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How to Coach Youth Pitchers

March 16, 2013

The subject of coaching youth pitchers is an important one.  Pitchers should learn proper mechanics.  Young  pitchers’ arms are still growing and are susceptible to injury, both now and in the future.  Young pitchers will need to limit the amount of pitches they throw.  They should also refrain from throwing curve balls.  Of course, some will teach younger pitchers a curve ball, so you will need to teach your pitchers how to be competitive with them.  You do this by teaching them how to change speeds and how to locate their pitches.

One of the most important things for a pitcher to learn is proper mechanics.  Pitching is extremely hard on a pitcher’s arm and shoulder.  Proper mechanics limits the wear and tear to a certain extent.  Good pitching form starts with good footwork.  The pitching foot (the same side as the pitching arm) should be parallel to the rubber, with the outside of the foot up against it.  This gives a good surface to push off of.  This leg push generates much of the power for a pitcher.  Once they push with their leg, they should lead with their chest.  When their other foot hits the ground, the arm should finish the throwing motion, complete with a follow through.

It is recommended that a pitcher that is 16 years old or younger limit their pitches to 90 in a day.  For a less experienced pitcher, I would recommend even fewer pitches.  If a pitcher is laboring and is not able to pitch with proper mechanics, it is time to put another pitcher in.  Another use for pitch counts is making sure the pitcher has enough rest between appearances.  For each 20 pitches that a pitcher throws in a day, that pitcher should have one full day of rest before pitching again.

Now that they are pitching properly and they have a pitch count to help protect their arms, it is time to learn some pitches.  The fastball and the change-up are the first pitches that should be learned.  These need to be mastered before moving on to other pitches.  For pitchers under 16 years old, throwing curve balls is discouraged.  Curve balls are very hard on the arms.  Even if there is not an apparent injury, by the time they are pitching in high school, they can develop a loss in velocity.  Later in life, shoulder and elbow problems can start to appear.  In this writer’s opinion, it is just better to not throw curve balls at a young age.

A young pitcher can be very effective without a curve ball.  Even with just a fastball, if the pitcher can move the ball around the plate and up and down, they will have success.  Then once you start mixing it up with a change-up the batter has a lot to think about.  Is the ball going to be inside or outside?  Is it going to be high or low?  Is it going to be fast or slow?  That is all on top of figuring out if it is a strike and whether or not to swing!  That is a lot for a young hitter to go up against.

A young pitcher needs to start with the fundamentals of good mechanics.  Then make sure to put reasonable limits on their pitch count.  Teach them a fastball or two and a change-up.  Forget about the curve ball for now, that can be learned later.  For now, teach them how to command their fastball and change-up.  They will be successful as long as they change speed and location.  Then, when a pitcher is older (at least 16) and has good command of the fastball and change-up, a curve ball can be added.

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