The Softball Swing Essay Research Paper Chapter

The Softball Swing Essay, Research Paper Chapter One: Introduction Over the past fifteen to twenty years women’s fastpitch softball popularity has continued to grow and spread internationally. By the mid-1990s it was played in more than 85 countries under the eye of the International Softball Federation (ISF).

The Softball Swing Essay, Research Paper

Chapter One: Introduction

Over the past fifteen to twenty years women’s fastpitch softball popularity has continued to grow and spread internationally. By the mid-1990s it was played in more than 85 countries under the eye of the International Softball Federation (ISF). It has become increasingly popular among women at the youth and collegiate levels. More than 630 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member institutions sponsor women’s softball programs, and national championships for women are held in all three NCAA sports divisions (Encarta, 1998). In 1991 women’s fastpitch softball was selected to debut as a medal sport in the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Columbia, Georgia. The U.S. won the gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games due to a good defense and great hitters on the team. Even though defense and pitching are critical and vital parts of the game, a successful team must have an effective offense to win the game. Among all the standout hitters on the U.S. Olympic team, two of the best are Dot Richardson and Lisa Fernadez. Both Lisa and Dot have picture-perfect swings, which have made them very productive throughout their careers. Today there is a women’s professional fastpitch softball league. Interest in the Women’s Professional Softball League (WPSL) has been increasing for the last three years and continues to grow each year.

The researcher has chosen to write this paper on hitting because she has played softball for twelve years and the perfect softball swing has always eluded her. The softball swing is one of the most difficult softball skills to achieve greatness in. There are a number of great hitters all with different batting stances and styles, each one comfortable to them. There are many different tactics and coaching ideas out there to help improve hitting. In fact, there are several videos now on the market to help the softball player perform better. Coaches often teach hitting drills to improve batting techniques and ability. Confidence is an important factor in hitting. If the player lacks confidence then she will not be a good hitter. Softball is not only a physical game but a mental game.

The purpose of this paper is to describe the softball swing anatomically, mechanically, and analytically. By analyzing each move one makes when hitting, one will be able to analyze the errors made when hitting as a hitter and as a coach. The three phases that will be analyzed are the preparatory phase, the action phase, and the follow through phase. In the preparatory phase motions that will be analyzed are the grip of the bat and the batting stance. In the action phase the stride, arm motion, wrist action, hip action, and leg action will be analyzed. The final stage of the swing is the follow through phase and during this phase the proper follow through techniques will be analyzed to help prevent injury.

Chapter Two: Literature

In 1887 George Hancock invented softball as an indoor sport, according to Encyclopedia Encarta. The first softball games took place inside the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago. In 1895 a firefighter, Lewis Rober, invented outdoor softball to keep the firemen in shape and busy during the time they spent at the firehouse. Softball was first called Kitten Ball and the name softball was not developed until 1926 by Walter Hakanson (Encarta, 1998). Mr. Hakanson conceived of the idea while attending a meeting in Colorado to form the Colorado Amateur Softball Association. In 1933, the first national tournament organized by Leo Fischer and Michael Pauley took place in Chicago (Encarta, 1998). There are two types of softball – fastpitch and slow pitch. Even though fastpitch softball and slow pitch softball are very different, they share similar objectives and skills. Softball is played by both males and females of all ages and continues to grow in popularity every year. There are several different associations that softball teams belong to such as American Softball Association (ASA) and National Softball Association (NSA).

There are several skills required to become a good, strong, consistent hitter. The three most important mechanics of hitting that must be performed every time by the individual are the stride, the opening of the hips, and the arm action. Among all the skills involved in playing softball hitting proves to be the most difficult to attain. Hitting requires good hand-eye coordination, depth perception, and mental readiness. It is as much psychological as it is physical. Hitting requires and demands self-discipline, quickness, and specific reasoning. During each of the three phases certain mechanics must be performed each time to develop a good swing that will be further discussed in chapter 4.

In the preparatory phase the grip of the bat and batting stance will be analyzed. The selection of the proper bat is the very first thing that needs to be done in the softball before the swing can occur. The hitter needs to choose a bat that is the proper weight and length for his/her strength and body size (Houseworth, 1985). The most important objective to meet when choosing a bat is that it feels comfortable and is easy to swing. According to Houseworth, if a bat is too heavy, the swing will be slow and jerky and if the bat is too light, the batter might swing too early. After the player has selected the proper bat it is time to analyze the grip of the bat. For left-handed batters the right hand is against the knob and the left hand is on top and for right-handed batters the left hand is against the knob and the right hand is on top. The hitter should line up the middle knuckles of both hands while gripping the bat at the base of the fingers (Johnson, 1984). According to Houseworth, the bat should fit in the hands comfortably but firmly, with the fingers spread slightly apart and the thumbs at the top of each hand. If the batter needs more control over the bat, choking up is required. Choking up means moving the hands further up the handle away from the knob to gain control. This technique is used when the pitcher is fast, the batter’s swing is slow (not enough bat speed), or the batter is not strong enough to get the bat around.

The next part of the preparatory phase is the stance. The stance is the position the batter takes in the batter’s box. There are three different types of stances a batter may use; an open stance, a closed stance, or a square stance. In an open stance, the batter stands with the front foot toward the outside of the batter’s box (Houseworth, 1985). An open stance helps in a number of ways. First of all an open stance is helpful when facing a fast pitcher or if a batter has slow bat speed. The open stance helps the individual get the bat around quicker. An open stance is also helpful when a player is trying to hit the ball down the baseline from the side that they bat from (Houseworth, 1985). In the closed stance the front foot is toward the inside of the batter’s box. The closed stance is used when a player has too much bat speed or when the player is trying to hit to the opposite field. The stance that is used most often is the square stance and this is the stance the researcher will be concerned with. In this stance, the feet are aligned and the toes point squarely to home plate and the batter steps directly toward the pitcher (Houseworth, 1985). This stance is used for players that have good timing and batters who want to hit the ball up the middle. During the stance, the arms need to be held shoulder height away from the body, wrists should be cocked and the bat should comfortably be back by the shoulder closest to the catcher (Houseworth, 1985). This position makes it hard to rest the bat on the individual’s shoulders, which is a bad habit that makes the ball very difficult to hit. The batter’s eyes should remain on the ball throughout the entire motion.

During the action phase the stride, arm motion, wrist action and the opening of the hips will be analyzed. The stride is one the most important components in a good swing. According to Houseworth, the stride should be a smooth, deliberate step towards the pitcher of about 6 to 12 inches. During the stride, the front foot steps toward the pitcher and the weight should shift from the back foot to the front foot (Houseworth, 1985). As soon as the front foot is planted and the stride ends the arm swing should begin. The swing should be level and smooth as it comes across the body. According to Kirkpatrick, the front arm should straighten as soon as possible to increase power and speed. During the swing, the wrists should break in the middle of the swing. This is necessary to assure the batter of a well-hit ball. Rolling the wrists too early can drive a ball directly into the ground. One component of the swing that is almost always forgotten is the hip action. The more the hips get into the swing the further the ball can be driven. When the arms are straightening, the batter’s hips should pivot to help the swing. As the hips come around, the wrists should remain cocked until the ball is hit. When the ball is hit the wrists should then snap (Kirkpatrick, 1974). The hips then open towards the pitcher. The force with which the batter brings her hips around into the swing is directly related to the power with which she hits the ball (Kirkpatrick, 1974). These actions combined are necessary for a good, productive swing.

The last stage is the follow through phase. The outcome of the swing is the result of a good stride and proper arm action. During this phase the wrists will continue to rotate, the arms will swing across the body, and the hips will twist toward the pitcher (Houseworth, 1985). It is important to keep both hands on the bat throughout the follow through phase to insure that the ball is hit hard.

The sources being consulted for this paper are as follows: The Woman’s Softball Book by Johnson and Wright has information on hitting errors and information on the correction of errors that will be used in the analysis of the softball swing. The Softball Guide (batting analysis) by Jill Kirkpatrick gives the analysis of hitting. The Coaching Softball Effectively by Houseworth and Rivkin gives information on the different phases and mechanics used in hitting. The Physical Education Handbook gives information on the mechanics of softball. Teaching Softball (Steps to Success) by Potter and Brockmeyer gives information on basic skills to reach the goal of attaining higher, more advanced skills. The Manual of Structural Kinesiology by Thompson and Floyd and Kinesiology and Applied Anatomy by Rasch will be used to anatomically categorize specific muscles and muscle movements throughout the body. Encyclopedia Encarta has information on the history of the game.

Chapter Three: Anatomical

In the preparatory phase the batter must begin by selecting a bat. Next, the batter wraps his/her hands around the bat and holds it with a loose but firm grip. When the batter steps into the batters box his/her feet should be parallel to his/her shoulders and his/her knees must be flexed. The batter then brings the bat back towards his/her ear while flexing the arms and retracting the shoulder closest to the catcher. The batter must rotate his/her head laterally so that both eyes are focused on the pitcher.

1. Upper Body

Joint AreaType of Joint MusclesMovements

Shoulder Girdle TrapeziusElevation

Upward Rotation

Levator ScapulaeElevation

RhomboidDownward Rotation

Serratus AnteriorAbduction

Upward Rotation

Pectoralis MinorAbduction

Downward Rotation

Shoulder JointBall and SocketDeltoidAbduction

Flexion

Horizontal Flexion

External Rotation

Internal Rotation

CoracobrachialisFlexion

Adduction

Horizontal Adduction

SupraspinatusAbduction

Stabilization

SubscapularisInternal Rotation

Adduction

Teres MajorInternal Rotation

Adduction

Latissimus DorsiHorizontal Abduction

Internal Rotation

Pectoralis MajorHorizontal Flexion

Internal Rotation

Flexion

Abduction

ElbowHingeBiceps BrachiiFlexion

BrachialisFlexion

BrachioradialisFlexion

Pronation

Supination

Pronator TeresPronation

Flexion

Pronator QuadratusPronation

Wrist-HandEllipsoidExtensor CarpiExtension

Flexor DigitorumFlexion

Flexor PollicusFlexion

2. Lower Body

Trunk CondyloidRectus AbdominisLumbar Flexion

External ObliqueLumbar Flexion

Internal ObliqueLumbar Flexion

Splenius MusclesLateral Rotation

SternocleidomastoidNeck Flexion

Lateral Rotation

HipBall and SocketIliopsoasHip Flexion

External Rotation

SartoriusHip Flexion

Knee Flexion

External Rotation

Rectus FemorisHip Flexion

Tensor Fasciae LataeHip Abduction

Hip Flexion

Gluteus MediusHip Abduction

External Rotation

Gluteus MinimusHip Abduction

Gluteus MaximusExternal Rotation

6 Deep Lateral Rot.External Rotation

Biceps FemorisKnee Flexion

External Rotation

SemitendinosusKnee Flexion

SemimembranosusKnee Flexion

PectineusHip Flexion

KneeCondyloidPopliteusKnee Flexion

HamstringsKnee Flexion

Ankle-FootHingeGastrocnemiusKnee Flexion

PeroneusPlantar Flexion

Tibialis PosteriorPlantar Flexion

The first action in the action phase is the stride. The stride is a six to twelve inch step with the front foot towards the pitcher. As the front foot is planted the arm swing begins. The hips should rotate towards the pitcher as the arms extended and swing around. The knees should remain flexed and the back foot should pivot and the back knee should rotate internally. The wrists should also rotate with the swing as contact with the ball is made.

1. Upper Body

Joint AreaType of JointMusclesMovements

Shoulder GirdleTrapeziusElevation

Upward Rotation

Depression

Levator ScapulaeElevation

RhomboidAdduction

Downward Rotation

Serratus AnteriorAbduction

Upward Rotation

Pectoralis MajorAbduction

Downward Rotation

Depression

Shoulder JointBall and SocketDeltoidAbduction

Flexion

Horizontal Flexion

Internal Rotation

Coracobrachialis Flexion

Adduction

Horizontal Adduction

SupraspinatusStabilization

InfraspinatusExternal Rotation

Horizontal Extension

Extension

Teres MinorExternal Rotation

Horizontal Extension

Extension

SubscapularisInternal Rotation

Adduction

Extension

Teres MajorInternal Rotation

Extension

Adduction

Latissimus DorsiAdduction

Extension

Internal Rotation

Pectoralis MajorHorizontal Flexion

Internal Rotation

Adduction

Flexion

Extension

Abduction

ElbowHingeBiceps BrachiiFlexion

Supination

Brachialis Flexion

BrachioradialisFlexion

Pronation

Supination

Triceps BrachiiExtension

Anconeus Extension

SupinatorSupination

Pronator TeresPronation

Pronator QuadratusPronation

Wrist-HandEllipsoidFlexor CarpiWrist Flexion

Wrist Abduction

Elbow Flexion

Extensor CarpiWrist Extension

Flexor DigitorumFinger Flexion

Flexor Pollicus Thumb Flexion

Extensor DigitorumWrist Extension

2. Lower Body

TrunkCondyloidRectus AbdominisLumbar Flexion

External ObliqueLumbar Flexion

Rotation

Internal ObliqueLumbar Flexion

Rotation

Splenius MusclesLateral Rotation

Neck Extension

SternocleidomastoidLateral Rotation

HipBall and SocketIliopsoasHip Flexion

External Rotation

SartoriusHip Flexion

Knee Flexion

External Rotation

Rectus FemorisHip Flexion

Knee Extension

Tensor Fasciae LataeHip Abduction

Hip Flexion

Gluteus MediusHip Abduction

Gluteus MinimusHip Abduction

Internal Rotation

Gluteus MaximusExternal Rotation

Hip Extension

6 Deep Lateral Rot.External Rotation

Biceps FemorisKnee Flexion

External Rotation

Hip Extension

SemitendinosusKnee Flexion

Hip Extension

Internal Rotation

SemimembranosusKnee Flexion

Hip Extension

Internal Rotation

PectineusHip Flexion

Hip Adduction

Internal Rotation

Adductor BrevisHip Adduction

External Rotation

Adductor LongusHip Adduction

Adductor MagnusHip Adduction

External Rotation

GracilisHip Adduction

Knee Flexion

Internal Rotation

Ankle-FootHingeGastrocnemiusKnee Flexion

Plantar Flexion

Soleus Plantar Flexion

Peroneus LongusPlantar Flexion

Tibialis PosteriorPlantar Flexion

Flexor DigitorumPlantar Flexion

Flexor HallucisPlantar Flexion

The follow through phase is the final part of the softball swing. During this phase the wrists should continue to rotate, the arms should continue to horizontally come across the body, and the hips should continue to rotate towards the pitcher. By developing the proper follow through the batter has a more powerful and productive swing.

1. Upper Body

Joint AreaType of Joint MusclesMovements

Shoulder Girdle TrapeziusUpward Rotation

RhomboidDownward Rotation

Adduction

Serratus AnteriorUpward Rotation

Shoulder JointBall and SocketDeltoidFlexion

Horizontal Flexion

External Rotation

Internal Rotation

CoracobrachialisFlexion

SupraspinatusStabilization

InfraspinatusExternal Rotation

SubscapularisInternal Rotation

Teres MajorInternal Rotation

Extension

Teres MinorExternal Rotation

Latissimus DorsiExtension

Internal Rotation

Pectoralis MajorHorizontal Flexion

Internal Rotation

Flexion

Extension

ElbowHingeBiceps BrachiiElbow Flexion

BrachialisElbow Flexion

BrachioradialisElbow Flexion

Pronation

Supination

Triceps BrachiiElbow Extension

AnconeusElbow Extension

SupinatorSupination

Pronator TeresPronation

Pronator QuadratusPronation

Wrist-HandEllipsoidExtensor CarpiWrist Extension

Flexor CarpiWrist Flexion

Flexor DigitorumFinger Flexion

Flexor PollicusThumb Flexion

Wrist Flexion

2. Lower Body

Trunk CondyloidRectus AbdominisLumbar Flexion

External ObliqueLumbar Flexion

Rotation

Internal ObliqueLumbar Flexion

Rotation

Erector SpinaeSpine Extension

Splenius MusclesHead ExtensionSternocleidomastoidNeck Flexion

Lateral Rotation

HipBall and SocketIliopsoasHip Flexion

SartoriusHip Flexion

Knee Flexion

Rectus FemorisHip Flexion

Knee Extension

Tensor Fasciae LataeHip Flexion

Gluteus MinimusInternal Rotation

Gluteus MaximusHip Extension

6 Deep Lateral Rot.External Rotation

Biceps FemorisKnee Flexion

Hip Extension

SemitendinosusKnee Flexion

Hip Extension

Internal Rotation

SemimembranosusKnee Flexion

Hip Extension

Internal Rotation

PectineusHip Flexion

Internal Rotation

KneeCondyloidRectus FemorisKnee Extension

Hip Flexion

Vastus LateralisKnee Extension

Vastus IntermediusKnee Extension

Vastus MedialisKnee Extension

PopliteusKnee Flexion

Ankle-FootHingeGastrocnemiusPlantar Flexion

Knee Flexion

SoleusPlantar Flexion

PeroneusPlantar Flexion

Tibialis PosteriorPlantar Flexion

Flexor DigitorumPlantar Flexion

Flexor HallucisPlantar Flexion

Chapter Four: Mechanical

The kinetics and kinematics are important considerations of hitting that often gets overlooked. Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion all apply to softball hitting. Newton’s first law of motion states that an object is at rest and will remain at rest until an outside force acts upon it (Rasch, 1989). In softball, the bat is at rest until the batter applies a force to overcome inertia and once this force is established is does not require a lot of force to keep the bat in motion. Newton’s second law of motion states that the sum of the forces acting on a body in a given direction is equal to the acceleration of the body that direction multiplied by the mass of the body (Rasch, 1989). In other words, Newton’s second law is known as the acceleration law indicating that there is a change in velocity. The batter may change the velocity by speeding up or slowing down the bat speed. By choosing a longer bat, due too the increased striking force distance applied, the increased generated force will increase the velocity. Newton’s third law of motion is the action-reaction principle. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As a batter is planting and pivoting his/her feet, they are applying a force to set the bat into motion, which is a counterforce to the swing of the bat.

Hitting is a hard technique for many people to develop because there are several forces acting on the batter. The batter must have good timing and coordination to contact the bat with the ball. The result of where the ball will go when hit depends on the direction and the force applied. In order to produce a greater force it is necessary to develop a firm base to increase stability. To increase the batter’s stability, it is necessary to increase resistance and surface friction by wearing cleats. By generating more force it will increase the momentum thus increase the velocity and distance of the ball. The momentum generated can be calculated by the momentum of the bat added to the momentum of the ball. The more force applied and the faster the bat speed the further the ball will travel. As soon as the bat comes into contact with the ball, gravity will immediately take over and the object will fall at a rate of 9.8 m/s2. It is very important that the batter chooses a bat that suits him/her.

When considering the impact and the rebound of the ball in hitting a softball it is necessary to consider that the object and the surface are moving. A softball weighs between 6.25 and 7 ounces. When trying to predict where the ball will go after contact one must consider the elasticity of the ball, the spin of the ball, and the speed and types of pitches. It is important to hit a spinning ball hard and square to increase the distance traveled. It is also necessary when predicting the rebound of the ball it is important to consider the momentum of the ball and the momentum of the striking force. Then the rebound is predicted by the sum of the two momentums.

Center of gravity effects all three phases. It is very important that the batter keeps his/her center of gravity within his/her base. The batter’s center of gravity is where the body rotates and throughout each phase the center of gravity changes. During the preparatory phase it is very important that the center of gravity is within the base. The batter may choose one of the three types of stances (See appendix D), however he/she must keep the body and all points in contact with the ground (See appendix E). It is important for the batter to maintain his/her balance and anytime that the center of gravity goes beyond the line of his/her base, balance is lost. If the batter increases his/her base, it will increase his/her stability.

In the action phase the center of gravity will change (See appendix F). When the batter strides, his/her foot will leave the line of his/her base. It is important for the batter to have strength to support the body. To increase stability, the batter can increase friction. Stability can also be increased if the batter stays in flexion so he/she is low to the ground. When the batter shifts his/her weight from the rear foot to the front foot, he/she should keep his/her base under him/her to help maintain balance.

In the follow through phase the center of gravity will once again change (See appendix G). It is also important in this phase for the batter to keep his/her base wide for balance. If he/she does not, the batter might fall forward or be injured.

Chapter Five: Analysis

In softball like any other game, it is important to work on correcting errors being made during hitting to improve productive. There are errors in all three phases of the softball swing and they can be corrected through practicing and performing proper techniques.

In the preparatory phase there are a few common errors that occur. When gripping the bat, the middle knuckles on both hands should line up. It is also important to grip the bat with the base of the fingers and not in the palms (Johnson, 1984). (See appendix A) Overgripping and to loose of a grip are common errors made in the preparatory phase. Even though it is important to have a solid grip when batting, it is also important not to grip the bat to tightly.

On the other hand the action phase has many errors that may occur during it. The first error that is often made is not watching the ball hit the bat. A batter cannot hit what he/she cannot see. The batter should concentrate and follow the ball all the way to the bat to ensure contact. Another problem that a batter might have is too much hip action. The batter needs to keep the chin tucked into the front shoulder and use less hip rotation. Too much hip action will cause the head to turn away from the pitch and the back elbow to drop resulting in a pop up (See appendix B). It is important to try not to hit the ball with too much hip action and to keep the back elbow up. Another error made in the action phase is overstriding. Overstriding causes the arms to come through and make contact underneath the ball. To correct this problem, the batter needs to start with his/her feet farther apart and then the stride will shorten allowing the weight to shift forward smoothly during the swing (Johnson, 1984). Another error seen in the action phase is the back foot moving when the batter swings. To correct this error the batter should keep his/her weight evenly balanced on both feet but allow the weight to shift forward after striding. The back foot should never leave the ground it should only pivot. During the swing, timing is a major problem. Batters often swing either too late or too early. If the batter is swinging too soon, he/she should close their stance and wait for the pitch. If the batter is swinging too late he/she should open up their stance. The batter may also need to choke up on the bat to increase his/her bat speed. There are also many errors that are made when contacting the ball. A batter who is contacting the ball underneath (resulting in a pop up) needs to try to keep the back elbow up and swing level. The batter also wants to hit the ball with some power. To increase the power of the swing, the batter should step towards the pitcher and attack the ball (See appendix C). Shifting the weight forward with the stride will also increase power.

During the follow through phase the snapping of the wrists sometimes causes a problem. The batter should swing all the way through the ball keeping both hands on the bat. Making sure to snap the wrists at the end of the swing will help in creating more velocity. The follow through will also aid in stability and prevent the batter from injury.

When correcting a batter, one should only correct one error at a time because correcting too many at one time may overload the batter and destroy his/her confidence. When the batter is focused on correcting one error at a time, his/her confidence will continue to grow and they will have success in hitting. Once a batter has developed a smooth swing, the y may concentrate on the technical aspects of hitting. The batter may now start to concentrate on hitting an outside pitch or hitting the ball to the opposite field. When hitting an outside pitch the batter needs to move up in the box, close his/her stance, wait for the pitch and hit the ball when it is near the plate while stepping towards the pitch. When focusing on hitting a ball to the opposite field the batter needs to move back in the box, open his/her stance, swing sooner and hit the ball in front of the plate (See appendix D).

Chapter Six: Conclusion

Now that I