Without fail, it happens on what seems to be a daily basis. Every morning I wake up, turn on my computer and check my email. When I get to my website email account, I generally have 10 or so new messages waiting for me. While some are spam, many are clinic/lesson requests from all over the country and world. The rest are questions from aspiring pitchers, fathers of those pitchers, or coaches of the pitchers.
The strange part is, the overwhelming majority of questions asked in the previously mentioned emails are the same ones! Most are about how to increase speed or improve control. Some are about drills that I’ve routinely written about and been critical of. It often goes like this: “I’m having trouble increasing the speed of my pitches. And when I do, I often lose control of where the ball is going. I thought these drills I was taught were to help with both!”
Well, the harsh reality is… many of the drills being taught and used are going to be hurting both speed and accuracy. Almost everyone agrees that a big part of pitching (if not the MAJOR part) has to do with muscle memory. Drills are designed to teach muscle memory. But, when that muscle memory is counterproductive to developing proper mechanics, we’re then teaching ourselves bad things!
Over the years, I’ve established a reputation of being against drills. This is a very broad generalization of me and untrue in many ways. I’m against bad drills! Drills that simply do not make sense. Drills that aren’t helping the pitcher develop. Drills that aren’t simulating how the pitcher is going to actually be pitching. I mean, think about it… why would I practice something that I’m not actually going to be doing? I’ve used the analogy of Tiger Woods swinging his driver like a baseball bat before his tee shot. Swinging his bat like Gary Sheffield isn’t going to help him when he is about to tee off, right? So why would he practice what he’s not actually going to do? But, when pitchers do drills on their knees or wrist flips with locked elbows, then they are doing precisely the same thing! We don’t want to pitch with locked elbows! We don’t want to pitch without using our legs!
So, it’s basic addition by subtraction. Taking away the cause of these problems (bad drills) can usually lead to someone getting on the right track. Well, it’s a start anyway!
While I want to leave this topic for another time, it will tie in together with this subject. Speed and accuracy should be developed together. I’m not exactly sure how someone can be working on one without the other because both have almost entirely to do with the pitchers mechanics. Bad mechanics means lack of speed and lack of accuracy. So, again… addition by subtraction! You’ll be able to add both by ceasing the drills which are taking both away. Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?
But, when we use common sense and apply that to how we practice, it’s pretty easy to see how taking away the harmful things can help us and to practice only what we will use when we pitch. It’s also important to have patients here. Once the muscle memory has been established, it’s going to take some time to correct it. TAKE IT SLOW! Think of how we train kids the alphabet. They can’t go from A-Z in one day! They have to go letter by letter. Same concept here.
Use common sense and for a general guideline, use this rule of thumb: if the drill being used isn’t simulating the way we’re going to be pitching, it might not be such a good drill!