If you’ve ever watched a softball pitcher in action, you may have noticed them slap their leg with the gloved hand when releasing the ball. Spectators or the opposing team might question if this is purely technique or a distraction.
The main purposes are aim and accuracy, but it can also help with timing, balance or may be used to divert a batter’s attention away from the ball.
To find out more about the various reasons pitchers use this leg slap and if you should incorporate it if you’re a softball pitcher, keep reading.
Aim and Accuracy of the Pitch
Pitchers interested in improving their aim can use a leg slap with their glove hand to help direct the ball where it needs to go.
A typical pitch involves the signature windmill action with one arm before both hands come forward. At that point, the glove hand should face the target while the pitcher takes a step forward.
To improve accuracy, as a pitcher, your glove should point directly where you are aiming with the wrist facing up. This directs the webbing on the glove upward. If your pitches are consistently going to one side, likely your glove hand is pointing that direction.
Timing the Release
The top pitchers have nailed down the exact timing of when to snap their wrist and let go of the ball.
A young player may be asked to slap their glove on their leg to help them learn when the ball should be released. This can be a helpful signal for that crucial wrist snap to happen.
But, the strength of the slap or how loud it is isn’t important. You shouldn’t have a mark or bruise on your leg from hitting it too hard. Just a gentle tap will do the trick.
Keeping Your Balance
Balance is an important part of a successful pitch. Slapping your leg while releasing the ball can help keep you centered while you pitch.
The large wind-up from the pitching arm can throw a pitcher off balance if it isn’t partnered with a successful weight transfer from the back to the front foot. A simple tap with the glove hand on the leg can help you remember to put weight on that leg and follow through with the pitch.
Distracting Other Players
Sometimes less experienced players will use slapping their leg as a way to momentarily distract the batter. The unexpected sound could cause a break in the batter’s concentration, making them miss the ball.
However, as players move up the ranks and get to know specific pitchers’ styles, the distraction technique can become less effective. Pitchers too focused on creating a loud sound with a leg slap could also find themselves distracted while pitching.
Coached or Self-Taught
Some coaches will teach a leg slap to pitchers as part of the step-by-step process to correctly throw a ball. But other coaches discourage it or don’t teach it at all.
No matter how an athlete is coached, you could also pick up the technique by watching the pros or other teams in action.
Former softball player and ESPN broadcaster Amanda Scarborough is a fantastic resource for up-and-coming pitchers. She played college softball and was a two-time NFCA All-American. She offers pitching courses and videos to help young players improve, showcasing her slap of the leg with her glove.
Proper Technique for a Long Career
Softball pitchers can use slapping their leg as part of a variety of techniques to enjoy a long career in softball – whether it be at the professional or amateur level. The underhand throwing motion pitchers use is easier on their shoulder joints. This means softball pitchers typically have longer careers than baseball pitchers.
Proper technique and accuracy are critical for pro softball pitchers. They often pitch multiple games on the same day or as part of regular tournaments. A college pitcher could play as many as six games in a weekend tournament. This means as many as 1,200-1,500 pitches in a short period of time.
As a pitcher, slapping your leg can be helpful to make sure the ball goes where you want it to. It’s most beneficial when the glove is pointed at the target as the ball is released from the other hand. But this is only one component of a successful pitch and isn’t a necessary one.
If you’re a pitcher interested in trying this technique, make sure you discuss the pros and cons with your coach. It’s best to have someone experienced work with you one-on-one to see how small changes like this affect your overall game. They can also help work it into your training drills to impropve others aspects of your game at the same time.