What advice do you have for a young pitcher who suddenly can’t hit the strike zone? Do you start with the physical or mental? Or have other suggestions?
Going through this off and on with my kid for the last year, off and on injuries, when coming back from the injuries his control has suffered.
First would be to try to develop a process and learn to breath…be able to let the last pitch go regardless of result and attack the next pitch.
Second thing would be to adjust with the eyes first. If you are missing your target low first adjust your sight and aim with your eyes a little above the target…sometimes adjusting the eyes will help without having to try to think through a bunch of mechanical adjustments when on the mound.
Usually I can get a kid going again in one of two ways. I tell him to throw and not worry about pitching or I ask him what his favorite song is and tell him to think about that song and throw without missing a beat of the song. Works on catcher yips too.
To me, a slump is a period of time with a lack of confidence. And confidence comes from two things: knowing that you’re prepared and experiencing success. If you’ve been slacking off at practice then your mind knows it and your confidence won’t be there. But you have control over this so this is where it starts to restore confidence. Experiencing success is harder to come by. Being well-prepared should help. But you can try to put yourself in situations where you can experience small amounts of success bits at a time. (Maybe you have to ask your coach to put you in these situations.) An example would be throwing some BP to the weakest hitters on your team. Over time, these bits of success should start to add up and, hopefully transfer to bigger challenges at practice and in games.
Often what some people think is a slump I see as a pitcher who keeps letting the game get away from him. I’ve seen that many times in the major leagues—a pitcher who suddenly starts blowing up in the sixth, seventh inning, keeps missing the plate, throwing high, coming in there with a juicy meatball right in the middle of the plate and getting clobbered, and the game gets away from him. This guy needs to get together with his pitching coach and perhaps the catcher or one of the infielders to take the situation apart and find out why he keeps losing it in the late innings, and then they can take steps to correct the problem. And sometimes the solution is a simple one—there was a case of a pitcher who did fine in the first five, six innings and then kept losing it, until the manager thought to use him in the later innings to protect close leads. It was just a matter of the pitcher not being able to finish a game. This happened with Allie Reynolds; his medical problem (he was a diabetic) affected his stamina so that he couldn’t finish a game, so Casey Stengel would call on Joe Page and later someone like Vic Raschi to rescue him.
I think there’s a lot to growing up and handling stuff that we as adults take for granted. Youngsters have different mental and social issues than we do, not to mention hormone changes and all that. I don’t think that a youngster has the kind of depth in life experiences to make comparisons and judgments. He’s all alone out there sometimes, regardless of how many times he hears … " we can talk anytime son."
From my point of view, the pressures of competitive sports can be a heavy load for some. That load may not be visible on the outside, but somewhere along the line, it can work itself to the surface.
I don’t coach amateur youth ball - never wanted to. But I’ve learned through my work to observe and hold judgment, to firmly understand the frailty of human nature, and the composition of what makes up a personality. Heavy stuff for the adult world and I can only imagine how tough it is working with youngsters.