How to Teach Pitching For a Beginner
Out of all the things we get asked on a daily basis by coaches, this one always seems to keep coming back up. How do you teach a pitcher who is just beginning to learn?
There are many answers to this, and my favorite is to teach them how to throw long before they learn how to pitch. The principles of throwing go a long way to creating a great pitcher, and they'll make them better at everything else on the field as well. The biggest mistake that a coach of youth baseball players can make is to pretend pitching is much different than normal throwing.
Don't start out by making pitching mechanical, start by keeping it natural.
What are the steps to the pitching motion?
We'll answer this with a question, which is something we usually despise. What are the steps to throwing the ball to first base from shortstop?
Again, it pays to not make pitching so much different from all the other throwing the player is doing. Just for illustration, let's actually look at some of the steps to throwing the ball to first base from the infield:
- Align your feet toward the target
- Step with your front foot
- Rotate your hips, and then core to bring the arm around
- Deliver momentum and energy through the baseball toward the target
- Finish the throw with good direction and follow through
Looks like a pretty generic list right? We would venture to say that anybody who is old enough to be pitching on a mound, will not benefit from this type of advice. In fact, breaking the action of throwing into steps like these might do much more harm than good.
The player should think about the aggressive action of throwing as one continuous motion, like riding a bike.
Play long toss to learn how to pitch
One of the greatest things that a young player can do to learn how to pitch, is to learn how to play proper long toss. The principles of throwing the ball hard and to a target are on full display when they're playing long toss. Here are a few benefits:
- Learn how to throw as hard as they can
- Use every part of their body to generate a longer throw
- Feel their arm moving at velocities they never have before
- Work out over the front side and downhill on their way back in, just like on the mound
- Watch ball flight to ensure the fingers are staying through the top of the ball
- Develop arm speed and core strength from maximum exertion
- Truly learn what maximum intent is, and how it can help them 'try' to throw hard
Pitching for a beginner should be a fluid and athletic move that is controlled but explosive. Long toss teaches the player how to achieve their hardest possible effort while still controlling where the ball is going.
Make pitching for a beginner feel like everything else
Coaches should make pitching similar to every other action the player performs on the field. They should be allowed to keep it natural and fluid, and to free their minds from all of the pressures of mechanics and umpires. They will have far more success if they're less rigid and allowed to freely fire baseballs to their catcher, than if they're going through 7 steps in their heads and trying to land the ball in a perfect spot.
We also love to use the designated hitter in the box so that kids can get used to a batter being in there. The fear of hitting somebody is often a huge problem for new pitchers, so this is an invaluable tool to aid in that.