Everyone always likes to know the answer to this question:”what pitch am I going to learn next?”
What I have found is that many pitching coaches like to throw out very scripted and generic answers to this question. See if this sounds familiar:”Well, first you learn fastball. Then change up. Then drop. Then curve. Then screw. Then rise if you throw over 53 mph (or some people say higher speeds, depending).”
Let me tell you why this is NEVER the way I do it.
Every child is built differently than the next and therefore has different strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies. If I have been working for weeks with a girl in an attempt to get her to drive her elbow in front of her hand in her downswing (instead of driving her hand first), there is no way that I will teach that child a change up anytime soon. It literally goes against everything that we were just working so hard to correct. The body needs time to create the right neuropathways (Read The Talent Code for more on this), and if we are just starting to create the right pathways only to begin reinforcing the wrong ones, that pitcher is going to wonder why she is losing the progress she made on her fastball. A girl who has had a significant amount of trouble developing speed should not learn change up until she has met her goal speed. Yes, that might take years. Yes, I will wait. What good is a change up if your fastball isn’t up to par?
Similarly, if a pitcher has been working on putting her weight back or “slotting” her throwing shoulder correctly and is able to achieve this after great efforts, I am not going to teach her a drop next. The weight coming over her land leg is obviously something she was doing incorrectly, so why would our next spin pitch reinforce this bad positioning?
And now I am going to go totally rogue on you.
Do you know what pitch I would generally teach that girl next?
Wait for it…..
Rise: even if she doesn’t throw 53 quite yet.
I know what you are thinking:
“You are crazy.
You are breaking the rules.
How can this be effective?”
First of all, those are some bs rules. Second, I am not trying to get her a rise that is game-ready in a few weeks. That would be ridiculous. What I am doing is reinforcing the movement patterns that she has been working on. I am also teaching her a spin that will force her to create a lot of torque in her forearm, so even if her speed isn’t quite there yet:
-Her body position continues to improve, allowing her to throw harder and harder
-Her forearm muscles strengthen
-I am challenging her brain with a very complex spin
-By the time other girls are just starting a rise (because supposedly, you have to wait until you are such and such a speed to learn), my girl is already proficient
Here are some other general guidelines that I use:
-If I have a girl who hyperextends her back, we stay away from curve.
-I would not teach a screw or curve to a girl who wings her hand way out to the side of her body.
-If I have girl who kicks her drag foot way out behind her, we don’t touch that screwball.
So how DO I decide what pitches to teach and when?
This is gonna sound crazy, but I take the needs of each individual child into consideration and I also consider the time of year. If it is November, and the next game isn’t until March, then we have time to mess around. If it is January, we are making more careful decisions.
The pitch I tend to teach last is actually screwball (I usually teach this even after I teach backdoor curve). Of course, since every child is different, there are always exceptions, but here is why:
-Most girls can spot the ball well inside without a screwball
-If screwball is not thrown correctly, the break can be slow and easy for a hitter to spot
-Screwball has the strangest mechanics of any spin pitch and it therefore often works counter to everything else you are trying to accomplish
I know that many girls tend to lose speed when they learn spin pitches.
There is no need for this. Realize that the easiest pitch for you to throw (for example screwball if you always lean to the right anyway) will mess up your fastball if you aren’t aware of how it might be compromising your body position. Don’t just blindly accept that you learn drop after change etc. etc. Do your homework. Also, make sure that you are learning pitches that your coach will call in a game and that you will be comfortable throwing in a game situation. A backdoor curve is one of my favorite pitches, but if you can’t throw it at the batter, it won’t work. Consider all the variables I mentioned here, and, of course, message me with any questions!