Are there times when we keep a student from taking it to the max? Absolutely. That may surprise you, but there is a good reason. My total focus is on development, with planning designed specifically for her. If an 11-year-old tries to throw as fast as a varsity player, but her body has not developed sufficiently, injury can quickly occur. Maybe the growth plates have not closed. Certain muscles and tendons are growing faster than others, so a lot of things are out of balance. If there is dominance in one area over another, we must uncover those limitations and work within them while we also correct the strength/flexibility issue. Way too many people try to muscle through such things. The result is that we get a new student at age 16 who is in big trouble.
Research shows that most injuries that occur at 17 actually began at age 11 or 12. Look at it this way. Imagine a water balloon. If you rub it very lightly with a fine grade of sandpaper every day, nothing occurs at first. As you slightly wear down the membrane, one day it completely bursts. Many injuries are what I call “stack injuries”. The action of doing something in a slightly improper way does not affect the kid at first, but eventually the problems begin to compound. The balloon bursts.
Development is a process. I always enjoyed working with fruit trees. Producing good fruit takes proper care, exposure to sun, and good soil. You control growth to encourage maximum productivity in a process called pruning. Allowing it to grow out of control results in less production and increased chances of branches breaking when too many apples are present or when ice, snow, or wind put too much load on them.
Helping a pitcher develop takes just as much patience and vision. We want speed. Our kids are pretty amazing in that way. However, there are times when I actually hold them back, slightly, until their bodies can support the power we want. If she does not have the stability in the core to create a proper foundation, too much load is placed on the extremities. Soon the body is unable to create and transfer energy efficiently. She hits a plateau or goes backward in her productivity. We focus specifically on having hips and core that can handle the load before asking her to “push harder”. These factors are just as important when trying to synchronize the body for specific moving pitches.
Pitching is a process. We look for people to join our organization who want to think toward long-term development. Far too many people try to rush things, grab the latest videos off the internet, and hope for a magic pill. They want to be the fastest kid on the block right now. In many cases the poor kid will eventually pay the price for that lack of vision.
A sense of urgency is always important, but urgency in planning and preparation is the key. It takes a combination of patience and impatience. Development is the process of “slowing down to do it right so you can hurry up and get there”.