It’s a dilemma that many first-time clients call me with:
“It’s so strange, she was fast/dominant/accurate for so long and this year, everything just seems to be falling apart.”
Not coincidentally, this always seems to be happening right around the time when the pitcher enters 14U or 16U.
It’s a tough situation. Most coaches and parents are really perplexed as to why this happens and want to do anything they can to resolve it. I am here to shed light on this, because it is ALWAYS one of three things:
- The pitcher was allowed to develop bad habits that she “got away with” at the younger level because she was more physically developed or generally stronger than the other girls.
- The pitcher never developed the mental game and this deficit now manifests itself in nearly every outing.
- The pitcher wants to quit or is considering quitting but is hesitant to tell her coach/parents.
If you are facing scenario number 3, there is nothing you can really do except allow her to be comfortable with quitting if the position is really not for her. The other two scenarios are the areas where well-intentioned coaches and parents can either save or destroy a pitcher’s career.
What happens in scenario 1? Scenario 1 typically occurs when a pitcher has gone to someone who “knows about pitching” to learn about pitching. Oftentimes, their “instructor” is someone who has never even pitched themselves but have had a daughter who pitched. Sometimes the “instructor” is someone who has pitched a few innings in high school. Generally speaking, these are the people who know nothing about anatomy or biomechanics and are doing this on the side to make some extra money. So who suffers? The young pitcher and, then eventually, her team. That is why it is extremely important that every coach in our sport dedicate themselves to learning something about pitching. Coaches are at the front lines! If you, as a coach or parent, know enough to help a child who is the victim of bad instruction, you are helping that child to avoid major problems (and probably injury) down the road. I have been appalled by some of the things I have seen in girls who have come to me after seeing the “instructors” I just described. If, as a coach or parent, you have dedicated your time to learning the craft of pitching, your antenna will start to go up as soon as you see or hear about the bad things that are being taught. You can give helpful input or you can help them find an instructor who will truly help them. But if you don’t know anything about that position, you will be helpless when your pitchers struggle.
Scenario 2 happens outside of the pitching circle as well. It is why that shortstop who was completely dominant suddenly boots every ball she throws. It’s why your catcher suddenly can’t block a ball. Think about it: every day, you work on the physical game, but, at a certain point, the mental game is really what determines your success. Great coaches train the mental game on a daily basis, but it is admittedly a very tricky topic. Again, it comes down to education. Most of us don’t have psychology degrees (I joke that my psychology minor was the best thing I ever did for my education), but we can learn how to foster the right team dynamic and how to facilitate success. These things become daily practices. You and your team create habits that help you to take down the competition.
I have seen the first two scenarios far too often in over twenty years of coaching. The biggest mistake that well-intentioned coaches make is learning about every position EXCEPT for the one that literally gets the ball on EVERY PLAY. They also make the mistake of completely avoiding the mental game until it’s too late. That’s why I created the Elite Pitching Intensive. I know that coaches and parents really care about their players. I know their education about the position is EQUALLY important to that of their pitcher’s. So why aren’t there more opportunities to acquire this information from reliable sources? Probably because it is hard to organize live events and also very stressful. Yes, you will take time away from your family to learn. Yes, you will miss that fishing trip or that time catching up with friends. Instead you will meet people who are just as passionate about the sport as you. You are a dedicated coach. You will stop at nothing to better your players and yourself. We can’t wait to meet you. See you on November 16th.
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