Last week a new student came a very long distance to see me for a couple of days. The process began when her father sent a video for evaluation. My first observation was that she probably had a lot of back pain, and it shocked them that I recognized this before they told me. I explained that the same thing causing the pain was killing her effectiveness.
This kid is 15. The glove was flying out of line, its timing was terrible, and it was slapping the leg violently. She had a big crowhop that caused a terrible lag in the arm speed, her shoulders went one way while the hips turned another, and that core instability caused pain and inefficiency. The shoulder was loose and out of circle. Every single problem could be traced back to drills she had been taught.
Okay, we are not supposed to have favorite students but she won me over immediately. Why? As I listed the problems we would have to address over the next couple of days, she said “I am ready to get started”. She was completely undaunted.
I felt like she was the drill sergeant and I was the private. She constantly pushed me to push her. Nothing phased her. If she struggled with an adjustment, she would not let me go forward until she totally understood and got it right. Then she would say, “Does this look right? Let me do it until I really feel it. Okay, I got this. What’s next?” If something was especially difficult and made her uncomfortable, she would stop and do it over and over and over. In two days I gained an incredible respect for this kid and saw a beautiful transformation taking place. This kid was on a mission and she challenged me to stay ahead of her.
Parents are always telling me how hard their kid works as if that is unusual in some way. We have a thousand kids who probably work harder than the ones doing the talking. Hard work doesn’t impress me. Progress does. That means the kid and parent are paying attention. If she is working hard and not making progress, there are several explanations:
1-She does not have the body awareness to be a great pitcher.
2-She is continuing to practice bad habits.
3-She does realize that what she is doing is not working and that it needs changed. Somehow, she thinks she is suddenly going to jump to the next level while doing the same things that held her down the last few years.
4-Something physical is holding her back. It can be scapular dysfunction, poor core strength, lack of flexibility or a number of other issues. She will stagnate until these are addressed. (See Strength Training on our website)
5-She does not know how to practice with a purpose and how to constantly adjust the practice plan to provide continued improvement. She is just going through the motions someone taught her.
6-She has a short attention span. We often see kids run from gadget to gadget, drill to drill, camp to camp, looking for that magic pill. They can’t stay on track long enough to get anything right. Usually this is driven by a dad who is always in a panic and keeps them from ever getting any momentum or confidence. This is the guy who, when I am working on foot placement, is whining about three things in the upper body, so she can never focus on one thing long enough to fix it.
7-She is listening to the wrong people. Everyone has advice on pitching. Some if it is simply scary.
In the past 16 months, we have worked with over 70 kids who have accepted D-1 college offers to pitch. That’s just the D-1 kids. We have many pitching in other divisions. So, we have a pretty good understanding of what it takes to make it to the next level. When a kid, like the one mentioned above, honors us with her presence, we add her to that group of “favorite students” who I know are going to make an impact in college. How do you get on our list of favorites?
1-You return for the next lesson pitching better than the last.
2-You take my ideas and add special touches that make them even better.
3-You are not afraid to get outside of your comfort zone and try something difficult, knowing discomfort in the short-term means success in the long-term.
4-You constantly push me to push you.
5-You return to the next lesson with your notebook, show me the things I asked you to correct, and each one has a check mark beside it.
6-You then show me a written list of things that you want to accomplish this month.
7-You don’t feel the need to tell me how hard you have been working because I can see it immediately.
8-You win big games. You take responsibility and always find a way to win, never allowing yourself to make excuses.
9-My wife knows your name. Yes, that one seems strange. When a kid does great at a lesson, it is exciting. I have to tell someone. My wife gets to hear about it. If she knows your name, I am pretty excited about you.
Working hard and making progress are not always the same thing. Nor are they mutually exclusive. There are a lot more ways to fail than there are to succeed. Always look at your plan, your habits, and your goals to see if they are in agreement. Most of all, are you making progress?