Did you see the recent article on Bryce Harper in the Washington Post? If you haven’t read it yet, check it out online (there are some pretty cool interactive graphics).

Bryce Harper: A Swing of Beauty

Now I’m all about pitching here, but like I said in my interview with hitting coach, Mark Brooks, you can learn a lot from a hitter.

If you’ve ever had a chance to watch Bryce Harper hit, you know how much power he gets into his swing. He absolutely attacks the baseball – it’s the perfect example of “controlled aggression.”

In the article, Adam Kilgore does a great job examining the mechanics that produce that power (many similarities between hitting/pitching mechanics), but even more importantly, HOW he developed that swing (hint: it’s not all about mechanics).

When you read it you’ll see there are a lot of lessons that carry over to pitching (and really any athletic pursuit). Specifically, there are some great lessons here for parents and coaches when it comes to working with young athletes…

Including what I consider the single biggest mistake most people make when teaching young pitchers.

For parents, it also shows how the right approach, support and encouragement can go a long way towards helping your child maximize their potential.

(Side note: I have to thank my own dad for bringing this article to my attention… he’s always had a way of putting good info in front of me and letting me take the reins from there – thanks Dad).

[hr] [h5]Some key excerpts with lessons for pitchers, parents and coaches:[/h5]

 
Bryce Harper: “I don’t know how I got my swing or what I did. I know I worked every single day. I know I did as much as I could with my dad. But I never really looked at anything mechanical.”

Lesson 1: It’s about hard work
Read those words again, “I worked every single day.” There are no shortcuts. Nothing beats hard work and persistence.

Lesson 2: It’s not all mechanics!
Read that last part, “I never really looked at anything mechanical.” Don’t make it all about mechanics! Mechanics are important, but sometimes the best thing you can do is just focus on what you’re trying to accomplish (hitting or throwing the ball hard), and let that goal/intention guide you. In time, the body will figure out how to organize itself to get the job done.

 
“When his father returned home from his job as an ironworker, Harper begged him to pitch to him or feed him soft toss. Ron Harper erected a net in the garage.”

Lesson: Follow your inclination… Nurture it, develop it.
We all have things we’re inclined towards from an early age. That’s what you’re most likely to do well. Bryce used to beg his dad to work on his hitting. Not all kids will do that. If your son shows that kind of love for pitching, listen to him. Encourage it, even if it means just getting a net and a bucket of baseballs and letting him get after it.

 
Bryce Harper could not fathom how many soft tosses or batting practice pitches his father threw him. “Millions,” he said. “Absolutely millions.”

Lesson: You’re not just born with it.
Early in the article, Bryce talks about his swing being “God given.” But when you read that last statement, it should be clear that while there’s little doubt he was born with unusual talent, that power swing and his success today are the byproducts of hours of deliberate practice. As he says, millions of reps.

 
When he played football in high school, he would sneak into the batting cage between the end of class and practice, taking swings while wearing fully padded football pants.

Lesson: You have to have Passion!
If you study high achievers in any field, there’s one thing that stands out again and again. Almost without exception, their success was fueled by a burning passion bordering on obsession. If you want to be the best you can be, if you really want it, nothing will get in your way.

Side note: in this day of early specialization, take notice… he played multiple sports!

 
Ron coached his son with small reminders and large bullet points… he never bogged down Bryce with detailed instruction. “I’ve always been a big believer in, there’s times when you got to let people go and let them figure it out themselves,” Ron Harper said.

Lesson: Don’t over-coach! Give the athlete the freedom to develop their own feel.
This is probably the biggest mistake people make when coaching young pitchers. They think it’s all about mechanics. So they give the pitcher 15 different things to think about mechanically… this doesn’t work!

Athletic performance is predominantly right-brained activity (your feeling, sensing side). When you start over-analyzing you interfere with that process by bringing in the more analytical left side of your brain. The result? Paralysis by analysis. Kids become stiff, mechanical, and things get out of sync.

Mechanics are important, but don’t bog the young pitcher down with too much information. Make some suggestions, nudge them in the right direction, then let them go to work and figure it out.

 
But Harper has made modifications. Nationals officials say he actually was swinging harder when they drafted him — so hard, Schu said, his head would move as much as two feet during a swing. The “head travel” prevented Harper from recognizing pitches and led to misses.

“He knows how to shorten up and get the barrel to the ball,” Schu said. “And then he’ll pick some counts where he’ll let the big dog eat.”

Lesson: Train the intent to throw hard… then learn to dial it back.
Developing a powerful swing or pitching delivery comes from hard work and a lot of high intensity training. If you just practice having a nice, clean delivery, you’ll end up with a nice pitching motion that’s easy on the eyes… but without that intention to throw hard you’ll never reach your full potential.

Bonus lesson: Keep learning, keep growing.
It’s equally important to note, just because he’s reached the big leagues that doesn’t mean he’s stopped learning. The best athletes are always looking to make adjustments, find ways to improve.

As a pitcher, developing power and velocity is important, but you’ll have better command and success if you learn to operate at 90%. Then you can pick your spots and crank it up when you want to blow them away.

 
So that’s a lot of pitching lessons from just one article on hitting. Believe it or not, I even left out some things to try to keep this post from getting too long! So go check out the article, and if you’re a parent or coach, I hope this piece makes you think a little differently about how you’re working with your young pitchers.

And if you’ve read this far, I hope you can do two more things…
[h5]Share this post with your friends and leave your comments in the box below![/h5] [h5]Thanks![/h5]

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

youth-pitching-lesson

Download Your Free Youth Pitching Program

In my last article, I talked about the questions I’ve been getting from parents and pitchers concerned about forearm and elbow soreness. Well if you liked that, you need to check out today’s video.

The other day, I was able to catch up with Strength Coach and Grip Strength Specialist, Jedd Johnson. Jedd’s a former college pitcher who turned to competing in Strong Man competitions, and now teaches athletes how to become super strong and powerful.

Watch this video to hear Jedd’s awesome forearm training tips, including:
[circle_list] [list_item]Why conventional forearm training leads to muscle imbalance (and how to avoid it).[/list_item] [list_item]How to make your own “tube ball” for training your arm anywhere.[/list_item] [list_item]How you can use a rubber band to strengthen your forearm.[/list_item] [/circle_list]


Note: Jedd swears he wasn’t holed up in a bunker for this interview.
Like me, he has small kids and was hiding out so he wouldn’t disturb them.
(though I think he really just wanted to look extra intimidating)

[h4]Grab your copy of “Ultimate Forearm Training for Baseball”[/h4]  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ultimate Forearm Training for Baseball

[h5]Jedd Johnson, CSCS[/h5] DieselCrew.com

Strongman Contests

2003—TPS Massachusetts State Strongman Championships
2004—TPS Massachusetts State Strongman Championships
2004—Maryland’s Strongest Man
2005—Wise Wellness Strongman Contest
2005—Saxonburg Strongman Contest
2005—TPS Massachusetts State Strongman Championships
2005—Maryland’s Strongest Man
2006—Stronger Than All II
2006—Wise Wellness 2006

Grip Contests

2003—Battle for Grip Supremacy
2004—Feats with Hands
2004—Global Grip Challenge ’04
2005—Global Grip Challenge ’05
2006—Global Grip Challenge ’06
2006—Backyard Bastard Bash II

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