Throwing is relatively easy; most people can toss an object from one place to another fairly effortlessly. Throwing with accuracy and adequate velocity, however, is a whole different story.
Every play on the diamond requires one thing — an accurate throw to the intended base. Yet in softball, throwing generates the most errors in practices and games. So it’s not a far stretch to say that learning how to throw properly is absolutely indispensable.
This guide will provide steps for how to position your body for throwing, taking a bottom-up approach as it explains proper throwing techniques.
Grip the Softball
The traditional grip is a four-seam grip consisting of your index, middle, and ring finger. Turn the ball so that it forms a “C” (or horseshoe) in front of you. The "C" can be opened to the left or the right. Place your fingertips across the seams along the top of the “C.” Your thumb should be gripping the seams on the bottom of the ball directly below your index finger. Remember to hold the ball with your fingertips, not deep in your palm!
When you release the softball, it should roll off your fingertips with a backspin. This is your “snap.” The better grip you have, the more control of the ball you have, and the higher velocity you will be able to reach.
Turn Your Body
Similar to your batting stance, make sure your lower body is positioned properly when initiating your throw, which means perpendicular to your target.
To achieve this, the instep of your back foot should be facing your target, and your front foot should be lined up with your back foot. This motion will turn your upper body so that your non-throwing shoulder points toward your target.
The next area to cover is your glove side (or non-throwing side). Your glove side acts as a scope, pointing to the direction of your throw. There are two common ways to position your glove side when you are throwing: Glove hand out and elbow out.
Glove Hand Out
This is the most common way for softball players to learn how to throw, often referred to as the “bow and arrow” technique. Your glove hand extends straight out towards your target, acting as a pointer.
As you throw, pull your glove into your body by bending your elbow and pulling it into your side, while tucking your glove into your chest.
Hot Tip: Throw Along a Line
The easiest way for immediate feedback on your wrist snap is to put a strip of black electrical tape on your ball, and line the strip up with your middle finger as you grip the ball.
When you snap, the ball should have a linear backspin.The line on the ball should not quiver or rotate excessively. The ball should move through the air so that the black strip appears as a solid line.
Many softball players gradually shift to this means of throwing as they gain more experience. Instead of extending your arm straight out towards your target, your elbow acts as the pointer. Bend your elbow so that your glove is about chest-high and perpendicular to the ground.
As you throw, pull your elbow into the side of your body and your glove into your chest.
The second half of the throw — the action of pulling your elbow back into your body as you release the ball — is especially important as it helps to shift all of your body weight forward as you throw.
Throwing Arm Positioning
The positioning of your throwing arm is extremely important, as is learning to throw properly to avoid developing bad habits.
Always be cautious of the position of your elbow as you throw. The proper technique is to raise your elbow to shoulder height, so that your forearm is perpendicular to the ground and behind you, forming an “L.”
Many players have a habit of dropping their elbows. This often leads to side-armed throwing, which is a common cause of painful arm injuries.
Face Your Palm Away from You
Remember to always keep your palm facing away from you as you prepare to throw. The reason your palm faces away from you is because it gives your wrist more torque when snapping. It also reinforces proper over-the-top throwing and prevents you from merely pushing the ball forward.
Now, put everything together:
- Start by positioning your lower body so that you are perpendicular to your target.
- While you are moving your feet, retrieve the ball from your glove and get the proper grip with your throwing hand.
- Once you have your grip, extend your non-throwing arm (your “pointer) towards your target.
- Reach back with your throwing hand until it reaches the “L” position with your palm facing away from you.
- Lead with your elbow, while at the same time pulling your glove into your body. Bring your arm over the top, and snap your wrist to throw.
- As you make your throw, your body weight is transferred to your front foot, so feel free to drag your back foot or take an extra step forward to keep your balance.
Throwing Drills for Softball
As you gain experience, throwing becomes second nature. But this doesn’t mean that you can forget about your mechanics! There are two great drills that easily reinforce the fundamental mechanics of proper throwing:
This drill isolates your snap:
- Starting about five feet away from your partner with your back knee on the ground, raise your throwing hand so your elbow is in front of your body, pointed towards the target.
- Hold your wrist with your glove hand (no glove needed), and snap your wrist to release the ball. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Move back five more feet and return to the one-knee position. The “L” position of your throwing arm should now be in front of your body. Rest your throwing elbow on your glove (which is across your body).
- After you snap, follow through with your arm. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Finish the drill by moving back another five feet. Return to the one-knee position and practice the full range of motion for throwing. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Crazy Eight Drill
This drill isolates your upper body:
- After you have warmed up with the knee drills, take a few more steps back and stand up. Keeping your feet planted about shoulder-width apart, put the ball in your glove so your hands start together.
- From your chest, move your glove and throwing hand together in the motion of an “8,” starting to the left first. When you finish the “8” your hands should still be together and positioned in front of your throwing shoulder.
- Now, you can separate your hands. Take your throwing hand out of your glove and point your non-throwing elbow towards your target. As you pull your elbow down towards the ground and into your body, make the throw.
- Once you release the ball, sweep your throwing hand all the way across your body and brush the ground in front of your opposite foot.
- You may realize that your ball will not go very far if you don’t use your legs. Many players push into the ground to gain momentum as they are throwing in this drill.
Point, Snap, Release
Being able to throw accurately is far more important that being able to throw hard. Velocity will come. At higher levels of softball competition, you’ll often be asked to strengthen your arm for more velocity, but you’ll always be expected to be able to make an accurate throw to any position on the field.
There may be times when your throws don’t reach the base in time to get an out, but an accurate throw that arrives late is always preferable to an uncatchable throw. Throwing errors are generally the results of poor throwing mechanics, mental errors, or rushed plays.
Breathe. Relax. Focus on the ball, not the runner, and make the throw. It’s that simple!