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"Stepping Style" vs. "Leap-and-Drag"

Which is Best for You?

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by Gerald Warner, Softball Pitching Instructor
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There are two fundamental styles of pitching in fastpitch softball…based primarily on the aggressiveness and length of a pitcher's stride  (with her non-throwing side leg).  The common names used for windmill pitching styles are either  "leap-and-drag" or "stepping style".


Although the "leaping" style is a more commonly-used method, neither style is best for everyone...both styles of pitchers can be taught to throw hard fastballs, good breaking pitches, and develop good stamina.  As a pitching instructor, I always try to match the style to the pitcher's size, strength, athleticism, mental attitude, etc.   It is very important to note that the resistance for the final arm swing is markedly different between the two styles, as will be noted below.   On occasion, we start a pitcher out as a "stepper" and as she develops, change her to a "leaper".  Because of the differences in the start of weight transfer, need for body lean, and the resistance for the arm whip, it is considerably more difficult to have a "leap-and-drag" pitcher change over to a stepping style delivery.


STEPPING STYLE pitchers, as the name implies, typically begin their forward arm rotation before starting the weight transfer forward.   They take a step with the non-pitching side leg that usually is 3' to 4½' long...depending on their height and leg length.  Because of the earlier start of the rotation, their pitching-side foot is still on the pitching rubber as the arm comes down toward the release point.   Although many pitching instructors do not emphasize this point, the push against the rubber is the resistance for the final arm swing and hard release of the pitch.   




The overwhelming majority of girl and women pitchers use the LEAP-AND-DRAG  method.   These are the pitchers who take a huge leaping step...often several inches longer than their height...and drag their rear foot on the ground to avoid violating the leaping rule.

As with U.S.A. Olympic pitcher Cat Osterman, it is not uncommon for a college-level pitcher have a 6½' to 7½' forward stride...sometimes nearly to the chalk on the 8-foot pitching circle


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Because "leaping" is not permitted under girls' pitching rules, it is necessary to keep the push-off foot (or "drag foot") in contact with the ground until the stride foot lands. Because of the aggressive leap and the hard landing of the non-pitching side foot...with this style it is the landing and the push-back against the striding leg that creates the resistance for the final arm whip and release of the pitch.

Since the mechanics of the stepping style pitch  are very similar to those of those of the “slingshot” pitching style (which, as the name implies, involves only a large backswing and release, without using a full rotation) many male instructors who were former slingshot pitchers teach all girl pitchers the stepping style of pitching.  As mentioned previously, we take lots of factors into consideration before recommending one style versus the other...a professional's opinion of the girl's physical development and probable future height, things like arm and upper body strength, arm length, ability to torque her trunk ("open" and "close"), mental and emotional ability to make adjustments, etc.


Although not a recommendation, a VERY GENERAL guideline that we use is "the larger and stronger the girl, the more likely she can become a stepping-style pitcher."    On the other side, "a smaller, more athletic, more adaptable girl is likely better suited to the leap-and-drag style."  Again, neither is best…and in each case, the style must fit the pitcher…never should the pitcher have to use a style that is not right for her.


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