Pitching Instructors vs. Team Coaches


#1

I started taking my 11 year old son to a personal instructor for pitching and another instructor for batting. Both instructors played pro ball and run their business during the day, meaning this is their full time jobs.

My son just started practice with his new little league team. Within 5 minutes the manager is already trying to change what the instructors have been teaching him. What the manager is asking him to do is wrong based on what he has been shown from the pros.

My question is how do I handle this? I’m spending good money to have my son coached by professionals. Any advice would be appreciated.


#2

Just out of curiosity, what is the coach trying to change?

There are gray areas in instruction but that being said telling a kid conflicting information won’t do anyone any good. Once had a coach tell the parents to let him know up front who is getting lessons so they wouldn’t give conflicting info.(He played in the Orioles org.) I adopted that policy and added it to the pre-season parent meeting. I never ran into a problem but if someone was teaching something I didn’t agree with I would have given my take to the Parent without the kid around and let the parent decide. It’s their kid.

Personally I would see if it was a one time thing or something the coach is going to harp on. Some coaches, in the first practice or two, will make some suggestions and then the games start and right or wrong, individual instruction gets very limited. Tell your son there can be more than one way to get it done so listen to your coach give it a try but if what your instructor is telling you is working stick with it. He’s going to have to learn to respectfully deal with coaches and their suggestions eventually. (My 11 yr. old Son just went through this. He points the knob of his bat at the catchers feet with the barrel of the bat slightly angled toward pitcher, the coach wanted bat knob pointed toward home plate, laying the batt off with barrel closer to catcher. I don’t know why. My son took a few swings like that and they sent him on his way. We talked about it and he will return to knob at catchers feet.) If the coach persists then explain the situation. Tell him you know there is more than 1 way to do something but your son loves baseball and wants to get better so you have been getting him lessons and the conflicting info is confusing him. As long as you’re respectful there shouldn’t be a problem. Not sure I would break out the “pro” card because playing at a high level doesn’t always mean they are right or a good coach. And “just” being a little league coach doesn’t mean they’re automatically wrong.


#3

This is something that comes up all throughout baseball. I see it at the high school and college level, too. As a high school varsity pitching coach, I basically ask all the pitchers on my staff who they’re working with, where they’re working and when which helps me formulate a successful plan for each pitcher.


#4

Thanks for the responses…

to RJ: the coaches for his personal training are ex professional players who made it to the big leagues, it’s the little league coach who’s the high school player…


#5

good points earlier… talk it thru respectfully.

In the event you do get conflict, “play” the game with the coach for the season so your kid doesnt lose playing time… unless its HS or above, get to another team next year & consult with the coach in advance so the problem doesnt repeat.

Most coaches will comply… Id be surprised if u have conflict if approached respectfully.

I talk with our coach & take it a step further with my son… I discuss what we are working on & get the coach’s “buy in”… i.e. Can you help us keep an eye on Ty’s front foot getting down/staying closed"? Getting their involvement goes a long ways to getting the results you are looking for.

There are so many proper teaches in baseball… conflicting styles in many cases are each individually correct. Having said that there are also high percentages of coaches who know absolutely nothing about proper mechanics, strategies, positioning etc…

My son and I have discussed this over the last few years… he knows its a reality that he will be given unsolicited advice throughout his playing days. We talked about sticking with your gurus, but keeping an open mind to what others observe suggest.

I think that is as important as the conversation with the coach… as long as your son knows how to handle it & “play” it, then you are solid.


#6

NYDAD,

I understand that and they may be excellent instructors. Personally I have had very good luck with coaches/instructors who have played at the college level and higher, my point being that just because someone played pro ball doesn’t mean they are going to be great instructors or have more knowledge than someone who didn’t play past High School. So the comment wasn’t necessarily about your situation just a general comment to people looking for private lessons. (I’ve never charged for lessons so I don’t have a dog in this fight) The Pitching Coach for Creighton University just wrote an excellent article about this on collegepitchingblog.com “Pitching coaches can only coach pitchers….What?” Definitely worth reading. I posted it on my new site as well. (Isn’t that a new law that everyone must have a web page?) www.youthsportstribune.com
Good luck, I hope the situation gets worked out smoothly and your son can get on with enjoying his season.


#7

The coaches in our rec league are all volunteers, some know a little about baseball and some know next to nothing. None of the coaches, as far as I know, have any baseball experience past playing high school baseball.

I’ve told my son that if he is getting conflicting instruction from his rec league coach, he should politely tell the coach, “I’m working with a pitching/hitting coach, and he 's working on specific (hand position, sequence, stride, whatever), and if you think I should be doing something different, please talk to my dad.”


#8

Welcome to youth baseball. At one time I had 3 rec league coaches (and the head coach’s 12 yr old son), 4 travel team coaches, and a pitching instructor all giving the kid input.

How did I handle it. Dropped out of rec league and made sure the travel coaches knew we had an instructor.


#9

This is a problem that will occur at all levels of the game. You’ll find a coach who will insist that it’s his way or the highway, and there’ll always be one who doesn’t say boo to the pitcher, and when the two tenets, beliefs, what have you, come into conflict with each other who is it who’s caught in the middle? The pitcher, of course. And when either or both don’t know their elbows from third base…big trouble.
The Yankees had to contend with this situation once. Back in the late 1940s there was a pitcher named Fred Sanford who used to pitch for the St. Louis Browns. He wasn’t a bad pitcher, just had the misfortune to pitch for the lousiest team in baseball, but he had something, and so the Yankees acquired him in a trade. And then the trouble started. Sanford had a pitching motion best described as herky-jerky, and it didn’t matter that he was getting the batters out. Pitching coach Jim Turner didn’t like it. Third-base coach Frank Crosetti (and how did he, a former infielder, get mixed up in this?) didn’t like it either. That motion offended the esthetic sensibilities of both coaches, and therein lay their mistake. They wanted Sanford to have a smooth, Spalding Guide-perfect motion—and so they started futzing around with him. They screwed the pooch, was what they did; they got the poor guy so confused he didn’t know which end was up. They ended up destroying him; when they got through with him he wasn’t a good pitcher any more, and by the end of the 1950 season he was traded to another team. Esthetic sensibilities, my Aunt Fanny!
Now we look at another situation. One Saturday morning Ed Lopat—a key member of the Yankees’ Big Three rotation and one of the finest pitching coaches anyone could ever hope to work with—was conducting a workshop for some high school pitchers at a playing field near Yankee Stadium, and I was watching. And immediately there was a problem—there was one kid, a high school junior, who was obviously having some serious issues with his pitching, and his problem was that his coach was what Lopat later referred to as “a child’s garden of misinformation”. This high school coach had as a basic premise “My way or the highway”, and he was in conflict not only with the kid but also the kid’s parents. This kid was being forced to throw over the top, straight overhand, when it was obvious that this was not his natural delivery; he had no idea where his release point was because the high school coach was feeding him conflicting information; he wanted to experiment with a couple of breaking pitches and the coach kept telling him no—blah blah blah. This kid was so confused and exasperated he was seriously thinking about giving up on the game! Lopat, who among other things had a reputation as a first-class troubleshooter, decided that the first thing to do was to clear Junior’s head. He did so and got to the root of the problem—that high school coach (who fortunately wasn’t present at the workshop for whatever reason) not only didn’t know his elbow from third base but also kept on feeding the kid all that misinformation! So Steady Eddie talked quietly to the kid and set him straight on some things—and he told him not to pay any attention to that coach. At one point Lopat made a sudden motion with his hand and said, “And this is what you do with a mosquito!” I had to laugh at this notion of a know-nothing coach being squashed like a bug.
(The kid left the team and transferred to another school with a baseball coach who had some sense in his head.)
Lopat’s basic premise was that every pitcher has a natural motion, and what he would do was work with that pitcher and show him or her how to make the most of it. He knew that I was a natural sidearmer—he had seen this when he was teaching me how to throw a good slider—and he worked with me and showed me how to take full advantage of it. And because I was interested, wanted to know and was willing to work at it, he had no reservations about teaching me some very advanced stuff he felt I needed to know—and he helped me become a better pitcher than I had been before. He knew his elbow from third base, and then some.
This may have been an extreme case—but every so often one will run into something like this, and it’s at those times that being polite doesn’t work; you have to take matters into your own hands! 8)


#10

I’ve said this before, it’s like editors and proofreaders, the don’t feel like they are doing their job unless they are changing something, it could be the very best written article ever but they still have to change something.

I have always had conversations with my kids coaches prior to them throwing in practice about that they take lessons and that there should be a reason to change something, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Also changes should be something that is working on something specific not just to make a pitcher “look” the way that a coach thinks a pitcher should look like.

Now on the other hand, for a good pitching coach, 5 minutes is enough to see mechanical issues, my kids pitching coach even works on mechanical issues when they play catch.


#11

[quote=“NY Dad”]

My son just started practice with his new little league team. Within 5 minutes the manager is already trying to change what the instructors have been teaching him. What the manager is asking him to do is wrong based on what he has been shown from the pros.

My question is how do I handle this? I’m spending good money to have my son coached by professionals. Any advice would be appreciated.[/quote]

My experience from a dad’s perspective was to talk with the LL coach before the 1st practice and let him know my child was taking lessons (from me) and that any changes needed to be discussed with his pitching instructor (me) so he doesn’t get mixed signals. I welcomed all input, but just didn’t want the input from a thousand different directions going straight to my son. It worked out OK. When the LL coach (who in his younger days hit 90) saw something that needed to be changed, he discussed it with me and I worked with my son to introduce the concept.

From the LL coach side, I ask the parents if their son has a pitching coach, and whether or not they would like any pitching suggestions, if any were warranted. For kids with private lessons, I run any suggestions pass their parents. If the parents say it’s OK to show their child, than I thank the parent for having confidence in me and work with the child. Otherwise, I leave it up to the parent and accept parent’s control as part of youth coaching. As a coach, there’s plenty of kids who have no private coaching that I can work with and see great improvement from the beginning of spring to the end, so I don’t take it personally if the parent wants to keep the pitching instruction with their private instructors. I appreciate the parent being involved in their child’s life.


#12

I have a 23 old son threw 87 mph at 5ft 8 as a high schooler. his coach actually had played ball in college.I trusted what he said and pretty much believed in him. I now have a son 11 with a coach thats biggest claim to fame is that he umpired alot(He has alot of friends, and is a good fund raiser. and just happens to have the best travel ball team in the area so we play for him). 7 out of the 13 players we have are instructed in both hitting and piching by other people they also happen to be our best 7 players. My advice is to watch alot of slow motion video its available on line and see what. most of the good hitters in the mlb have in common. today most hitters are good rotational hitters. Find an instructor that teaches fundamental rotational hitting. The instructor we use is a good fundamental instructor. Bad habits are very hard to break they take many many reps to change them, start them young with good mechanics. do not let an inferior coach install bad habits in your son. Let the coach know up front, it is your way or your instructors way or find another team after all it is about getting the most out of you sons career whether it ends after high school, college or the mlb.


#13

A few years ago I did a presentation on pitching coaches for the Jack Graney chapter of SABR in Cleveland, Ohio, and I divided it into four segments, like exhibits in a zoo. Here we had those who could pitch and who could also coach, those who couldn’t pitch but who could coach and teach, some who could pitch but who couldn’t coach to save themselves, and those who could do neither—the absolutely hopeless cases.
You have been very fortunate in that you and your sons have had coaches who could do and who could teach. Yes, fundamentals are essential, and the coaches you have worked with realize this and teach accordingly. 8)


#14

I appreciate everyone’s input. I decided to email the little league coach with the website, phone #'s and email of the 2 instructors. I told the coach in the email that he obviously has a lot of knowledge and that I and the instructors will welcome his feedback. I have not heard back from him, this was last Thursday. I saw him at picture day and he didn’t say a word.