What it takes to be the number one pitcher on a team

Coach John Wooden once said that sports don’t build character they expose it.

With that in mind let’s talk about pitching and the difference between being the number one, two, and three pitcher on a softball team.

In baseball, a team will rotate up to four-or-five pitchers during the season not including the relievers and closers. The softball pitching rotation, however, is nothing like this.

Though a team can have several great players only one is chosen as the number one pitcher.

The number one pitcher gets around 90 percent of all the pitching duties. That doesn’t leave much work for the number two or three pitchers, but teams still carry several pitchers (in case of an injury, or if a player leaves the team).

So here are the five things it takes to be the number one pitcher on a team:

1. Want the ball in challenging situations. Starting pitchers want the ball when the game is on-the-line. Parents and coaches focus on speed; speed gets you noticed, but the ability to perform at (or near) your peak during pressured-filled times will get you the win more often than just throwing fast.

2. Do the fundamentals well. The starting pitcher throws strikes, but they’re strikes that make it hard for the batter to get a clean hit. Not all strikes are equal. A strike at the knees, on the inside corner, is harder to hit than a belt-high fastball over the plate.

3. Self-confident (but not a big ego).¬† The number one pitcher has confidence in her ability to get the job done, and it influences the other players on the team. I once had a coach tell me that he needed confidence in two players—the starting pitcher and the lead-off batter.

4. Always working on improvement. The pitchers that are usually number one have an internal desire to improve their skills. It’s like they’re in a hurry to get to the next learning phase, and they don’t want to move on until they master their present challenges.

5. Have a short memory. In sports you can be “on top of the mountain” one minute and down “in the valley” the next. Every athlete has experienced it—things can be great and then suddenly fall apart. How you handle those situations determines how long (and how far) the fall will be. Starting pitchers have a short memory about past successes and past failures.

What characteristics would you add to this list?

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