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.
Installment One: Begin at the Beginning
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):
Understanding the Glove-Arm, Throwing-Arm Connection
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.
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)
- It’s not about pointing the glove arm directly at home plate
- It’s okay to have the pitcher pause at first when they get the elbows up to help get the feel for the movement. 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)
A couple reasons why I like this drill:
- It takes the legs out of the equation
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.
- It trains the feel for good trunk rotation at the same time
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.”
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.
- 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
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
1. Less is More
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).
2. Keep it Fun!
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 Youth Pitching Lesson Framework (Now Just $7)