Right upfront I’m going to warn you about this one. The towel drill for pitchers is one of those things you’ve probably seen before, on everything from Little League fields up to and including the major leagues, and wondered (maybe) what these players were doing exactly. Why are they slapping a coach’s hand or glove or a bucket of balls with a towel? What’s that teaching? And does it work? Does it make better pitchers? Let’s try and find out. But first, what exactly is the towel drill?
What is the Towel Drill for Pitchers?
This is going to be a video- and graphics-heavy edition of Over the Hump Wednesday, because explaining in words what the towel drill is pales in comparison to actually seeing it. But here’s an explanation in a nutshell: the towel drill involves replacing a ball with a common dish towel (or something similar), and having the player mimic his or her pitching motion while attempting to hit an object placed several feet in front of the player on his downward follow through. That’s the “classic” version. (I’m going to show you a modified version in a second.)
The theory is, by placing the object — a coach’s hand, glove, bucket or some other object at roughly belt-high height — the player is forced to extend his motion and follow through in order to reach the target. Theoretically, this helps hone the mechanics of players who may be short-arming or dragging their arms. Let’s take a look at the “classic” way to perform the towel drill…
Okay, got it? Pretty simple, right? But now here’s the thing. A growing number of coaches HATE the towel drill. Their argument is that it actually teaches bad mechanics because it doesn’t mimic the true release point of a pitcher, instead encouraging them to release the ball WAAAYYY out in front of where they actually would.
I think there’s some validity to the argument, meaning I can see where they’re coming from. But I don’t necessarily agree. To me, the towel drill has always been about teaching extension and follow through, not release point. Plus, it forces the player to come over the top in order to have any chance of hitting his or her target. That’s the way I see it.
However, I DO see the point of detractors. I’m not a big believer in anything that doesn’t mimic real game situations. And the towel drill doesn’t really do that. Still, especially in youth baseball, if you notice a player who drops or drags his arm, or isn’t following through, the drill can, if nothing else, show them how much more extension they have than they might realize.
The “Modified” Towel Drill
Now, I HAVE found a modified version of this drill that I like a lot. And here it is…
I like this version because it still teaches extension and follow through, but makes allowances for a pitcher’s natural motion and release point. Try these out and see what you think. The proof is in the end result. If you see your pitchers’ forms getting better with one or the other version, it’s probably working for them. So experiment with both versions. I know most kids actually enjoy the towel drill. They like seeing how far they can extend. It becomes a competition with themselves. And I have seen some positive results. But whether it works or helps EVERY player…the jury is still out.
Give it a try and monitor the results.