9 Tips For Coaching Young Pitchers
For young baseball players, pitching can feel unnatural at first. Learning the most important position in the field can feel quite daunting. However, with consistent practice and the right training, they will someday reach the point where pitching feels like second nature. In the meantime, there are many ways to support them as they learn.
Whether you're a coach of a Little League team or a parent of a player trying to learn the position, here are some pieces of advice for helping your youth pitcher. It can be easy to overinstruct your pitchers, but doing so can lead to confusion and frustration for the player. Hopefully, this article can serve as a simplified guide for you. It is beneficial for you and the player to have some essential tips to refer back to while coaching.
To get more than just tips, a baseball throwing program could be a great option! Professional players like Ryan Weiss coach pitchers of all ages by catering to a program specific to their skills and weaknesses.
Remember to also read up on safety practices for baseball and pitching. Your young pitcher can't learn if they're overworked or injured.
Now, let's start with some general tips for you as a coach and pass them on to your pitchers.
1. Keep It Fun
This should go without saying. The number one rule of sports when you're a kid is to have fun. The players can't have fun if their coaches and family aren't fostering a fun atmosphere.
At such a young age, before they are even teenagers, playing baseball should be a positive and exciting experience. Keeping it fun will encourage them to stick with it and want to improve. Of course, as they age, they will instinctively get more serious about it, but you shouldn't exert extra pressure on them when they are just starting out and learning the game.
2. Be Patient
Keeping it fun also means being patient. Remember that this is all new to them. Pitching can feel weird and unnatural. Hurling a ball across the baseball diamond with the speed, precision, and technique necessary to get a strike is brutal, even if their opponent is barely 4 feet tall.
Being patient means being conscious of your feedback and instruction. Bite your tongue, and don't nitpick every flaw. Also, start small. Choose one specific aspect of their pitching delivery that needs work and dedicate your efforts to that until they have improved. Then, move on to the next element.
It would be best if you also taught your pitcher to be patient with themselves. In a recent TikTok video Ryan Weiss shared, one of his top five snippets of advice to young pitchers was patience. Patience is essential in baseball and life in general! It's a great thing for players to learn and for coaches to practice.
3. Teach in Segments
Just like how you need to start small, break down your teaching into segments. This will help not to overwhelm the player. Start with the basics, like how to hold a good 2-seam and 4-seam grip.
When it comes to pitching, there are three main factors to the delivery:
- Forward stride
- Sideways turn
- Downward tilt
Frame all of your coaching around these fundamentals. Through it, all, focus on teaching the general pitching motion. Some coaches tend to teach pitching mechanics like points, which can move feel disjointed for the pitcher. They will end up fixating on each step rather than the fluid motion. You can hone in on the specific points down the line, but especially in the beginning, aim your attention at training good overall movements.
Another critical tip for teaching in segments is to get the arms in sync. For example, the glove arm and the pitching arm should be moving together, and training your players that the two work hand in hand (ha -- get it?) will get them to feel more comfortable with the movement and on their way to muscle memory.
On the other hand (okay, okay, that's the last hand pun), sometimes taking the arms out altogether can be beneficial. This is because pitchers can get so caught up where their hands are going that they lose focus of where their feet are striding.
Keep in mind that good coaching means showing more than telling. Kids learn better with an example of where they are supposed to be. We hope that these examples of breaking down your coaching into segments work for you and your pitchers!
4. Balance Is Key
Balance is a crucial aspect of pitching and something you should start teaching your young pitcher from the get-go—check-in on their balance from time to time. If your player is having difficulty in a game or at practice, pay attention to their balance. Their leg plant should be giving them a strong foundation.
Here is a drill that Little League® recommends for improving a youth pitcher's balance: "Without having a ball in hand, practice having your Little Leaguer® go into a leg kick from the stretch position with his base foot set to push off of the rubber. Next, have him hold the leg kick at the top for a second, and then return his foot to the starting spot on the ground. Repeat this ten times, and then do the same drill from the windup position."
5. Push Off the Rubber
Instructing your pitcher to push off the rubber with every throw is another crucial tip for young players. If they push off of it instead of just standing in front of it, it will improve their balance, generate extra velocity, and overall give them a feeling of control.
Remember how we identified downward tilt as an essential element of your pitching coaching earlier? Well, pushing off the rubber is a good way for a pitcher to feel like they're throwing downhill.
6. Follow Through All the Way
If your pitcher is continuously pitching high, it might be because they are stopping short with their follow-through. Instead, your pitcher should be following through across their body and finishing low.
Another way to improve their follow-through is by instructing them to get their chest out over their front knee when they release the ball. These small changes can make a huge difference. They also give the player an "Aha!" moment when they think to themselves, "Oh, that's what I needed to do!"
7. Stride Straight and Finish Toward the Plate
Young pitchers may tend to finish their delivery on one side of the mound instead of right down the middle. However, for an optimal pitch, they should be striding straight and finishing toward the plate.
To help them stride straight, draw a line in the dirt from their back foot to the plate and tell them that they should keep their body right above that line as they throw. Eventually, you won't have to draw the line, and they can imagine it instead. Another trick is to mark in the mound's dirt where you want their landing foot to hit.
8. Teach Them that the Batter Is Invisible
A significant part of pitching is mental. Especially to a child, the end goal of striking out a player is intimidating. So when they step out onto the baseball diamond and face an opponent, they might lose some of their confidence.
While you can't make the batter invisible, you can encourage your pitcher to imagine they are. Kids do have quite the imagination and the ability to pretend. Tell them that they are simply playing catch with their teammate behind the plate. Then, with the pitcher staring straight at the catcher as if there's no one up at-bat, the hitter will be the intimated one.
9. Enroll Them in a Baseball Throwing Program
A definite way to develop a young pitcher's skills is to sign them up for a baseball throwing program. A throwing program will introduce your player to a new coach with a fresh set of eyes (which we know might be heartbreaking for you, but it will be good for them). This new coach will have different teaching techniques and can pinpoint the specific areas that could use improvement.
Why Ryan Weiss?
Why enroll your pitcher in a throwing program run by Ryan Weiss? Your kiddo will go nuts over working with a current professional player in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, for starters. Remember, it's all about having fun! You could even take them to watch their coach in action, playing in a game!
On top of that, Weiss enjoys mentoring younger pitchers and thrives off of helping them achieve their goals. He will build a program custom to your player. He's not just going to cover tips and tricks. He will develop a throwing schedule, go over conditioning work to strengthen their body, deep dive into mechanics, and more!
A baseball throwing program can help youth pitcher advance their skills in a short period -- just three months! Someone who's just learning the sport can benefit from being given a custom training program and schedule.
We hope all of these tips can make a difference for the young pitcher in your life! Use all of your resources and consider the benefits of a throwing program. Let's get pitching!