Our company works with thousands of pitchers each year. With a research pool that big, we obtain a lot of information that can help you. We felt it would be a good idea to share some of it.
Here are some rules to help keep your pitcher moving in the right direction.
1-As you try to help your pitcher and you talk to others, many ideas come with the qualifier, “This worked for my daughter” or “I knew a couple of pitchers who did this”. Each kid is different and we often see things that work for ten percent of the kids but actually harm the other ninety percent. Wisdom is knowing the difference.
Rule: Do not accept anyone’s generalizations without a lot of research. If an idea works, that’s great. If not, don’t force it. Be open and skeptical at the same time.
2-A kid recently came with a serious shoulder issue. Someone had convinced her father that weighted balls would strengthen the shoulder. Her arm circle was the problem, the shoulder was popping and crunching, and the weighted ball was adding load to a bad motion. She was doing very funky things in the circle to keep the weighted ball from causing so much pain. We fixed the circle, the shoulder immediately felt better, and everything came together beautifully. We told them to eliminate the weighted ball.
Rule: Adding more load to a bad motion increases injury risk dramatically or causes compensation issues which further damage form. Deal with the real problem.
3-Kids often have issues like turning the push foot before the pitch. Some people suggest things like a trough or blocks to keep the foot straight. The first thing I do is test hip mobility and flexibility. If she has tight hips, she cannot rotate correctly to open the body as she fires off the mound. She has to turn sideways. Another cause for foot turning is that they realize their takeoff is weak and try to add power in the wrong way. Each issue requires a different approach.
Rule: Fix the cause, not the symptom. Fixing symptoms is dangerous. The brain often forces the body to do certain things to limit speed and power to prevent injury. Trying to override that is like wiring across a circuit breaker. Find someone who can identify the real issue instead of treating a symptom.
4-Sometimes our job is simply humorous. Some college pitchers turn their bodies to the side and try to hide their grip from the third base coach. Most of them turn back to the catcher and reveal the grip, or have a slow backswing that shows the grip anyway. Young kids come to us emulating the motion and have no idea why. We know because we ask them. I watched one college pitcher this spring who had imitated the technique. She put the hand in the glove, turned to the side, took the ball out of the glove and took her grip against her side, showing it to everyone. Some kids will get the glove over there and then try to take off from that position, a technique that exacerbates the glove flying out to the opposite side. There are far better ways to hide your grip. Or don’t hide it at all. Our younger daughter throws a nasty riseball. When a 3rd base coach tries to steal the grip and yell it to the batter, she simply curls that first finger to look like the riseball grip on the drop, and lets it relax and go back to normal during the circle. After a couple of wrong guesses, the 3rd base coach looks clueless and gives up on his poor sportsmanship. We have other good ideas. Talk to our instructors.
Rule: Don’t imitate something unless you know exactly why you are doing it. And, don’t imitate it badly. College scouts will have a hard time taking you seriously.
5-“I tried that once but it did not work for me”. Sometimes a pitcher wants a new pitch and we do our assessment of natural tendencies to determine the most effective pitch for her to begin developing. She tells us she tried it once and could not get it. First of all, she didn’t try with us so we may have a little different approach. Secondly, she is a little older, which means the body structure and body awareness have changed, making certain tasks much easier.
Rule: Never quit experimenting, always challenge yourself, and have a short memory. One of my college pitchers learned a new pitch one week before the season, used that pitch over and over, and led her team to its greatest season ever.
6-You hear someone say the rollover drop, the peel drop, or the curve will injure the shoulder or elbow. What they are really saying is that they don’t know how to teach you to throw that pitch safely. There are three specific movements to be avoided with all of them, and if the pitcher allows one of those factors into the pitch, she will hurt. Those same movements would also cause pain in any other pitch. We work with thousands of pitchers and have never had an injury with any of the above pitches. We have seen new students who were in pain because they brought bad habits when they came to us, but if you actually understand how the pitch works you can quickly eliminate the things that cause the pain. That makes the pitch more efficient too.
Rule: If an instructor says a certain pitch causes injury, you do not want that person to teach it to your pitcher. Do your homework and find an instructor who knows how to teach the pitch in a healthy way.
Every day is a learning experience and everyone will have input. I still listen to our ten-year-old students as closely as our college kids because you never know when you will discover a better way to do something. I am always open to fresh, new ideas. It is the conventional, recycled truisms that am often skeptical about accepting on blind faith.