The first pitch every fast-pitch softball player should learn is the fastball because it's the foundation for other pitches. Only after you've perfected your fastball technique and you're able to throw it where you want with confidence and control should you attempt to learn another pitch. With the fastball as a base, it only takes a few subtle technique changes to learn a new pitch.
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Check Your Grip
Pitchers use a variety of grips, but the most commonly used one is the four-seam grip. With this grip, all four seams cut through the air as the ball rotates. Hold the ball so the seams form the letter "C." Place the pads of your index, middle and ring fingers across the seam at the top of the "C." Put your thumb on the seam underneath the ball, directly below your index finger. Avoid burying the ball in your palm; keep some space between the ball and your palm.
Take Your Stance
Both feet must be touching the pitcher's plate or rubber when you begin your pitch. Stand with a closed stance -- hips directly facing the catcher -- with your feet hip-width apart. Place the heel of your push-off foot on the front of the rubber -- your right heel if you pitch right-handed or the left heel if you pitch left-handed. Place the toe of your other leg, your stride leg, on the back of the rubber. Grip the ball, bring it and your glove together and hold your glove just below your waist.
Windmill Arm Swing
Your arm swing starts with you lifting the heel of your push-off foot, shifting your weight backward onto your stride leg and then forward onto the ball of your push-off foot. During this weight shift, drop your throwing arm and swing it backward, palm down, until it is parallel to the ground. Reverse your movement and swing your arm in a circular, windmill motion -- down, forward, up and back around to the release point. At the top of your swing, when your arm is extended straight overhead, rotate your hand so the back of it is facing the catcher and extend your glove arm and point your glove toward the catcher.
Leg and Foot Work
Once you feel comfortable with the windmill swing, work in your lower-body movements. When your pitching arm moves forward from the initial backswing, simultaneously push off the rubber and start to move your stride leg forward. When your pitching arm is straight above your head, take as large as step as possible with your stride leg and open your stance -- turn sideways to the catcher. Plant your stride-leg foot with your toes pointing halfway between the plate and third base. As the ball nears the release point, start to close your hips and drag your push-off foot's toes forward. After you release the ball, close your hips and face the catcher.
Release and Follow-Through
The release point is just after your hand passes your push-off leg. As your hand approaches this point, cock your wrist back, point the inside of your wrist toward the catcher and keep your arm close to your body. Snap your wrist as you release the ball with your index and middle fingers being the last to leave the ball. Follow through with your arm straight toward your target and finish with your arm bent and hand near your pitching shoulder.
Learning Other Pitches
With a few adjustments to your fastball technique, you can easily add more weapons to your pitching arsenal. The main differences in technique between pitches are with the grip and the action of your hand and fingers at the release. There is no one, correct way to grip a softball for the different pitches, so you may have to experiment to find the grip that works for you. The best way to learn the different pitches is to focus on one new pitch and perfect it before moving on to another.