What does my typical lesson consist of?
I expect my students to
spend at least 15 minutes warming up. This includes stretches and overhand
throws. For this reason, I recommend that parents bring their daughters early to
my lessons so that they can use their time, instead of lesson time, to properly
stretch and warm up. After stretching and warming up, I expect students to do
drills before pitching from the mound. At times it is necessary to step down
from the mound and do more drills. I will also spend some of the lesson time, as
needed, to discuss body language, situation-specific pitching, attitude and
focus – the mental part of the game.
What is the one thing I look for in a beginning pitcher?
Simply put, the student must be the one who wants to pitch.
The parent cannot want it more than the daughter. If the student wants to pitch,
she is coachable.
How do you know if you found the right
pitching coach for your daughter?
Getting the right pitching coach
can be a challenge. This is as true for beginning pitchers as it is for more
experienced ones. The wrong pitching coach can be disastrous for your child. The
right pitching coach can foster your child’s skill-development and love for
Generally, there are two kinds of coaches that can be wrong
for a student. The worst of these is that pitching coach who only has a
superficial understanding of pitching mechanics and fundamentals. This type of
coach is likely to teach your child incorrectly leading to poor mechanics and/or
injury. The likelihood of injury is increased when coaches rush very young
pitchers to throw pitches that require hard wrist snaps, for example, teaching a
rollover drop instead of a peel drop to a player who is too young. Why is this a
problem? Because to correctly pitch a rollover drop requires a pitcher to have
sufficient wrist and forearm strength to get the proper downspin on the ball,
most young girls (usually those under 14) aren't strong enough so they
compensate by using their shoulder. This leads to the "chicken wing" effect
where their elbow separates from the body. This can injure a young pitcher's
arm, including her rotator cuff. The other kind of wrong pitching coach is one
whose instructional style just doesn’t fit your child’s learning style – a
mismatch between student and pitching
coach. Therefore, the right pitching coach is one who is not only knowledgeable
of pitching, but also able to communicate this knowledge to your child. This
can only be accomplished if your child and pitching coach develop a
relationship built on trust and mutual respect. I firmly believe that as a
pitching coach the responsibility for building this relationship is mine. This
is the main reason I try to make my students’ games. Seeing them in game-like
situations also helps me teach them more effectively.
How often should a pitcher practice?
During the softball season, I recommend 3 to 5 times a week.
This includes any weekly lesson(s) with me. The beginning pitcher is on the low
side while the more experienced pitcher is on the high side of this count. But
make sure that even the more experienced pitcher takes at least one day off
weekly otherwise burnout is a concern.
pitches should be thrown per lesson or practice?
throwing no more than 120 pitches per lesson or practice. During my lessons, students
typically throw about 80 to 120 pitches. This varies based on age, skill level
and focus of the lesson. The day before my student is scheduled to pitch, I
recommend throwing fewer pitches. Between 40 to 60 pitches with most emphasis
placed on drills and the mental
aspect of the game. Regardless, there should always be some throwing the day
before the game to keep the pitcher sharp.
What is the first
pitch to be learned after a basic fastball?
After a pitcher is
able to throw and locate the fastball with consistency, I introduce an off-speed
pitch, the change-up. Then I begin to introduce a movement pitch, typically the
drop. Depending on age, skill level or preference, this can be either the
rollover or peel drop.
How old should a pitcher be
before she throws pitches that require hard wrist snaps?
Generally – not always, a pitcher under the age of 14 should not be throwing
pitches that require hard wrist snaps, e.g., rollover drops, curves, screwballs
and risers. These pitches put a lot of stress on developing muscles, tendons and
ligaments especially if thrown incorrectly. With the riser, there is another
consideration. Most coaches agree that until a pitcher can pitch at least 50
mph, the ball will not rise or jump. It will simply start low and end up high in
the zone, but it will not jump.
What are typical causes of
injuries for pitchers?
There are lots of causes. Some of the
most common, though, are 1) pitching from the open position (sideways to the
catcher) and not closing the hips, 2) using the shoulder to throw the rollover
drop, 3) bending at the waist when releasing the ball, 4) landing on a straight
or closed foot when striding, etc.
How important is
Speed is important but so too is movement and location,
especially as a pitcher goes up into the older divisions.
important is strength and conditioning?
This is critical but
it has to be specific to pitching. Pitchers need to focus on their core (hips,
stomach and back), legs and shoulders. Lots of running. Pitchers especially need
strong legs for endurance. I also strongly recommend the use of resistance bands
for flexibility. And I would be very careful about weight lifting especially
bench presses. Pitchers don’t want to bulk up especially in the shoulder area as
this tightens them up and slows down the ball.
Some of the more common questions I have been asked by my students and their
parents are listed below. My answers to those questions are just that. They are
my answers. Some coaches may or not agree with me. That's okay. As coaches we
sometimes have different views. Keep in mind that many of these questions cannot
be answered by all coaches the same way, with absolute certainty, because many
times there are no set standards. Just know that I base my answers on research,
personal experiences, and conversations with other coaches and trainers I have