Saving their arms

Not new to coaching, but sadly, my weakest area is pitching. I am very concerned about teaching my pitchers to throw correctly to minimize the chances of them damaging their arms as they develop.

Been scouring the Internet for info, but thought I’d check hear for some tips and resources. Anything you can offer to help me coach them correctly will be a big help. Thanks.

Tom House and the NPA put’s as much focus on health as performance. I can wholeheartedly recommend checking into the information they offer including their mechanics model and their conditioning protocols to match.

According to House:

arm health = mechanical efficiency + functional strength + proper workloads

I’m currently attending the NPA’s coaching certification at USC (where House is the pitching coach). It’s quite expensive. But they offer an abbreviated online course on their webite for $25. Check here
http://www.nationalpitching.net
and scroll down a ways.

Many moons ago I had an incredible pitching coach—an active major-league pitcher—who told me that the way he would start out with a pitcher, at any level, was to check him or her out—see what was going on, what that pitcher was doing, find out what s/he was capable of. Then this guy would formulate a plan of action, figure out how best to work with this pitcher and show him or her how to make the most of what s/he had and could do. One of the first things he did was determine what that pitcher’s natural arm slot was; he firmly believed that every pitcher has a natural motion, and he would take it from there.
He believed in good sound fundamentals, and he would work with pitchers on this all-important element, from the seven- or eight-year-old Little Leaguer just starting out on up. Posture—balance—control of the glove—all these things factored into the equation. He felt that all a beginner needed in the way of repertoire was a fast ball and a good changeup, that there was time enough to start working on breaking pitches like the curve ball, but if the kid had a natural breaking pitch—and that does happen—this coach would work with that pitcher to develop and refine it. Control was all important—the ability to put that pitch where you want it to go (nowadays they use the term “location”, but it’s the same thing). And above all, he believed that one should have fun playing the game.
This reads like an awful lot, but I can’t think of a better place to start with a young pitcher. 8)

Books, courses, video, this web site, etc., are all designed to suggest plans for coaching - in this case pitching. The authors, contributors - including here, can be helpful as they are well intended.

Here’s the problem:
Intentions via the printed word, even vidoe for that matter, will be digested by yourself, then you’ll take it from there. As you try and apply what you’ve learned, you’ll be faced with a lot of variables dictated by those you address. Some of those that will hear your advice and coaching will- again- inject a ton of variables.

If the word variable seems to pop up repeatedly, it’s for a reason. Your charges (players) will have all kinds of agendas, including their parents, that you might no be aware of. So, if you have the personal skills of reading people in this sport specific position (pitching), understanding the subtle moves that tell you what IS and what IS NOT working right, by all means expand your knowledge and those that you coach.

Here’s the rub - depending on the level of competition and the social network that you have (or have not) I wouldn’t suggest taking this on as your role as skipper of your club - AND as pitching coach to boot.

Since you didn’t mention the age leve and competitive classification that you’re involved with, I can only assume both ends of the extreme age and experience brackets. In any event - don’t go there.

Why?

As a general coach, you assume just that in the “expectations department”. You’re general - nothing more, nothing less. Parents, league officals, insurance agents, lawyers, expect nothing more as a given.

You strap on a title, hang a shingle out that says - PITCHING COACH, or anything close to it, and the expecation level jumps. Expectations that orbit:

  • my kid is doing this safely, right?
  • he/she isn’t gonna come home with a sore elbow, right?
  • you know what a safe pitch count is for my kid, right?

My suggestion to you would be to ASK around - a lot, for anyone with the skills to coach pitching for your youngsters, and let it go at that. And although it’s really great to find an adult who is willing to coach and help your youngsters, the peaks and valleys that map out parental support and good wishes - can really turn ugly when things don’t meet the expectations of those parents that you’ll be dealing with.

If on the other hand you honestly feel that you have a handle on all that - the parents, league friendly environment, and that all present “politics”, then suggest a few things - but no more. Get as many people as possible involved - spread the risk.

I know my advice is not what you wanted to hear - but, over the last nine years I’ve been witness to some pretty ugly situations that good men have been blindsided with because of adults with petty minds, hidden agendas, and quickly influenced by others with nothing better to do then to hear themselves talk.

By the way, the first thing I would be very pro-active about would be the pitching surface that your youngsters pitch off of. If you have fields like most youth leagues have to deal with - they’re junk. Holes, poorly maintained, and a real challenge to pitch off of. So, start off there, and you’ll quickly see just how hard it is to coach/teach anything else that follows.

Finally - check your PM box.

Best wishes Skipper.

Coach B.

I agree that as manager/coach, I do not want to take on the responsibility of developing my pitchers as I have the responsibility of the entire team at hand. My primary concern is to not do anything that will injure my players’ arms (now and in the future), yet remain competitive as a team. I may look into hiring a pitching coach to give a clinic on fundamentals before the season begins.

I believe I can get them on the right path with basic fundamentals and habits, but as you suggest, the role of developing specific pitching techniques and skills will have to fall on the shoulders of someone more qualified than myself.

I will definitely check out the resources some of you have suggested.

Thanks for all the helpful advice.

Supafly, Do yourself and your pitchers a favor, and track their pitches under your supervision. I know there are different opinions about tracking pitch counts and rest, but it can’t hurt to do it, and it might just provide some useful information down the line, for them and you.

As a minimum, for games, keep track of the date they throw, and the number of pitches. Personally, I’d also keep track of bullpen sessions. I’d also keep track of any other game appearances, bullpens, including lessons, for another team or coach the player tells you about as well.

If nothing else, it will give you a good idea about each kid’s workload, especially if you won’t be the one working directly with them as a pitching coach.

I feel that pitching is something that requires personal time, most coaches and regular practice times just don’t have that time. Pitching should be worked on outside regular practice times either by private lessons or pitchers working outside regular team time. Just running bullpens with 4-5 starters can take a couple of hours and that isn’t even working on things like the mental part, what to throw when or defensive positions etc. A player needs 30 minutes every week or 2x a week to really start to have enough time to learn about pitching.

[quote=“scorekeeper”]Supafly, Do yourself and your pitchers a favor, and track their pitches under your supervision. I know there are different opinions about tracking pitch counts and rest, but it can’t hurt to do it, and it might just provide some useful information down the line, for them and you.

As a minimum, for games, keep track of the date they throw, and the number of pitches. Personally, I’d also keep track of bullpen sessions. I’d also keep track of any other game appearances, bullpens, including lessons, for another team or coach the player tells you about as well.

If nothing else, it will give you a good idea about each kid’s workload, especially if you won’t be the one working directly with them as a pitching coach.[/quote]

I did this for my son (10U this year) and his team last year, and intend on doing it thoughout his school years. Therefore, I knew how many pitches he threw in the spring as well as in the Fall, strike:ball ratio, ground balls, fly balls, walks, innings, hits allowed, etc and established a base line for this year. I can chart his development and see his development. From his 9U to 10U year, he pitched an extra 12 inning while walking 11 fewer for a decrease of 4 pitches per inning. This year’s goal is to reduce his pitches per inning from 17 to 15. Goal for 12U year is 13 pitches per inning! 15 pitches per inning allows for a complete game.

9U Year Stats (Minors & Tourney Ball): 47 innings, 989 pitches, 124 K’s, 54 BBs, 1.33 WHIP
10U Year Stats (Majors & Tourney Ball): 59 innings, 1045 pitches, 124 K’s, 43 BBs, 1.28 WHIP.

Keeping stats has helped him understand his game. Some games he feels horrible as he may give up a couple of walks in a row. Yet, in these games his K:BB ration and pitches per inning come out to be the same as his good games where the walks are more spread out. Looking at the stats he can see objectively how he did. :slight_smile:

[quote=“West2East”]I did this for my son (10U this year) and his team last year, and intend on doing it thoughout his school years. Therefore, I knew how many pitches he threw in the spring as well as in the Fall, strike:ball ratio, ground balls, fly balls, walks, innings, hits allowed, etc and established a base line for this year. I can chart his development and see his development. From his 9U to 10U year, he pitched an extra 12 inning while walking 11 fewer for a decrease of 4 pitches per inning. This year’s goal is to reduce his pitches per inning from 17 to 15. Goal for 12U year is 13 pitches per inning! 15 pitches per inning allows for a complete game.

9U Year Stats (Minors & Tourney Ball): 47 innings, 989 pitches, 124 K’s, 54 BBs, 1.33 WHIP
10U Year Stats (Majors & Tourney Ball): 59 innings, 1045 pitches, 124 K’s, 43 BBs, 1.28 WHIP.

Keeping stats has helped him understand his game. Some games he feels horrible as he may give up a couple of walks in a row. Yet, in these games his K:BB ration and pitches per inning come out to be the same as his good games where the walks are more spread out. Looking at the stats he can see objectively how he did. :)[/quote]

Nice job! You have my respect and congratulations. But now you get to answer some questions. :wink:

I don’t know what you used to track the stats, but it doesn’t matter if you where using some complex piece of software or a piece pf paper and a pencil. What I’m interested in, is how much EXTRA time it took you to do that, over and above what you have done for just regular old stats such as the vast majority of coaches use?

Seeing your enthusiasm about PPI, I’d like to just offer a hint from an old warhorse who did what you did at the same time my boy was 9YO. Definitely continue to produce the metrics you already do, but take my advice on this. Go to page 8 of this link. http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/cpitching.pdf

You’ll notice that I produce all the standard stuff, but also look at things in terms of a few other ways as well. Trust me, its not much more difficult to do that, and it gives many other interesting perspectives.

As for shooting for 13 PPI at 12, that’s a great goal, but to tell the truth, it isn’t very realistic. What you see on the report I referenced, are HSV pitchers on an extremely successful team ranked #420 nationally, out of 15,000+ schools playing baseball. The numbers you see are for all the pitchers from ’07 to ’10, and I think you’ll notice that a 13 PPI for anyone who’s thrown more than a few innings is unheard of.

Now I don’t doubt that somewhere there’s a HS pitcher who’s done it for at least one season, but it would really be freaky good. Now 14 doesn’t sound as good, but I assure you that if he can get into the low 14’s for a decent amount of work, you’re gonna see something pretty darn good.

Like I said, it’s a great goal, but its really not realistic, and if he does take the numbers to heart, it could very well make him feel like a failure, even though it wasn’t even close to being true. Personally, I’d much rather see him set a goal of having a PPI 4 or 5 tenths lower than anyone else on the team, because as he gets older, his peer group is going to be much stronger. So if he stays ahead of them, it would really be something to be proud of.

Here’s something else to keep in mind. If and when someone questions his numbers, and I assure you they will if they haven’t been already, don’t get into battles about the scorer, the competition, or his level. Just ask anyone who questions you, what numbers they have that show what you have is so far away from normal. You’ll find people who do have numbers to the depth that you do, but they’ll be as scarce as hen’s teeth. And chances are, they will very closely match the averages you have, unless one of you doesn’t know to keep score or compute the different metrics.

What are you using as software to do your input, storage, and presentation? This kind of thing always fascinates me when I find someone else a kooky as I am. LOL!

Scorekeeper - a simple Excel spreadsheet and a clipboard in the dugout. :slight_smile:

Would you mind e-mailing me a copy of that SS? You can use the email address at the bottom of any of my posts.

Sounds as though you aren’t using the scoresheet. Isn’t that kinda like keeping score twice? If I’m correct that you aren’t using the scoresheet, would you mind saying why? Usually when I hear something like that, its because the scoresheet isn’t done in a way that provides the data needed, and that could be for a couple of reasons.

If its true that getting the info isn’t possible because it isn’t there, take a look at the 2 links below. They are sheets from a game a couple years ago, with the 1st being our team, and of course the other our opponent. Forgetting the atrocious penmanship, see if you could use them to get your pitching info.

http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/scoresheet1.pdf
http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/scoresheet2.pdf

This is really interesting to me because I’m always looking for ways to make stats easier to deal with, and at the same time make scoring a game easier and more clear as well.

Would you mind e-mailing me a copy of that SS? You can use the email address at the bottom of any of my posts.

Sounds as though you aren’t using the scoresheet. Isn’t that kinda like keeping score twice? If I’m correct that you aren’t using the scoresheet, would you mind saying why? Usually when I hear something like that, its because the scoresheet isn’t done in a way that provides the data needed, and that could be for a couple of reasons.

If its true that getting the info isn’t possible because it isn’t there, take a look at the 2 links below. They are sheets from a game a couple years ago, with the 1st being our team, and of course the other our opponent. Forgetting the atrocious penmanship, see if you could use them to get your pitching info.

http://.com/scorekeeper/images/scoresheet1.pdf
http://
.com/scorekeeper/images/scoresheet2.pdf

This is really interesting to me because I’m always looking for ways to make stats easier to deal with, and at the same time make scoring a game easier and more clear as well.[/quote]

Keeping it simple at age 10, the number of strikes & balls are marked on the scoresheet. This also keeps the pitch count. Balls and strikes are charted for each hitter, with a placement number being assigned for each pitch. For example, if the pitch count went “ball, ball, strike, strike, ball, strike”, the strike row would show “3,4” and the ball row would show “1,2,5”. A “K” would be also be in the box, indicating the last pitch (pitch #6) was a strike. I have neat handwriting. :slight_smile: Info from the scoresheet is transferred to the spreadsheet. After the game we look at what went well and what didn’t, and review it with the pitcher so they understand and can work on being better and more consistent. Most kids at this level are not interest or don’t care about getting better. For these kids we can use the information obtained to direct what we need work on in practice. But there’s several kids where this information strikes home, and these are the kids that will work hard and go on to HS ball.

We track pitches the same way for the opposing team. In a game last year, the opposing pitcher was at 93 pitches and counting. We were ahead by a few runs, so I let it slide until after the inning and discussed the pitch count with the opposing manager. I knew the opposing manager wanted the kid to pitch a complete game and pitch another inning. He stated they lost count but thought their pitcher was at 75 pitches. I showed him pitch by pitch where the 93 pitches were, and he backed down and put in the relief pitcher. I understood why he lost count; we batted around on the relief pitcher.

Thanks for all the good comments and I’d like to especially thank Coach Baker for the great pitching book I’m reading. Definitely some good stuff. As I’m in southern California, we’ll be starting practices this weekend. Can’t wait to get started.

Regards,
Coach Dave