When the subject is top-tier softball pitchers, Monica Abbott's name rises above the rest. The 2008 Olympian and former University of Tennessee standout holds five NCAA Division I records, including career victories, shutouts and strikeouts. Now playing for the Chicago Bandits, a pro softball team, the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Co-Pitcher of the Year still seeks to improve her game.
The foundation of Abbott's success is her ability to control her body, which, in turn, allows her to control the movement of the ball. She checks into D1 Sports Training in Knoxville, Tenn., where she improves her control and core strength with drills such as the Kneeling Physioball Throw.
Dunstan Kendrick, former head sports performance coach at D1, says, "What this [drill] is incorporating is balance and core [strength]. Every time the ball goes in a different position outside the body, the core is working. It may be working 90 percent in one spot, 100 percent in another spot, but she is incorporating the entire abs region throughout the motion of that throw."
Abbott is now known as the strikeout queen, but it took hours of practice—and more than a handful of wild pitches while kneeling on the physioball—before she mastered her control and gained the strength needed to sniper a 55-mph fastball.
Kneeling Physioball Throw
• Start by kneeling on flat basketball with partner eight to 12 yards away
• Throw softball to partner using natural pitching motion and form
• Practice kneeling with toes on ground; then progress to toes off ground
• When comfortable, replace flat basketball with physioball
Coaching Points: Master basketball before trying physioball // Go slow and focus on controlling abs // Master balancing on ball before incorporating pitching
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