When the subject is top-tier softball pitchers, Monica Abbott's name rises above the rest.
The former University of Tennessee standout and 2007 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year holds five NCAA records, including career victories , career shutouts,  and career strikeouts [2,440]. On August 18th, 2008, Abbott pitched five perfect innings and struck out eight, as Team USA defeated the Netherlands to extend its Olympic winning streak to 20 games.
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. During the off-season, 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, D1's head sports performance coach, says, "What this [drill] is incorporating is balance and core [strength]. Every time the ball goes in a different position outside the body, that core is also 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 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 8 to 12 yards away
• Throw ball to partner while maintaining natural pitching motion and form
• Practice kneeling with toes on ground; then progress to toes off ground
• When comfortable, replace basketball with physioball
Sets/Reps: 1, 20-32
Coaching Points: Master the basketball before trying the physioball // Take your time and focus on controlling your abs // Work on balancing on the ball before incorporating pitching
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock