My coach-pitch team will take the big step next season into U9. I imagine that initailly I just need pitchers to get the ball over the plate throwing the four seam fastball. how soon should I expect to start using off-speed? Should I use two seam fastballs at this age. Should I start teaching pitchers to hit spots and corners? And if so, what type of signals and indicators are players capable of understanding at that age?
Unless you are in a area with a great wealth of 9 yr. old talent keep it simple. At this age throwing strikes consistently is most important.
Work with form, footwork,and a consistent hand break. If you can get 2 or 3 kids to throw strikes and make the other team swing and not be able to look for the walk you will win more than your share of games, trust me.
In talking the norm here and not the exception, kids at this age usually have hard enough time throwing strikes consistently so they will be moving around the strike zone all on their own lol.
I will usually teach the 4 seam first but on occasion the 2 seam will work better for the younger kids. Have them throw what is most comfortable. I have had some 9 yr. olds that could master the change up and a few simple different grips on the ball, but in all honesty hitting the strike zone is what we look for at this age along with consistent form.
Most “big innings” from 9 and under teams from pitchers who walk and walk and walk some more kids than the big hit comes. I always tell the little guys good hitters hit some good pitches and just shake it off. But, walks will kill you!
At 10 years you can really start working more with location and a few different pitches. If you are lucky enough to have a 9 y/o with great control by all means have the catcher move him around the strike zone. But, as I said earlier if you can get 3 or so kids to be able to consistently throw strikes your little team will go a long ways.
Careful to introduce the change up too early. Kids tend to slow their motion with the change up. They can develop inconsistent mechanics. Go with 4 seams and consistent mechanics at first.
I’m not a coach or pitching guru, so take this for WIW.
No one here can really answer you question because we haven’t seen these young men. But I would suggest not to take a cookie cutter approach. A kid or two may be ready to hit his spots, ect. Others my be lucky to get the ball close. You have to bring them along at different speeds. My son wasn’t that great at 9, 10, or even 11, but as a 12 challenged for the #1 spot this year.
The other suggestion I would make is teach the change ASAP and make your pitchers stay with it, if only in lessons/practice at first. It’s a pitch that feels different, and kids don’t like being taken out of their comfort zone. And parents don’t like seeing their kid struggle, but the only way to get comfortable with the pitch is to throw it. That’s what I did with my son. Hell it was all over the place at first, but I put no pressure on him (sometimes you just have to let your kid fail to move froward) and he kept throwing it were as a lot of the other kids gave up. That’s one big reason why now at 12 he’s so good, it’s his favorite pitch.
My .02 as a dad who’s been there done that.
You are so right about cookie cutter approaches but I do agree that younger pitchers need:
develop good solid repeatable mechanics, even if they are a little different from the typical pitcher
work of fastball developing good solid mechanics and location is more important than velocity
eventually adding another pitch…change up once the fast ball is established as a solid locateable pitch
No doubt proper (for the age) mechanics should come first. But having been through this I wouldn’t wait to long to introduce the pitch. Accuracy isn’t an issue to me. I’d show the change to a kid struggling with accuracy in a heartbeat, as long as mechanics were sound and potential is displayed. The problem as I saw it was kids became comfortable throwing the fastball, then the change was introduced and it felt weird and the results were poor, so kids gave up on it/resisted it.
Having been through this I’d make the argument that the longer a pitcher throws just the FB ,the harder the change will be to introduce. One they get to the point the FB goes where intended the more they’ll resist a pitch that doesn’t.
I personally think buwhite hit the nail on the head with his 1-2-3 steps.
I am sure younger pitchers vary in attitude about how they want to learn to pitch, although in my experiences with working with the 9 and 10 y/o’s around here most tend to want me show them other pitches before they master good mechanics and a standard fastball. I personally won’t do this until they have good command of their fb.
Remembering that tnt said this is a 9 and under team made me think back on the last 3 years or so and how much difference there is between 8 and 9 vs. 10 yr. old kids (on average). Then you will find another jump when they hit 11-12.
So, I guess I stick to my guns on the advice of proper mechanics and throwing a consistent fastball. Once done, by all means introduce a simple change up.
If you want the change to drop in, a kid has to follow through and finish low. This is one of the last mechanical elements that a youth pitcher takes on. A change is just a slow fastball if his fastball mechanics are not there. The first time I’ve seen a pretty change up thrown with any proximity to the plate was fall 10u. This was an elite team that normally played up. My son still at age 10 has periods where his movement slows and mechanics change throwing a circle change. If you do intend to start 9u’s throwin’ the change, then have them throw it at the end of the bullpen for a while. Once you see their mechanics unchanged from fastball to change up, then let em’ mix it into a game.
Little story that kinda pertains to this.
I took the kid to a clinic hosted by a local (new) HS coach from Puerto Rico who played in the majors. He wasn’t to impressed with American kids or us parents. An example he gave was his son and switch hitting. His son would bat from the left side and look really bad. All the parents were like, “stop making that poor kid do that, look how he’s struggling”. His attitude was “no, let him go, he’ll be OK”. Laughed at how caught up we were with instance results.
I really don’t see the harm in showing a kid the grip. Our pitching coach showed it to my son’s age group at 9. He was the only one who really stuck with it, even though it wasn’t a legitimate pitch until end of 10, beginning of 11U. Now at 12 he can make teams look bad.
And yes, there were times when the delivery change and exposed the pitch. Still are, but that’s part of learning how to throw it.
Learn the changeup asap, the earlier the better. My son started throwing a palmball for a changeup at age 10. He has never been the fastest pitcher, but always had great movement and very good control. With his palmball changeup he was able to keep the hitters off their game and was very successful while some kids who threw a lot harder than him struggled mightily.
This year, at age 14, his hands have finally gotten big enough to switch 100% to the circle change. It took him a little while to get control of it, but now that he has, it can be devastating. He pitched last weekend against a 15u team and went 5 innings in a 3-2 win. More than 50% of his pitches in that game were changeups, followed by fastballs and a minimal number of curves. Those big boys saw his fast ball and were determined to crank one to the fence. Instead, they got a steady diet of changeups that they pounded into the dirt at second and short.
At 9 throwing strikes is whats most important. Keep in mind that 9 year olds standing on the mound in and of itself is a big step for kids. Keep it simple and let them throw fastballs. forget about the coreners for now. let them throw 2 or 4 seam whichever is more comfortable and accurate.
That being said it doesn’t hurt to start treaching a proper changeup. The biigest hurdle with the change at that age is getting them to understand that their arm speed should stay roughly the same as their fastball, given their hands are large enough to change their grips.
[quote=“buwhite”]You are so right about cookie cutter approaches but I do agree that younger pitchers need:
- develop good solid repeatable mechanics, even if they are a little different from the typical pitcher
- work of fastball developing good solid mechanics and location is more important than velocity
- eventually adding another pitch…change up once the fast ball is established as a solid locateable pitch[/quote]
About your #2- work of fastball developing good solid mechanics and location is more important than velocity.
Yes, young pitchers need good solid mechanics and location. You are right about that. All young pitchers (all pitchers, really) need good solid mechanics and location. However, the coaches of these young pitchers need to make sure that the pitchers are not slowing their pitching motion down just so that they can hit their spots. A pitcher needs to have a good, quick pitching motion. As long as a young pitcher has good mechanics, he should be able to gain velocity and have good location. A lot of times, a pitcher’s control of the ball is more mental than physical issues. I don’t think that developing good solid mechanics and location is more important than velocity. I think that developing good solid mechanics is important. When a pitcher has good mechanics, he should be able to have good velocity and be able to locate his pitches.
When a pitcher has good mechanics, good velocity, and a good fastball, then he should work on some sort of change-up. I would start with the circle-change and then go to the c-change. Some others change-ups to consider could be the: splitter, fosh change, or claw pitch.
My comments were about what to work on, some coaches talk all about velocity vs location. I didn’t say anything about slowing arm speed down to develop better location, just don’t focus on velocity, focus on accuracy.