Do You Really Need That Many Lessons

One of our students postponed her lesson last week because she had not accomplished all of the goals we set a few weeks back.  She said it was not fair to either of us to work on the same things all over again.  See why I like this pitcher?  When she returns I know she will be ready for bigger challenges.  The frequency of lessons is not the key.  Progress is the priority.

Frankly, my list is so large that we can’t even schedule pitchers twice a month.  It makes me a better instructor because we focus on results, make sure the kids understand exactly what we want by next visit, involve the parents in the goals, give them handouts, take tons of notes, and make sure everyone understands exactly how to reach those goals, step, by step, by step.  If everyone is on the same page, you do not need to see me every week.

Recently a new student came from across the country.  We helped her find her speed and consistency pretty quickly, so on the second day I asked what pitches she wanted to develop.  She said the dropball just didn’t work, though she had worked on it during her weekly lesson for a couple of months.  What???  If she has worked on a pitch for several weeks, one of three things is wrong:

1-It goes against her natural tendencies.

2-The instructor is missing something.

3-She does not understand the concept.

I checked her natural tendencies and they were good.  I spent one minute helping her understand the concept, changed one thing in body position, and we were all thrilled when the drop began diving two minutes later.  Normally it takes ten minutes, but once we had worked out all of the issues with her basic form, I could see that this kid could get there much more quickly.  So, my question was, “What have you been doing for weeks?”  She went through a litany of drills but it was clear that had not previously understood the concept.

So, once we get a kid throwing well with her basic form, how long does the curve take?  It depends on which one she wants to learn.  We have a couple.  One takes 7-8 minutes, and the may take a couple of lessons.  A lot of factors go into deciding which we will address.

The change-up?  Some get it in 5 minutes and some need to work on it a couple of weeks, but they don’t need me during this time.  We give them a schedule of certain things that have to be accomplished every day, progressing until they can throw the pitch from the mound consistently.  It’s pretty easy and, if the kid and parents understand it, they don’t need me standing over her shoulder for weeks.

The riseball?  That one legitimately takes several steps and a few lessons. It is extremely technical, but if a kid’s tendencies are right, we get there pretty quickly.

The screwball heavily favors kids with the right natural tendencies.  If they are right, it is child’s play.  Try to force a kid to learn it who has incorrect tendencies and it can be a long process.

Not long ago a kid from another state came to see me.  This was her fourth lesson in a six month period so I really didn’t remember her.  Once I saw her pitch, I will easily remember her in the future.  Her speed was exceptional, her movement and changeup were beautiful.  Each time she showed me something exciting, she quoted things I said when teaching her in the past.  After the lesson I pulled her parents aside and told them this 13-year-old was a serious college prospect if that was her goal.  Her mother had a huge smile, tears in her eyes, and kept thanking me for helping release her potential.  “Don’t thank me.  You three have done all of the work.”  They will be back when they accomplish the new goals and we can take it to new levels.

Yes, some of our instructors do weekly lessons, especially when a kid is new to them, so they can get her on track.  Or, they may be fixing issues in her form that she brought from past instruction.  Then there is the occasional kid who is so bright and so obsessed that you have to allow more frequent lessons.  She accomplishes the goals so quickly that she is just dying for more challenges.  I have one of those and she is the youngest kid I have ever known to get a D1 softball scholarship.

In general, if you are bored during her lessons, if she is bored, and the instructor looks bored or lost, you are probably doing too many lessons.  Very little good can come of that.  I have actually talked to kids who took lessons twice a week.  Seriously?  Why would you do that?  Sometimes parents say their kid won’t practice regularly and this is a way to get her to pitch more.  Okay, so we are taking the accountability away from the kid and parents, removing goals and objectives, and having the instructor devote even more time to a pitcher who is not that dedicated?

Sometimes they want more lessons because the parents are detached.  They are busy with the iPhone during the lessons and expect the kid to retain it all.  Perhaps if she is 16 years old you can step back, but a 10-year-old is struggling with body awareness.  She needs you to be her eyes and to help her with consistency.

Sometimes people think more is better.  New kids who come to me after a year of twice-weekly lessons are often lost.  They memorized all kinds of moves, but never learned to think for themselves, never learned to adapt techniques to their specific bodies, and if there was a barrier in the form that the instructor didn’t recognize, it was so ingrained that it is agonizing for them get it out of the way and begin making progress.  You have to allow them time to process things and find their own way.

The lessons should serve to set an agenda that you can take home and address.  Can a pitcher succeed without having me over her shoulder twice a week?  Let’s put it this way.  Remember that I live in the mountains of Virginia.   As I look at the list of recent scholarships, I see kids who work exclusively with us from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, and the list goes on.  These kids get to see me between two and six times per year.  Yes, there is one from our community, and she is one of the best, but I still allow her lessons only once a month.

The frequency of your lessons can be less if these three things are happening:

1-You are getting quality input during those lessons.

2-The parent or someone in the family is very involved in helping the pitcher.

3-The pitcher is very motivated.

If you are lacking in one of these areas, she is already facing an uphill battle to reach her goal

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