How Much Pushing Your Son to Pitch Is Too Much?

When does encouragement cross the line into overbearing?

My 8-soon-to-be-9 yo is one of the top pitchers (control, velocity and mechanics) amongst his peers in our area.

A year ago, he said he doesn’t want to pitch anymore - too much pressure. He was 7-going-on-8 pitching in a 10U league.

This year, he excelled on the mound across regular 8U summer travel and in tournaments - pitching strikes after strike in Quarter-, semi- and championship games and coming into bases loaded no out games and getting out without allowing any runs in.

Given these facts, should he be simply encouraged or should more be done? (I have been asked by other parents ask why I am not getting him higher level attention/training.)

The answer is…because he’s friggen 8!!!

His mechanics will change with puberty and strength, until then, it’s solid fundamentals…as much FUN as you can squeeze in there…and every opportunity to play the positions that he enjoys…at 8, literally nothing else…and I mean nothing else matters…pushing here can and does lead to hating the game/art, screws up your relationship with him…your wife…like I said…none of that BS matters (Instruction will ONLY help the instructors wallet after he has the fundamental delivery down).
Once he hits puberty…still shows solid skills AND enthusiasm…then, instruction…spend the intervening years learning who knows what about pitching instruction and arm health maintenance in your area.

I’m a little confused on the timeline… last year, he said he didn’t want to pitch any more, but then this year he pitched great?

I think the key is to figure out what’s really bothering him about pitching. Does he sense an expectation to perform that puts extra pressure on him?

Overall, I’d say that pitching is fun and there will always be plenty of kids who want to do it, so why give innings to someone who doesn’t want them?

And, finally – tell those other parents (the one who want you to take him to the next level) to mind their own business, in so many words. He’s only eight! Less pitching now is probably better – in terms of arm health – for his long-term prospects anyway.

Yes. And I agree he felt too much pressure due to expectations of me, his friends, etc.

Since he did pitch great, should I have let him not pitch based on his 7 yo words or should I encourage him to keep doing it? Hindsight is 20/20 as he has done well, likes to pitch to me in the backyard, gets a lot of positive feedback from others unrelated to him, etc.

But this is the thrust of the issue - how to not go beyond the boundaries of encouragement and support?

FWIW, I have been surprised to even be asked why I didn’t send him for private instruction. Yet I have been. There is no way I’m laying out that kind of cash prior to puberty for pitching instruction.

I do admit to the temptation for infield/catcher lessons though. He really enjoys all positions in the field and we don’t enjoy easy access to open spaces. :smiley:

Let him play where he wants. He’s 8, not 18 signing a National Letter of Intent. He’s got a long way to go. Let him have fun and enjoy the game. If he wants to play right field (or wherever) then let him.

This ^^^

The answer is…because he’s friggen 8!!!

His mechanics will change with puberty and strength, until then, it’s solid fundamentals…as much FUN as you can squeeze in there…and every opportunity to play the positions that he enjoys…at 8, literally nothing else…and I mean nothing else matters…pushing here can and does lead to hating the game/art, screws up your relationship with him…your wife…like I said…none of that BS matters (Instruction will ONLY help the instructors wallet after he has the fundamental delivery down).
Once he hits puberty…still shows solid skills AND enthusiasm…then, instruction…spend the intervening years learning who knows what about pitching instruction and arm health maintenance in your area.[/quote]

Well said, you might want to consider letting your son decide whether to continue or not. He’ll realize everything when he hits puberty. And when he does and chooses to pitch again, that’s the time you should have a trainer to wipe every paper in your wallet.

A local parent of an eight-year-old followed my blog and site and loved what we did and wanted to sign his kid up for lessons. I repeatedly told him “no,” because at that age they should simply play for the fun of it. To get better, take some reps, throw “long toss” (aka play catch), and keep the game fun. And put down the equipment for 4-5 months every year.

That kid is now 11 years old and his father strongarmed me into training his 11U team, to which I finally acquiesced. And at 11U I’m fine with working with them twice per week, and they are throwing harder, staying healthier, and are way ahead of their peers (mean velocity is in the low 60’s, which I guess is good for that age group).

And none of them had regimented training programs before they were 10. Even now, we keep it fun and don’t overdo it.

Testosterone is the name of the game and understanding that there is a wide variation between biological and chronological ages is vital.

It ain’t where you start. It’s where you finish.

Completely agree with JD and Kyle. My son’s PONY League All-Star team went undefeated through three big tournaments to get to the World Series. They were a group of some of the best 14 year old ball players I have ever run across. Today, 1 plays DII and 1 plays DI. No one else is playing beyond High School. By the way, the two kids playing at the college level just LOVED them game. However, everyone loved that team and they still talk about it to this day. They are even talking about a reunion.

At 8 years old, it’s just way too early. I actually think Kyle’s approach to the 11 year olds (caution and fun) is the perfect approach at that age. In my experience, the big and early developers dominate at the Little League level. But then puberty levels it all out. The big diamond and the love of the game are HUGE seperators. At this point, all you can do is worry about the love of the game.

That’s how fall baseball went. I’d ask how the game went or practice, and he’d tell me whatever he remembered. It was always something positive.

Back to the question about crossing the line for encouragement to pushing too hard. What if the local baseball culture is being run by adults who push for nearly year long participation and subsequent “penalty” for the children who don’t do that?

Well, two things…1st he’s 8 so you have plenty of time to search out other associations, 2nd, 1865 was a very long time ago…if that sort of thing bothers you…it does others too. It takes courage to stand in the face of peer pressure that makes it appear as if your little one will miss out on a seeming good thing…one or two parents begin bucking the trend and all of a sudden those folks who penalize don’t have enough for a team.
If you choose to not play that game…there are other methods for developing your kid without your wallet and your child being enslaved and fodder for the “year-long” march to some worthless plastic trophy…he won’t not be a pro if he misses, he won’t be outcast (Except for the morons who wrote the stupid “rule”)…really outside of the mind (s) who create such a meme…your son will be no worse and likely better in tuned to his “real” desire to play without them.

Thanks for the advice. Hearing it and doing it are tough in a social setting. Have any other commenters on LTP lived through this?

Well…actually I have…we walked away from a travel situation at 12…we were “gonna miss out”.
We continued with rec but went to more and more opportunities at a local university…I was lucky/smart/dumb enough to have already coached another son for a decade and knew that post puberty is where it gets to mattering, none of the small field stuff was of any consequence and a poor predictor…my son ended up with a full ride and the lowest ERA in his HS schools history…
Are these guys buddies of yours or just exerting huge pressure?

And heck yes it’s tough to turn away from “Elite” stuff but you seem comfortable in your own skin, focus on the kid it will work out.

Playing on Elite teams and playing up can be great opportunities for some kids or they can be seen by the kids as jobs, especially pitchers.

My son was “recruited” to play on an Elite 12 yo team when he was a young 11. He was to be a pitcher with very little playing time other than pitching and very few at bats.
Tryouts and practices for this team began in early January. The coach was a former pro pitcher and treated his pitchers as such. They worked out and practiced separately from the team with only some interaction with position players. A lot of pressure was placed on the pitchers to perform.
Like most 11 year old’s my son wanted to play and not sit the bench waiting for his turn in the rotation.
Needless to say the kid felt like he was going to a job. He wasn’t having any fun, except when he pitched and that was typically once per weekend. The rest of the time he watched.
He stuck it out and played through the season. He was asked to return for the Fall season and we politely declined, son wanted to go back and play with his friends.
Allowing him to go back and play with his friends was the best decision I ever made. Yes there was pressure on him from the Elite kids and on me from the parents and coaches, but the important thing at the time was for him to love the game and love to play the game.
He is now a HS Junior and having the time of his life. He is a starting pitcher for his HSV team, playing 1st base, and is a captain of the team.

Let the kids enjoy themselves, play with their friends at young ages, and most importantly let the kids be kids.

My younger son got onto a travel team at age 11. While he played multiple positions, he was one of the top two pitchers on the team. I eventually became the team’s pitching coach. At the time, I had an appreciation for the importance of pitch counts and, in fact, imposed pitch count limits for the pitchers. But what I didn’t yet have an appreciation for was the importance of shutting down part of the year. I did talk to the manager about shutting the kids down for a couple months each year but it never happened. The team ended up playing year-round for 2 years straight. My son ended up with an overuse injury to his throwing elbow (slight growth plate separation). My son was forced to shut down. He eventually healed up fine with no residual symptoms. But I’ve still kicked myself ever since for not putting my foot down. I feel like I let my son down.

Don’t do this to your son or yourself.

Mean velocity for 11U in the low 60s is outstanding, especially for this time of the year.

Is this one of your Showtime kids?

Yes. After running the numbers the mean velocity of the pitchers is right around 60.5 MPH. Again, I don’t know if that is good or not (nor do I really care, it’s 11U baseball!) but what I do know is that they started off considerably lower than that and progress has been solid, if not sustained.

We are transitioning to the mound right now, doing more and more command-specific stuff and laying off the arm strength portion (though we do plenty of arm care, of course).

You care if you’re an 11U’s parent.

I guess I misread; the mean velocity of the entire staff is 60.5? That’s even better. I thought you referring to one boy.

With normal growth a current speed of 60.5 now means 62 or so by spring. That is fan-freakin-tastic for an entire staff. Is this a AAA team?

I suppose so. I just find it hard to get worked up over velocities and things of 11U kids because my main population are very good HS, college, and pro pitchers who know the score going forward. To me, 11U kids should still be having fun. The reason we track velocity is because it’s fun and we do it responsibly - i.e., over time, never a “wind up and let it fly for no reason” situation.

Not sure about AAA teams or anything. I know virtually nothing about “select” or “travel” baseball and I voluntarily try to distance myself from those organizations as much as possible. I coached HS ball and select ball years ago and I’ll never do it again. So besides going to the games to root on my clients and provide support, I don’t know much about it.

BTW, the highest velocity in the group is 64 MPH, I believe. Don’t have my notes here.

I ran the numbers, these are the results after 60 days of training. Readings are the averages of two throws on the radar gun, so maximum velocities are higher than this.