Ahh, pitching mechanics. Everyone is an expert when it comes to pitching mechanics, but very few actually understand how the body works.
I really try hard not to teach mechanics, unless a kid is absolutely struggling to throw a ball somewhat “correctly.” I have in the past (many years ago), don’t get me wrong, but I refuse to do that now and haven’t taught mechanics in quite a long while. I’ve heard many of the horror stories about coaches taking kids who were good pitchers, in an attempt to pump up their egos, and screw these kids up, badly. I really don’t like taking credit for a kid’s success so I do my best to help guide them in the right direction, not change them so I can say “I did that!”.
Humans are not robots (duh) and therefore cannot be mass produced like robots. Every human has different types of hips, different sized bones, different brains, etc. To assume we can all make every left-handed kid look like Kershaw is a joke. I’ve seen internet coaches try to get kids to look like Aroldis Chapman, which is foolish. To emulate is one thing, but to attempt to manufacture pitchers is different.
I have a few rules when teaching kids:
- Throw as hard as you can
- Hit the target
- Throw it harder than the last pitch
After they’re able to hit their targets we move onto other things, such as new pitch grips. Of course there’s always ways to optimize human movement, but I believe this is where drills can come in.
The drill(s) must have a goal, it must be focused on THAT particular individual, and the pitcher must understand the goal of the drill he’s doing.
I have been to many facilities where the pitching coach has kids doing various drills and not explaining what they’re doing. In fact, I can think of one pitching coach that works at a big franchise that does all types of useless drills for every kid he works with, yet he never actually explains the why. We’re talking Hershiser drills (hip to wall), towel drills, etc. – you name the YouTube drill and he does it. With every. Single. Pitcher.
This is an attempt to mass produce pitchers or, as Lantz Wheeler says, a “beauty contest” being prepared for. Which is ironic, because it’s ugly as hell.
If you have a kid, whether 7 or 17, who’s just starting to pitch — try to just let that kid pitch and only step in if he’s really not getting it. But don’t teach hip balance drills, how to push off the rubber, how high his knee should go or where his release point is. Step in when he’s balking, throwing to 2nd base instead of home, or throwing his glove instead of the ball.
What really irks me is when an ex-high school infielder who once pitched at 11 years old tries coaching up a pitcher during a game, showing him what he believes the pitcher is doing wrong. Don’t be this guy, please. Let the kid pitch and ask him what he feels he should work on. Take video to help him see what he may be doing wrong (releasing too early, not “finishing” the throw, etc.), but your words aren’t going to really help him during the game.
With that being said…
I have a few kids who I work with that need constant reminding of what they’re doing wrong. I have one pitcher that has an issue with his hands. He tenses up so hard that he looks like he’s trying to crush the ball, and he gets extremely wild. We’re talking hide granny behind a wall-type wild, because the net won’t save her-type wild. This is a kid that needs to be reminded to not try to turn the baseball into a diamond during each pitch.
I have another pitcher that tries to decelerate too soon. We’re working on that with drills but, of course, I see several parents trying to teach him how they pitched back in the day, or yelling super helpful coaching tips while sipping their soda. Always fun. I have to remind them to tune EVERYONE out. I don’t want them to be disrespectful but I also don’t want them to get confused while they’re on the mound.
Humans have the ability to emulate movements pretty easily. Maybe not perfectly, but for the most part they can “get the gist” of it. Rather than work on mechanics – try to optimize their movements. Always take video so that they can see what they’re doing. Your words won’t be heard/understood if they do not understand. Visual awareness is always helpful.