Article Provided by: The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA)
Article by: Gil Arzola - Head Coach, Portage High School (IN)
Anyone can play catch.
All you need is a partner, a couple of gloves and a ball.
And you don't have to explain the rules; it's simple enough and everyone knows how to play. Still, we all play it differently, with different goals and different results.
A game of catch can be precise and efficient – quick hard line drives thrown with strength and precision. Like major leaguers before a game, catch can be important enough that it is preceded by stretching and maybe a little running. It can require preparation and have a purpose, a routine and be done in a well thought out sequence.
Or playing catch can be about chasing a ball. Throws made haphazardly, without really aiming at anything, without any purpose. That type of catch is done up close, where there is less risk of missing your target and strength is irrelevant. But little is learned and no one improves.
Like our lives, playing catch well or badly is simply a product of practice, of our goals and of knowing the difference between a good throw and a bad one. We cannot perform a skill until we understand how to do it properly and then we have to practice it. In our haste to get things done and our desire for immediate gratification, we often mistake a hard throw for a good throw, a quick throw with an efficient one.
And also like our daily lives, we mistake power for right, although power without direction is pointless; and we mistake the quantity of time spent with proper preparation, although all we may be doing is practicing how to do things wrong.
You can learn a lot from a game of catch and the rules that define it. Things you can relate to more than just a game:
Aim at something: Go to any softball or baseball field and watch as players jump out of the car and onto the field to play catch. Ask them and they'll say they're warming up. They think they're preparing for the game but as they gossip about their day and throw; are they aiming at anything? Are they preparing to play, rehearsing the throws they'll have to make in the game? Or is it only activity for activity's sake, without any purpose?
Every throw should have a purpose. Because every time we throw we are creating a habit. It can be a good habit or a bad one. We get to choose which.
We should always be aiming at something. And we should be preparing to make the types of throws we will have to make in a game. Otherwise we are not preparing to play, we are practicing how to gossip and play catch badly.
Without a target, a throw has no meaning. Without a goal, activity has no purpose.
No throw is better than a bad throw. Sometimes the best throw is one you don't make. Making a throw that is hurried or that has no chance of beating the runner is pointless. Sometimes players will make a throw in desperation, thinking that it shows an " I don't give up" attitude. Or they will make a throw without having a good grip on the ball, thinking about making the throw before they've fielded the ball.
Games are won most often by those that understand how to play within themselves and under control.
Making no throw while allowing the runner to be safe at first is better than a bad throw that goes over the first baseman's head and allows the runner to get to second. Knowing when not to throw is as important as knowing how to throw.
Keep your feet on the ground. Stay balanced. You should try to always do everything athletic from a strong position. And you are always strongest with both feet on the ground. The strongest man in the world has no strength without the ground as an anchor. Before any throw, get into a balanced position; your throw will be stronger and straighter. Hurrying before you are set is counterproductive. Although there will be times when you have to make a hurried or a less than desirable throw, whenever possible be balanced.
While a throw off one leg and falling on the ground may be spectacular and even necessary, keeping your feet on the ground is always best.
A good throw is one that your partner catches. The object of any throw is to hit a target. Regardless of your form, regardless of the strength of your throw if someone doesn't catch it, there was no point. Any throw you make must be one that has the best chance of being caught. Who you are throwing to? Are they close? Are they far? Do they catch well or poorly? Must you hurry? Can you take your time?
Understanding who you are throwing to and the type of throw you'll need prior to the play can make all the difference. Ask yourself before every pitch, "what am I going to do if the ball is hit to me?"
Being prepared is having a plan.
Throwing is a skill. Throwing is a series of physical movements that are coordinated in order to maximize the energy transferred to the ball and that will determine the direction it will travel.
In plain language, what you do with your body tells the ball where to go and how fast to go there. Everybody can throw – few throw well. Throwing is a skill.
No skill that is complex can be taught or learned in one step. Every skill has to be explained and then broken up into manageable pieces and practiced until the pieces can be put together.
A good throw begins with a balanced stride in the direction of your target and ends with a wrist snap where all the energy that has been summed in your legs, your core, your shoulders and your arms is released.
Begin slowly understanding every part before moving on to the next. Don't think that you have to learn all the parts in any given time. Getting to your destination is what matters. Play hard. Play right.