Teaching 8-9 year olds


#1

I am new to this site and thank you so much for having it!!!

I am the head coach of a 3rd grade team this spring and this is the first year for kid pitch. My question is what should I focus on mechanically with the pitchers that are just starting out?? What are the top 4-5 things in the throwing motion that needs to be emphasized the most so it translates on the mound??

Thank you,

CoachW


#2

tough job at a critical age. 2 things i did with my guys. first, throw your bullpens at about 70% into a net set up about 20 ft away. that way they don’t worry about someone catching it and they’ll focus on mechanics. use a bucket of balls and no catcher. makes it much easier.

second, build arm strength using the net or a cage and have 5 guys at a time get a running start and throw about 50 each into the net after they are good and loose.

alternate days and you should be good. after 3 to 4 weeks of this, let them throw to hitters in the cage or on the field. you’ll be fine. expect them to struggle, this is tough for a little guy to do. ALL PRAISE!!! no negative coaching with 8-9 yr olds. especially pitchers. i absolutely hate coaches that get on little guys.


#3

My son is 8, though some may disagree with my philosophy, this is how I started teaching him (he started this at 7). Right now, he is throwing exclusively from the stretch.

The first thing we worked on is addressing the rubber by starting with his feet spread as far apart as he is comfortable with and his back foot behind the rubber. I tell him as soon as he is ready, to only think about throwing to his target, step forward with his back foot, and place it in front of the rubber. Then I tell him to focus on his target, which is an old mattress about 20ft away with the strike zone outlined on it, and then come to his “prayer position” (come set). When he is in the prayer position I have his glove positioned over his right chest. Once in the prayer position I have him look at his left toe, take a deep breath and exhale, then focus on his target.
We worked on this for a week before anything else. I wanted him to understand how important it is, once on the mound, to be focused on his target and nothing else. I tell him, once he gets on the rubber, he is “King of the Mountain”, and his focus and concentration will let everyone know he is indeed King. Some may disagree with demanding such a mental focus before learning the other fundamentals. Personally, I believe this is a key fundamental being focused with a purpose. If I notice him not focusing, or rushing during what I call his “pre-pitch routine” during anytime while learning the rest of his mechanics, I tell him to step off of the rubber and start over. He does his pre-pitch routine during everything else I am going to list.

The next thing we worked on was his upper body, and his hand break from the prayer position. I broke this down in to 4 steps.

The first step was his glove side arm. I had him break his glove side arm ONLY and had him focus on his thumb going down, and his elbow pointing at his target and finishing in a position that his shoulder and elbow were horizontal to the ground and his glove pointing towards 3rd base. I would take a paper notebook and set it on his arm. If the notebook stayed on his arm when he finished, he was in the correct position. He had to do this 10 times in a row, including his pre-pitch routine. If he lost focus in his pre-pitch routine ,or the notebook fell off his arm, we started over from zero.

The second step was his pitching arm. I had him break his pitching arm ONLY, focusing on his his thumb going down and showing the ball to shortstop. He had to do this 10 times in a row, including his pre-pitch routine.

The next step was similar to the second step, except now he has to get to the “power position” showing the face of the ball to 3rd base. He had to do this 10 times in a row. If he rushed his pre-pitch routine or “short armed” (not showing the ball to the shortstop) he started over from zero.

Finally, we put it all together. Breaking from the prayer position. When he was in his finishing position, his pitching arm was in the “power position”, and his glove arm elbow was pointed to his target, in a position to balance the notebook. Again he had to do this 10 times in a row to pass.

After he passed the upper body drills, we worked on the lower body. I broke this down into 3 steps.

First was his leg lift and balance position, again starting from his pre-pitch routine. I had him focus his weight on the ball of his foot on the post leg as he lifted his front leg and focus on pointing his big toe to the ground. I believe this naturally makes the front knee come back to his throwing shoulder. It does for Austin anyway. I would hold his glove (lightly) to help him with his balance. I would have him hold this position for a count of “one thousand one” then have him put his lifted leg back to the ground, looking for it to land with the heel of his lift leg lined up with the ball of his post leg. This was a natural finishing position and didn’t require any changing. Once he could hold his balance for the count and put his leg back down in the position I just described, along with his pre-pitch routine 10 times in a row, we moved on to the next step.

The next step, I had him get to his balance position and then I would put my hand under his left butt cheek and have him focus on putting his weight on my hand. I would have him hold this position to get used to feeling the weight on that front hip, then tell him to start to drop his lift leg. As soon as he started to drop his front leg, I would pull my hand from underneath his butt. He would then have to finish under control, maintaining his balance. During this step I am not concerned about his stride length. I just wanted him to get used that feeling which does start the momentum towards the target. However, when he started doing this correctly, he was striding out pretty good. Once he finished under control 10 times in a row, including a proper pre-pitch routine, we moved on to the next step.

The next step I had him focus on striding out farther and having his front foot point towards his target. I was no longer supporting him in any way, holding the glove or the butt cheek. He was still staying in the prayer position during all of this to promote IMHO staying closed up top (I didn’t tell him this BTW). After striding out, maintaining good balance with a good pre-pitch routine 10 times in a row, we moved to the next step.

The next phase we start to tie it all together, and actually get to throw the ball!!! This is broke down in 3 steps as well.

The first step we worked on was combining the upper and lower mechanics together. I had him get to his prayer position and told him to start his hand break when his front leg started to come down, stride out, and finish with his front foot pointed to his target, his glove side arm with his elbow pointing to his target and glove facing 3rd base, with the notebook test, and his throwing arm finishing in the power position with the face of the ball showing to 3rd. Once he did this 10 times in a row, with a good pre-pitch routine, we moved on to the next step.

Step 2 everything above happened up to the pause. Now we add throwing the ball!! He would stride out as above, pause and then I told him to push his right butt cheek through left but cheek (to start rotation) turn his glove elbow down, bringing the glove into the line of the target and throw the ball at the target with most of his weight being on his front foot with his throwing arm finishing over his left knee and the back side of his glove against his left chest, while maintaining his balance and hitting the target. Once he completed this with a good pre-pitch routine 10 times in a row we moved to the next step.

Step 3 We are now ready to become “King of the Mountain”!!! and throw from the complete stretch, focusing on three concepts.

  1. Get to a good balanced position

  2. Stay under control

  3. Get to a position to throw out in front

I had him throw at the mattress from 20 feet focusing on a his pre-pitch routine and tying it all together. Then backed him up to 30feet still throwing at the mattress, Once he got command and control throwing at the mattress at 30 feet I had him start throwing to me and the glove.

Right now he is at 40 feet throwing at the glove. His league doesn’t start kid pitch until next year. I am really happy with his progress so far and his attitude towards learning.

Remember when doing this to keep it fun. Joke with him make him laugh (off of the mound. the mound means its time for business, focus and concentration) and be patient with him. If he gets tired or disinterested, STOP for the time being. Tell him he did a good job and you will continue to work on it when he is ready to. Do not force your son or student to do this because YOU alotted time for it. You must keep it fun for him.

Hope this helps.

-Scott


#4

I am working with my 9 yo son with this being his first year of player pitch as well. I am wondering if I have moved him to throwing from the full 46’ too soon in his development because while his mechanics look pretty good (for a 9 yo!) he has trouble locating the plate. it is either bouncing a foot in front of the plate (but on-line) or way high right or left. Should I move in to about 20’ and progressively move back or just really start hitting on the long toss to build his arm strength? He’s a pretty lean kid and doesn’t have a lot of leg to put into a pitch yet. Any thoughts?


#5

I would humbly recommend backing him up at 5 ft increments after he gets consistent at 30 ft back him up to 35. If he is really inconsistant at 30 ft, move him up to 25. I know the season is getting near but I wouldn’t rush him to 46. Be patient and build his confidence and sound mechanics.

-Scott


#6

no problem on the timeframe. I’d rather him not pitch at all this year if he isn’t ready for it. My other coach and I both worked with him after our practice this Saturday (first outside practice of the year!!!) and found a couple things to help him get a little more power. One thing he was doing was dropping his head as he threw because he was trying to get too low. This not only helped with producing more power, but it also naturally helped with his control. We also found that he was pronating too early and too much in his throw. We got that under control and he was throwing with good power and on a much more level line than he had been. We’ll find out if that translates to the mound as well.


#7

Thanks guys for all of the replys!!! Are there any drills you recommend or fun drills? Also, what specific meachanical things do you really emphasize? What things would you consider the most important?

Thanks,

nryan5714


#8

“what specific meachanical things do you really emphasize?”

—I liked Dusty’s response a lot. I thought Scottster made an insightful start by mentioning the glove-side, because that is definitely a mechanical issue for many young kids. Some fraction of kids control their glove-side well intuitively, but the ones who don’t need to focus on that or they may have lots of tedious remedial work to do by the time they are 13-14 yos.

That being said, I do disagree with what I interpreted Scottster’s approach to be for the glove-side. No offense intended, but his description sounds like a cookie-cutter approach to train a glove-side action that seems unrealistic to me.

There may be several points of view about this at LTP; however, House’s “swivel and stabilize” pnemonic is very good, in my opinion. The gist is: During the launch phase of a throw, or pitch, train the glove-side to swivel into a stable position somewhere over the stride foot, or so, and train the thrower/pitcher to bring his chest forward to meet the glove. After release, the subsequent glove-side action has no effect on the ball so that is not something to be concerned about.

So, which 8-9 yos need glove-side control? The ones who flop their glove-side loosely to the hip, or even let the glove go behind the hip, when they are still launching the ball definitely need to change that habit. When you start observing the glove-side mechanics of young throwers closely, you might be surprised at the prevalence of this flaw. Some of these kids may eventually remdiate their mechanics, but I suspect that most of them simply drop out of baseball at the more competitive levels. It can be really instructive to closely observe the mechanics of the best players at one or two levels of play higher than where your kids are now.

Also, the kids who have been taught by someone that they should “pull the glove into the body” should be retrained early, in my opinion. Realize that “bringing the chest to the glove” and “pulling the glove into the body” may look similar, but they have very different consequences. Elite throwers at all levels of baseball “bring the chest to the glove” in their approach to the release point.


#9

Laflippin, I find it odd you disagree with me, because I dont disagree with anything you posted. My statement was predicated on teaching 7-9 yr olds and super basic fundamentals, which every kid I have worked with has understood.


#10

“I had him break his glove side arm ONLY and had him focus on his thumb going down, and his elbow pointing at his target and finishing in a position that his shoulder and elbow were horizontal to the ground and his glove pointing towards 3rd base. I would take a paper notebook and set it on his arm. If the notebook stayed on his arm when he finished, he was in the correct position.”

----Scottster, I read this through a couple more times. Please correct me if I’m getting this wrong or misinterpreting something. I think what you are describing is basically a very transitory configuration of the glove-side arm–kind of a snapshot as the elbow and glove is rapidly swiveling into a more stable position prior to release of the ball.

What I was thinking was that maybe the drill you are doing with the notebook balanced on the forearm-elbow-upper arm might tend to condition a young pitcher to try and hold that configuration into release…that’s what I thought was unrealistic.

If you’ve had good results with this drill I’d like to hear more about it, or if you’ve ever noticed my concern…that some kids may try to follow through with their elbow still pointing at the target when learning this drill–that’d be food for thought, too.