This Is My Edge

Too many kids have been programmed to pitch, or even hit, like a robot. As they mature, they develop absolutely no body awareness and no ability to adjust. We may help them get rid of some terrible habits, and they look amazing in warmups, but during the game they revert back to the previous problems, or struggle to put exciting new techniques into their performance. They are trying to memorize the steps instead of feel the power generated by the move.
When champions learn something new and exciting, they think “This is my edge. It allows me to reach a new level.” Average players get caught up in avoidance thinking. Instead of focusing on what makes the new move wonderful, they are occupied with “I gotta stop doing this thing in this way”. They are adopting a losing mentality. One thing we must avoid in our job is something we heard from a great teacher, “paralysis by over-analysis”. The more a kid has been taught robotic moves, instead of developing body awareness, she becomes more prone to becoming methodical and unnatural. She thinks in terms of moves, not feeling the movement.
We always begin the first lesson by asking a kid how her hips should feel, giving her the choices of tight, loose, powerful or neutral. Yes, there is one right answer. If we can get that one simple thought, an obsession with having powerful hips, into everything she does, she will eliminate most of the other problems that occur. If she is totally consumed with feeling the hips generating power, she will quickly notice when the glove flies out and neutralizes the hips, when her weak takeoff prevents the hips being engaged, and when her body finishes in a position that subdues the hips.
We want her to put all of her focus on a feeling that generates positive results. A kid may say that she is having a hard time stopping the glove from flying out or keeping the foot from turning before takeoff. That is not the problem! She is not focused on the feeling she wants to achieve and not focused on maximizing performance. If she has the correct weight transfer and explosion off the mound, the foot does not feel the need to make that early turn. If she is focused on using the arms in a way that benefits forward thrust, the glove does not feel the need to “fly out” to try to help her get through the move. Do not focus on the things you are trying to avoid. Focus on the things you want to feel.
Sometimes the instructor struggles to understand the process. Men tend to think in the way their bodies work. Men rely far too much on the upper body and don’t realize that many of the ways they naturally operate will be opposite for a female. When we are training men we spend a lot of training time in this area.
When we train women who were pitchers, we spend a lot more time on the way things feel. If an instructor was taught in robotic, step-by-step fashion, she may never have developed good body awareness. She might want to fix a problem in a certain way because that is the way she was taught, but I will ask, “If you do that, how will that make the hips feel, or where will it cause tension in another part of the body that will hurt performance?” She starts getting it pretty quickly.
Feel is so important to us that, as we make new discoveries, the first thing we do is have our former female pitchers among our instructional staff study them, try them, and make sure they are natural to the female athlete. If it does not feel right, we examine it more carefully.
Another huge part of our training is to help them understand the difference between tight and powerful. Many kids are so tight and jerky that they cannot deliver speed. Yet, they feel like they are giving maximum effort. As an example, we ask them to clench their fists and tighten all of the muscles in their arm and they try to make a fast arm circle. It is impossible to be fast in that way and the rest of the body is completely neutralized. The arm must be loose in order to be fast. And, when they loosen the arm, suddenly the rest of the core can be engaged in the pitch, creating power.
The ability to feel the movements and to realize when barriers are preventing her from maximizing performance is one of the most important qualities a pitcher, hitter, or fielder can have. The number of new kids who come to us simply because they “sense something is not right” is astounding. Those are the kids who rely on feel. Those are the kids we can turn into champions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *