Bad Back Foot/Leg=Bad Direction

One thing with teaching pitching to youth players that has frustrated me over the years is the number of guys who do not pay enough attention to the back foot and how it relates to direction.

With that being typed; I do feel the front side is far more important then the back. However a poor pivot foot/back leg has direct negative results on proper direction towards the target.

Simply stated as our shoulders begin to pass one another in opposite directions if the back foot is swinging more out then up initially it turns that hip. Therefore, because we are only on our lead leg/foot the rear hip would be creating a force that dictates our upper half is fighting against our front side hip.

If this takes place then our upper half does not stay behind the ball as long as it should…it simply cannot.

Too many guys miss this and simply let their young hurlers get away with playing poor catch and building bad habits. Where the back foot is simply always just coming off the ground and swinging around rather then going up first (“heel to the sky”) and then coming around later.

A big part of pitching is direction. Matter-of-fact a big part of throwing a ball is direction. Poor direction leads to a lot of other poor and potentially detrimental issues to baseball players.

Any thoughts?

Physical maturity, proper rest and other "preps’ has so much to do with this and other things.

The very young, lack of motor skills, coming off an illness, bad nights sleep, lack of surface quality and so on all have their place in line with respect to the subject that you narrate.

A number of good points that you bring up, though.

Roger, laflippin, jdfromfla, and a visitor to this site who hasn’t seen much press lately - 101mph, can chime in on this subject and add a lot of quality to what you have already done.

I wish I had a better handle on the youth game and progress in that regard - but I don’t. But I do respect those that I’ve mentioned, I respect them a lot.

Good topic for youngsters, their parents and coaches.

Coach B.


So what do you feel is the cause and the fix for this issue?

Roger in response to your question here is my dimes anty.

Players of all types get lazy playing catch where they simply bring their back leg around instead of getting it more up in the air first (heel to sky). Catch is something we do all the time and thusly many bad habits can form.

A simple bending of the knee to bring the heel to sky while playing catch casues a muscle memory that will benefit the pitcher/player in training their back leg to not simply come around but go up first and then come around. After all it will come around naturally at the appropriate time so we don’t really have to teach that portion of it.

Additionally speaking I firmly believe that the lead leg becomes lazy in catch as well and therefore builds further bad habits; the last thing we want is bad habits on the front side versus the back becuase they are harder to correct.

On thing I see with many young as well as more mature student athletes alike is a lazy front leg in that it is not getting out far enough regardless of the distance of catch that is taking place. Now one does not have to use long toss body mechanics to simply play short to moderate distance catch. However how much better to train our body to do the right thing regardless of what type of catch we are playing.

My point is that in terms of the lead leg when we are playing at shorter distances we do not stride out as far because we do not need to in order to get the ball to our partner. This is more prevalent with kids who are younger and or those who do not have stronger arms. Meaning, the strong arm kid does not need as much body to throw the ball as far as the kid with the weaker arm…now that does not make what the kid with the hose is doing right versus the other kid…simply stated in terms of the lead leg everyone gets lazy because to varying degrees they can depending on distance.

The bottom line is the less we stride out with our lead leg the less likely we are to get more out front. If whoever plays catch like this repeatedly they are building bad habits.

Combine a back foot/leg that is simply coming around with a short stride in playing grab and one is defeating the purpose of getting out front all together.

The back leg swings around instead of going up first and that turns our back hip…when our back hip turns too soon it fights against the front hip which is locked into the ground by being the only one of two feet on the the ground. Because our lead leg is locked up so to speak, the back foot coming around causes our back hip to come around too soon and it forces our upper half to get away from proper direction to the target. It has to turn towards glove side other wise the knee will give way out front.

When the above takes place and there is a short stride it magnifies the problem…in my opinion…

What I do to correct these two bad habits is have kids think heel to sky all the time and think nothing of bringing the back leg around because again it happens naturally.

I also want them to stride further then they need to simply to play catch. This enables them to work more on getting out front which in turn helps them to get mor heel to the sky…especially if they are concentrating on proper direction and bringing the chest to the target.

After all the head should get more out front…some guys say head over knee others take is as far as head over lead toes…the bottom line is the head cannot be going to the glove side more then directional towards the targert because if it is then undoubtedly the chest will follow…

…then not being out front…having a harder time throwing down hill and not getting extended which will not gain distance among other things.

Hopefully this type written rant makes sense…

I think I understand what you are saying. I certainly agree that a lot of bad habits are formed when playing catch. I see a lot of team practices where the kids spend time at the beginning of practice playing catch and they’re chit-chatting and not paying attention to what they’re doing. And guess what? Neither are the coaches! When I was coaching, that part of practice right after we did our warm-ups and the kids paired up and played catch was called “throwing practice”. And I walked around keeping them focused and throwing with proper mechanics.

Now, my take on things is a bit different than your’s. First, I try to avoid what I call “backward thinking” which I define as thinking about what’s happening behind you. I like my pitchers thinking about what’s in front of them. Also, while I agree with you about laziness and short strides, I don’t believe stride length is something you specifically try for. Instead, I believe stride length is a result of other things such as momentum, good posture and good glove side management. So, even though we’re talking about just playing catch, I’d suggest putting the focus on moving the feet to get the whole body moving towards the target. That’s what fielders do and it’s what pitchers do. Ideally.

when i play catch, obviously the intensity at 90-120 ft is minimal… so should i take a shuffle step or add a litle bit of motion to create a little bit of momentum to have a more fluid delivery playing catch?

some throws on long toss since i use such little effort my body gets lazy and loses athleticism…

when im at 200ft+ i have good fluid motion and extension over my lead leg

Roger I agree with you and I am going to steal your verbage of “throwing practice” if you don’t mind…:slight_smile:

As far as “backward thinking” I believe what your take is when you make this comment and mine is proabably about the same as yours. Meaning the front side of every thing is far more important then the backside. I could not agree more!

However with guys like us who believe in this approach we sometimes fall victim to not paying nearly enough attention to the back side specifically in my opinion the back leg swinging around too soon…guys who take our front side approach at times think the front side will correct this bad habit of the front side will be so strong in the fundamental proper respect that the back leg swinging around ever so slightly will have no affect. This is something I do not agree on as I firmly believe the back leg swinging first is a direct result of poor direction later regardless of whether or not the front side is solid as a rock or not…not the improper affect from the back leg swing will be far less detrimental the stronger the front side is but just the same…

As far as stride let me clarify…I mentioned lazy catch. When players are warming up espcially at short distances we could put them on their rears and for most players/ages they would be able to throw the ball say 60’. My point is they do not need their legs nearly as much at short distances. What happens in my opinion is players of all ages get lazy with that lead leg/stride…they generally open up too far or not enough, or they swing the lower half of the leg open which gate swings the front side leg and hip. All of these are not conducive to helping one get out front.

Simply stated a lazy front leg and “catch stride” is exactly what it is; lazy.

I too do not believe stride length is something you pay attention to in teaching principles however remember I was simply talking about playing catch and not building bad habits.

I totally agree that stride length is a result of momentum and in part the other things you mentioned. To clarify further I do not see the need to have kids striding out to full length by any means when they are playing catch. What I was trying to get at is more towards the kids who are way across their body with a lazy lead leg/foot or too much to the glove side…or the swing open of the lower half of the lead leg…all of these things are prevalalent in many instances when players are playing lazy catch and not thinking about direction…not stride distance but proper direction.

Now I believe I mentioned something about striding out further but to clarify that what I was getting at is the more we ask our players to stride out a bit further (not maximum distance by any means) the more apt they are to remain on good direction towards the target as compared to being lazy with their lead leg/foot and being across or swinging to the glove side.

Getting back to the back foot/leg swing I reiterate that I am a firm believer in front side being far more important and alot of things on the back simply take care of themselves if the front is doing its job. However I cannot stress enough that unless a player is playing catch building solid habits of heel to the sky first they are undoubtedly going to be swinging the back foot around and getting lazy with it.

In closing, I had the opportunity to coach a former major league pitcher of 7 or 8 years son for three season and after that I had the opportunity in college to coach with him during fall ball. At one time he was the Kansas City Royals Minor League Pitching Coordinator for several years and presently he is a AAA Pitching Coach. No one I have ever been around has coached front side mechanics more then him. Yet he was constantly talking about “heel to the sky.” Matter of fact that was basically the only thing he focused on with the back side because as you stated in a sense, the front side will dictate what the back side does.

I take my approaches to a large extent from him when it comes to front side and also back side “heel to the sky.”

One day I had the opportunity to sit in the bull pen of a KC spring training game in a chair about 15’ from the catchers while they ran all their non-40 man guys through various drills…he never once talked about back side with any of those cats except “heel to the sky” about 100 times. His biggest focal point with that was not letting the back leg swing around or begin to until the ball was about ready to pass into slot…he wanted drive or as he put it “lift” of the back foot which he said was a major contributing factor to getting more out front and allowing the back side to work in conjunction with what the front side was doing…by letting the back leg swing out too soon it would be fighting the whole principle of front side mechanics being the mainstay of pitching…made sense to me and still does to this day.

I picked up a great deal from this baseball friend of mine and to a very large extent about ten years ago he changed no less then 75% of my approach to teaching pitching mechanics…I can tell you are knowledgeable and I am grateful to have had the exchange of knowledge with you. Like you would probably agree coaching has alot to do with the beg borrow and stealing of other guys information.

Great discussion and I want to thank you for that!

Drew never loose site of extension regardless of the distance you are playing catch.

Look at it this way…we play catch alot more then we do other things espcially at youth levels. Therefore this is why a lot of HS and below level players have poor throwing habits, because they play poor catch.

General rule of thumb for me has always been for all players regardless of position to play fundamentally sound catch.

Secondly if one cannot do this when they are talking about whatever with their teammates then they do not talk…:slight_smile:

As a pitcher I always like to have these guys play “pitcher catch” which means incorporating to at least a decent extent regardless of distance playing catch like they would pitch…excluding the wind up, the stretch ect.

Another way of looking at proper catch is play with a partner who plays the positions you play. By doing this you and your partner can work on position specific things…

In closing just becuase you are 100’ feet away and could throw it to your partner on your knees does not mean you should not play as fundamentally sound of catch as you are cable of…catch/grab is the creator of many, many, many poor throwing habits.