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The Top 3 Reasons You Don't Throw Hard
by Jonah Bayliss
I've said it before and I'll say it again, every pitcher on the face of the planet would enjoy throwing harder. Some may be stubborn and try to make some sort of "I don't want to sacrifice control for velocity" argument, and, the hypothetical that I am proposing here, is that you wouldn't be. So, if you could keep your current command AND throw harder, wouldn't you want to??
Of Course You Would!!! So stop lying to try and prove me wrong.
*Honesty Alert* - The harder you throw, the less accurate you need to be.
Now, everyone's going to blow a gasket and point out the 98 mph fastball that some prolific Major Leaguer smashed into orbit the other night. My answer, to which, is the key words here being "Major Leaguer." Most of the clientele reading this article are of high school caliber and below.
So, here's another *Honesty Alert* - if you can throw mid 80's in high school with a mediocre second pitch, you can aim for the middle, mix your pitches, and do pretty well. So here's to you, "Big League Example Givers," do you really think Aroldis Chapman aims for the corners?? What's that? Your son's NOT Aroldis Chapman, you say! How do you know?? He's only 11!!!!!
Kids today do need to learn how to develop, and master, the ability of pushing their physical limits.
Reasons that kids do not push/test their velocity: Here are my main, and very opinionated, reasons that kids do not test their abilities.
1) Lack of Strength
I'm speaking mostly about the younger athletes, here, but not exclusively. When you're dealing with younger pitchers (I'm not going to put an age stamp on it because everyone's different) a lot of kids just don't have the hip and leg strength to stabilize all the force that maximum exertion creates. A lot of times, younger pitchers will plateau with individual pitching lessons because they reach a point where their delivery has become efficient, but they just lack the physical ability to progress further.
2) They Don't Know How
Quite simply put, if they've never done it before, or tried it before, how do they know how to do it. We are not talking about a humanly innate trait, like walking. We are talking about an extremely complex and learned skill. Again, this speaks mostly to the younger crowd. But, lets make something very clear, that's when most of our learning takes place. Just like walking, talking, and all of those innate skills that we develop as humans, learning how to throw to our maximum energy output potential at an early will be much more beneficial. Think about 2 different pitchers, one is 13, the other is 43. Which one do you feel, more confidently, you could teach how to throw 90 mph? A little extreme, I know, but you get the point. Start 'em young. Which leads me to my next, and probably most controversial, reason.
3) Youth Baseball
In today's world, single sport specialization is becoming more and more prevalent. With this specialization, you will also see more of a premium placed on winning, and not development. Travel Ball, in this day and age, has become a must if you'd like to see your young athlete grow and reach his/her potential. Bear with me, and please do not mistake the root of my message. I think Travel Ball is an exceptional arena for young players to develop and learn the game. Quite frankly, the caliber of coaches, in general, is much higher, and the exposure of weekly tournament play will speed up the "in game experience" learning curve. Here's the kicker though.
With parents paying more out of pocket, and most of the games played within a tournament structure, a very high premium is placed on winning. Now, obviously, we want our youth to learn to skills and attributes required to compete, but that comes with consequences. I find so many kids, due high demands on "winning performance," scared to death to throw a "wild" pitch because Coach said that "we CAN'T walk anyone!" They know that 2 walks in a row can lead to a quick hook in todays realm of over-enthused youth baseball.
Now, here's where we toe the line. I AM NOT SAYING THAT it's o.k. to fire 12 straight fastballs to the backstop, in an effort just to see how hard you can actually throw. There's a time and place for everything, and the time for that is in practice. WHAT I AM SAYING, is that kids need to be kids, and that "self exploration" of maximum effort should be encouraged. The ideal scenario would be for the young athlete to reach an understanding of "practice" and "game" performance.
At the end of many of my private pitching lessons, I often challenge some of my younger pitchers to throw a few as hard as they possibly can. I just want to see what they do. I tell them that I don't care if they get way off balance, fly open, fall over, or any other cliche pitching faux pas. I just want to see how hard they can throw. And with wide eyes, and an exuberant smile, they always agree with enthusiasm. As if they are about to show me the next "Nolan Ryan Arm." They wind up. They "cut it loose." Now, from here one of two things happens. They launch one 10 ft, clear over the target, and immediately creep back into their "control shell" because they know that if Coach saw that, he might have something to say about it. Or, nothing more than a controlled step and throw, into a "fielding position" finish is the result, followed by a look to me as if to say, "did you see how perfect my form was, and how I'm now ready to field a ball?"
I never get upset with the result. It's not their fault. They just can't quite grasp it……yet. I just get a little saddened by the "unspiritted" effort. Where's the flash? Where's the desire to throw a ball through a brick wall? I wanna see it!!
Owner & Performance Consultant
A1 Pitching Academy