Leg Raise Balance Point


#1

Hi all. Finished up pitch coaching my first year of 8U’s. Saw some nice progress with the little guys.

It seems to me that coming to a paused Balance Point (top of leg raise) is killing rhythm and momentum, and even balance with some of our young pitchers. Since this was the first year of pitching for them, we did lots of rudimentary drills and exercises, and only focused on training a few major movements in the pitch windup. I had them do lots of stationary balance drills, holding a stationary leg raise for 10+ seconds, etc., so they could gain some consistency in starting their movements.

Throughout the season, a couple of our pitchers picked up a “pause habit” at leg raise during the games, and it seemed to affect their accuracy. Earlier in the season, when their leg raise, drop, and stride was more fluid and they avoided that very upright paused balance point, they seemed to pitch better.

I’m wondering if stationary one-leg balance drills, holding for several seconds, are good or bad for young pitchers? Does it encourage them to bleed power and momentum by standing up too straight and still at leg raise?

I played around with widening their stance in stretch/set position, almost forcing them to avoid that vertical balance point pause at leg raise, leaving the hips out in front of the stance leg “head starting” them to hip lead. And of course, verbal cues to not pause, keep the leg raise and stride moving smoothly, etc.

Anyone have familiarity, and advice, with what I’m talking about?

TIA.


#2

I think you are mostly on the right track.

Balance in the pitching delivery is not a static thing. It is dynamic and happens throughout the entire delivery. As such, the balance point drill is not valuable and could, in fact, teach an undesirable movement pattern. If you look at the best pitchers in the game, most do not come to a point where they could pause and balance. Instead, by peak of knee lift, their center of mass (think hips) has already shifted toward home plate.

Also, injecting a pause into the delivery requires more functional strength to manage consistently. Yes, there are MLB pitchers (especially the Japanese pitchers) who employ a pause, but they have years of practice and plenty of functional strength. 8u’s don’t.

Regarding the wide stance, your intent is good. However, in young kids a wide stance will likely require a weight shift back towards 2B in order to lift the front knee. That creates a change in direction of movement that the pitchers will have to manage.and that can be a source of inconsistency. At higher levels, that makes pitchers slower to the plate and tips off base runners that the pitcher is going to the plate.


#3

Thank you, Roger.

Any advice on what I could focus on the next couple-few years to avoid this static Balance Point, and getting COM moving better (earlier) toward the plate?


#4

Precisionchiro

I couldn’t agree with Roger any more. Perfectly said

Steve


#5

Here are a couple drills that focus on momentum towards the plate:

Hershiser Drill

Crossover Drill
(Video is of the Crossover Towel Drill but drill can be done pitching a ball instead. Notice the starting set-up – front leg crossed over the back leg, knees bent to allow both feet to be flat on the ground, front hip pre-set pushed out towards home plate.)


#6

Balance in the pitching delivery is not a static thing. It is dynamic and happens throughout the entire delivery.

Roger has pretty much summed up the process. In as much as you want this, across the board with those that you’re coaching, you must consider the population that you\re dealing with - 8U. That said, pitching requires a lot of muscular coordination and preparation with expecting a chain of events. The choreography that your looking at - youngster to youngster, should give you a pretty good idea of the dynamics involved. Some youngsters have “it”, while others less so.

For youngsters in the pre high school age group, I’d suggest coaching the best you can, being consistent with your guidelines and techniques. Yes, certain drills are helpful and very instructional. But - you’re dealing with a population that you have very little control with, much less their attention span. This is not to say that it’s impossible to achieve a certain level of accomplishments, but I’d focus on the basics… strictly the basics on postures and repetitive movements customized to the individuals involved. Stocky youngsters have a completely different set of issues to deal with than your slender guys, and at that, some youngsters will come to the park rested and ready to go, while others will show up half-awake and half-asleep.
I personally give you credit for what you’re doing. My admiration to you for your patience and your willingness to give up your time to help these youngsters. I volunteered for two summers while in-between coaching jobs, and it was a test of my metal, to be sure. Going home every night, and especially from away games, had me saying hello to the Mrs. then looking for my ole buddy Jim Beam. It got that bad.


#7

Come to thing of it, I had a guy who use to hold his leg lift shallow for a few seconds then drop it and drive forward. His consistency was “if-ee” at best, adding to the mix were his pitches contrary to what was called for.

Come to find out, one of our backstops hit it on the nail with his observations. It seemed that our pitcher’s concentration on the entire pitching process started from the “holding” of the stride leg. This late “think” process did nothing for the guy. In fact, during a session of start-n-stop was thrown out of his choreography, his continuous movement lead to better velocity, better accuracy and even a lower ERA.

Now granted, it was difficult to break bad habits - especially for a guy in in mid 30’s, but it was evident to me that a continuous motion is the best way to develop and maintain all the things that you want from your pitching staff - regardless of age.

On the other hand if the youngsters are pitching off a surface with holes and lose sand-dirt, any apprehension is understandable.


#8

Thank you for the responses thus far. Very helpful, even just as a reminder to have “realistic” expectations from my young players.

My plan for the next 2-3 years is to continue focusing on fundamentals, not get too technical or analytical just yet, and make adjustments and subtle “course corrections” for each kid as he needs them. And hopefully keep filling the toolbox with fun drills and exercises.