ball, you should be in a good, strong athletic position. Now you’re a fielder—not a pitcher.”

Finishing here requires not letting the back foot come out front after the pitch, as this leaves you off-balance and unprepared to field. 

The cue Jennie uses is

“stick it and spin it.” 

She’s resisting so hard to stick her front foot to the ground—then to transfer all the spin from her arm to the ball—that there shouldn’t be enough power left in her back leg for it to overbalance her.

If you consistently find yourself off-balance after a pitch, make sure to go back through your entire process, getting all earlier mechanics on point. 

While the cues from this section can help to finish strong—it’s highly likely that overbalancing is a symptom of faulty mechanics in the beginning stages of your pitch as well—not just right at the end.     

Evaluate and Refine

Now that you’ve got a comprehensive guide to proper pitching mechanics, the only thing left to do is practice! 

Learning to pitch like Jennie Finch isn’t a one-time thing—it’s an ongoing process of continual evaluation and refinement.

Jennie’s advice is to get some visual feedback on what you're doing, then make little tweaks one by one.

The obvious way is to film your pitch with your phone. But Finch’s “old school way” could work just as well—maybe even better. 

She recommends rolling up some old socks into a “softie” ball, placing a mirror in front of you, then throwing into that. 

With this method, you can see if anything is going to the left or right, what your body’s doing, and whether you’re staying on your power line. You’ll also be able to tell if you’re resisting enough with your front foot, and whether your back foot path and placement are correct. 

By reviewing either way—you can evaluate your entire pitch—making sure your mechanics are efficient and safe. 

Whatever you do (we recommend both), keep Jennie’s closing comments in mind.

“The proper mechanics to pitching is everything. You’ve got to have a firm, solid foundation, and you’ve got to have solid mechanics. Get out on a mound and do it over and over. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Game speed—game mode.”

If you enjoyed this article, we have a follow-up session from Jennie Finch—where she breaks down exactly how she throws her curveball and screwball. 

A subscription to Versus gets you access to all Jennie Finch’s exclusive skills and mindset training videos—plus sessions with other softball greats—like star hitter Amanda Lorenz, and internationally renowned college softball head coach, Tim Walton.

There’s also tons more training and educational content from other elite athletes and coaches, much of which is applicable across all sports. 

You’ll get access to the full Versus content library, plus be able to interact on our digital training platform—helping you to get the most from your unique sporting potential.

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