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The Top 3 Reasons You Don't, And Won't, Throw Harder

Testing Limits

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!!

Jonah Bayliss

Owner & Performance Consultant

A1 Pitching Academy

@A1pitching

www.a1pitchingacademy.com

www.facebook.com/a1pitchingacademy

Views: 430

Comment by HENRY MUNEVAR on January 25, 2014 at 2:35am

http://WWW.HENRYSBASEBALLCLUB.COM 

I LIKE UR ARTICLE.

OH NO!! U ARE WORKING MY SON TO HARD. WE ARE GOIMG HOME HAVE A BIG PARTY INVITE THE NEIGBORS AND RELAX BY THE POOL AND WAIT FOR THE SCOUT TO COME UP THE DRIVE WAY!!

Comment by Kenneth Shepherd on January 25, 2014 at 3:38am

Love you article.  I hate travel ball BUT in todays world it is here,  my kid plays it too.  He is fortunate to have a coach that will let him work through the off days.  Last coach was like you said walk 2 and you are done.  How do you improve.  I also think the only way to ever throw harder is to INTEND to throw harder.  So kids need to try to throw harder,  I doubt very much thatNolan Ryan backed off the velocity when he walked a couple batters,  You have to push it , have to INTEND to throw harder or you never will

Comment by Jonah Bayliss on January 25, 2014 at 10:04am

Thanks for the comments guys.  Kenneth, I couldn't agree more.  Travel baseball can be an excellent experience and development tool when placed in the right hands of a good coach that know where emphasis needs to be placed.  And as for throwing with INTENT, it's the number one, easiest and overlooked, tool to arm development. I wrote another article about that specifically that you can find HERE if you're interested.

THROWING WITH INTENT: making them count

Comment by Tom Hurley on January 25, 2014 at 11:31am

Travel ball is here to stay, absolutely true! I am not a proponent of kids becoming "single sport" athletes however agree that the level of coaching available during travel ball is often excellent.  I worry more about the 12 month a year BB player...
Jonah..."Travel baseball can be an excellent experience and development tool when placed in the right hands of a good coach" I LOVE that comment!!
The unfortunate reality is that there are far too many overzealous parents and under-educated coaches out there.  Keep up the good work!



Comment by Kenneth Shepherd on January 25, 2014 at 12:05pm

Jonah,  i read the article and agree.  I see you mention Soft toss and this is off subject but,  what is your opinion on soft toss ?  120' 200' 300'.  I like my guys to air it out,  throw with an arch and relaxed as far as they can going back,  its all about warm up and loosening the arm.  My 12 yo goes almost 300',  then start back in with INTENT,  put it on a line and throw hard,  doesn't matter how many times it bounces,  once they get to about 60' throw from wind up or stretch.   I have some agrue that throwing that far ruins release on the mound,  i think it's just an adjustment to make ,  i don't think one has to effect the other

Comment by Jonah Bayliss on January 25, 2014 at 12:37pm

Tom, that's the exact reason that I started my own 16u team.  Until athletes get into college (maybe) the emphasis needs to be skill development.  

Kenneth, I think your long toss program sounds fine considering that the emphasis switches to "on a line" after it gets "aired out."  There is definitely something very valuable in throwing as far as you can.  That's where you'll start to discover how to push your envelop, or comfort zone.  The trick, however, becomes making sure that kinematics don't break down when trying to "get it there" when you're really stretched out.  You can see a lot of "flying open" in an effort to reach your target.

Both great points, guys.  I really appreciate and enjoy the comments.

Jonah

Comment by Kagan Hudayar on January 25, 2014 at 1:18pm

I don't think the problem is limited to travel ball.  In some ways, it's the nature of the beast.  Here's what I mean:

Kids today start out with coaches at 5 years old.  When I was growing up, I learned on the schoolyard...sink or swim...get the job done, or watch from the fence.  There were no coaches, no adults.  If I wanted to be thought of in the same way as the kid that always got to pitch, I had to learn to throw as hard as him and with as much control.  So, everyday, I took my ball and pounded it against a wall, a fence, anything I could manage to find.  I did it hundreds of times a day until I could throw it harder than the other kids, and I could spot it against any brick I chose to target.  I didn't worry about mechanics because, I didn't know ANYTHING about them.  Just through trial and error, I figured out what worked, and what didn't.  When I finally signed up for LL, I was 11 years old.  Not one kid in that league could touch me in terms of velocity.

So, does that mean we shouldn't coach mechanics?  NO!  However, our focus is on mechanics from the moment they can pick up a ball.  We don't ever cut them lose to just have fun with their physical abilities.  I coach little league age kids including my son, and I also focus on proper fundamentals.  However, I don't use the drills as goals.  They are simply repetitive cycles to build the proper muscle memory.  After each session, I ask them to "air it out".  I want them to feel the fluidity and looseness of just letting your body work.  That scintillating feeling we all know we get when we can just "let it rip".  They feel the rush that I used to know so well.  :-)  Another thing; I have a rule that practices are MINE, the games belong to the players.  Unless there's a serious issue that needs to be addressed in game time, I won't coach mechanics.  I want them fluid, loose, intuitive, and focused only on playing their hardest.  They don't get any direction on the mechanics of things, only general situational instruction like, look to go the other way, hit behind the runner, no doubles, etc.  I want them thinking about making plays, not thinking about drills.

So, I think the problem is a coaches' problem.  Too many of us don't understand our role in different situations.  During practice, we SHOULD teach and practice proper fundamentals and mechanics, that's our job.  But, during a game, our only job is to help them put what they've learned to work and get the best out of their natural abilities.  Let them play!  You'd also be surprised at how effective this teach can be;  The next time a kid is struggling on the mound, go out there and make him laugh.  Once he's relaxed, ask him for TWO THINGS:  Maintain clear sight of the target, and throw the ball to it as hard as you can!  Insist that he not think about anything else, or worry about walking a batter.  Assure him the result doesn't matter to you.  Tell him you just want to test him to see if he has the ability to just do those 2 things without worrying about anything else.  Dare him to show you that he has what it takes.  If you're successful, you just changed his entire mindset and goal for that outing.  You can salvage a bad outing that hurts his confidence further and turn it into one that builds on success.  You also just showed him how to have fun playing baseball.  Even those uber-competitive travel coaches would be happy to get better game results just by allowing them to play loose.  But to be honest, what these coaches are doing is called "covering their own asses"!  They only want the other adults to see the kids with perfect (stiff and rigid) form so everyone will remark on how well coached they are.  It's self serving BS.

 

Sorry, I write a lot!  :-)  But, I DO feel strongly about this one.  Thanks for posting and opening the discussion.

Comment by Kagan Hudayar on January 25, 2014 at 1:32pm

OH, and Kenneth!  Don't listen to the nonsense from others who say long toss ruins release on the mound.  They're morons!  As long as the focus is on throwing as far as possible on a straight line (not popping it up, or flipping the ball out of the fingers)  The release point created will be exactly the one you want.  Pitchers don't adjust to throwing downhill.  They throw straight.  The height and angle of the mound makes the ball move downhill.  It's when they start to think that they should do something differently that their mechanics and release point gets screwed up.

My 12 year old suffers from this problem because he's 5'4" 145lbs, and most of the other kids are under 5 foot still.  He thinks he needs to cut himself off and "roll" over the top to get the ball down low enough.  Instead, it has the opposite effect and keeps him high in the zone.  Then he tries to side-arm, etc.

Once I started making him take his warm ups from the dirt just ahead of 2nd base, the problem went away.  He can wind up or just step and throw, but the objective is to throw a hard solid strike from that distance.  That sets the release, and when he climbs on the mound, nothing changes.

Comment by Kenneth Shepherd on January 25, 2014 at 3:34pm

ya , my kid is 13 and learning ,  he has had guys tell him not to try to throw so hard,  we don't play with those guys anymore,  he throws in the low 80's at 13,  i call him effectively wild.  he has about a 4-5 stike out to walk ratio but he throws so hard, why would you want him to back off,  he does throw to the corners,  he has good stuff and i have been trying to get him the throw to contact at times for the ground ball

Comment by Kenneth Shepherd on January 25, 2014 at 3:36pm

when i ge a new kid for instructions I actually like to see him rare back and throw as hard and far as he can ,  it lets me know his true arm slot, so i don't screw that up

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