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Great Throwing Drill for All Ages

By: Cindy Bristow

Teams lose more games from throwing errors than they ever win from dominant pitching or hitting. Fortunately there’s a simple drill that helps all players throw better


Teaching Throwing is hard – particularly if you’re coaching younger players. Bringing the ball backward and forward can get all messed up so make sure you know how the Big Ball Drill can help.

There isn’t another skill in softball that’s as hard to teach as throwing. Younger players really struggle with bringing the ball backwards properly never mind trying to move their arm forward for the throw. It’s actually amazing how messed up the whole motion can get, and as coaches, most of us get so frustrated we don’t know what to do to help our players. Many of us simply resort to saying “just watch me” louder and louder hoping it’s simply a volume issue – which of course, it’s not.

If players don’t master the skill of throwing correctly when they’re young then they’ll retain these same problems as they get older. Simply getting older isn’t a cure for throwing problems, in fact, it means that the player will still throw poorly; she’ll just do it faster.

There are two reasons that throwing is so hard for younger players:

  1. We learn to throw when our hands are little and our bodies are weak – and we’re throwing a ball that is waaaaay too big for our hand and strength (11 or 12 inch softball versus a 9 inch baseball). As a result we tend to push it and struggle against it.
  2. When we’re young we really struggle with moving smaller joints independently and instead, move big limbs. What this means is that in order to throw we’ve got to move our elbow, wrist and shoulder joints individually and in coordination with each other. Sounds simple, and it is if you’re at least 18 or older. But for younger kids, their body development isn’t as advanced so instead of moving first an elbow and then a wrist, they move the entire arm together.

Once you think about both of these points it makes perfect sense why younger kids don’t throw very well. But, the game of softball still requires young kids to throw the ball so as coaches we’ve got to teach these kids to try and overcome these throwing blockades.

Fortunately, there’s a throwing drill I’ve found that works pretty well. Of course it’s not guaranteed to cure all throwing problems but it goes a long way in helping players learn how to properly do 3 key checkpoints in throwing:

  1. Lead with their elbow
  2. Keep the ball above their ear
  3. Keep their hand behind the ball during the release

Fastpitch Softball Throwing Drill for all ages - Big Ball Throwing - 2 handed correct

The drill I’m talking about is called the Big Ball Throwing Drill – it’s not yet on our site as an eDrill but it will be. It’s a drill that many of you asked about following the pictures we posted on our site from the Slugger’s Clinic. We do this drill, and tons of others at our coaching clinics, but here’s how this one works:

  • Have your players split up into pairs; one with a soccerball or volleyball (any big ball will work that is weight appropriate for the age group you’re coaching) laying on her back on the ground and her partner standing up about 4-5 feet in front of her.
  • Fastpitch Softball Throwing Drill for all ages - Big Ball Throwing - 2 handed incorrect

  • The player on the ground places both hands on the ball, brings it behind her head by bending her elbows (yellow arrows in pictures to the right), and then tosses the ball forward to her partner. This simple drill really helps players work on having their elbows lead their hands into the release position (instead of the ball or hand leading as some players do).
  • Teaching Throwing is hard – particularly if you’re coaching younger players. Bringing the ball backward and forward can get all messed up so make sure you know how the Big Ball Drill can help.

  • Have the partners switch after 5 throws.
  • Fastpitch Softball Throwing Drill for all ages - Big Ball Throwing - 1 handed release correct

  • The next step is for the player to then use one hand to hold the big ball by placing her hand below the ball – still bending her elbow and tossing the ball forward to her partner. This more closely resembles the throwing motion and really helps players practice the proper skills at release. Players then switch places after 5 tosses each.
  • Fastpitch Softball Throwing Drill for all ages - Big Ball Throwing - Standing

  • The final step is for the players to toss the Big Ball while standing. To do this the partner with the ball will get into the Palm High position – which means that she faces the palm of the hand holding the ball by her head and facing UP to the sky. She makes sure that her stride foot is forward, and from this position she then tosses the ball forward to her partner by leading with her elbow and pushing with her fingers. This is much more challenging and will really show players if their hand is staying behind the ball and pushing it forward, or if it’s twisting more to the side (incorrect) or getting more underneath and throwing up (also incorrect).
  • Fastpitch Softball Throwing Drill for all ages - Big Ball Throwing - basketball

  • NOTE – if you’re coaching older players that have stronger hands and shoulder joints then you can modify this drill by using a basketball. It’s bigger and heavier than a soccer or volleyball and will really challenge the hand strength of these players.

This drill also helps your players learn to push the ball FORWARD out of their hand by using their fingers at the release. The big ball forces the players to use their hands and fingers better to control the direction of the ball instead of simply letting go.

We have more great throwing drills on our site under:

13 Comments »

  1. Thanks once again.
    This looks great. I am always trying to improve throwing, but some of the girls drop their elbows all the time. I used the bucket throwing e-drill and the towel throwing drill. Those drills helped a lot of the girls, but not all of them. I will use this drill tonight.
    We also used the bounce ball hitting drill. It worked and the girls said they enjoyed the drill as well. We face slower pitching in the fall, therefore the girls were lunging at the balls. In addition, I purchased the double/triple tee stacker. Tee work is effective to prepare for slower/change-ups.
    Thanks again.
    ps I also have your coaching e-clinics and use that material on a regular basis to improve all levels of play.

    Comment by tim bousquet — October 5, 2010 @ 6:39 am

  2. Hi,
    Great application of proper technique and teaching muscle memory.
    What I also find is that certain players tend to start the throwing action with their throwing shoulder pushing forward and up. In other words their backs are bending forward before the arm moves forward. I think this could stem from kids pushing larger/heavier balls and wanting then to put their backs into it.
    A remedy would be to point the glove arm upward to lift the glove shoulder, and force the throwing shoulder down, while throwing. Repeated until the player starts to level the shoulders.

    Comment by Neezaam — October 5, 2010 @ 9:33 am

  3. Cindy & Softball Excellence,

    Thanks for the drill. It is a simple, practical solution that I can easily see helping. Very timely, thanks for the help.

    Comment by Tony — October 5, 2010 @ 11:17 am

  4. Great Throwing Drill for All Ages « Softball Excellence Once you think about both of these points it makes perfect sense why younger kids don't throw very well. But, the game of softball still requires young kids to throw the ball so as coaches we've got to teach these kids to try and overcome these . I am always trying to improve throwing, but some of the girls drop their elbows all the time. I used the bucket throwing e-drill and the towel throwing drill. Those drills helped a lot of the girls, but not all of them.

    Pingback by Teaching Kids Baseball Drills — October 5, 2010 @ 8:03 pm

  5. this drill is both ituitive and effective. not a tough sell to players of any age. throwing skill is key to players enjoyment and success in this sport . it defines a player’s potential at a glance and yet the first thing coaches give up on!
    its why i boldly asked the question at the coaches conference in richmond b.c. 2003. most coaches in my area believe that there is only a small window to teach the skill and after that old established kinetics prevail for life.

    Comment by laird — October 6, 2010 @ 7:52 am

  6. I have a question…. my daughter looks like she is side arming her throws… is that necessarily a wrong way to throw. She is making her throws to the destination point?

    Comment by monet — October 6, 2010 @ 10:04 am

  7. Throwing side arm isn’t necessarily wrong as certain situations and positions require the player to throw quicker than the time it takes to bring the ball all the up for an overhand throw. But, if every throw is made from the sidearm position, it can hurt the speed, distance and accuracy of the throw – and all 3 are important when throwing a softball. Try to have your daughter keep her arm (or heel of her hand) more underneath the ball when she lets go of it instead of to the side as she’s doing now. That might be a simpler way for her to make the slight change. Good luck! Cindy

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — October 6, 2010 @ 11:22 am

  8. Good info again. I think this drill could even be used on kids up into high school age. I still see a lot of them that struggle with proper throwing mechanics. Overthrows/inaccurate from infield to first base just is hard for a coach or fan to understand.
    I have seen some college programs that do drills like this. I guess we never get too good for a little review.

    Comment by Brad — October 7, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

  9. Simply separating the hands,taking the ball out of the glove with the thumbs down will get the elbow up, thus getting your throwing hand up and on top of the ball. Players who struggle with proper hand position usually take the ball out with the thumb up, do not get behind the ball, and push the ball rather than throw the ball. Their elbow is usually six inches beneath their shoulder. Breaking the hands, both ball and glove with the thumbs down, will get the throwing hand in proper position and establish fundamental position for your glove hand/guide hand.

    Comment by Steve Jezierski — December 30, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

  10. First sentence should say ‘behind the ball’ not ‘on top of the ball’.

    Comment by Steve Jezierski — December 30, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

  11. Tried this drill tonight with younger girls 7-8. Made an immediate impact. However they easily lost the movement that gravity forces them to use so we created a step in between 1 and 2. We had them kneel using two hands and toss the ball focusing on keeping their elbows up. Younger kid seem to loose their focus quickly and revert to bad habits and this extra step seemed to help reinforce what the drill intends.

    Comment by Justin — February 12, 2013 @ 2:25 am

  12. Great tips on drills to reinforce proper throwing techniques. My 10U team still struggles with this even though most have been playing for a few seasons. Now that the ball is actually making it to the outfield when the girls hit it, throwing is more important than ever.

    Bailey James

    Comment by Bailey James — March 29, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

  13. Why is it never mentioned that there is a circle concept used in throwing, each throw infield, outfield, you drop your hand to the side and bring the ball over the top, you gain speed, faster release and you don’t put stress on the elbow and shoulder as you do by raising the ball straight up and using the elbow, boys do it girls can also. I’ve taught all my grand daughters this way as well as the grand sons, they look like ball players

    Comment by DAN — August 1, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

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