Cindy Bristow 2015-11-24 04:40:52
If you’re struggling to figure out how to teach your first-year players how to pitch, then the following six steps are just what you’ve been looking for. It’s tough to know where to start with young kids when it comes to pitching. Most of us start by throwing the whole everything you need to know about pitching book at them when they barely know how to read. Recently I received an email from a coach that said she was coaching a first year kid-pitch recreation team full of nine-year-olds. She had been to a couple national softball clinics and had a good understanding of how to pitch, but had no clue where to start or what to teach these first-time pitchers. This isn’t uncommon since teaching someone a skill like pitching for the very first time can be pretty overwhelming. No matter what you might know about pitching, when you’re dealing with kids this young it’s almost better not to know much at all since they can’t handle much information anyway. Luckily, it’s not as hard as it might seem to teach young kids how to pitch, so let’s look at some keys for doing so: Keep It Simple: Remember that these are young kids. They DON’T CARE what you know about pitching and they won’t listen long enough anyway. So make your information very simple! Be sure you give them the MOST important stuff first, and then only a few things. If you start from the grip and are still talking 10 minutes later, it’s over. You’ve lost them. Stop telling them everything you’ve ever heard about pitching or pointing out every one of their mistakes. Young kids have a difficult time moving small body parts (like a hand) and instead move larger ones, like their chest. That’s why it’s very common to see young pitchers in this leaning-over position at release. Let it go and talk to them about their magic arrow. Give Them the Magic Arrow: Teach them how to make a pitch go up or down, in or out by teaching them about the Magic Arrow. Basically, it’s something I made up to make controlling the ball simple for pitchers of all ages to grasp. It goes like this: If you look at the middle of your pitching hand, sticking out of it is an Invisible Magic Arrow. The reason it’s magic is because wherever it’s pointing when you release the ball is where the ball is going to go. Face it up when you let go and the ball goes up. Face it sideways and the ball goes sideways. But face it at the glove when you let go of the ball and the ball goes to the glove! Also, how fast your Magic Arrow is moving when you let go of the ball is also how fast the ball goes! Magic! Now it’s up to you to learn to control your arrow because after all, it’s yours! Kids love this concept and will grasp it quickly. But you will need to remember that knowing and doing are two different things. But doing starts with knowing, so teach the knowing part first and be SUPER patient with the doing. Remember, kids are as smart as we treat them. Make It Fun: If it’s not fun, who wants to do it? Part of fun is being successful at something so find ways to help your young pitchers be successful. Now let’s look at a Six-Step Process that will use these three keys to help make it possible to teach young kids how to pitch: No Balls. Spend a lot of time letting the players practice going through the pitching motion without a ball. Put simply, the pitching motion is: A Step (with their glove-side foot), a Circle (with their pitching arm), and a Let Go! Step, Circle, Let Go – all without the ball. Let’s Work Together. Have them work their hands and feet together so that when their stride foot hits the ground, they should feel like their hand lets go of the ball. All Together Now. Have all the pitchers line up facing a fence or wall. Give them each a ball and have them all pitch to the wall at the same time. This helps prevent embarrassment if you aren’t very good (which most of them won’t be) while giving maximum practice time per kid. Let’s Get Closer. When you introduce a ball, put each pitcher about 15 feet from a fence or wall. Let them all pitch at the same time and focus on the concept that the ball goes where your hand points when you let go of it. Up and Down. Move back a little farther from the fence or wall and have them work on pitching to a spot high on the fence, then low on the fence and then in the middle of the fence, rotating each location every two or three pitches. This helps them work on making adjustments and starting to learn where their hand is pointing when they let go of the ball. Back It Up. Finally, have them move back to regular distance and pitch. Have them use lots of balls instead of just one so they spend most of their time pitching instead of chasing and help them fix the next pitch as opposed to getting mad at the last one. Remember that pitching is a relatively simple skill that we make terribly confusing by over-teaching it. It also happens in a pressurized environment that requires five times more success than any other position! Remember, be kind and patient! For more help teaching your pitchers, check out our website www.SoftballExcellence.com.
Published by Baseball Magazine. View All Articles.