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Fatigue Point vs. Pitch Count

By: Cindy Bristow

What's more important to your pitcher - how many pitches she throws or her fatigue point? Are these two things linked or completely separate issues?

Fastpitch Softball Pitcher Training and Endurance Pitch Count

A previous article on Pitch Counts really stirred up some comments from many of you so I want to talk more about Pitch Counts and how something called The Fatigue Point effects a pitcher's performance as well.

In a previous article I talked about how pitching a softball as fast as possible, over and over for years isn't a completely healthy activity for a pitcher's arm. For years there's been an urban legend-type of thought process out there that says pitching a softball is a "natural" motion for the arm as opposed to pitching a baseball which is harmful and should be monitored and limited. Since a softball pitcher's arm motion goes above her head, combined with the violent explosion at release and the constant repetition over years, softball pitching can have potentially harmful effects.

So, some quick points of clarification on the Pitch Count for Softball Pitchers:

  1. Softball pitch counts should be higher than baseball and should be used as guides for potential over-use and not as hard-fast limits.
  2. Pitch counts vary based on a pitcher's physical conditioning, overall mechanics and age.
  3. The two factors that should determine if a pitch is counted toward any pitch-count totals are: distance (the pitch should be from the regulation distance, or farther) and speed (the pitch should be at full-speed). When either of these two factors are present then the pitch should be counted toward the total (if you're counting pitches).
  4. If using pitch-counts with your softball pitcher, determine the number of pitches where your pitcher seems to become tired or her performance (control) starts to change. That's the number that will become your bench-mark for knowing it's time to change pitchers or wrap up practice.

Fatigue Point:

What's the fatigue point? That's the point where every athlete becomes tired and their performance is affected. Everyone's fatigue-point is different and every pitcher has a different Fatigue Point as well. There are some pitchers who get tired after only 25 minutes of pitching while others can throw strong for over 60 minutes. What's important to know is where is your pitcher's Fatigue Point?

How do you find the Fatigue Point? That's simple, just watch your pitcher during a pitching workout. No matter how good or bad she is you'll notice a point when:

  • she suddenly has less control than she did before
  • or, if she's pretty advanced and throwing moving pitches, then her pitches become less crisp than before. Your pitcher has reached her fatigue point!

It doesn't mean she's too exhausted to continue but it does signify some important issues for the pitcher and coach:

  1. It just means she's tired on a level that can impact her performance.
  2. She'll have to focus mentally on her key pitching points in order to not let her fatigue impact her pitching.
  3. If it's a game - you might want to start warming up another pitcher.
  4. If it's practice - you should have her throw about 10 to 20 more pitches to get her to practice mental focus and to gradually push the fatigue point farther away.
  5. Notice how long (time-wise) it takes from the start of the game or practice until the Fatigue Factor is reached. This time let's you both know how long your pitcher should practice (any less and it won't help her conditioning).
  6. Don't use up all your time warming up as this can also add to the fatigue factor.
  7. If you're into Pitch Counts then you'll want to connect how many pitches your pitcher takes before hitting her Fatigue Factor since that's a critical performance indicator.

To find some great ways to improve your pitcher's physical conditioning and stamina check out these eDrills: Toss Pitch and Pitching Sprints.

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"The Ultimate Softball Practice Guide is a tremendous resource for coaches. It reiterates the importance of practice planning and gives detailed examples to utilize on a daily basis. Quality practice sessions make the difference in preparing your athletes and this is a practical guide for success." - Connie Clark - Head Softball Coach - University of Texas

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