Okay, so in Part One of this series on coaching youth pitchers, I talked about the importance of the glove-arm, throwing-arm connection. And that was mainly about upper-half mechanics (getting the arms in sync). Well in Part Two, we’re gonna take a look at the lower half…

More specifically, the feet.

Because we tend to think of throwing a baseball as something you do with your arm, it’s easy to lose sight of the important role that your feet play in your pitching delivery. Your feet are your base, your foundation, your connection with the ground…

And when you break it down, having a good pitching delivery means being able to transfer your weight well from your back foot to your front foot as you stride.

Now this series is geared towards coaches/parents working with very young pitchers, so we want to resist getting too technical here. When it comes to coaching pitchers who are just starting out, I have two big guidelines:

[h5]1. Keep it simple[/h5] [h5]2. Keep it fun[/h5]

So that’s what I’m going to do here. Keep it simple…

Yes you want to lead with your hips, yes you want a powerful stride, and yes you ultimately want to develop torque and power in your delivery… But let me ask you this:

What do you think is the best part of the motion to focus on if you want to affect change (in a good way) in a young pitcher’s delivery?

“The Balance Point?”

“The Stride?”

“Front Foot Plant?”

How about, “At the beginning!”

And what I’m mainly talking about it is this:

Pay Attention to How You Set Your Feet Before You Throw

As with a lot of things in life, with your pitching delivery, how you start is going to have a major impact on how you finish. Let me repeat…

[h4]How You Start Will Impact How You Finish[/h4]

But what you see with a lot of young ballplayers is they give very little thought to setting their feet before they throw a baseball. Just watch them playing catch… it’s usually pretty haphazard.

It’s funny because with HITTING guys place this major importance on their stance. They work to get their feet positioned just right, they bend their legs, they get in an athletic position… They seem to understand that you want to be balanced, strong and stable in order to hit a baseball with authority.

At the same time, most don’t give much thought to their “stance” when getting set to throw a baseball. You’ll see a lot of kids flat-footed, legs locked out, weight on their heels.

They’re not setting themselves up well to be successful!

Here’s a short video I put together with just some quick tips for helping young pitchers learn to set their feet well before they throw. The more they make this a habit, the more they’ll be able to consistently get their legs and hips into their pitching delivery.

Note: the little hop I show is just something to help them get the feel for getting set in an athletic position. Once they’ve done this a few times, it’s not something they should have to keep doing every time before they throw – and if they do that at the higher levels, they’ll get called for a balk 🙂

Two pitchers who really demonstrate the importance of setting your feet in your pitching delivery are Felix Hernandez and Mariano Rivera.

What you see with both is a sort of toe tapping with the front foot, as they turn that foot in slightly to load up. Add a little bend in the back leg and you’ve got a great starting position.
 
King-Felix
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The biggest thing that set Mariano apart (aside from that cutter) was his consistency. And if you saw him pitch, you know he started out this way on every pitch.
 
Mariano-Rivera-Pitching-Mechanics
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If there were one guy I would show a young pitcher to help them understand the idea of being sound with your feet in your pitching delivery it would be Mo. His rhythm, balance and consistency were unbelievable.

Hope you found this post helpful. And if you did, do me a huge favor and share it with anyone you know that could benefit. And as always, keep those comments and emails coming! I’ll be back with Installment Three soon.

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.

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youth-pitching-lesson

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So in my post not long ago about Masahiro Tanaka’s loaded hips, I mentioned a follow-up Video Lesson I would be putting together for you… this is that post.

As a lot of coaches and parents have been telling me, it’s one thing to understand the idea of leading with the hips (or staying closed and loaded with your hips)…

[h5]Actually doing it or helping pitchers “get it” is another story[/h5]

Some pitchers are just so programmed to lift and get to a “balance point” or have spent so much time focusing on stepping straight towards the catcher without any regard to staying closed that this just doesn’t come easily.

[h5]So how do you counteract all this old programming?[/h5]

What you need is some new “movement pattern mapping” – or whatever term you want to throw out there for developing the “feel” for a new series of movements. So in this video I go over a simple process for helping pitchers learn the feel for leading with loaded hips in their pitching delivery.

[h4]Tips for Learning the Feel for Leading with Loaded Hips[/h4]

This is just one approach… and depending on your pitching style it might not be for you. But it’s worth trying, and I’ve personally found these steps to be extremely effective with many of my pitchers. Give ’em a try and let me know how you make out!

And if you found this video helpful, do me a huge favor and share this post!

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