There’s a question roaming around our facility that naturally comes up this time of year.
SHOULD PITCHERS THROW YEAR ROUND?
Before we answer that, let’s define a couple terms (Throwing v Pitching). Throwing involves the development of arm strength, proper arm action, body mechanics, long toss, ballistic training, etc. Pitching involves throwing off a mound. What we aim to accomplish out of this article is to create a clear picture of what a pitcher should be doing at different times throughout the year. We feel the need to write this article due to the increasing number of youth and high school pitchers who are pitching year round.
After spending time considering our own playing experience at the Div. I and Professional Level, along with hours of research from some of the top throwing minds in the country we have an answer:
PITCHERS SHOULD NOT PITCH YEAR ROUND!
We do believe that a pitcher should be throwing throughout the majority of the year, however with different intent and focuses at different times. Here’s a quick example of why pitchers need to take time off.
Throughout a season, a pitcher’s arm external rotation will increase naturally. As the rotation increases, the rotator cuff takes on more stress. The posterior chain (back muscles) work less and start to lock up, applying most of the work to the rotator cuff. Taking time off after a season to regain your scapular muscle stregth and rotator cuff healing is required to keep a healthy arm for the upcoming off season and years to come. – Eric Cressey Performance
Here are some other points of why pitchers should take time off:
- They need to allow for any undetected low- grade injuries to heal. Throughout a season there will be injuries, some of them are right up front and some of them are the little tweaks that could add up to something much more if not rested properly. Taking time off will allow any of those tweaks and minor injuries to pass and get better rather than taking them into the off season where you should be increasing the workload.
- MLB pitchers take 1- 2 months off of throwing completely after a season. Pitchers at that level are a lot stronger and mechanically developed and they still need their rest because of the stress they put on their arms. Now, take a kid who is much more physically immature at 15-16 years old throwing 75-78 compared to a major leaguer throwing 90-92. The younger kid will endure far more damage on every throw then the MLB pitcher because the kid has not fully developed yet. Now, why would that younger kid throw and pitch all year round if the stress on his arm is more than the MLB pitcher? – Driveline Baseball
- Pitching year round will wear you out physically for the most part, but it also will affect you mentally as well. Giving yourself some time off of throwing and pitching allows you to regain mental focus, keeps you fresh, and most importantly will allow you to not get worn out and continue loving the game.
- They need to build a foundation. One of the most important parts of being a healthy pitcher is having a strong foundation heading into the upcoming season. When you build a house and you don’t build the foundation up strong, that house will collapse and not last very long. Same goes with pitching. During the foundation period, pitchers should be focusing on arm strength, developing proper arm action, increasing body control, going through a long toss program, ballistic training, etc.
So here’s the next question we normally get once we’ve established that pitchers should take time off.
HOW LONG SHOULD A PITCHER TAKE OFF AND WHEN?
To help explain our answer, please refer to the timelines below. Disclaimer, the timelines below are generic examples that we created to explain what a pitcher should be doing throughout the year. Keep in mind each pitcher’s needs and experience are different and can affect the timelines below.
Key Terms: T = Throwing Development, P = Pitching Development
As you can see, high school pitchers have a different timeline than youth pitchers. We recommend all high school pitchers take at minimum, 1 month off of total throwing and 4 months off of pitching, whereas youth pitchers should be getting 1.5-2 months off of total throwing and 4 months off of pitching. In a nut shell, we believe that pitchers need to take some time off of throwing (1-2 months depending on age) and pitching (4 months) following spring and summer ball. Following the initial 1-2 month period of rest, the most important part is making sure to progressively build the foundation of the arm through throwing development, NOT JUMP RIGHT ON A MOUND!
What’s the expected result in better understanding and following a proper pitching timeline? A healthier arm that properly develops at the right time and will stay stronger through the course of a season.
Hard Ball Talks
Date: October 26, 2015
Guest: Coach Ray Bennett, Assistant Coach of the St. Louis Blues. You can learn more about Coach Bennett and the St. Louis Blues at www.stlblues.com.
Topic: We see often the underselling of our youth in their youth sports experience, Coach Bennett dialogues with us on this topic. Coach Bennett has a wealth of experience and perspective, not only from his time coaching in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings, but also with his work in the Canadian National program and junior hockey. Coach Bennett brings unique perspective as a father of two children who have grown through the junior hockey system in the United States.
Hard Ball Talks
Date: October 12, 2015
Guest: Elliott Finkelstein, Director at Triple Crown Sports. You can learn more about Elliott and the professional events that Triple Crown Sports hosts at www.triplecrownsports.com.
Topic: With an increasing number of youth clubs forming, more and more tournaments and events popping up, it is critical for us coaches and parents to take a more active role in the assessment of finding the right experience for our athletes. Events have the ability to be a contributor to the right experience in youth sports or a deterrent. Elliott took some time with us to discuss sports events, tournament experiences, and his overall passion to improve the youth sports platform.
Hard Ball Talks
Date: August 28, 2015
Guest: Coach Pete Hoffman, Former High School Coach at Collinsville High School in Collinsville, IL, Co-Founder of the Extreme Baseball & Softball Club, and Current Head Coach of the 10U Extreme Softball Team.
Topic: Stories, examples, and advice to parents and coaches on providing the 3D experience in youth sports.
To purchase the 3D Coach – Capturing the heart behind the jersey written by Jeff Duke referenced on tonight’s call please click here.
WHEN: Sunday, August 2nd
- Understand firsthand how a college coach evaluates talent
- Learn the responsibility of club and select teams in
developing recruitable players.
- Gain perspective on the number of high-level scholarships available each year and how they are distributed Nationally.
By Coach Brett Swip
If you missed Part 2 of this blog on catching the ball, you can click here to read and see the videos. Today’s portion of the blog will give you ideas on drills and progressions to better prepare your youth athlete for catching a pop-fly and fielding a ground ball. Again, progressing them to feeling confident about these skills is the key. These are two of the fundamental skills to playing defense and some of the most under-coached skills. Commonly, when we coach these skills, we put the players in their positions or in a single-file line and hit them pop-flys and ground balls from our bat. These videos will provide you with other variations to develop the skill safely, creatively, and allow the athletes to have fun in doing so.
Remember this picture from the movie, Sandlot!?!?
Instead of praying that you don’t cause a black-eye with one of your athletes trying to catch a pop-fly, take them through a simple progression to teach 2 important tips to catching a pop-fly.
1) Getting their feet to the ball before putting the glove up in the air.
Put a helmet on your athlete, throw a wiffle in the air, have them run to where they think the wiffle ball will drop and let the wiffle hit them in the helmet. Kids love this drill and it is a great way to drive home the idea of running to the fly ball before sticking their glove up in the air. Teaches them great hand-eye coordination and depth perception to help them catch pop-flys.
2) Catch the ball with two hands near their chest.
Most athletes will not get their feet to the pop-fly and then they will just stick their glove out away from their body like a basket and hope the pop-fly lands in. Instead, teach them to catch the ball near their chest. First, stand close to the athletes and let them work on getting their feet to the ball and catching the ball barehanded. Then scoot back and give them an oven mitt. Finally, finish up by giving the athlete their gloves and throwing traditional pop-flys.
Putting it together
Pop-fly Circle Drill – put 5 cones on the ground in the shape of a big circle, have them start at one cone and throw a ball in to the middle of the circle, they run to the middle and catch the fly ball, then they go to the next cone. Repeat at each cone for a series of 5 fly balls from different angles. You can space out the cones farther and farther apart as they get more confident in this skill.
When we were kids, we remember our baseball or softball coach telling us to field groundballs with our head down, butt down, out in front at the top of the triangle, and with our throwing hand near-by . . . . . . but when we hit a groundball to the athletes we are coaching, we end up with them trying to field it on the side, one-handed, with their head pulling up and us hoping that it doesn’t take a bad hop and hurt them. Instead of immediately putting a mask on them when they are fielding to keep them safe, take them through a roundball progression that will build the muscle memory that you are looking for them when you hit a groundball. Below is a progression that we use for our youth players all the way up to our collegiate athletes.
- Knees No Gloves
- Stool No Gloves
- Standing No Gloves
- Standing No Gloves Transitioning in to throwing
- Then add paddles or oven mitts
- Then add gloves
- Then add force outs
- Then add tag outs
- Then add throws to bases on the field
Stay tuned for the final Part 4 of this youth practice plan which will introduce coaches to hitting drills and baselining drills that will surely help the athletes score more runs and enjoy the offensive part of baseball and softball.
By Coach Brett Swip
1) As coaches, we must first learn to recognize some of the common problems that young athletes have when playing catch.
- Stepping backwards when receiving the ball – young athletes commonly move away from the throw when it is coming in. This puts them in a very defensive, non-athletic position that leads to fear and potentially injury.
- “Chicken-winging” their elbows – young athletes commonly try to catch a ball with the wrong part of their glove because of a tendency to “chicken-wing” their elbows when they try to receive the throw
2) Help young athletes progress confidently when catching the ball by using various balls. This will help develop hand-eye coordination and teach them the proper way to use two hands when playing catch. The glove is truly meant to be used as a padded barehand, so start barehanded throwing these balls slowly. This will teach them the fingers-up and two-handed approach to catching.
- Deflated basketball
- Deflated volleyball or 16″ chicago ball
- A nerf type ball
- A tennis ball
- A baseball or softball
3) Once you see the confidence start to increase when they catch barehanded, put a paddle on their hands to help with the idea of using a backboard that will then help transitioning in to their throwing hand. An oven mitt is another great tool to train the proper way to use a glove.