Welcome to the House of Pitching Newsletter.
I routinely get emails from parents of young pitchers that would like their daughter to get to “the next level”. Often, they tell me that they go to a pitching instructor and are ready to make a change because they just don’t feel they are getting over the hump so to speak. As I’ve said before, much to the dismay of many…. what this usually means is, something that she is doing wrong is incorrect. And, once again.. YES I believe there is right and wrong in pitching, not shades of grey. However, sometimes faulty mechanics can be overlooked by success at younger ages of pitchers.
We’ve all seen very young kids, just out of T-ball trying to play their first season of softball where there is a live pitcher and catcher. It’s fun to watch the games and see the kids run around in their uniforms, chasing balls, swinging bats, etc. While it’s fun, kids at a young age are often scared of the ball and are jumping out of the way when the pitcher throws it in there. Fear of getting hit often overwhelms them and they just aren’t ready for it. Of course, there are those that stand in there and simply do not have the hand/eye coordination that young to hit a round ball with a round bat. But for every kid who has the courage to stand in the box and take her rips at the ball, there are 3 others who are terrified and jump out of the batter’s box. So, if the pitcher can get the ball over the plate there’s a high probability that she will have a lot of strikeouts and win a lot of games.
A lot of times, the success this pitcher is having at the young age gives them, the parents, and pitching instructor a false sense of security. It’s like building a house on a rotten frame, eventually it’s going to collapse. Often, the hardest part is making people understand that success at 10 doesn’t equal success at 18. Pitching mechanics take years and years to prefect. The point is, it’s sometimes difficult to project what a pitcher’s abilities are when they are so young. Moreover, it’s hard for some to understand why someone dominated their league/tournaments at such young ages but it’s no longer the case as they move up in class/age bracket. Remember, as the pitcher gets older.. so do the batters and other teams. And they are no longer afraid of the ball as they get more mature, in fact quite the opposite. If she’s pitching correctly, she should continue her success at nearly the same rate as where she started.
Now, like always, there are some exceptions to this rule. Sometimes a pitcher just simply doesn’t have what it takes to make it. This is every pitching coach’s worst nightmare. Getting someone with the biggest heart and love for softball but, virtually no natural talent. And no matter what, even the best pitching coaches in the world cannot turn this young lady into a star. God simply didn’t intend for her to pitch the same way he didn’t intend for me to be the starting centerfielder for the Cleveland Indians.
Be very alert by anyone who even remotely hints that she needs to pitch one way at a young age, then change or modify things later. Nothing is further from the truth. Every day a pitcher spends doing something incorrectly is another day of building muscle memory that will be hard to break later. Obviously there are some differences, a bigger girl is going to hold/grip the ball differently than a smaller girl will. That’s common sense. But, the overall mechanics need to be the same and taught from day 1. Otherwise, she’s going to have relearn everything she knows about pitching later in life. I see this almost every weekend when I do a clinic somewhere in the country. Unless that pitcher has been doing it right from the start, it’s a long road ahead to try changing several years of muscle memory.
When I do my clinics, I spend as much (if not more) time trying to educate the parents/coaches of the pitchers about how to help them as I do the pitchers themselves. Simple common sense can be your greatest ally in making sure your pitcher is on the right path from the start. All too often, a parent will say to me that they didn’t understand the drills and mechanics being taught or what they were supposed to do. Then, I tell them to take that thought one step further… if Cat Osterman is the best women’s pitcher in the world, why wouldn’t your instructor be teaching the same mechanics as what she uses? Remember, I’m talking MECHANICS not pitching STYLES. There’s a big difference in the 2 things.
So, watch what the elite pitchers are doing and make sure you’re on the same path by trying to simulate their motion. Odds are, they started at day 1 doing it correctly and weren’t fooled by early success. They continued to work on improving… like any great pitcher does.