How to Coach: Pitching #1 is the first drill in Dugout Captain’s series to teach Pitching as a skill. Use with your team to coach-up multiple players, or follow this outline as a coaching roadmap in training your own athlete. Developed by working with thousands of young pitchers, this series follows a consistent coaching philosophy: Ground-Up and Legs-First.
This How-to-Coach series is intended to be as thorough as possible, so that members can go out and effectively teach an athlete one-on-one. The real challenge comes in applying this coaching lesson during a team practice. Therefore, it is important to think through how best this instruction fits into your team’s practice structure. Depending on age and number of pitcher’s to train, options include:
- A dedicated coach pulls individual athletes to the bullpen one at a time
- A dedicated coach pulls pairs or even small groups from practice as appropriate
- Pitching drills are included as stations into team itineraries (either all athletes train pitching… or one group trains pitching at a specific station, and the station’s topic changes when the “other” group arrives)
- Dedicated workouts for pitchers and catchers (separate from team’s regular practices)
Dugout Captain’s practice plans assume that either option #1 or #2 is being followed: A coach, dedicated to pitcher’s and catchers, trains these skills in addition to the scheduled practice workout.
EXECUTION – This drill explains and trains the Stretch Stance and Position #1 – Balance. The goal is to build an overall understanding of the pitching motion, and then put the athlete in a position of success at the balance point – half-way through the delivery. When LEAVING the balance point position, we want the athlete to be in charge and dictate pace – rather than drifting or falling forward.
I. REVIEW FUNDAMENTALS – Begin first by ‘getting hot.’ Whether individually playing catch and then pitching several fastballs, or firing at throw nets as a group, get loose first before reviewing the pitching steps. All athletes should have received an introduction to pitching mechanics during the drill Fundamentals – Pitching. Regardless, a review of the pitching mechanics are in order. Without a baseball, work through these four positions over several repetitions. Don’t worry about detailed specifics, but ensure familiarity with coaching keywords stance, balance, power and finish. Details follow:
- Stretch Stance – Coming set while in the stretch position, use keywords: Feet, Hands, Eyes
- Position #1 / Balance – The balance point, or leg lift, uses keywords: Knee Up, Foot Out, Toe Down
- Position #2 / Power – The loaded power position, involves four parts: Glove out, hand high, front foot closed, weight back.
- Position #3 / Finish – The finish position also has four keywords: Point (front foot), Click (trail leg/foot), Shield (glove), and Sword (arm)
II. STRETCH STANCE – Throw several fastball repetitions with a focus on explaining and coaching the Stretch Stance position, use the following coaching specifics and coaching verbal “Check feet, hands, and eyes”:
- Feet – Athletic stance, feet under the armpits, like a pair of skis.
- Hands – Hands together, high, in front of the chest.
- Eyes – Eyes up on target
III. POSITION #1 – BALANCE POINT – Next, add rules to Position #1 and work through freeze drills to allow athlete to feel the proper balance point.
- Knee Up – Lift with the knee and reach a 90-degree height (freezes executed at 90-degrees, full leg lifts higher than 90)
- Foot Out – Clear space and create a position of power when leaving balance point and leading with the front foot.
- Toe Down – The foot hangs or points down. Assists foot to land on the ball of the foot at landing (avoid landing on heel and spinning off)
COACH LEAD, FREEZE @ #1 – Throw 6-8 fastballs while incorporating a freeze at the balance position (verbal: Freeze-1). While the athlete balances, assist in working towards right-angles. Younger pitchers will struggle simply to balance on one leg, let along execute leg lift fundamentals. But get the knee up so it’s parallel to the ground… kick the foot out (under the knee) and get away from the ‘flamingo’ leg lift… and point the toe down. Keep in mind, the simple goals of H-T-C Pitching #1 are simple: Stance and Balance Point.
ATHLETE LEAD, FREEZE @ #1 – Next, allow the athlete to lead and make his own leg lift adjustments. Continue to force a freeze at the balance point, but allow the athlete to lead and jump in only as necessary.
ATHLETE LEAD, NO STOP – The final step in Lesson #1 is to allow the athlete to incorporate leg-lift fundamentals into a full-speed delivery. Goal is to have successful application before finishing the bullpen or drill. Focus is on a proper stance and leg lift – relax on arm action and throwing strikes!
Ensure that every baseball is thrown with aggression and full arm speed. While working through fundamental instruction, details can NEVER slow an athlete down. Must continue to be aggressive and pitch without fear!
- Chair or Letter ‘h’ – The visual of a chair, with a tall back and right-angled seat / legs helps to create a solid visual for the athlete. Similarly a lower-case letter ‘h’ has the same effect.
- Posture Tall – When lifting the leg, many athletes lean back with their upper body. Whether this is due to lack of core strength or because the athlete is aggressively swinging the leg up to a lift-position, a common correction is keeping the ‘posture tall.’ In fact, a slight shoulder-tilt forward at the stretch stance can be a great remedy to the leaning back.
- Straighten Back Leg – Those athletes that lack the coordination, or ‘learned strength,’ of standing on one leg can benefit from locking-out the back leg (post leg). So long as the back leg bends and engages when breaking from the balance point, this isn’t a big deal… especially not when first learning how to pitch. Use a firm back leg to assist in learning how to balance and take control of the delivery!
- Glove Down, Glove Up – During freeze drills, use the glove as a ‘stoplight.’ Glove down, no throwing. Glove up, fire away. So when an athlete takes a leg lift to practice and feel the balance point, keep your glove down. After 2-3 seconds and a satisfactory leg lift, flash the glove to face the pitcher and use the coaching verbal “drive” or “fire.”
- Homework is Huge – Training a skill takes practice. If you intend to get results, you MUST practice… and do so away from practice or training. Use the DC Homework Clipboard to assign this drill as homework. Typically, 25 repetitions daily (done in front of a mirror without a baseball) is ideal. If training your own son or an individual athlete, this engaged homework is REQUIRED!
- REVIEW FUNDIES
- STRETCH STANCE
- BALANCE POINT (#1)
- REPS: COACH LEAD + FREEZE
- REPS: ATHLETE LEAD + FREEZE
- REPS: NO STOPPING
- CHAIR / LETTER 'h'
- POSTURE TALL
- STRAIGHTEN BACK LEG
- HOMEWORK IS HUGE
- Baseball Buckets1
- Home Plate1
- Pitching Rubbers1