Spectator Hints

Horseshoe Pitching is more fun when one can participate...but spectators can enjoy the games too if they know how to follow the action and to recognize subtle nuances in pitching styles and methods....
There is a wide diversity in pitching stance, grip, backswing, release, turn (or flip) and follow-thru. Suffice to say, no two pitchers deliver the shoe the same way and no particular set of the above "ingredients" appear to be the magic combination for a "perfect pitch". Nor, is there a particular shoe design which works best for everyone. So, all things being equal..............

Spectators can quickly become a student of the game by learning to recognize differences in pitchers and the success each has with his or her methods. This will be found to be far more interesting than attempting to keep up with "whom is beating whom" throughout a tournament.

Each "class" pitches a "round robin" which means every contestant pitches a game against every other contestant in the same class. Pairings are scheduled so they know whom they pitch and where they pitch each round. Usually, the number one seed in the class is paired against the last seed in the first round, and in subsequent rounds, against the next higher seed until the last round when the number one and number two seeded contestants pitch one another. The rest of the class pairings follow similar arrangements.

Occasionally, a class will have an odd number of entries, thus each pitcher will draw a "bye" round and an automatic "Win".. In some tournaments a "pacer" is used in place of the "bye"...in which case the pitcher automatically wins the game against the "pacer" and game statistics on ringers and shoes pitched are entered in tournament results like any other game.

The "turn" of the shoe when pitched can be classified in the following general groups (for right handed pitchers). See how many of them are being used in the class you are watching:

3/4 turn......held open side facing to pitcher's right
1-1/4 turn...held open side facing to pitcher's left
1-3/4 turn...held open side facing to pitcher's right

COUNTERCLOCKWISE (not as common as clockwise)
3/4 turn......held open side facing to pitcher's left
1-1/4 turn...held open side facing to pitcher's right
1-3/4 turn...held open side facing to pitcher's left

1 flip..........one complete flip, points rise up and back
2 or more...multiple flips, points rise up and back

FLIP - HELD PALM DOWN (not as common as palm up)
1 flip..........one complete flip, points rise up and back
2 or more...multiple flips, points rise up and back

combination of a single turn and flip
usually held near closed end of shoe

The "clockwise" turn for righthanders is common. Some right handers pitch a "reverse" or "counter-clockwise" turn. And of course, the left handed pitchers can do everything a right handed pitcher can do and the terms "clockwise" and "counter-clockwise" are switched accordingly. There are some odd fractional turns one might include, which depend upon where the shoe is held. For example, if held by the end of one leg with the open end of the shoe facing the pitcher, the turn may end up closer to 1-1/2 turns instead of 1-1/4 turns, but for the most part, all pitches can be included in one of the above categories.

Most right handed pitchers pivot on the right foot and step out with the left foot. They may start the pitch with the left foot behind, beside or ahead of the right foot, and a rare few may even have a 2-step delivery (step with the pivot foot then step out with the left foot). A few right handers may step out with the right foot, using the left foot as the pivot foot.

"Alignment" is of most concern to a pitcher. They generally know their shoe will be open and that it will be close to the right distance, but alignment seems to be the most elusive of the 3 elements. It is interesting to see if pitchers have a pattern to their mis-alignment. If they continually miss on the same side of the stake it probably has a different significance than if they seem to miss equally on either side of the stake. Perhaps their elbow is not pointing directly away from the stake, perhaps they are "dealing" the shoe with the wrist, or some other flaw in the delivery has altered the pitching alignment. It is interesting to watch a good pitcher make corrections between pitches and equally interesting to watch lesser skilled pitchers unknowingly repeat the same delivery and miss the stake with the same results. Practice helps a pitcher, provided good fundamentals are practiced, but watching both good pitchers and lesser skilled pitchers and learning to "read" their delivery techniques can also be a form of "skull" practice.

The arm and body "follow-thru" immediately after release of the shoe sometimes gives a clue to the pitch alignment. A vertical follow-thru with the arm would seem to indicate a straight delivery as opposed to a cross over follow thru with the arm similar to a baseball pitcher's "slider" follow thru. If a pitcher senses the pitch may be a little too far right of the stake they sometimes give a little follow-thru "body english" by leaning or stepping to the left. Watch how pitchers react after different pitchers instead of watching the shoe in flight...sometimes the best show is the pitcher, not the shoe...

A lot of "buzz words" come up when pitchers discuss horseshoe pitching. "Pulling" the shoe as opposed to "pushing" the shoe suggests that the step is ahead of the delivery and the arm follows the forward motion of the body, thus "pulling" the shoe in the recommended way.. A few beginners try to "push" the shoe with a forceful arm, elbow crooked, and find alignment seems to switch from left to right uncontrollably. "Lift" on the shoe is the final upward flip of the fingers with palm nearly face up, as the shoe leaves the hand. Without the little lift the shoe frequently "tumbles" rather than turns in flight. "Reach" is the fully extended arm, with an attempt to retain grip on the shoe until the very furtherest distance possible from the body and follow-thru with the arm. There are many other buzz words....see how many you can collect (and learn their meaning).

Now, armed with your "spectator" knowledge, go find your own horseshoes and practice what you know....You just might be a better pitcher from the experience.......