Youth Baseball Coaches Should Keep It Simple. But...
I gave a presentation about pitching to a large group of youth baseball coaches awhile back, and the first question I received after my talk was; “That stuff is awesome, but isn't it too advanced for Little Leaguers?”
It's a good question, and I'll tell you what I said in this article.
First, the “advanced” ideas I was talking about are really pretty simple. I went through topics including front leg stability, hip momentum, shoulder replacement, and some simple functional fitness ideas.
Those are some of the most basic ideas which form the sturdy pillars of my pitching philosophy, and aren't any more “advanced” than trying to hit a baseball on the barrel.
Don't confuse something you haven't heard before, or don't understand, for something that's too advanced.
I give speeches a lot, and often it's to youth baseball coaches. One thing that I notice a lot of times is that some of the coaches check out of the talk as soon as I use a word they don't understand. Because I work with high level players, they assume that my advice doesn't apply to beginners.
It must be too complicated for youth baseball players.
Not true at all.
Set Youth Baseball Players Up On The Right Path
I also work with eight year olds, and everything up the ladder from there. It's true that the coaching must be different for young kids, but that doesn't mean the goals have to be different.
The tone, the words, the drills, this stuff will mostly be different between a lesson with a college player and one with a ten year old. However, the imperative elements of successful and high level pitching are the same.
Young kids are not as good at advanced techniques as older kids, there's no doubt. Does that mean we shouldn't teach them those things? To the contrary, I believe that's the exact reason why we need to start working on high level ideas earlier.
One of the things I was talking about was front leg stability. CRITICAL in being consistent and accurate, and also in being able to throw hard. Youth baseball players are typically in more need of this training than any other group.
I got two questions about this subject. One was “Our fields aren't as nice as your facility, we can't do one legged stuff in mud, can we?”
Yes you can, in fact the initial phases of stability training may be better suited for mud than solid surfaces anyway!
The second question was; “My pitchers don't have good balance, if I have them do these front leg drills they'll fall over. Shouldn't we just train them to balance first?”
No. At least not the way you're teaching "balance".
The solution to a kid that cannot balance is not to slow him down and make him stand still in static balance. I cannot stress this enough. That's like saying that the solution to a weak bicep is to go very easy on the biceps in the weight room.
My thinking is quite the opposite.
If a kid cannot balance, that's exactly the kid that needs to be doing explosive, athletic, and aggressive agility and stability exercises! He doesn't need to slow down, he needs to speed up.
We cannot coach youth baseball players in a way that highlights their weaknesses, we need to train them in a way that will eliminate those weaknesses.
If a kid cannot stand on one leg, make him jump on one leg. If he cannot run 60 feet fast enough, make him run 100 feet as fast as he can. If he can't throw the ball 50 feet, have him throw it 90 feet.
Weak legs? Make them stronger. Bad posture? Strengthen the core. Attack the weakness, don't bend to it.
We have to shape the INTENT in a way that develops our players instead of coddling them. Break them out of their bad habits, because the longer you leave those habits the more impossible they are to overcome later on.
Hard Doesn't Mean Bad, Challenge Your Players
The number one message I would give to youth baseball coaches is to be open minded and learn new things. Never assume that an “advanced” idea is too hard for a young kid to do.
They may not be able to do it the same way as a D1 college kid, but that doesn't mean they can't begin learning it. That's our number one job as a youth coach, to teach.
We should be teaching the things that will help them play this game at a high level, not just stuff that works right now based on what they're capable of now.
Set kids up for success and long term development.
Once they win a few games on the varsity team or get to play in college, they won't remember how many games they won during their ten year old campaign. However, they may just remember that coach that taught them the things they thought were a little “too advanced” at the time.
Youth coaches should keep it simple, but they should also be challenging kids and allowing them to find their limits on the field. A lot of them are capable of SO MUCH more if they're allowed to try it out and set their mind to achieving something.