Okay, so this post kicks off what will likely become quite a lengthy series on tips for Coaching Youth Pitchers…

And keep in mind, while much of this information will be relevant for pitchers of all ages, this series is specifically intended for coaches or parents working with young ballplayers of Little League league age.

[h3]Installment One: Begin at the Beginning[/h3]

My first recommendation is pretty simple. Start with the basics. Show them how to grip the ball – if you’re not holding the ball well, good luck throwing the ball well. And if you need some help on this one, drop a comment below or shoot me an email and I’ll put together a short video on my YouTube channel.

After that, when it comes to mechanics, my bottom line for working with young pitchers is this:

Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.

You can nitpick mechanics to death if you want to… and when kids are first starting out, they’re going to have all kinds of mechanical flaws. It just goes with the territory.

But when you boil it down, a good pitching motion is really about 3 things:

Balance, Timing and Power

If you have these 3 things as a young pitcher, you’re in great shape.

Okay, that’s all nice, but how bout some practical advice…

“So what should I actually start working on with my young pitchers???”

Okay, here goes… But first, a side note…

Please don’t get too caught up with having to follow this information to the last detail. You’re the coach and you know your pitchers better than I do. These are all just suggestions… But they’re also tips and strategies that I’ve personally found to be very beneficial in my work with young pitchers.

Alright, now let’s get to it. Here is the first thing I like to work on with young pitchers (after showing them how to hold the ball):

[h3]Understanding the Glove-Arm, Throwing-Arm Connection[/h3]

Your body wants to be in balance. Balance in your pitching delivery isn’t just about your legs, though that’s a big part of it – and it sure isn’t about getting to a “balance point”.

Balance is also about a level of symmetry (not perfect mirror-image symmetry) and the idea of the front side (glove side) and throwing side being in sync. It’s also about the upper half and lower half being in sync (a topic for another time).

What you do with our glove arm is going to have a direct effect on your throwing arm.

One big tendency you see with young pitchers who don’t get this yet is that they just never get the glove arm into their delivery at all. It just drops or flails wildly to the side as they throw.

Pitcher-Dropping-Glove-Arm

Here is a drill I like to help pitchers develop the feel for getting their glove arm into their delivery and learning the feel for the glove-arm, throwing-arm connection. I call them torque & turns, but you can call them whatever you want.

(this video is an excerpt from my program, the Ballistic Pitching Blueprint)

[h4]Key tips:[/h4] [circle_list] [list_item]It’s not about pointing the glove arm directly at home plate[/list_item] [list_item]It’s okay to have the pitcher pause at first when they get the elbows up to help get the feel for the movement.[/list_item] But once they get it down, they should practice the drill in one fluid motion. We don’t want to be making robots (a mark of a bad pitching drill)[/circle_list]

A couple reasons why I like this drill:
[circle_list] [list_item]It takes the legs out of the equation[/list_item] For beginners especially, not having to worry about what the legs are doing makes it very easy to focus on the glove-arm, throwing-arm connection.

[list_item]It trains the feel for good trunk rotation at the same time[/list_item] By helping pitcher learn to incorporate their whole core and throw with good trunk rotation, it helps them feel the difference between getting their body into their delivery vs. throwing “all arm”.

One coaching cue I like with this one: “Think about replacing your front shoulder with your throwing shoulder.”
[/circle_list] Here are a few Big League pitchers as examples – keep in mind everyone’s mechanics will be a little different – the pitcher should be allowed to develop their own style.

Pitching-Glove-Arm-Throwing-Arm-Connection
Some commonalities:

  • Arms in sync (what some refer to as Equal & Opposite)
  • Glove stays “inside the box” as they get through ball release
  • Glove arm doesn’t block them off – they show full trunk rotation

Here’s Mariano Rivera showing you what the Glove-Arm Throwing-Arm connection looks like

Mariano-Rivera-Glove-Arm-Throwing-Arm-Connection-smaller

Okay, now instead of dragging on and risk losing you, I’m gonna end there today.

So that wraps up Installment One: Begin at the Beginning.

But stay tuned, because I’ll be back soon with Installment Two, Starting Position: Set the Pitcher up to be Successful

Closing thoughts: Two quick notes to youth baseball coaches

[h4]1. Less is More[/h4]

Don’t over-coach mechanics. Overloading your brain with a bunch of mechanical mumbo-jumbo is never really a good thing as an athlete, but it’s especially dangerous at the beginning. It just leads to overwhelm, frustration, or worse… turning budding young athletes into stiff, tense mechanical automatons (not to mention neurotic, worried too much about their mechanics to throw effectively).

[h4]2. Keep it Fun![/h4]

Remember these are kids and a lot of this stuff is completely new to them. Just because they don’t get it today at 10 years old, doesn’t mean they’ll never get it.

It’s a long road. Show them the ropes, point them in the right direction… but then let them enjoy playing the game so they’ll stick around and still be playing this game when they get older, enjoying all the rich experiences and life lessons that go with that.

Do you work with young pitchers? CLICK BELOW for a FREE Youth Pitching Lesson Framework

youth-pitching-lesson

Download Your Free Youth Pitching Program

In previous articles, I’ve written about the importance of good mobility and stability in your pitching delivery. But one thing I haven’t mentioned before is that late in my career, I finally got serious about addressing flexibility and mobility issues that were holding me back. And I started doing something I never would have considered in my younger days…

I had tried stretching at night, and that helped to some extent. But I still felt I could do more to improve my flexibility, stability and balance to make my pitching delivery more efficient. So one off-season, I decided to take a different approach and started doing Yoga. I still kept up with my other conditioning (lifting, plyo’s, sprinting).

[h5]Here are some key benefits I saw from adding Yoga to my training:[/h5]
  • Improved overall flexibility
  • Improved balance and stability
  • Improved body awareness
  • Improved strength and stamina

Plus an unanticipated side-benefit…

  • Improved mental focus and toughness

I recently caught up with Gwen Lawrence, a leading Yoga instructor when it comes to training athletes. Gwen has worked with many pro and amateur athletes, including members of the New York Yankees and New York Giants.

One thing I like about Gwen’s approach is that she really makes an effort to understand the individual athlete. She understands the position, and the unique demands a pitcher may have vs. a hitter. And at the same time, some guys may need to work more on flexibility, some more on balance and stability.

Now Yoga isn’t necessarily for everyone… But if you keep an open mind, I believe most pitchers can benefit from adding Yoga to their training.

So if you’re like me, and you’re always on the lookout for ways to be a better pitcher, check out today’s interview!

[h5]Gwen Lawrence[/h5] GwenLawrence.com
•E-RYT 500 experienced registered Yoga Teacher 500 hour, highest accredited
•YTA member of Yoga teachers association
•YA member of Yoga Alliance
•NSCA member National Sports conditioning association
•RY th Registered Yoga Therapist
•RYS register accredited yoga school owner founder director

Power Yoga for Baseball

Power-Yoga-for-Baseball
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
[hr]

[h5]Poses/Stretches referenced in the interview:[/h5]

Gwen-Lawrence-Yoga-Poses

Are little league pitching mechanics the same as major league mechanics?

In a previous post, I wrote about teaching pitching mechanics to Little League pitchers, and how I recommend taking a different approach with very young pitchers than with more mature athletes (you can read that post here).

What I didn’t really get into, though, is what I consider to be the biggest problem with the way most young pitchers are taught “proper pitching mechanics” these days.

Do you work with young pitchers? CLICK BELOW for a FREE Youth Pitching Lesson Framework

Download Your Free Youth Pitching Program

 

I was working with a 12 year old pitcher over the weekend, and we were working on things like creating good momentum, staying fluid, good rhythm and tempo… and then something he said stopped me in my tracks.

“They’ve been teaching us to do this,” and he raised his knee up and paused. Then he separated his hands and made a “T” with his arms, all the while holding that balance position. Then he strode out and paused in the “Power Position.” Then he finished his throw…

I just stared at him. “Wow… okay, let’s talk about this,” and I began explaining that while I’m sure his coaches have very good intentions, what they’ve been teaching him and other young pitchers is not what you see among the majority of successful, major league pitchers. Which raises another question…
 

Are Little League pitching mechanics the same as Major League mechanics?

In theory, Yes… The mechanics used to throw with speed and power are the same regardless of the pitcher’s size and age. But expecting Little League pitchers to move with the same sort of power and athleticism you see among world class major league pitchers is pretty unrealistic (minus the rare exceptions).

So does that mean it makes sense to teach young pitchers using drills that force them to move slower?? Or would they be better off doing things that actually made them more explosive and athletic in their pitching deliveries? In my experience, many of the drills used for teaching “good pitching mechanics” to little leaguers actually work against moving powerfully like the major league’s best pitchers.

Here are the top 3 mechanical issues I see with Little League pitchers:

1. Raising the Throwing Arm Early (lack of early momentum)

2. Opening (Unloading) the Hips Early (front foot points towards home too soon)

3. Collapsing Front Knee after Landing

So what are some reasons young pitchers might have a tough time moving like their major league counterparts?

1. They may lack the necessary mobility and leg strength:
Yes, leg strength IS important for a powerful pitching delivery!
(more on this in a future post)

I highly recommend getting a full assessment by a trained Strength Coach or Physical Therapist. If you’re unable to do that, Eric Cresssey’s Assess & Correct is an excellent program.

2. They likely don’t possess the same overall athleticism:
That’s right… pitchers ARE athletes. Mariano Rivera started out as a shortstop. Dylan Bundy trains like a prize fighter, Tim Lincecum (known affectionately for his athleticism as “The Freak”) can walk around on his hands like a circus clown…

Heck, even the big overweight guys that sometimes give pitchers a bad name are usually a lot more athletic than you’d think.

3. Youth pitchers have been taught to get to “positions” rather than learning the right movements for a big league pitching delivery:
When you teach kids to get to positions, training things like getting to a Balance Point, getting the throwing arm up, and getting to the Power Position, You effectively rob them of their natural athleticism, kill their momentum, and turn them into slow-moving mechanical throwers (see this article for more on why I’m against most pitching drills).

I’m generally okay teaching these positions when kids are just starting out so they can know what that feels like. But once they get comfortable with them, the emphasis should be on staying fluid and dynamic, flowing right through those positions!

And while possessing the necessary strength and athleticism is important, a big part of developing “Big League Pitching Mechanics” is just learning the right motor coordination. This is why video analysis can be so powerful. Nothing speeds up the learning process like being able to see how you’re moving vs. the pros.
 

So if drills that teach getting to “positions” are bad, what do you do?

 

  • Train the athlete: Focus on improving overall strength, stability and body awareness. These things can be developed through conditioning and strength training (beginning with bodyweight exercises) and dynamic balance/stability drills.
  • Train the intent to throw hard: As a young kid, I developed my “arm strength” by throwing a tennis ball against the back of my house and playing with friends at school, throwing against a brick wall (played a game called “butts up,” probably outlawed these days). That freedom to just throw without a coach constantly telling me things like “Get balanced!” or “Get your arm up!” taught me how to recruit my entire body in order to throw with more power.
  • Avoid drills that teach cookie cutter mechanics: No two pitchers are exactly the same, and they shouldn’t be taught to have exactly the same pitching delivery. That said, there are components within the delivery that are consistent among the majority of elite pitchers. Things like Early Momentum, Loading the Hips, creating Torque, and Stabilizing the front side.
 

Do you work with young pitchers? CLICK BELOW for a FREE Youth Pitching Lesson Framework

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