My experience in working and counseling players and families in the way of youth sports has made one fact clear - I do not claim nor do I wish to...
This is the “busy season” at DBI – my favorite time of year. I love to talk to players and parents about how the season went and what they want to work on in the off season.
Young athletes go through stages of physical and mental growth over the course of a season. Certain fundamentals they may have been instructed and trained to do may, in fact, not be appropriate because they are bigger and stronger or game experiences have forced them to find a better way to accomplish the same results. This is a good thing. Talking about baseball is what I enjoy as much as any other part of the game. I have learned as much about pitching from personal experiences as from talking to young pitchers over the years. Many of the drills implemented through the years have emerged out of a seemingly random conversation or suggestion from a young pitcher!
In my previous blog, Working on your Game in November and the Pitcher’s Cycle, I refer to the benefits of finishing up the year by tweaking and changing mechanics and/or mental approach for upcoming year. Like a New Year’s Resolution that is two months early!
Here are some ideas to keep in mind for next season:
1. Pitchers should take time away from the mound. This sounds like no-brainer but it is always surprising to see many young pitchers think that they are improving themselves after the season by simply getting on a mound in November and December – with good intentions – pitching without implementing mechanical corrections. It is another baseball example of insanity, continuing to do the same thing over and over expecting that things will change. There should always be something to work on and if a pitcher ignores the need for change just remember – those hitters are making their own adjustments for next year.
2. Pitchers must identify needs for improvement – always LOOK FORWARD. It is difficult to explaining to someone that a certain pitch needs to get better after they had a season of success with it but often this is the case. It can be a real awakening for a player to hear that they may not have what it takes at the present time when they have a stellar won-loss record, ERA, and WHIP but more often than not these are the pitchers who have earned the right to advance and will soon be playing against more elite competition. Looking forward is the goal!
3. The smallest adjustments will give the greatest results. This is my favorite part of pitching instruction, finding that little change that will bring a young pitcher closer to long term success. Maybe it is a simple grip adjustment on the curve ball, adding a better shoulder exercise routine, developing an improved pitching strategy, or even adding extra leg strengthening work to the winter plan. Mastering the smallest of adjustments will reap the largest results, especially the highest levels of competition.
4. Changing muscle memory takes time. I have been told by coaches that changing a habit takes six to eight weeks of constant repetition AND if you break the constant repetitive process the cycle begins again. The good news is that with pitching the changes do not usually involve throwing at 98 to 100% effort. Some of the daily movements needed may take 15 minutes a day. This is not physically demanding but mentally it could be as challenging as pitching in a championship game because no one is watching and there is no instant gratification.
Bottom Line: Great Work Habits Separate the Elite Pitcher from the Average Pitcher.
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