Two items of importance first need be addressed:
- If youth baseball (specifically Little League/Independent League/Ripken League) is no longer an area of interest to you, stop reading and continue on to another post.
- This post is long, probably the longest you’ll read. Since the subject is of vital importance, it needs to be read entirely.
If you’re still with me, please continue…
I’m a little mystified by the lack of response by some coaches (who are in many cases parents) to an issue raised within the content of the sticky by Chris O’Leary. While MANY have looked, FEW have spoken. Could the reason for the collective “silence” be found within any the following questions?
As coaches, is “youth baseball” so much in our personal pasts (as we have advanced in our coaching levels) that it no longer concerns us? Has it become a “non-issue” because it is not directly relevant to where we presently are in our coaching lives? Are we so “tradition-based” (particularly in light of what science-based technology has been doing to “belief-based” teaching) that we are afraid to look at or think about the fact that we may be wrong in what we have been doing or allowing to exist? As parents/coaches, because our kids made it through “unscathed” (or at least, to us, it appears that way), it is not a “front-burner” issue? Are we so content/complacent that we don’t see the need for a possible change in the system that presently exists for youth baseball?
Dr. Marshall offers a number of statements in his book that many, as Chris O’Leary pointed out, would believe extreme (go to Dr. Marshall’s web site if you wish detail.)
If we were to incorporate Dr. Marshall’s recommendations, we would kiss Little League baseball (and Independent League baseball) goodbye as it presently exists. As intimidating a thought as that is, IS that what we should consider doing? Are we starting the kids too early and expecting too much? Are we so content with the “system” as it is – even though we are now being made aware through science that much of what we have been doing is wrong, is injurious, and/or has no validity – that we, instead, choose to turn our individual backs? Are we just so happy to watch our kids play within the existing system (particularly if they are doing well) that we are willing to make them expendable? Are we so intimidated by the thought that new findings may require radical change to the programs we’re presently involved with that we don’t even want to THINK about it, much less offer comments on it?
If today’s research validates the need for radical change, shouldn’t we make it? If these findings aren’t just words, but, in fact, the legitimate conclusions drawn by scientific analysis, how can we NOT discuss it? How is it NOT a vitally important issue?
I believe my responsibility as a pitching instructor goes beyond teaching an athlete how to properly throw a ball. It should also include educating the society around that athlete on how to create an environment that will encourage and permit the best use of the talents he/she possesses; one that minimizes the potential for temporary or permanent injury by providing a system that at least reduces the opportunity for abuse.
Dr. Marshall’s scientifically supported statement -
“Youth pitchers destroy their pitching arms before their growth plates mature. They pull the ossification center for their medial epicondyle off the shaft of the humerus. The rebound collisions of their radial head against the capitular end of the humerus deforms the radial head into uselessness. They pre-maturely close the growth plates of their pitching arm, which reduces the adult length of their humerus. All for what? Adolescent glory?” (Chapter 29 – Section VII – paragraph one)
- would cause any responsible pitching coach/parent concern.
While I DO NOT advocate the ultimate destruction of what many consider to be a valuable, responsible organization – Little League baseball – because of the conclusions drawn by one man, even if his findings have validity, they at least deserve our attention.
Realizing that some of you may consider this “much ado about nothing” and in the interest of offering more credible input, I contacted several people who have spent their lives teaching pitching, men whose opinions I (and many coaches) have come to respect, whose teaching methods I (and, again, many coaches) have incorporated into my own – Tom House, Dick Mills, Joe “Spanky” McFarland, and Bill Thurston.
I have great faith (NOT blind faith) in what they have to say because they have done the research to find the evidence to support their conclusions.
I asked each the following two questions:
With science-based technology now causing a re-writing/altering of “belief-based” education have any of your “findings” led you to believe that the present structure of Little League baseball needs to be amended/changed with reference to pitching?
What are your thoughts on the findings of fellow pitching authority, Dr. Mike Marshall’s statement? (see above)
These were their comments:
“Today’s youth pitchers pitch too much and don’t throw enough. We are flat ground throwers by species (think rocks at rabbits to eat). Our kids today specialize in baseball and only throw during a practice or a game, not enough for the immature arm to accommodate the throwing motion. Every youngster should play different sports (train the athlete) and play catch year-round to “train the arm.” Pitching is an in-season only activity.”
“Little League could rewrite it’s ideas of when games are played based on how kids recover after pitching…too many games played on successive days and why that adversely effects injury. Also supporting better ideas on how pitching should be taught along with emphasizing mechanical skills over winning with a focus on fault recognition and correction through video analysis. Winning could be de-emphasized…but not completely. Coaches need education from evidence based information rather than belief.
I have not seen Mike Marshall’s evidence based information. Although he has a Ph.D. I have not seen any studies to support his use of “iron ball” throwing or on his mechanics. He wants you to believe because his is saying it. Where is his evidence to support how much youth pitchers should throw or not throw. Where is his research that has been “peer reviewed” by other scientists? We all must be accountable.”
Joe “Spanky” McFarland:
“i think i agree with mike marshall. i’m not smart enough to know exactly what he said. i just recently went through the whole little process with my son and i was amazed at what goes on. all the pitching rules are predicated on innings pitched and not on # of pitches. you can throw 10 pitches over 2 innings and have to sit for a day, but you can throw 50 pitches in one inning and pitch 6 innings the next day. most of what i believe is just common sense. although my son went through the allstar season, his coaches knew that if he was chosen that he would be on a pitch count and that he didn’t throw breaking balls. i also required him to throw long toss, at least every other day. as a college coach, i find it amazing that over 50% of my pitchers either did not pitch in little league or pitched very little. i agree that most little league parents and coaches are caught up in the moment and don’t think long term. i don’t know all the answers but i know as a parent you have to think long term and put your foot down from time to time and just say no.”
I’m still waiting for a reply from Bill Thurston.
If these “authorities” on pitching are concerned, shouldn’t we be?
The extreme popularity of THIS WEB SITE is due to the fact that coaches/players want/need answers, want to discuss/exchange info about pitching. The number of hits on a thread while covering subjects like “change-ups” (483 views), “dissecting pitching mechanics” (330 views), “mechanics problem” (268 views), and “improving arm speed” (266 views), demonstrates that this forum is valuable, that this forum is interested in providing the best info it can to/for its participants.
Coach DeLunas, coach Dixon, coach Kreber, coach ric, CADad, 3rdgeneration, Jon’s_dad, Coach DaD, centerfield2150, even you, Steve - you’ve all been there. I’ve read many of your posts and they reveal that you’ve all spent a great deal of time educating yourselves to be able to properly teach your players – particularly your sons.
With the awareness that you’ve been in the “baseball business” for years, if at the end of one of your teaching sessions, a parent (or better yet – a “youth” coach) asked you if Little League - as we presently know it – should be altered or even scrapped, what would your answer be? I know I’m putting you guys on the spot (sorry), but since my “teaching” days are not over, and believing that a wise man is one who listens to (and profits from) the wisdom, education and experience of others, your comments would certainly be valued and appreciated.