Cleat Geeks

A great drill for pitchers: Quarterbacks

 

We’re always looking for great pitching drills.

Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, our eyes and ears are open for new ideas about how to make pitchers better.  One great set of drills that we use for pitchers is called quarterbacks.  It’s no secret where it got its’ name and it’s exactly what you think.

We have the athlete act like they’re a quarterback starting under center awaiting the snap.  When the pitcher begins the drill, he will drop back or roll out in a predetermined way and then aggressively throw the ball toward the target.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the baseball game between the Texas Rangers and the Philadelphia Phillies, Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)russell-wilsonthrowingFootball

Here are some things that this pitching drill can improve:

  • Athleticism, body control, and motor coordination.
  • Awareness of how to be under control while the body is moving.
  • Keeping eye contact on target while body is in motion.
  • Helps to fix many mechanical issues related to various types of “disconnection” from the body.
  • Cleans up arm action by connecting it to the body’s movement.
  • Teaches pitcher how to aggressively move body and throw accurately.

We are huge fans of athletic pitchers (thanks to Ron Wolforth for the term, not to mention the inspiration).  We believe that too many pitchers are focused on “steps” and balance points during the motion, when they should be focused on being explosive and in good rhythm.arrowPitching

 

 

How to perform the “quarterbacks” pitching drill:

Well we already laid it out basically, the pitcher just acts like a quarterback.  We suggest using a variety of “drop backs” and roll outs, to keep the body adapting and the drill fresh.  For example, the first couple can be just a straight 7 step drop straight back.  Upon reaching the end of the 7 steps, the pitcher plants his rear foot and aggressively drives into the target and throws.  This should happen quickly, more like a plyo-bounce than a stop-and-then-throw.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the fourth quarter of the New York Giants 24-20 win in a NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

The next couple can be 3 steps, or the angle can be changed so the pitcher is now dropping back to the right or left.  If you’re in a big enough area for this drill, the pitcher can also roll out to the side like he’s running an option.  Again, the more variation the better.

Quarterbacks can be a great pitching drill and can be used for non pitchers as well to increase athleticism and throwing accuracy.

This pitching drill is one that is recommended in our Baseball Brains Pitching Academy which is available on our site.

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Early Specialization VS Multiple Sports

Specialize or Play Them All?

Is it better for a young athlete to play many sports throughout the calendar year, or specialize in only one?

CHILDREN-PLAYING-SPORTIt’s a question that is being asked more and more as club sports and travel teams pop up in seemingly every town from coast to coast. With them comes an array of questions, concerns, opportunities, and pressures. No matter the age of the athlete, these issues can weigh heavily on them and their families.

This article will examine a few of the facts surrounding athletic specialization, and attempt to serve as an educational exercise for those who may be facing the decision of whether to play multiple sports or narrow it down to just one.

What’s Your Goal?

Snow Canyon's Blake Ovard steals second base while Enterprise shortstop Tanner Laub waits for the throw to make the tag during the Utah State Little League Tournament Thursday, July 13, 2001. (Photo by Jud Burkett)

Research has convincingly shown that early specialization results in early success. In other words, if a ten-year old basketball player wants to be the best ten-year old basketball player he can be, his best course is to focus entirely on basketball. He will generally elevate his game above his peers who are spending their time playing a different sport every season.

There are many benefits that come from early success in a young athlete’s career:

  • Attention from higher level coaches and recruiters
  • Happiness from achieving success at an early age
  • Mental confidence in the sport
  •  Additional access to better teams and competition

The question then becomes, what is the long-term effect? Surely, most parents would not say that they want their child to “peak” in a sport while they are twelve years old. Likewise, young athletes desire a career path that continues to trend upward into the highest levels of the sport.

As firm as the science is on the matter of early specialization being beneficial for early success, it is just as solid that early specialization does not equal long-term success.

In fact, the effects of focusing solely on one sport from an early age can be very strongly negative in many cases when examined over a longer period of time.

There are many problems created by early sports specialization:

  • Increased rate of “burn out” in the sport
  • Higher incidence of injury due to excessive repetition
  • Narrower motor skill development
  • Decreased participation in sports as an adult
  • Social isolation

If the goal is to create the best youth player in a particular sport, then playing that sport and nothing but that sport is the best path. If the goal is to set a young athlete on the best course for long-term development both in a specific sport and in life, research indicates that playing multiple sports is a much better idea.
What About All The Practice It Takes?

kidssoccerOne of the arguments that is often made regarding early specialization of young athletes is that the sport requires a lot of practice and repetition. So much so in fact, that the only way to spend that much time is to devote the entire year to that one sport. To play a different sport after the season would be to take away the practice hours needed to achieve mastery.

On this count as well, research does not agree. Many studies have shown that participating in multiple sports decreases the amount of time it takes to master any one of them. In other words, it will take a baseball player much longer to become “high level” if he only plays baseball as opposed to playing multiple sports.

This is caused from a phenomenon called skill transfer. Skill transfer is when training in one area promotes and benefits training in another area. This is perhaps the most convincing argument that can be made in the debate of specialization or multiple sport participation.

Skill transfer applies to many different areas:

  • Decision making
  • Movement patterns
  • Strategy
  • Physical conditioning

All of these areas of a young athlete’s development will be made stronger by playing multiple sports in comparison to only playing one.

Your Career Is A Resume

Let’s be honest, one of the biggest reasons why the choice is made to specialize in a sport early on is the promise of attention, exposure, better coaching, and perhaps even scholarships or professional careers. Club teams are very good at selling their product as something that an athlete needs to do in order to have a shot at making it to the top.

The question then is, what do college coaches and professional recruiters prefer to see on a player’s resume? Are they looking for a kid who specialized early on and focused solely on the sport they’re looking to play in college, or are they looking for all around athletes who played many sports growing up?

Patrick-MurphyWe asked Alabama’s Head Softball Coach Patrick Murphy that exact question, and he had this to say in response:

“I think it’s in the best interest of the athlete to play additional sports growing up. I’ve seen too many injuries due to specialization at an early age. There are many positive social aspects as well when playing multiple sports.”

In just a few words, a man who recruits athletes for a living and has had an incredible amount of success at the college level (2012 National Champions, 5 time SEC Champions), summarized very nicely the precise reasons why early specialization may not be the best route.
Is It Just About Sports?

You’ll notice throughout this article that there are many individual traits mentioned in research that aren’t directly athletic. Words such as “social isolation” or “decision making” should jump out at the reader as qualities of life as much as sport.

It should never get lost in all of these back and forth arguments that we are dealing with young people and not just young athletes. In another interview we conducted for this article, the Head Pitching Coach for the University of Georgia, Fred Corral, brought this aspect of the debate into clearer focus:

coachCorral“Each sport brings about different aspects of character, with all having the end result of which to grade your efforts.

For those that do specialize in a single sport they have to be aware of possible outcomes and address the precursors to them, such as burnout and the inability to handle adversity. Things that multiple sport athletes will come about competing for their positions and holding them. Multiple sport athletes learn different things. Different ways to work with teammates for a common goal. Employers seek to hire athletes for this very reason.

Life is more than sport…”

It is very telling that a coach who has dedicated his every waking hour professionally to studying pitching and coaching baseball players, feels so strongly about kids playing multiple sports. He’s seen the benefits, he knows the character that it builds, and he values the quality that it adds to life, every bit as much as sport.

It’s Not For Everybody

We would never pretend that any of our articles would pertain to every single person reading it or participating in organized sports. There are many individual cases and unique people that will not fit the research models.

In our business, we see many athletes who choose to specialize in baseball. In fact, we work with many of them all year long. It is, after all, the athlete’s choice. If they want to work on baseball all year, we will be there to work with them.

kidshockeyThe one huge difference here however, is that we don’t play baseball year round. We vary the training, we give their arms a two month break from throwing, we focus on strength and overall conditioning for several months at a time, and we allow the athlete to completely ignore baseball for long periods of time.

While many athletes don’t desire to play soccer in the fall or basketball in the winter, it is critical that they are able to participate in a varied and multi-pronged training approach that does not include playing one sport for ten months a year. 

For those athletes reading this article who are already specializing or who are considering it, this piece of advice is very important.

For some people, there simply is no passion to be found in other endeavors. They don’t have any interest in other sports, and simply prefer to stick with the only one they truly love. Coach Corral calls this the “only reason why one should specialize”, and we agree.  Just be careful that the “only one you love” doesn’t become a job, or passion for it can also be lost quickly.

The issue of whether to specialize early on or be a multi-sport athlete is a big one, and there are many more aspects to it than we will discuss in this article.  We encourage athletes and their families to lean toward playing multiple sports throughout the year, and to stay tuned to Cleat Geeks and Baseball Brains for further installments on this subject.

Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to Coach Patrick Murphy and Coach Fred Corral for their insight.

 

 

My Coach HATES Me!!!

Have you ever played for a coach that doesn’t like you?  I’m betting that most of you (especially since you clicked on this article) are saying yes.  The truth is that if you play sports long enough, you’re very likely to run into a coach that doesn’t like you for one reason or another.

Kids, you might not know The Karate Kid, but your parents do.

Kids, you might not know The Karate Kid, but your parents do.

The other day I heard a student tell one of his friends that his coach hates him.  It got me thinking about the issue a little bit because I realized that our kids didn’t have a choice when it comes to playing for certain coaches.  The coach that “hated” him was the varsity baseball coach at the school he was going to, so if he was going to play baseball he had to play for a coach that “hated” him.

It’s important to realize that a coach might not like you, but that’s different than them being a “bad” coach.  So let’s take a look at some steps both the kids and their parents can take to deal with a less than ideal coach. Because let’s be honest, the coach picks the kids, not the other way around.

Step #1: Identify the problem.  This one can be tough, but you need to find out why you think this coach doesn’t like you.  Sit down and really think about what is going on and see if you can identify what it is, very specifically, that is causing the issues.   Here are some possibilities:footballCoachYelling

  • Personality
  • Style
  • Philosophies
  • Effort
  • Grades
  • Reputation
  • Problems with a teacher

Sometimes we just don’t get along with a coach for the same reasons we wouldn’t get along with anybody else, we just don’t like their personality.  If this is the case, identify it as the reason.

Other times we don’t like the way the coach teaches, or more specific aspects of the way he runs a program.  If we disagree with what he’s coaching, it can cause us to be resistant to it or have a bad attitude toward him when he’s giving us advice.  This is tough and it needs to be identified as a source of problems.

We can’t go to the next step of making this thing better until we know exactly what is bothering us, or bothering the coach.

If you absolutely cannot figure out why a coach doesn’t like you, there are three things you can do:

1: Consider that he may indeed NOT have a problem with you but your own perception might be wrong;

2: Try harder to find the reason, you have to be very honest sometimes to find the real source;

3: Ask somebody! Ask an assistant coach, member of the faculty, other players, and you can obviously ask the coach himself if possible.

Step #2: Identify your part in it.  I know that you feel like it’s all the coach’s fault, but often times there’s a reason why he “doesn’t like” you.  Be honest with yourself and determine what part in that you played. Moreover, you must remember, there are two sides to every story. You are not perfect.

CSFCoachDid you not hustle in practice? Were you complaining about drills?  Have your parents been a pain for the coach?  Have you been stubborn about making a change that the coach has recommended?  Have you gotten in trouble at school?  There are a ton of reasons why a coach can have a bad image of you, fair or not.

Often times a coach will have very limited interaction with players and so their impression of you can be formed by a small handful of experiences.  This is especially true if you’ve never been on his team before, like if you’re a younger player headed toward varsity for example.

If your coach is a teacher at the school, he talks to all of your teachers and is probably friends with several of them.  Something as simple as goofing around in class or slacking on your work can get back to your coach and cause his impression of you to suffer. Therefore, your coach may not have the best opinion of you based on something that you did not even do on the court, diamond, field, or mat.

Sometimes a player doesn’t even realize that something they did has caused the coach to have a problem with them.  That’s why this step is so important, and why it’s critical that you’re honest. But, if that is the case, the problem can more than likely be solved with a simple adjustment.

Step #3: Make a change.  Now that you know the problem and what you’re doing to make it worse, change it.  Even though a coach may have a poor impression of you now, that doesn’t mean at all that it can’t change.  Start making an improvement on your end today, and commit yourself to showing the coach that his impression of you is wrong and you deserve to be treated well. Parents, this step relies alot on you. This allows you to teach your child that if they make the first move in good faith, that all will work out in the end. This is one of those “life lessons” we always say we are going to teach our children when the time presents itself. So when it does, do your part.

If the issue is just that you don’t like the way the coach behaves or you don’t like his coaching style, then the change has got to come from within your own mind.  The game your playing is much bigger than one coach.

It can become consuming to us if somebody doesn’t like us, but you need to release yourself from this burden and focus more on the game.  We play sports because we love them and because they’re fun, and you need to remember that all the time.YouthCoach

Set your mind on the game, and on improving yourself in every way possible on the field.  Focus intensely on that process and in the fact that you’re getting better at something you love to do.  The coach can only affect you if you let him.

Make the changes that you need to make to get it right, and then get on with excelling at the sport.  Work your butt off and do it with the best attitude possible every single day.  If you’re truly doing those things and your coach still doesn’t like you, then regard him as another distraction and continue your dedication to your process. 

You can’t ignore your coach, but you can prioritize the things that are important to you.  Take his instruction with a nod and get on with it.  Being a better player is what’s important to you so don’t let anything, or anybody, get in your way.

Lastly, remember this. You want a coach with emotion and passion. That means he cares for you and the game he is coaching.

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