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Thursday, January 7, 2010
Baseball Pitching - Coaching Pitchers to Succeed by Starting With the Basics
By Nick Dixon
The coaching of baseball pitchers does not require a degree in "pitchingtology". There is no such degree to my knowledge. I just made that up. My point here is that coaching baseball pitching is not rocket science. However, having a basic knowledge of the terms and mechanics is a must. Having a commitment to be attentive to details in instruction and and to have frequent quality practice sessions is a good start toward becoming a coach of a successful pitcher at any level.
Here are the 5 basics elements of pitching success:
1. Beginning with the basics and keeping it simple
Let we first say that one of the basic rules on our high school team is that if you make our team, you are going to pitch. Every player participates in pitching workouts until it is determined that player simply can not help us on the mound. Over the years about 75% of our players pitch at least 10 innings during the season. With that said, I want you to know that my philosophy is to keep the terminology simple, the technique simple, and to make the process of pitching as easy as possible to master.
2. Balance is Key
The first thing we want out kids to understand is the importance of balance. Pitchers must learn to achieve and maintain balance from the start to the finish of their delivery. This is done by learning to keep the weight evenly distributed on the balls of the feet. Nothing happens on the heels. Keep head and body movement to a minimum. The head should stay still. This allows the head to stay over the ball of the pivot foot and over the body core or center. Special attention should be directed at eliminating any tendency to lean back, lunge forward, or to arch the back.
3. Knee Lift and Proper Stride Leg Motion
The lifting action of the stride leg should be smooth, straight up, and to a point of perfect balance. Make sure that the leg is not swung. The stride foot should go downward and then out. Many you pitchers want to lead with their hip and this cause major problems. Make sure that the leg action is down and out in smooth path. The stride foot should land on the ball of the foot. The stride should be in a direction with at least part of the foot landing on a straight line toward the catcher. Some pitchers will land more closed and some will land more open. The main point to remember here is consistency. A pitcher must land in the same spot time after time. If the landing spot is all over the place, control problems will be evident.
4. Elbow Dynamics
Much has been written and many studies have been made on the dynamics of the pitching process. To keep it simple, we want the following to occur. When the front foot lands both elbows should be up and even with each other on a direct line. The glove and ball may be above or below the elbow, but both elbows serve to reverse mirror each other. If the front elbow is tucked when the front foot lands, then a problem is evident. Both elbows should be extended away from the body in perfect opposite directions from the body to form a perfect straight line.
5. Late Break of the Hips
What I mean by this term is that we want the weight out and onto the front foot before the hip and trunk rotation occur. This late rotation generates velocity. Early rotation causes the pitcher to throw with all arm and will cause arm problems.
COACHING POINT: Make sure that the pitcher finishes low with the throwing arm finishing outside the stride knee. Many young players want to lock the front leg thus pole vaunting or lifting their body up and over the front foot. The stride leg should bend slightly.
As mentioned before, make sure that the stride foot is not heeling- out or landing on the heel. This is a flaw that causes jar and control problems. Also make sure that pitchers set up on the pitching rubber in the correct location. We want right-handed pitchers on the right of the rubber and left-handed pitchers on the left. This makes the ball more difficult to pick-up by the batter because of the increase in angle. It gives the pitcher more plate to work with.
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