It has been talked about on ESPN during this year’s Women’s College World Series that younger pitchers are taking over the pitchers circle.
Starting pitchers at the 2011 WCWS: two freshmen, five sophomores, no juniors, and one senior. Source: ESPN, Inc.
How can student-athletes go from pitching for their high school and 12-months later be in the circle for their university at the WCWS?
I think it is the culmination of four things:
- youth specializing in one sport,
- improved physical conditioning, and
- the accessibility to better tools and equipment
Coaching — gets better every year and coaches are sharing what they learn at seminars, clinics, and online. For better-or-worse, YouTube can show you how do do just about anything. Plus, there are online forums on almost any sport giving away free information.
Youth specializing in one sport — and they are doing it at a younger age. Years ago it was sports like figure skating, gymnastics, tennis, and swimming that student-athletes specialized in from childhood. With this increased focus on one sport, parents are also seeking help to give their child advanced knowledge and skills.
Plus, playing one sport year-round also gives kids more opportunities to be prepared for the pressure of big games.
Improved physical conditioning — the sport of softball has benefited as a whole from conditioning. It wasn’t that long ago that softball players were considered among some of the least conditioned athletes compared to the other sports.
Today that’s not the case and greater conditioning usually equals greater performance. Also, the trickle-down effect for our younger athletes means they are better conditioned for the jump to college making it less drastic than it once was.
The accessibility to better tools and equipment — anyone can have access to the most cutting-edge sports technology on TV, online, and in-person for relatively low-to-no cost. Parents and players have more choices for gear, and how much they spend, than ever before.
Also, softwares like RightView Pro, Dartfish, and PowerChalk* are available for parents and coaches to analyze player performance.
*West Coast Fastpitch uses PowerChalk for its training sessions.