Practice Boredom Part 3

Chapter: 7 How to deal with pitching practice boredom Part 3

If you have decided to go on with pitching at either the rec level or the travel/club level you will need to workout often. Depending on your age, 2 to 3 times a week should do it for rec and school levels starting 2 months before tryouts. You will need 4-5 workouts a week for serious travel/club ball starting 3 months before the season. If you live in a warm location you should pitch all year taking 2 weeks off around Christmas and another 2 weeks at the end of your season. When the season is in full swing, if you get a start a week, you can cut your practices down but always have at least two. Here is how to make them fun:
Week one: select the amount of time you should practice and begin. Have your catcher count the number of pitches you throw in the time you selected. Let’s say you picked one hour (not including warm up and warm downs) and threw 75 pitches.
Week two: Throw 75 pitches no matter how long it takes but don’t try to rush. Have your catcher keep a count of the strikes. Let’s say in 75 pitches you threw 43 strikes.
Week three: You will throw 43 strikes in practice no matter how long it takes. As soon as you do your done. Have your catcher keep track of the time it takes you to do this.
Week four: Play 21 outs. Pretend there is a batter, (sometimes left handed) and let your catcher mix up your pitches keeping ball and strike counts. The catcher is the ump for the calls. When you have 21 strike outs you’re done no matter how long it takes. Have your catcher keep track of the time it takes you to do this. CAUTION, this is where arguments can start. If you work a batter to a full count and throw a pitch that you think is a strike and your catcher thinks is a ball it can get testy. So always start this workout with 2 “take overs”. You can use the take over to re pitch the full count and that will stop the argument about the last pitch.
Week five: Repeat week one being sure that the time you select is right for your needs and level. It should be at least as long as the time you used in week 3. Have your catcher count the number of pitches you throw in the time you selected. Let’s say you picked one hour (not including warm up and warm downs) and threw 79 pitches.
Week six: Throw 79 pitches no matter how long it takes but don’t try to rush. Have your catcher keep a count of the strikes. Let’s say in 79 pitches you threw 51 strikes.
Week seven: You will throw 51 strikes in practice no matter how long it takes. As soon as you do, your done. Have your catcher keep track of the time it takes you to do this.
Week eight: Play 21 outs. Recall at how long it took you to get 21 outs in week 4 and try to do better. Have your catcher keep track of the total pitches you needed to get the 21 outs. The next time you have a 21 out practice week you will want to try to throw fewer pitches to get the outs.
Week nine and on: Just keep repeating these 4 week cycles adjusting the numbers as you go. THE END OF EVERY PRACTICE: Throw 5 fast balls to your catcher letting them know that one of these will be a change up. It can be the first or any other of the five. The catcher’s job is to call the pitch before it leaves your hand. If they can, your change is not good enough and needs special practice. Now throw a fastball strike with your eyes closed. Take 5 try’s, your done when the first strike is thrown or you get to 5 attempts. Soon you will be able to throw a strike in the first or second pitch, eyes closed, every practice, believe it or not.
COMMENTS:
Week one: Pitchers have a tendency to work slowly when it is a timed practice without a lot of attention to effectiveness and the strike zone.
Week two: Pitchers tend to work fast when the practice is a pitch count, without a lot of attention to effectiveness and the strike zone.
Week three: Pitchers will try very hard to get into the strike zone if the length of practice is the strike count
Week four: Pitchers will treat it like a game and will want the pitch selection to be their “OUT” pitch when the count is 2-2. Even in practice, pitchers do not like to walk batters pretend of not.
Practice end: A change up is not a slow pitch. It is an illusion of a fast pitch. The pitcher must do EVERYTHING the same for the illusion to work. A good change will even fool an ump. We often throw our change in the strike zone to get the call. When the pitcher realizes they can throw strikes with their eyes closed it will no longer be a problem intentionally taking a batter to 3-0. Confidence in their own ability is built right here. Each of these weeks has a flaw in its way of addressing a practice.

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Practice Boredom Part 2

Chapter 6: How to deal with pitching practice boredom part 2

Set up a schedule for you and your catcher to work out 3 times a week for about an hour including warm up and down, be sure transportation is available. It is best if the location and time are always the same to develop the routine make sure to consider a backup location for bad weather days. Make sure you see your pitching instructor every week. Tell them your problems, report your improvements and outline your physical condition if it becomes troubling. In the beginning boredom is not too big of a problem because you will see yourself gain accuracy and speed. You will also be taught new pitches which will help keep the workout interesting. At some point (assuming you are 12 or older) you should know how to throw 4 or more pitches. Practice each pitch in a group of maybe 15-20 deliveries looking for accuracy and movement. After you have practiced all of the versions go back to the one that was your worse and do another 15. This should do it for you so finish up with a fastball in the strike zone. Sometime its fun to see if you can knock a glove off the catchers pail (assuming a Mom or Dad is catching you while seated on a pail). Count how many pitches it takes to do this and keep trying to lower the number. Now its time to join a team and get some game pitching time. Find a good rec league and go to try outs. Keep up your practice schedule and DO NOT ASSUME you will get practice time during your team’s practices. Soon you will be in your first game which we will discuss later on this season. Finish off the entire season no matter what! After the season is over you must once again ask yourself all the important questions that you first answered. If you still want to go ahead you have become an intermediate pitcher. Now you need to decide if you want to stay at your current level which would include more rec league seasons, possibly all stars and eventually school ball or go deeper into the sport and look for a club or travel ball team try out. In either case practice will lose its excitement and become less a sport and more a job. We invented a program to make practice not only endurable but somewhat enjoyable. Next week we will show you how it works and what other benefits we found. We are hoping to hear your comments and questions they help us keep stay motivated to add more to the blog!!

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Practice Boredom Part 1

Chapter 5: How to deal with pitching practice boredom part 1

Practice is the place to build your advantage over the competition. The better your practice is, the more of an advantage you will have. So, practicing a lot should do it, right? Not necessarily! Many long term pitchers have lackluster, boring practices that succeed only in burning up time. In fact, practice pushes more athletics away from pitching than any other factor. Additionally, most young pitchers have a family member catch them. Sooner or later a disagreement will occur. If this happens often enough the whole family is effected. When we worked on pitching, practice was 5 days a week and there were weekend games. A typical practice including warm up and warm down, along with travel to and from the practice site cost about 2 hours each day. I live in So Cal so weather allowed me to practice outside most of the time. The only real break would be if we had rain. When that happened we would go to a batting cage and buy an hour there. That made the workout about a half an hour shorter. Overall that is about 600 hours (including game time) a year, about 30,000 practice pitches annually. Here are comments for pitchers of all levels to consider starting with rookies.
BEGINNING ROOKIE PITCHERS: If you think you may want to pitch, start at least 4 months before your season begins. The most important part of beginning as a pitcher is to ask yourself HONESTLY if you want to invest time into the position. Ask those that know you if they think you have the temperament. Think about the local organization for the sport; is it active enough to be worth your investment in time and energy. Are you OK medically; asthma, allergy’s, endurance, size and vision need to be within workable guidelines. If all is fine then it is time to find a good pitching coach and take a beginner’s lesson. Practice 3 days a week for about a 1/2 hour, working on motion and accuracy only. Do it in a private, well lighted area if possible and be sure to use the ball you will be throwing if you continue as a pitcher. Once you have the motion to a point where you don’t have to think about it, take your next lesson. Continue on the 3 day schedule, a 1/2 hour each time plus warm up and warm down. Take another lesson and repeat the practice schedule. After one month it’s time to decide if this MIGHT be for you. Ask your pitching coach to give you an honest and realistic evaluation. Do they think you are talented enough to make pitching a career? If they say yes, ask your self the same question listed in the beginning again. Also ask your family if they are willing to help you with your commitment. If you decide to continue you have graduated into the novice pitcher class. Things will begin to change now. Check with us next week fore the next installment for practices. If you have any comments put them here and we will respond.

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Warming Up and Warming Down

Chapter 4: The importance for warming up and warming down when pitching

Warm ups are the 2nd most forgotten element in pitching. Only warm downs are more neglected. WARM UPS: DO NOT RUSH YOUR WARM UP. If the pitcher is starting in the game the warm up should be timed to end just before the game begins, giving the pitcher enough time to get to the diamond without running. The catcher should have a backstop and catching equipment. Nothing ruins a warm up more than a break caused when the ball gets by a catcher who now has to run (walk) to retrieve it. If this isn’t possible the catcher should have a few extra balls available. The pitcher should have a rubber. The distance should be exactly correct. The ball should be exactly the same as a new game ball. The ball should be dry and a towel should be available to keep it dry. It would be nice if the catcher knows the pitcher’s capabilities in movement, speed and location. Warm ups should start at a relaxed pace with only enough effort to allow the ball to reach the catcher. The pitcher may want to start closer to the catcher to be sure nothing is overstressed until the warm up is well along. The pitcher may also want to start using just arm rotation before going to a full body motion. The effort and distance should be increased as the pitcher feels more loose. Ultimately throwing at full strength from full distance. As soon as the full effort level is reached the pitcher should throw enough of each of their pitches to feel like all is working fine. Please, no radar guns here. Once the warm up is completed the pitcher should put on a jacket to keep the arm fully warm NO MATTER how hot the day is. There is no set time for the length of a warm up, it will depend entirely on the pitcher and their soreness or stiffness level. Some will be done in 10 minutes, some will take 30 minutes, BUT if the correct amount of time is used the probability of muscle injury is dramatically lowered. The catchers should make ONLY positive comments to the pitcher during the warm up. After it is complete (if the relationship between the warm up catcher and pitcher is strong enough) the catcher may want to tell the pitcher what is and isn’t working and how the speed seems. That same report should go the coach calling the pitches. If the pitcher is back-up for the game they should also go through a complete warm up and keep the jacket on. If the pitcher is not suppose to pitch we suggest they also warm up just to the full effort, full distance level. The reason is you never know what might happen. If your warm up time is 20 minutes and because of some unexpected set of events you suddenly have to pitch, the 5 to 10 pitches the umpire gives you will be WAY TOO FEW! THE WARM UP SHOW: People will be watching, now is the time to impress them! You don’t have to throw hard to impress, just act very professional and assured. Do not show anger, nervousness, or seem anxious. Don’t ask for any instructions. If it is a night game you will seem faster, use that to your advantage. If you have an awesome change up, throw it as few times as possible in warm up. We always suggest that the catcher’s glove produce the loudest possible noise when a ball arrives. Treating the glove with oil and being sure it is properly conditioned is important to sound. Loud sound is to a pitchers advantage. NEW INNING WARM UP: If its the pre first inning warm up on the field NEVER show your change up. You will get usually 5 pitches, be sure the last is either your best (out pitch) or your fastest. Don’t worry if its a little wild, it will make the batter think more. WARM DOWNS: Exactly the same as warm ups but in reverse and somewhat shorter. Pitch until relaxed and stop when you have a calm heart beat. This will help decrease your soreness the next day. If you went several innings we would suggest you ice the front of your shoulder and the lats on the pitching arm side, 20 minutes on, 20 off, repeat 3 times. Next on our topics is tricks to make practice more fun and give a better result. Bad practices drive pitchers out of the game so be sure to check our next blog entry. If you have any comments to this please type them in below. We keep an eye on the blog and will answer your questions.

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Parental Pressure in Sports

Chapter 3: Parental Pressure in Sports
There is a very narrow difference between the meaning of the words support and pressure within youth sports. There are many reasons why parents support their athlete off spring, here are a few:
1) the parent wants to support the child’s interest
2) the child will enjoy the sport more
3) the rest of the team will like them better
4) a way to defer college costs (scholarships)
5) to impress neighbors, friends, relatives, bosses, grandparents, sports writers, coaches and anybody else you can think of
6) the parent wasn’t a good athlete so the child’s sport becomes the parent’s chance to feel better about their selves
As we go down this list the reasons for support become less for the child and more for the parent. Also, please note that, around number 4 on the list, the descriptive word support should be changed to pressure. Parental pressure can drive an athlete out of a sport or if it is support, make them even better that they would otherwise have become. If the pressure takes the fun out of the sport; makes it seem like a job or leads to hate of practice it is too strong! Some kids will perform better than others and there will always be a best performer. If your child is not that best performer remember that neither are 99% of the rest of the kids in the sport. Here are some reasons why a certain child athlete excels:
A) they are bigger
B) started earlier
C) have more interest in the sport (more emotional investment)
D) are just more skilled or coordinated (sorry, we all can’t be great)
E) live in an area that is strongly committed to their sport (ice hockey and Quebec)
F) have better family support (moms, dads, brothers or sisters to have help with play time)
G) are in better health (rested and on a good diet)
H) have better coaching (or more GOOD coaching)
I) are on better teams ( teammates always have a share in a players success)
J) have better training equipment (batting cages, pitching machines)
When you start off with your child you will see that there is nothing you can do to control the first 5 of these points. The last 5 you can influence and are where you should put your efforts. This does not necessarily mean become your child’s coach. I’ve seen lots of baseball dads teach their daughters the wrong way to hit a softball and never know the difference and vice versa for a Softball Mom teaching her son to hit a baseball. Beginning pitchers are young emotionally. They don’t understand scholarships and competition. The only reason they are in the sport is for the fun of it, (that does not mean glory). Take that fun away and you will have a moody, under performing, unhappy athlete. Most of us want to see our child do better in life than we did. But if that means the parent is living vicariously a sports life through the child the pressures can be too high. You can not apply adult expectations on a child’s ability. Be sure your advice to the child is simple, clear, easy to understand, honest, fair and sportsmen like and above all CORRECT. Yelling from the stands “just throw strikes” isn’t very helpful: after all what do you think they are trying to do? In fact any cheering from the stands should be either complimentary or positive and NEVER personal. A game situation is not the place to instruct a beginning pitcher on their mechanics. It isn’t a place to shout “They can’t hit” It isn’t a place to belittle an umpire. It is a place to watch your child develop and understand more about not only the sport but how people should behave. If you keep your reason for support numbers “1” or “2” and your method of support from “F” through “J” the pressure you will create will be really support and very beneficial.

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Selecting a Pitching Coach

Chapter 2:

SELECTING A PITCHING COACH A COACH’S MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
There are several considerations when choosing a pitching coach, none of which have to do with costs.
1) The coach must have pitched competitively their selves. Anyone who says they are a coach but hasn’t pitched in real games can not present several things to the student that are very important. They can’t help in how to deal with practice boredom, how to work an umpire, pitch selection, heat, fatigue, uniform fit, cuts and bruises, tightness and blisters and many other issues.
2) They must have good chemistry with the student. Both student and coach MUST respect each other’s talents and abilities
3) They must be able to demonstrate each lesson effectively. If they can’t throw a drop ball how can they teach it?
4) They must be on time and have a safe environment in which to teach, hopefully private. The area should be well lighted, wind sheltered, of the correct surface w/rubber and plate. The pitching distance must be correct and there has to be enough room behind the pitcher for comfort PITCHING LESSON HINTS
5) The coach should not catch the student for the entire practice, it may be helpful to catch to see movement up close but the coach should be prepared to check the student at all different angles.
6) Lessons should be individual.
7) Lessons from 20 minutes to 40 are right with 30 minutes as ideal especially for a young or starting pitcher. Come early and warm up before the lesson starts. Warm down immediately after it is over.
8) A parent should listen to all conversations so they can help the student recall instructions during practices through the week but parents should avoid being overly involved.
9) A lesson should not be just a monitored workout. If everything is working well it is time to learn something new.
10) A beginning pitcher should go every week. A well trained pitcher (high school pitchers and older) can go as seldom as only when they develop a problem.
11) You should supply a competent catcher who will hustle after passed balls and wild pitches. The catcher is there only as an aid and should not instruct or issue negative comments during the instruction. The catcher should wear catcher’s protective gear.
12) NEVER emphases speed with beginning pitchers. Radar guns should be packed away for the beginning of a pitcher’s career.
13) Be sure the coach and you understand all pitching regulations so the student is always fully legal.
14) Ask other pitchers who is good and why.
15) Talk with league members for their references.
16) Ask club and travel coaches who they suggest.
17) Check the Internet and yellow pages for pitching schools in your area.
18) Call the national association rep (ASA, NSA, BOBBY SOCKS, TRIPLE CROWN, USSSA, AFA, PONY, LITTLE LEAGUE, CAL RIPKEN etc,) in your area for their suggestions FOLLOW UP Lessons are useless without practice, we will talk about that soon.

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Mental Toughness (Softball and Baseball)

Chapter 1: MENTAL TOUGHNESS

When a practiced baseball or softball pitcher takes the mound their mental outlook can determine the outcome of that inning as much as their physical ability. One proof of this is “when the inning’s lead off batter reaches first on a walk they tend to score more than 60% of the time” The pitcher’s team mates will be the 2nd line of defense and the pitcher must show appreciation for their effort. But the first line of defense is the pitcher. There is no defense for a walk! Pitchers must have great confidence in their ability to execute and place each pitch. They must also believe that the pitch selected is the best choice for the situation. Every at bat is a personal competition and the pitcher must feel they will win! As the pitcher’s ability advances they will find that against some batters, intentionally running a count to 3 and 0 is not only not a problem but can become a fun game within a game. This is the toughness a top pitcher needs. The only way to build mental toughness is through practice. However, for the practice to create the mental outlook needed, it has to be conducted in a certain way; most pitching practices are not! Throwing for a time period or a certain number of pitches is not the kind of practice that will give you this toughness. Our blog topics 5, 6 and 7 will outline, what we believe to be, the most successful way to build self confidence in a pitcher through correct practice. A practice the pitcher and her catcher/instructor/mother/father will both enjoy. For starting pitchers the first issue has to be correct motion with no regard for speed or accuracy. The best way to get this is from a GOOD pitching coach. Do not try to imitate another pitcher. Our next Blog entry will help you find the correct teacher.

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