Welcome to the House of Pitching Newsletter.
For those of you who have not done it and are on the social network: Facebook, please sign up for the House of Pitching page and become a “fan”. Right now I only have my schedule on there for updates but I will think of something clever for the future, maybe pictures of clinics and/or pictures from my games this year.
Marc Daganais from SoftballPerformance.com has redone my website. And if you’ve never seen Marc’s site, check it out. It’s a fitness and training program specifically designed for softball players. It’s pretty amazing stuff.
I think the TV Show the Family Feud was all wrong. While the concept was good, I think another version of the Family Feud could be filmed in a softball setting. I’ve seen more father-daughter issues during my lessons then I ever believed possible, which is sometimes very difficult to watch. It almost becomes a foregone conclusion in the mind of the parent that no matter what they say, it will not be heard because you are Mom or Dad. Kids tune out their parents. And while this is partly true, the kids will tell you that most of the time the parents don’t have a clue how difficult it is to pitch and that mom/dad doesn’t understand that she is TRYING to do it right. The kid views anything that is said as criticism and begins to tune it out. Inherently, the parents think that the kid won’t listen to anything that is said because they are just “dad” or just “mom”. And the truth is, both sides have valid points.
As a general rule of thumb, most kids have 1 minute of attention span per year of age. So a 12 year old can stay focused for 12 minutes. Now, this is not an exact science but it’s pretty close. A parent, who is in their 30’s or 40’s then can obviously hold their attention and boredom off for most of the lesson. But pitching practice can be monotonous. The repetition can become a chore rather than doing what it’s designed to do, train the pitcher. After the internal alarm clock goes off and the attention span is lost, anything done afterward is usually wasteful. So, I tell kids to treat pitching practice like a game. In a game, we get 3 outs, we sit down, get a drink, recharge the batteries a little, and regain focus. Yet, most pitching lessons are 1/2 hour to an hour long. That’s a LONG time to do anything, let alone something that requires as much mental prep as physical. Figure that a game lasts 1.5 hours. Of that, you’re on the field 1/2 that time. Of that, you’re not pitching for 45 minutes, but more like 25. Now we’re going to take 25 minutes of pitching and stretch it into an hour? Yikes. Short concentrated work outs go a million miles more than the long drawn out practice. Remember, practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. If they aren’t practicing correctly and with intent, then it’s a wasted effort. And we still have to remember there will be good practices and bad practices. They are still kids and what happened at school that day may effect how well she does at practice (or game). She could be thinking about hurrying up with practice because her favorite TV show is on shortly after she’s done… and in the process isn’t putting full attention into what she’s doing. This is bad 2 ways, first it is just a waste of time. Second, she can easily create bad muscle memory as she’s just going through the motions. The key is reassure them that the DVR or TIVO is working so she won’t miss the show, take periodic breaks to refresh her brain, and try to make her enjoy the pitching time as much as possible which will help offset any side issues that occurred during the day.
The hardest truth to admit is that not everyone is cut out to be a pitcher. Some who have the mental toughness don’t have the physical ability. Or vice versa. And there is a fine line between giving encouragement and giving false praise for how well they are doing. And it’s sad that there are people who mislead parents and pitchers into believing they will be the next US National team pitcher when the kid has a snowball’s chance in hell. But the other side of that issue is, if a kid loves pitching and wants to continue working at it, who am I to ever tell them “You’re not cut out for this!” I’ll continue to work with the kid and do my best to help be the best pitcher they can be, regardless of what level that ends up being. It can be uncomfortable when someone has an incorrect opinion of their daughter’s ability and cannot accept reality. We’ve all seen those parents with the rose colored glasses who think every line drive hit is an error. I’m not one who will help keep those glasses rose colored. I will tell kids without apology that they need to work harder than the rest if they want to be good. I can only hope the kid will do the work. But we have to be careful in the way we tell kids the truth as to not build them up, or destroy their hopes too fast. We don’t know at 12 yrs old how good a pitcher is really going to be. Or at 14U. And sometimes not until 16U. There are late bloomers out there who turn it on later in their teens. Something in the brain clicks and they want to become better. Or they decide this is too much work and they’d rather play center-field. The point is, don’t assume by 13 years old that you have the next International pitching sensation on your hands, and don’t assume she will never get better. We just don’t know right then. Give them encouragement and hope, but never give that false sense of greatness. Give an honest assessment of how she did on that game or practice session but don’t compare it to the best pitcher in the world. Compare it to herself and her other games/practices. This will make her want to work harder to better herself in the long run.
For sure there are some kids who are simply more gifted than others. Of those, about 1/2 realize they are much better than the rest and then don’t feel they need to work on it. It’s hard for them to fathom that they won’t always be the big fish in their small pond. They don’t understand that what works for a 10U level isn’t really going to work at 16U. They see their immediate success as what their entire career will be like and don’t put in the extra. The other kind of kid wants to be the best and will take instruction like a sponge. Their goals are not to be the best locally but to be the best nationally. They put the time in between pitching practices doing the small things. The things that make the biggest difference. These are the pitchers you see on TV.
But whether you are one of the most physically gifted pitchers or one who has to work extra hard because they don’t have the God given talent, there are always things we can do to keep ourselves ahead of the competition. Small things that make a big difference, like paying attention during the games and not talking or texting between innings. Like showing up for pitching practice 15 minutes early to see what the pitcher before you is learning. And things like talking with your team’s hitting coach or team’s best hitter during games or when watching games to understand how good hitters think and react. When a pitcher knows how a good hitter is thinking, then they are well ahead of winning that battle with other good hitters. Play a guessing game with that good hitter as to what pitch is coming next as you watch and ask why they thought that way. It will open a whole new world of insight as to how to plan your attack the next time you’re on the rubber.
Be understanding of how difficult pitching can be and all that goes into it. Kids seem to go full circle with parents. At first, the dad is a hero. Then, a few years later he knows nothing. Then he becomes annoying and just ‘doesn’t understand’. Then she realizes you really do have her best interest at heart and are trying to help. Unfortunately most have to go through all the stages in order to get to that last one. But it’s worth it. Trust me, I did it with my own dad. I was once in the very spot your kids are in. Keep in mind, I never played baseball.. only fastpitch. And if I had to assess by 12 years old how good I’d have been, I’ve have quit pitching and joined the chess club.