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Managing Softball Pitching Workload

By: Ashley Sunshine

For far too long, pitching has been perceived as a natural motion for the body, with little emphasis on softball pitching workload management. However, we now know that this assumption is far from the truth. Despite this awareness, the culture and expectations surrounding the game have remained largely unchanged. At OGX, we’ve observed that the complexity of the pitching motion, coupled with the relentless demand for high volume at high intensity, inevitably leads to fatigue and takes a toll on pitchers throughout the season. This fatigue manifests as a loss of stability and body control, significantly impacting crucial performance variables such as velocity, pitch break, and command.

Given the inevitability of pitchers being pushed beyond what’s ideal for their health and performance, what steps can we take to address this issue?

1. Build Resilience in the Off-Season

The off-season provides a crucial opportunity for pitchers to build a solid foundation of stability and mobility, essential for optimizing pitching mechanics. Unfortunately, many pitchers squander this opportunity by focusing solely on games and/or attending camps, neglecting the chance to train at lower intensities. Prioritizing off-season training aimed at enhancing stability and mobility sets the stage for more efficient pitching patterns during the season.

2. Managing Workload While In-Season

The chronic nature of high-volume, high-intensity pitching demands a strategic approach to workload management while in-season. Pitchers must remain committed to incorporating low to moderate intensity work into their routine, including appropriate warm-ups, prep work, and consistent use of plyos. Rather than pitching excessively at high intensity during practice or abstaining from pitching altogether between games, pitchers should prioritize building resilience through consistent low to moderate intensity practice sessions.

3. Balancing Workload Across Skill Sets

It’s essential to recognize that stress on the body extends beyond pitching alone. Engaging in other skills such as hitting and overhand throwing, while taking a break from pitching, may seem like a reprieve but can contribute to overall fatigue levels. Therefore, pitchers must strike a balance in managing workload across different skill sets to prevent excessive strain.

4. Monitoring Signs of Fatigue

Vigilant monitoring of signs of fatigue is paramount during the season. This includes regular assessments of stability through movement quality checks, tracking deviations in velocity and pitch break beyond the pitcher’s norm, and addressing reports of excessive soreness or pain promptly. Recognizing these indicators allows for timely interventions to prevent injury and maintain performance levels.

Conclusion: A Year-Round Approach to Player Development

Player development transcends mere training plans; it embodies a holistic system, particularly crucial during the season. The unique demands placed on pitchers necessitate a deep understanding of their individual needs and development journey. By empowering athletes to advocate for themselves and actively participate in managing their workload, we not only enhance performance but also safeguard pitcher health and longevity.