Teaching Young Pitchers

Can someone give me tips on getting 9/10 yr olds started in pitching. I want them to be comfortable on the mound and just pitch. What is the best stance on the mound for a new pitcher?

I am of the opinion that young pitchers need only pitch from the stretch position and all of my drills are based on that principle. Some reasons :

  1. Because the stretch position involves fewer movements, it promotes much better balance. Without consistent balance you cannot have consistent pitches.
  2. I have seen zero research suggesting a pitcher gains additional velocity by throwing from a full windup.
  3. The pitcher who threw from the stretch in Little League will be much more comfortable pitching with runners on base when he advances to leagues allowing leading and stealing.

I like my new guys to just go from the Set (aka Stretch) position.

Since it’s a simpler movement, there’s less for them to screw up. It also doesn’t cost them any appreciable velocity and doesn’t force them to learn two positions (one for when the bases are empty and one for when there is a runner on base).

If 9/10 year olds are throwing only from the stretch, is there an age when a switch is made to the full and stretch?

My only concern with throwing “only” from the stretch this early on in a kid’s development is that it really locks a kid into relief pitching roles and making the switch to the full windup that much more difficult in the years to come.

Furthermore, it’s usually a pretty good idea to have a full and stretch delivery so potential college coaches and pro scouts (way down the road for a 10-year-old, I know) can use you in different situations. Generally, if you only pitch from the stretch, you won’t be a starting pitcher at the higher levels of the game.

While it’s more and more common late in a guy’s career – in college and or pro ball, for example – to specialize with one pitching delivery (the stretch), I just don’t think it’s beneficial for the Little League set.

But, I, of course, was 10 years old about 17 years ago. Maybe things have changed. It’s a great topic and one we see often on the forum. Thanks for asking the question. Thoughts?

Well, I remember when I was about 9 or 10, I was constantly pitching from the stretch position. Surprisingly, I was the hardest thrower in my league, haha, quite funny actually (I think I threw in the 30’s-I can’t remember, lol). Also, just for kicks, I thought I could throw a change up at this age. My catcher used to hold out signs for me, 1 for 2seam, 2 for 4seam, and 3 for change. I was throwing 3 fingered at the time, so my change up was a palm ball-whether or not it worked is questionable…lol Anyways, in my experience, I didn’t have any problems transitoning to a full windup at a later age.

Steve, my question is why would you ever need to transition a young pitcher to a full windup at all? I certainly threw from a windup throughout my career … I mean that’s how we were all brought up and was the accepted thing to do. Added velocity would be the only reason I can think of, and I continue to see no evidence to support this. If anyone here knows where it’s been documented that you gain velocity from the full windup PLEASE share … I will change my ways immediately ( and apologize to some kids, including mine ) if there is a significant difference!!

I think this is a great question.

Many people assume/say that moving from the Wind-Up to the Set will cost you a few MPH. I’m not sure that’s the case.

The reason I say this is that a pitcher going from the Wind-Up and a pitcher going from the Set reach a similar point at the top of the knee lift. Now, a pitcher going from the Wind-Up will likely have their knee higher at the top of their knee lift, and people like Nolan Ryan believe that the higher the knee lift the higher the velocity, but I’m not sure that that is necessarily the case.

I have no problem with young kids pitching from the wind-up. But I require them to use minimal movement because balance is often the biggest issue for young kids. So, for example, I don’t allow them to use a big step back or to the side to initiate their delivery.

I actually threw a little harder from the stretch when I scrapped the full windup with the Cubs. (I was a closer, so pitching from the stretch all the time was actually quite natural.)

I’m not here to convert you or tell you that one way is “better” than another. (I actually don’t think one way is, in fact, “better.”) Technically speaking, though, velocity should be about the same no matter which delivery you use. So it really comes down to comfort. What do you feel most comfortable doing? (This is sort of a rhetorical question.)

For me it was both the full and stretch until pro ball, where I went from the stretch all the time. But for the next guy, it might be something else. No wrong way at all.

I’ve been coaching little league for 7 years and I’m on my 2nd trip through the league with my younger son who is 9 and I agree with terprhp and O’Leary 100% for the exact same reasons. Of all the pitchers I have coached during the regular season and All-Star season I have only seen one that did not benefit from the stretch in terms of control and sometimes velocity and he was already an exceptionally good pitcher from the wind up. I’ve never had a pitcher lose velocity in the stretch. Moreover, if a kid continues to develop as a pitcher and pitch in Jr. High and HS then his most important pitches will come from the stretch. Additionlly, Leo Mazzone highly recommends starting young pitchers from the stretch. I think the windup has more to do with style and rythm than anything. In another decade or so we’ll see the windup go the way of the pump.

I’d introduce both to them, and work with them on whatever feels the most comfortable to them. If a kid is successful from the wind, he throws from the wind on my team. I’m not going to change him (aka screw him up) to fit into a philosophy.

Coachbks hit it on the head when he said its a matter of rythm and timing. However, I have noticed that most kids at that age who throw from the stretch tend to stride short and throw with more arm because of it. These are 9 and 10 year olds. The trade off is the stretch is generally more consistent. In short, what I said before. Whatever feels the best to a given kid is the one for him to concentrate on.

My kid started out of the full-windup.He was taught by Scott Terry(former Cardinal) the basic steps.When he went up to select level,we had to quickly figure out a stretch delivery.It was the best thing that could have happened.The stretch fixed a serious problem that he had fought—in the balance–leg lift–lean toward&step toward the plate area.He is a RHP and was stepping to the first base side some–leading to coming open–which of course is a big black hole of repeated failure.He had a sideways twist that accelerated his leg over to the left.It was gone from the stretch completely.We,in fact,immediately switch to the stretch if he has any problems.I also figured it would be helpful to begin his warm-up routine this way to groove the stride placement.He probably does have more velocity in the stretch,also.Ultimately,balance/off-line momentum issues were created by the wind-up and I am now teaching all our inexperienced pitchers the stretch first now.You don’t have to add much to make a stretch a full-wind later,anyway.One less new thing when runners begin to lead off,also.This is not an opinion–it is a real-life example and I am sure that the wind-up is a leftover bunch of garbage from the “good 'ol days”.Until the old cats die off,though,the wind-up will be expected from starters at higher level play.Old myths are hard to put to rest.Anybody who disagrees here is basically closed minded and is probably still teaching “elbow-up” at batting practice.The old technique of batting has basically been disproven,so why not this?The game is only 100 yrs old.

Full wind up or stretch? Use the one that makes him fall in love with the game.