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Improving Infield Throwing Strength and Accuracy

There is simply no shortcut to improving strength and accuracy when it comes to throwing. Mardela (Maryland) High School softball coach Kory Shiles has tested and refined his program for preparing his girls for the spring season.

“In the offseason, it all starts in the weight room, where they get stronger overall” Shiles said. “In the fall, it is simply basic training, with 4-5 week training cycles focused on making everything equal, in terms of pushes and pulls.”

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Shiles wants his returning veterans, as well as newcomers, to be balanced throughout their bodies. As the season draws near, specific focus goes into strengthening the back, pecs, deltoids, and the scapula region to help create and reinforce bilateral strength.

Not one to focus on specialization, Shiles encourages his players to compete in other sports for several reasons, including resting their arms. As the calendar turns, the focus should come back to throwing, and building up to the March 1 start date for Maryland public schools.

“It is a growth process over eight weeks in January and February, focused on long toss, and you need to listen to your arm the entire time, to make sure there is no pain or discomfort,” Shiles said.

Those eight weeks are broken down into four two-week clusters. For the first two weeks in January, his girls throw 30 times a day, two times a week. In the next cluster, it is 35 throws three times a week, followed by 50 throws four times, and then 55 throws five times a week leading into practice. Distance progresses out, from 30 to 45 to 60 to eventually 75 feet, again, paying attention to any discomfort along the way.

As the season begins, consistency is the key for Shiles, whose Warriors have averaged 16 wins a year in his 11 seasons, winning two Bayside Conference championships and two region crowns, reaching the Class 1A state final in 2012.

“Roughly 90 percent of the time, we are doing the same drills in practice,” Shiles said.

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One drill that Shiles implemented two years ago is the Towel Drill. He has players work in pairs, with one girl having a hand towel in her throwing hand, and the other girl standing a few feet (4-5) away, with her glove out.

The girl with the hand towel starts off in a closed-stance position, as if she is a pitcher, and moves to throw towards a target, with the other player in that path. The goal is for the girl to keep her hand behind the ball at the release point, keep her lead elbow from going long, and keep her front foot from opening up. The follow through is meant for the hand towel to hit the glove. This drill also helps girls who side-arm their throws move to consistently throwing over-hand.

“We started incorporating towel snaps two years ago, and girls who could not throw it hardly 60 feet then can now throw on a dime from the outfield,” Shiles said.

With the start of practice, Shiles monitors reps daily, and his team starts with throwing lead-ups, moving on to pitcher throws (go into the stretch, hold leg up and focus on mechanics) and then position drills for infielders, outfielders and catchers. For more throwing strength, Shiles again advises gradually moving back at 15-foot increments, from 30 to 75 feet.

“There is no need to throw 100 times on the first day,” Shiles said. “Tendonitis in the elbow is the most common arm issue for softball players, and it comes from throwing form or technique. We work to try and get the throwing motion right, but accuracy is a case-by-case basis. Try not to cookie-cut with throwing mechanics, and instead focus on consistency across the board.”

From GameChanger and Brian Burden.

Softball, Softball Player Development, Softball Tips & Drills