You often hear pitching coaches talk to young pitchers about the importance of having good balance. And I completely agree… but not in the typical “get to a balance point” meaning.

Read this article to see more about why I’m not a big fan of the balance drill:
Pitching Drills: Why Most are a Complete Waste of Time

For me, Balance is a core principle that applies not just to your pitching delivery, but extends to every aspect of pitching (and LIFE for that matter).

You need balance in your delivery, balance in your mental approach, balance in your pitch selection, balance in your strategy, balance in your training, balance in your diet, balance in your sleep patterns, balance in your off-field activities, balance in your relationships… you get the idea.

[h4]Here are some tips for maintaining good Balance as it relates to:[/h4] [h5]1. Your Mechanics[/h5] Dynamic balance: Stopping in your leg lift and getting to a balance point is static balance… it kills momentum. Momentum is key for a powerful, efficient delivery. So you really want to focus on dynamic balance, or balance while moving. Here’s a good drill for working on dynamic balance and stability.

Glove side/Arm side: In your delivery, your glove arm has a direct effect on your throwing arm, so it’s important to maintain good balance and make sure both arms are working together. Read this article on good glove arm action.

Upper half, Lower half: the pitching delivery is a fast, explosive movement involving momentum and rotational power. Good timing is critical for transferring momentum up your kinetic chain and out to your arm. To accomplish this, your arms and legs need to be in sync. Another way to think of this is the idea of your upper half matching your lower half, or more simply, being balanced.

[h5]2. Your Mindset[/h5] Ups & Downs: There’s an old adage, “keep your lows high and your highs low.” Over the course of a season you’re bound to have many ups and downs, moments of triumph and total failure. If you get too high after a great performance, you risk getting complacent, setting yourself up for a great fall. Get too down in the dumps after a rough game and it can be tough to dig yourself out. The key is keeping things in perspective. Keep an even keel, keep showing up and giving it everything you’ve got.

Control your emotions: It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of competition when something doesn’t go your way on the mound. The ump makes a bad call, your short stop boots a double play ball… it’s natural to get frustrated when these things happen. But focusing on them won’t help you get the next batter out. In fact, frustration and negative emotions can often tip the scale, causing you to spin out of control. Next time this happens, step off the mound and take a breath. Gather your emotions, and focus on what you can control – your next pitch.

For more, check out this article on the Mental Game of Pitching.

[h5]3. Your Pitch Selection[/h5] When it comes to pitch selection, pitching is more art than science. Every pitcher is unique, every pitcher has different stuff. You have to know what works for you, what doesn’t. Learning to read the hitter and adapt to the situation are things you develop through experience and years of pitching. That said, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to increase your odds for success:

Keep ‘em guessing: Warren Spahn has a great quote, “A pitcher needs two pitches, one they’re looking for and one to cross them up.” Simple, but true. It doesn’t matter if you throw gas if the hitter knows it’s coming. Change speeds, change locations. Read this article on the importance of commanding your pitches.

Don’t fall in love with one pitch: Sometimes you might have success with a certain pitch, and the tendency is to go back to that pitch again and again. But go to that well too many times, and you’re bound to get in trouble. Hitters will adjust, and even worse, you may lose the feel for your other pitches. So try to maintain good balance with your pitch selection and use all your pitches.

Note: I’m not suggesting you should throw 16 different pitches… read this article:
How Many Pitches Do You Really Need?

[h5]4. Your Training[/h5] Don’t spend all your time pitching: When it comes to mastering the art of pitching, nothing beats throwing from the mound. But as I mentioned in my article on the benefits of long toss, spending all your time on mound work can increase the risk of injury. But don’t just take my word for it – hear what Dr. Glenn Fleisig has to say:

“The best training for baseball pitching is baseball pitching. If you train from a mound at maximum effort, your muscles and neurological system would benefit. That being said, you cannot train from a mound (continually) because you would get hurt. You want a training program that is similar, but different enough to simulate pitching.” – Dr. Glenn Fleisig

So yes, you want to spend plenty of time working on the mound to develop a consistent delivery and command of your pitches, but as with everything else, take a balanced approach. Mix in flat ground pitching and long toss. And don’t neglect your mobility and flexibility (I highly recommend checking out Eric Cressey’s Assess & Correct). Get in the weight room and work on your strength and joint integrity. Do your sprints and plyo work to condition your ATP system.

Good balance is a key part of being a complete pitcher. And it’s not just about mechanics. In fact, we just scratched the surface here. I didn’t even get into balance with your diet, balance with your attitude, balance with your intensity… the list is endless.

[h5]So what does having good Balance mean to you? Leave a comment below![/h5]

Does this sound at all familiar to you?

I got an email the other day from a little league coach looking for some tips for working with very young pitchers. I get these questions from parents and coaches a lot, so I decided it would be a good idea to put together an article with some general guidelines.

Here is his email:

Little League Pitching Mechanics2

First off, I loved that this coach had his priorities straight. He’s all about wanting to arm himself with good information to make sure he’s doing what’s best for the kids.

Working with very young pitchers is completely different than coaching older pitchers. My philosophy when it comes to coaching kids that young is you want to give them a good foundation, but more importantly, keep it positive and keep it fun (keep the “FUN” in FUNdamentals). So while I am all about advanced training and maximizing mechanical efficiencies with my older guys, my approach with very young pitchers is totally different.

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

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3 Simple Tips for Teaching Pitching Mechanics to Little League Pitchers:

 

1. Be Patient

Remember that for very young pitchers, this is all new to them. You’ve seen a lot more baseball than these kids, and the movements in the pitching delivery have been ingrained in your mind. If you pitched yourself, you had years to develop your delivery and it’s probably second nature at this point.

You can’t expect a kid to have perfect mechanics (if such a thing exists) right out of the gate. It’s like learning to walk, it’s a gradual process. When you were a toddler, you didn’t just start walking on your first attempt. You took a step, maybe two, and then you tumbled. But you kept trying – kept falling and getting back up, and you gradually got the hang of it, and it eventually became effortless.

You don’t chastise or criticize a toddler every time he falls down, do you? So be patient with these kids who are just learning to pitch. Guide, encourage, and trust that with patience and persistence, the young pitcher will get the hang of it.

Bite your tongue: Resist the urge to rattle off everything you know, nit-picking every flaw and bombarding the pitcher with coaching cues and critiques.

This is one of the toughest things to learn for a new coach, but it’s one of the most important

You see a pitcher making mistakes and you want to correct them – that’s natural. But not only is this discouraging for the pitcher, it can be totally overwhelming!

Throw too much information at a young pitcher, and they won’t know where to start, and they’ll just feel confused and hopeless.

You don’t want a young pitcher walking away feeling like his head’s going to explode!

So my advice is to start small. Focus on one specific aspect of his delivery, and work on it until he gets it.

2. Keep It Simple, Keep it Fun

Here’s part of my response to that coach’s email:

Little League Pitching Mechanics-response3

When it comes to keeping things simple in terms of mechanics, I often think back to a discussion I had with one of my minor league coaches. We got to talking about teaching mechanics to little league pitchers, and he gave me some great advice:

“Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be. When it comes to the pitching delivery, you’ve got three main things going on: a forward stride, a sideways turn, and a downward tilt. Keep it simple.”

3. Teach the Pitching Delivery in Segments

Okay, so up to this point I’ve focused on keeping things simple and fun (because I think it’s that important!), but that leaves the question… so how do I actually teach them good mechanics?

Okay, fair enough. My first suggestion is to start by teaching the delivery in segments. The pitching delivery is a complex chain of movements with a lot of moving parts. Focus on one thing at a time.

Here are some basic guidelines for teaching good mechanics to very young little league pitchers:

Get the Arms in Sync

In your delivery, your glove arm has a direct effect on your throwing arm. So it’s important to get them both working together. Here’s a simple drill for helping a pitcher get his arms in sync.

 

Load the Hips vs. Getting to a “Balance Point”

One problem with the way most coaches teach pitching mechanics is they focus too much on specific “points” in the pitching motion, rather than training good movements. This tends to kill momentum and make the pitcher stiff and robotic.

Read more of my thoughts on that topic here:
Pitching Drills: Why Most Are a Complete Waste of Time

There’s a big difference between loading the hips and getting to a balance point. The goal should be to help the pitcher get into a good position to create momentum and get his body moving towards home plate.

With young pitchers I sometimes recommend taking the arms out of the equation when teaching this part of the pitching delivery. Here’s one drill that can be effective when working with young pitchers:

 

Stride Straight

I like to tell young pitchers to picture an imaginary line from their back foot right to home plate. This is their drive line, and they should try to keep their body right over that line as they throw. It can help here to actually draw a line in the dirt or use drills with a pre-set stride like this one:


 

Control the Glove Arm

This is pretty simple. Basically, you want to be active with the glove arm, getting your arms in sync like I mentioned above. But as you turn to throw you want to make sure to stabilize and control that glove arm, bringing that glove elbow down towards your ribs. Getting wild or sloppy with the glove arm (swinging it out or letting it drop down) can lead to control problems and potentially put more stress on your throwing arm.

Here’s an article that explains in more detail what I mean by “control your glove”
The Importance of Good Glove-Arm Action

And that’s it! For the majority of pitchers 10 years old or younger, I would NOT make it more complicated than this. Give them a chance to work within this framework, have fun, and develop their own style.

As they get older, there will be time for making more advanced mechanical adjustments. Those would include things like developing a more powerful stride, maximizing hip to shoulder separation, and stabilizing with the front side.

And regarding his second question about pitch counts, my general feeling is the less they pitch in games at that age the better, but like everything it’s context dependent. You have to be aware of the signs that a kid is getting tired (starting to get wild, getting sloppy with his mechanics, etc.). I referred this coach to ASMI’s pitch count guidelines. They err on the conservative side, but it’s certainly a good place to start.

Hey, do you work with young pitchers?

CLICK BELOW for a FREE Youth Pitching Lesson Framework

youth-pitching-lesson

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[h5]The Towel Drill: A great drill for killing rotational power[/h5]

I almost included the towel drill in my list of least favorite pitching drills, but decided this one needed it’s own separate article. The most common version of the towel drill involves performing your motion with a towel in your throwing hand with the intention of hitting a target that somebody holds out in front of your landing foot. The idea is in order to consistently hit the target, you need to demonstrate good extension, balance and posture. Unfortunately, it can also lead to some very bad habits if you’re not careful.

In my opinion, the towel drill, at best, can be a useful tool for teaching proper sequencing in your delivery… at worst, it can create awful mechanics that actually rob you of power and velocity. If not taught or practiced properly, it trains the pitcher to “reach out” or stride farther, which tends to cause them to open early and lose rotational velocity (hip and trunk rotation are two of the biggest contributors to velocity). As I discussed in a previous article, a long stride does you no good if you open early with your hips. If you want to maximize power and velocity, you need rotational power.

[h5]Focusing on hitting a target out in front of your foot doesn’t make much sense when you consider a pitcher’s actual release point![/h5]

  

Despite lumping the towel drill in the “drills I don’t like” category, I do see some value to working with a towel. Developing a powerful pitching delivery that you can repeat consistently takes work – it can take over 1,000 repetitions to really ingrain new movement patterns. Throwing drills and pitching off the mound should make up a good part of that work, but sometimes it’s helpful to work on your pitching mechanics without a ball.

Working without a ball saves wear and tear on your arm, and also makes it easier to focus on your mechanics since you’re not worried about where the ball is going. Using the towel can be helpful because sometimes when you perform full speed reps with nothing in your hand it can feel like your arm’s going to fly off.

So I’m not against working with the towel, it’s really just the intention of the drill I have an issue with. Here is a great video of major league pitcher George Kontos (fellow Northwestern grad, incidentally) using the towel to work on his delivery. You’ll see there is nobody standing in front of him holding out a target for him to smack.

Notice his late trunk rotation! He is basically just working on his mechanics with a towel in his hand. When I was in the minors, a lot of guys would use a towel to work on their mechanics before the game. But the goal was always performing quality reps of their motion, not smacking a target in front of their foot. Bottom line, I’m not a big fan of it, but if you’re going to do the towel drill at all, do it this way.
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Check out the Ballistic Pitching Blueprint if you want to learn more about drills for developing a powerful pitching delivery

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