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Hey youth coaches, do you develop pitchers?

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  • Hey youth coaches, do you develop pitchers?

    Here's a question for those of you who coach or have coached at the young kid-pitch ages:

    Have you put much effort into developing pitchers? What do you, besides put them out there in games?

    My son is in his second year of kid-pitch, and I don't see any development of pitchers going on at team practices. In the first year of kid pitch, the coach evaluated the pitchers and picked a few to send out in games. (Somehow my kid got passed over... he didn't get his chance until later that year, but then he proved he could pitch well.)

    Anyway, practices are mostly based on fielding drills and batting practice. I think pitchers are expected to learn to pitch outside of team practice time. For us, this has worked well. My son does a lot of throwing outside of practice and he has been able to develop without having to conform to coaching ideas I might not agree with.

    This is a rec team that only plays about once a week, so having a deep pitching staff isn't really required.

    Do you spend team practice time coaching pitchers at this age? What are you teaching? Is it even possible to develop pitchers this way?

    In my mind, team practice is like the school lesson, home practice is like homework and game time is the test. I don't think a pitcher can do well at test-time unless he's been getting his "homework" in consistently. What do you think?

  • #2
    In a rec league, kids must practice away from the team, if they want to develop.

    In rec leagues you might get 1 to 4 hours a week for practice (weather permitting). Team practice time is precious and it takes several willing volunteers to make it work and a head coach that's not a control freak.

    The best practices that I've had, we divided the team into groups and they went from station to station working on drills. Some were generic and some were specific to a position. i.e., Footwork covering first base, blocking drills for catchers, hitting off a tee, etc... This could include pitchers throwing at target or to a catcher. We even had competitions from time to time - most 'strikes' throwing at the target.

    This takes enough adults to help out and that have some knowledge of the game.

    When I didn't have any other adults available, I would resort to infield drills and scrimmages. I could still send a couple boys off to pitch and catch and rotate them among the other boys. But this becomes a bit tricky at times. As I got older, I got little wiser and started having the boys pitch and catch during our scrimmage. I was also move the rubber in a little closer to help the kids with control issues.

    Perhaps you could ask the coach if you could take a catcher and couple of boys and go practice pitching. You could also stay an extra 15 minutes with some coaches and practice. Some would love the extra help... and other likes my son's current coach will say, "We're not doing that right now..." and so 12 boys can continue to stand around the field while one kid attempts to hit off the coach. Then he'll yell at the boys the next game for not being able to hit off of kid pitching. Sigh...

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    • #3
      We invited about half of the team to a couple of pitcher and catcher only practices before the season started. The invitations were based on our observations of the kids overall athleticism and our guess on the likelihood of the them actually practicing at home (usually based on our knowledge of their parents). We did not do much pitching pratice during team practices other than some kid pitch batting practice closer to opening day. More coach supervised pitching practice would have been beneficial. It is also possible that we overlooked someone who has the potential to pitch. There is never enough time to do everything you want to do in the limited amount of practice time.
      WAR EAGLE!

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      • #4
        What I did was this...

        I told all the kids on the team that they could pitch, if, and only if, they could show me they could consistently throw strikes. Now I did take part of the first couple of practices to work on basic throwing form. We then broke down simple pitching form. I also provided them a simple game. They could target a bucket against a fence at home and work on their own, etc. Of course at that level there was no need for me to be in the dugout during the time my team was out in the field during games, so I would take one of the kids who was left on the bench and take him outside of the field with me and work on his pitching during the half inning. I'd do that with 2 or 3 kids each ball game. When they showed decent form and accuracy, they were marked as ready to go into the ball game for the next game.

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        • #5
          --Coaching ages 7-9, first level of kid pitch and only one kid who had played at this level before. Our first series of practices we split into 3 groups to practice fielding, hitting and pitching. Every kid got to practice "pitching" in those practices - although all I was teaching at that point was proper throwing mechanics - telling them to throw the same as if they were playing SS or OF and just concentrate on getting it over the plate.
          --We did this for half a dozen practices or so and then I picked 5 kids who had demonstrated an ability to throw the ball more or less over the plate with some regularity gave them a rope cut to pitching distance and told them to keep practicing at home. After that pitching practice has consisted mostly of letting them throw BP a little, pre-game pointers and a few in-game adjustments for kids that get out of whack. The last few practices before the season started we shifted mostly to full squad, game situation practices and once the season started we have 2 games a week and only 1 practice so individual work is pretty limited.
          --I also told the other kids that if they kept working on their throwing they would have a chance to show me what they could do later in the season and we've added a 6th pitcher that has worked hard and really improved at throwing since we got started (a 7 year old girl who could even get in 46 ft on the fly in the beginning).

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          • #6
            If I were king of our league, I would try to arrange a league wide pitching clinic at least a month before the league tryouts and draft. I would like to see this clinic teach coaches how to coach as well as pitchers how to pitch. The clinic would meet once a week for 4-6 weeks and include homework drills to be done between clinic days. The clinic would be open to all interested kids regardless of ability. This clinic would help teach more kids how to pitch than the coaches have time to teach once team practices begin. It would also help the coaches evaluate players and hopefully result in a more balanced draft. Easier said than done, but I think this would greatly benefit our league.
            WAR EAGLE!

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            • #7
              A problem with many preteen coaches is they know little or nothing about pitching and catching. Another problem is if you spend a lot of time teaching most of the kids to pitch you would consume most of practice. I had eight who pitched in 9/10's in six in 11/12's. We spent some time in practice then had other practices that would be pitcher only. Pitchers would only have to be at the pitcher only practices for their thirty minute time of warmup, pitches and fielding fundamentals.

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              • #8
                With rec you're always short on field time so setting time aside for just pitchers could be a waste of valuable time. Batting cage sessions are usually a great time to work in bullpens. Have 3-4 show up in 30 minute intervals, get their cage time in, then have that same group throwing bullpens in the next 30 minutes while the next group of hitters rotates through the cage (our parks have outdoor cages that you can reserve or, if you don't want to do that, are on a first come-first served basis). You'll need to juggle your catchers to ensure you have at least one for each set of pitchers sent through, but the good thing is you get to have one coach working BP while the other works with pitchers specifically on pitching. If you don't have another coach then a parent can do underhand toss BP behind an L-screen.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Rufus67 View Post
                  With rec you're always short on field time so setting time aside for just pitchers could be a waste of valuable time. Batting cage sessions are usually a great time to work in bullpens. Have 3-4 show up in 30 minute intervals, get their cage time in, then have that same group throwing bullpens in the next 30 minutes while the next group of hitters rotates through the cage (our parks have outdoor cages that you can reserve or, if you don't want to do that, are on a first come-first served basis). You'll need to juggle your catchers to ensure you have at least one for each set of pitchers sent through, but the good thing is you get to have one coach working BP while the other works with pitchers specifically on pitching. If you don't have another coach then a parent can do underhand toss BP behind an L-screen.
                  The "rec" part makes it a little tough. Dad or an older brother is going to have to step in (or Mom). With a very young travel team, though, I take an entirely different approach. I only have one team practice a game. I also have several one hour spots set aside during the week for individual instruction taking two kids at a time for that hour. Starting at 8yo, this was half pitching, half hitting. Everyone learns to pitch. Many of these kids don't do well, but I still make sure they get to see the mound some at very convenient times depending on their ability. You never know when a kid that can't handle pitching at 8yo or 9yo will become your ace at 10 or 12. If you're looking long-term, working with all of them now pays off later.

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                  • #10
                    This thread highlights the problem.

                    So many games, so few practices. Baseball is primarily a skill sport.

                    Skill takes practice. Nobody likes to participate/coach practice.

                    Everyone just wants to play games and make out lineups.

                    At the younger ages, scheduling a 2-hour practice and dividing the team into 2 1-hour sessions might be more beneficial since you likely aren't spending 30 minutes on "team defense".

                    I simply had pitchers come early for 15-20 minutes or stay late 15-20 minutes. I you can get 2-3 to come early and 2-3 to stay late, you've got it covered.

                    What I am reading is that pitchers need to get better at home, which I somewhat agree with. But, couldn't I/we say the same thing about batters and fielders?

                    That brings me back to one of my consistent points, "Just what do the players need a coach for?" Surely, any adult can tell them whether they bat 2nd or 7th.

                    ----------------------------------------------------

                    At this point I've already done the "develop 7-10yo pitchers" thing and I've already taken dad's place in the "pitch and catch" aspect of the kid's life, and I've already been "the guy" whose team practiced twice as much as everyone else, ... that I no longer am interested in doing that any more.

                    I want to teach more advanced concepts to kids that take it more seriously and are willing to put forth the effort. For these reasons, I now coach a travel team. Next year, being able to practice and have regularly scheduled games rather than just playing tournaments in between rec league games is going to be freackin awesome.

                    But, I did want to say is that if all you're willing to invest is the "team practice" time, then you can;t really expect to get much in return. I basically told my players, "My son and I will be here every day at X O'clock. Join us if you want." Some did, some didn't. One kid did every single time, to the point he got to where he was calling us "Still going today?" He ended up rteplacing one of the travel kids on the LL All-Star team. That was fun.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CircleChange11 View Post
                      What I am reading is that pitchers need to get better at home, which I somewhat agree with. But, couldn't I/we say the same thing about batters and fielders?
                      The difference, for me at least, is that all I need to practice pitching effectively is a pitching rubber, a target, and 43ft of open space, and I have all that in my backyard.

                      I don't have a dirt infield to practice ground balls, or even enough open space for fly ball practice. My backyard is also lousy for hitting practice... too close to other houses to use a real baseball. Still we do our best with what we have.

                      The other issue is that a bad fielder or hitter is easier to live with than a bad pitcher, IMO. Even if little Johnny is only practicing his fielding and hitting in the team practice, he probably won't stink up the games too badly. But a bad pitcher can turn the game into a miserable walk-fest...

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CircleChange11 View Post
                        This thread highlights the problem.

                        What I am reading is that pitchers need to get better at home, which I somewhat agree with. But, couldn't I/we say the same thing about batters and fielders?

                        That brings me back to one of my consistent points, "Just what do the players need a coach for?" Surely, any adult can tell them whether they bat 2nd or 7th.

                        ----------------------------------------------------

                        At this point I've already done the "develop 7-10yo pitchers" thing and I've already taken dad's place in the "pitch and catch" aspect of the kid's life, and I've already been "the guy" whose team practiced twice as much as everyone else, ... that I no longer am interested in doing that any more.

                        I want to teach more advanced concepts to kids that take it more seriously and are willing to put forth the effort. For these reasons, I now coach a travel team. Next year, being able to practice and have regularly scheduled games rather than just playing tournaments in between rec league games is going to be freackin awesome.

                        But, I did want to say is that if all you're willing to invest is the "team practice" time, then you can;t really expect to get much in return. I basically told my players, "My son and I will be here every day at X O'clock. Join us if you want." Some did, some didn't. One kid did every single time, to the point he got to where he was calling us "Still going today?" He ended up rteplacing one of the travel kids on the LL All-Star team. That was fun.
                        Very well said. This was the point I was trying to communicate to Meg on the other thread.

                        At the youth level, LL practice is a team practice. Learning how to interact with each other on the field as a team. It is also a time to INTRODUCE INDIVIDUAL FUNDAMENTALS. The players have to take time outside building on those skills. We all know some do and some don't.

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