Lower Leg Kick

My college coach has been telling me to “pitch taller.” I’m about 6’4" and he wants my back leg and my back to be straighter so that my ball has more of a downward angle toward the plate. He also wants me to lower my leg kick so that it doesn’t go much above my waist. I understand the logic of pitching taller, but I don’t understand keeping my back leg straight and lowering my leg kick. I feel like I’m losing power. Any thoughts anyone?

“I understand the logic of pitching taller, but I don’t understand keeping my back leg straight and lowering my leg kick. I feel like I’m losing power”

Have you discussed it with him? It is very important to communicate with your coach and try to understand his strategy in regards to where he’s going with your training.
When you break/bend your back leg (Many people) you lose power and effects your timeing. As to the leg kick it all sounds like he’s attempting to adjust your timing all together. The main idea is to reach the power position at foot strike, this, many/most believe, gives you the greatest chance at developing velocity. Now are you being gunned? If so how has it really effected your velo? I know that when my son pitches most efficiently, he feels like hes not throwing his hardest, but every time he does (Throw at his most efficient) he tops out at his highest speeds.

I have talked to my coach about this. He said the lower leg kick is supposed to keep me tall (the higher the kick, the more likely I am to bend forward toward the lifted knee). He said the straight back leg shouldn’t affect my velocity, although I feel like I’m pushing with my foot and ankle rather than using my thigh and butt muscles. My velocity is down about 5 mph this year, but I think part of the reason is that I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my back and I couldn’t pitch at all this summer. I wasn’t worried about it because I thought my arm just needed to get back into pitching shape, but I still haven’t recovered any velocity yet. And now he’s tinkering with my mechanics so I can’t tell if it’s because of my back or the change in mechanics. I just feel lost and all my coach tells me is I’ve got to work harder.

The back injury throws a big monkey wrench into the picture. But I will say two things.

First, most pitchers will bend a bit at the waist (and knees) to adjust to a more athletic posture - that posture for which they have the strength and flexibility to maintain through their delivery. For example, many pitchers start by standing up straight on the rubber and then they squat as they get into their stride. It might be due to their knee lift or it might not be. Ultimately, they need to get into a posture where they can most effectively do all the things that make up the pitching delivery (e.g. long stride, hip and shoulder separation, trunk extension/flexion, etc.). The problem with this is that there is extra unnecessary movement (particularly of the head) as well as energy being directed in the vertical plane (once you start to squat you have to exert force downward to terminate the squatting motion). Ideally, we want all movement and force being directed toward the target. So, I see what your coach is telling you to do as being self-defeating. By making you stand up straight, he is just about guaranteeing that you will bend at the waist. If he doesn’t want you to bend at the waist, he should have you start with a bend in the waist and knees so that there is no further “squatting” during your stride. Of course, then you wouldn’t be tall but I think this is more important as eliminating inappropriate head movement leads to more consistency of release point.

Second, I feel keeping the back leg straight certainly can affect your velocity because it will make it more difficult to generate momentum. But the real question is when and for how long does your coach want you to keep the leg straight? At some point the back leg needs to bend. Trying to keep the leg straight beyond that point will be awkward and ineffective. When I try to imagine a pitcher keeping his back leg straight, I envision a pitcher who is “staying back” and reaching the “balance point” instead of getting it going and building momentum. And that doesn’t sound good to me. I’d guess that your stride isn’t as long as it could/should be and your release point isn’t out front as far as it could be. But that’s just a guess.

How long have you been throwing since you were cleared to throw after recovering from the pars fracture? Are you still in a brace? What type of program did you use for recovery? When my son was shut down for a long time his velocity was about 5 mph less than we expected after rehab. It turned out to be due to an internal rotation deficit. (His shoulder got tight.) He went to PT to stretch the shoulder and got the 5 mph right away. You may want to have the trainer check your range of motion.

Thanks for the replies…this is great.

To Roger – what you are saying makes sense. In fact, your point about having difficulty generating momentum is exactly how I feel. I spoke with my coach again, and he said it’s most important that I stay tall. I’m thinking I can still stay tall and still flex my knee on my push leg, but only slightly. I’m going to work on that. Coach also said he doesn’t want my leg kick higher than my waist for control purposes.

To CADad – I’ve been throwing for about a month now after a three month layoff. I still have to wear my brace, but I don’t wear it when I pitch because it feels too confining. I went to PT for about 2 1/2 months and he worked mainly on core stuff…planks, med balls, etc., but not a lot of weight. He said it was ok for me to lift on my own on upper body, but no squats, lunges, running, or a lot of the leg stuff required in my off season program. My back doesn’t hurt as much as it did last spring, but I can still feel something there. Why would your son’s shoulder be affected by a stress fracture in his lower back? And what stretches did he do for his shoulder? Thanks.

I’ve used the same approach as your coach, but for 3 reasons:
First – some pitchers bring a form and rhythm with them to a club that’s not exactly a good fit for that pitcher’s size, pitch selection, spot in the rotation, and so on. So, sometimes a bad habit in body movement – or lack thereof, requires adjustments, a little at a time. I had a transfer player that had a habit of lifting his stride leg so high, that as he progressed forward his stride foot would come down so far off to the side that he violently threw across himself – his shoulders collapsed inward, resulting in discomfort at the base of neck and in the small of the back. So I started with small adjustments by first lowering his leg lift - which gave him more control with his stride forward, — then when he got accustomed to that we moved on to other disciplines.
Second, - It takes time to adjust to a coach’s direction(s) and sometimes change is not an easy process. What’s even more frustrating is the pitch selection that a player may be use to commanding,
may be gone partially or even totally with a revised posture. However, it’s not uncommon to command other pitches because of changes brought about by a pitching coach. Even more important, when a pitcher has been shown a form that suits him best – pitch selection is normally narrowed down to about three good ones, each with a high degree of dependability.
Third, - every pitcher in a club’s rotation is there for a specific reason. In other words, some are there because they can deal cheese all day long – but cheese gets hit if its not mixed up with other
stuff. Then there’s the junk guys that’ll destroy a lineup that only reaches for the fence. And then there are those that bring a collection of specialty pitches to park – and their my favorite.

So, all in all – perhaps your pitching coach is trying to bring the best out in you based on his experience and his observations of your work. Also, perhaps he notices potential in you for a good fit somewhere done the line – fitting into a spot on your club’s rotation like I mentioned above.

With respect to talking with your coach about his directing your form – USE CAUTION HERE. Wait for a time when you notice him in a fairly good mood, and compliment him on his assistance with your learning this craft. But, don’t over do it. Simply be polite, but direct. Don’t be surprised if he hit’s on some of the things that I mentioned above. Just remember – your there for a purpose that’s deemed specific by your coaches – - their not there for you. I know that sounds selfish, and it’s not very flattering to you, but you’ve got to think why you were selected in the first place. Was it that they could play ball for you — or that you could play ball FOR THEM. After all, this
is college ball – not home town ball.

I hope this helps.

Coach Baker


Please take a moment to address the following questions below. I’ve had experience with players back from rehab and there are some things that are CUSTOMARY in stituations like this that are designed to protect you, the insitution that your attending, and all staff members.

If you feel that these are just to personal to address here, that’s understandable. I would, however, suggest that you list these questions and talk them over with your folks.
Coach B.

As far as you know, is your pitching coach, a pitching coach in the true sense of the word? Or is he a staff coach that has pitching/infield/batting and other coaching duties?
Do you and your teammates have regular pitching staff meetings?
Does everyone on the pitching staff (pitchers) meet with a trainer with scheduled appointments?
Have you’ve been asked to provide a MedicalWaiver completed by your family or an independent doctor then mailed directly to the Baseball Office or Director ofAthletics?
Do you know if your pitching coach has had experience with players (pitchers) who have returned from a rehab program B4?
How many pitchers do you have on your club that you consider -realistically, to be genuine pitchers? (THIS QUESTION IS IMPORTANT)
What’s been your clubs track record - win & loss? Would you say:
What if any documentation was supplied to your Baseball Office AND the Director of Athletics after your back problem was confirmed?

Coach B,
First of all, thanks for taking the time and interest in my situation. I’ll answer your questions as best I can:

We have a pitching coach, but the head coach instructs us as to mechanics, strategy, and how we’re used. The head coach apparently was a pretty good D2 pitcher (I’m on a D3 team), but I’m not sure of his past qualifications as a pitching coach. I don’t really know anything about the pitching coach, but I guess he’s been around for a while, even longer than our head coach.

We do have regular pitching staff meetings during the season. The pitching coach runs them and occassionally the head coach will join us. Right now neither coach has much contact with us. The lower leg lift instruction was something I was told to work on over the winter on my own.

We only meet with the trainers if we have something wrong.

The entire team is required to complete a medical waiver every fall. We sign them during the orientation meeting. Our family doctor signed it my freshman year, but not since.

We’ve had pitchers with arm/shoulder problems that have returned to play, but as far as I know I’m the only one who’s had a stress fracture in my back. I don’t know about pitchers before I was here.

Last year we had 11 pitchers on the roster and they were all good pitchers, in my opinion. I think I was about 8th on the depth chart. We lost 5 pitchers from last year, and with recruits and transfers we now have 14 before the spring cuts. He told me after fall ball that he feels I’m in the bottom half. I’m a sophomore, by the way.

Our club has been pretty successful recently – we’ve won our conference 3 of the last 4 years, but we can’t seem to get out of regionals.

I had to complete a medical form at orientation and I listed my back as an injury. The head coach collected the forms. I worked with a physical therapist over the summer at home, and she emailed our trainer here at school with the things that she was working on me. I’ve seen our trainer about 2-3 times since Sept 1, but it’s not a regular thing.

Coach B, maybe you could answer a question from a coach’s point of view that my dad and I are disagreeing about. I can still feel some pain in my back when I throw but it’s not nearly as bad as it was 3 or 4 months ago. After I throw, sometimes it hurts worse than other days. My dad says I have to tell my coach this. I’m reluctant to tell him because I don’t want to run to him every time my back hurts. He’ll think I’m a whiner and I don’t want to give him that as a reason to cut me loose. As a coach, would you rather know about this or only the major stuff? Thanks.

Thank you for responding to my questions - you did the right thing in
being honest about the situation your in and I will address your question(s) directly. Your situation has many ups & downs to it So, to do justice to your question(s) and your situation I’m going to take the time to explain things to you that may be off the scope - kind of, that many players in college ball don’t get a chance to see. Please give me some time to address your situation with the completeness that it deserves. It’s important.

Coach B.

I posted a rather long reply to your queston and I PM it to you.

I hope I’ve addressed some to the issues that apply to your situation. I have players that have had rehab issues and each is unique and very, very demanding of a club’s resources. As a coach, I’ve always gone on the side of caution - because there is life after college ball. And it’s that horizon that a lot of young men can’t seem to focus on.

I wish you the very best in your college experience. Also, please include your dad when reading my posts. And if you feel it’s necessary, let your head coach (skipper) read it also.

Coach B.

He didn’t hurt his shoulder, he hurt his elbow. He had an olecranon stress fracture from throwing too hard and often while playing 3rd base during practice while in the brace. The shoulder was probably already a bit tight and as a result put more stress on the elbow. In addition, being in the brace led to poor mechanics putting more stress on the elbow. The shoulder problem was simply having been off too long and having the shoulder tighten up. He did sleeper stretches to loosen up the shoulder among other stretches.

As far as the continuing pain in your back you need to see your doctor. Pars injuries can take a very long time to heal fully and it is easy to re-injure it. There are some things you can do such as Low Intensity Ultrasound or using one of the electromagnetic field devices that they’ve shown speed bone healing. Only a few insurance companies will pay for them, but they are used by Olympic and professional athletes to speed bone healing. Some athletic departments and some PTs will have a LIUS device. It isn’t the same thing as the theraputic ultrasound that creates heat that virtually every PT office has.

The top guy in the country as far as Pars injuries is at Children’s Hospital in Boston and he’s got the local insurance provider to OK the electrical treatment for Pars defects.


To be honest, the fact that you are pitching while not in your brace and you are still feeling pain probably means that you’ve re-injured it. Go see a doctor. You may not realize it but it may be limiting your velocity without your knowing it. My son was able to throw every pitch at the same max velocity but couldn’t get any higher just before we realized he was injured. That isn’t normal. Generally pitchers throw at one speed and have a few pitches during a session go a bit higher, but we think the injury was putting a limit on him. Then the pain got worse, his velocity dropped off even more and we got him right to the doctor.