Are you coaching a bunch of kids who have never pitched before? One of the most important aspects of baseball pitching is having proper mechanics. This is especially true for young kids, who are still developing their skills. Proper mechanics when learning how to pitch a baseball can help a pitcher throw with more power, accuracy, and control while also helping prevent injuries. In this article, we are going to cover youth pitching tips around mechanics and the proper pitching form for young baseball players.
- Youth Pitching Tips
- Youth Pitching Tips For The Coaches
- Final Thoughts On Youth Pitching Tips
Youth Pitching Tips
There are a few key elements to proper pitching mechanics at the youth level. A youth pitcher should focus on developing a solid foundation, before working on any advanced pitching mechanics. That solid foundation starts with proper balance.
While pitching can certainly be complicated, having proper balance is important no matter what level you are playing at. If a pitcher is off balance, he or she will not be able to generate the necessary power to throw the ball with velocity. Additionally, their control will suffer and the pitcher will often miss their target which will result in more walks.
Tips to help with pitching balance
Without using an actual baseball, have your pitcher get into the stretch windup position. As part of the drill, have them pause the leg kick at the top just for a second before they return to the starting position. Do this 10-15 times without a ball and watch their balance drastically improve.
The same activity can be done from the full windup position. Since you’re not using an actual ball for this drill, you can use flat ground if you don’t have access to a pitcher’s mound. This is definitely one of the best pitching drills for kids so spend a good amount of time on it.
The pause and balance or the leg lift balance drill:
If your young pitcher is struggling in practice or in a game, watch their delivery during the next 4 or 5 pitches. Are they correctly balancing their body during the delivery? Is their landing leg establishing a strong foundation or are they falling off to the side? If it does look like an issue with their balance, simply get them refocused. A few simple tweaks or reminders should help get them back on track.
2. Use The Rubber To Create Power
The pitching rubber is crucial for young pitchers. That’s because it provides a consistent base for powerful, balanced deliveries, often leading to increased velocity and better control in the strike zone.
That additional balance, as we discussed before, will help produce better control. It also provides traction so you can get a good push-off without slipping or losing your footing.
The pitching rubber is there for a reason. If you are not taking advantage of it, you may be missing out on a lot of key components that will elevate your pitching skills. Make sure your young pitchers know not to just stand in front of it. Have them push off of it on every single pitch. This is one of the most important youth pitching tips and is often overlooked.
3. Follow Through Across The Body
Many young pitchers have a tendency to not complete their full follow-through. I’m not sure why they stop it short but it seems to happen a lot. What this does is it causes the ball to sail. These high pitches will lead to a lot of walks (which are popular in Little League).
I remember my Little League coach instructing me to try to pick up some dirt from the mound on my follow-through. While I don’t think that is necessarily beneficial, it did get me in the habit of following through across my body and ending low. This helped keep the balls low and in the strike zone.
As a coach, if you are noticing that your pitcher is consistently missing up in the zone or even throwing over the catcher’s head, it’s most likely due to their follow-through being too short.
You will also want to make sure that during their pitching sequence, their chest is out over that front knee when the ball reaches its release point.
4. Finish Your Delivery Toward Home Plate
If you head down to the Little League field and watch the pitchers closely, you will notice that many of the younger ones tend to fall off the side of the mound during their follow-through.
Coaches need to teach them to finish toward home plate. Where do you think the ball is going to go if your entire body is unbalanced and you are finishing to the left or right of the mound.
One thing I did when my son was first learning how to pitch was mark a spot in the dirt where I thought his plant foot should land. This helped keep his body aligned and his pitches accurate.
5. Focus On Throwing Strikes
We all want to feel like Pedro Martinez and send hitters back to the dugout after we struck them out with some gas or a nasty curveball. However, the last thing you want a beginner pitcher to do is overthrow and lose command of their pitches. It will also cause injury in addition to developing bad habits.
As their parent or coach, you need to get them out of the mindset of only getting strikeouts. At this age, they should be focused on accuracy and throwing strikes. The power will eventually come but what good is a blazing fastball if it’s nowhere near the plate? Pitchers who can locate their pitches with extreme accuracy and mix speeds to mess up the hitter’s timing will be much more successful than a one-dimensional power pitcher with control issues.
Learning the different types of baseball pitches will happen as they get older but the main focus for a beginner should be about building solid youth pitching mechanics that set them up for future success.
6. Pretend The Batter Isn’t There
At the Little League level, kids have a debilitating fear of being hit by a pitch or hitting someone if they are pitching. It’s a mental block that so many cannot overcome.
That’s why if you are a coach who is teaching a kid to pitch, you have to drill it in their head to forget about the batter. Have them pretend that the batter isn’t even there and only focus on the glove.
Oftentimes, kids will try to avoid hitting the batter by throwing it to the outside corner. Since most of these young pitchers don’t have pinpoint accuracy where they can paint the corners, games will feature a lot of walks.
Youth Pitching Tips For The Coaches
Patience Is Important
Out of all of the youth pitching tips mentioned, this one is probably the most important. Keep it simple and fun. During the time I was writing this article, my 10-year-old son and I went outside to work on some mechanical corrections in his swing. Just a few minor things that I noticed during a few of his games this past weekend.
While I was trying to explain what I thought were a few small tweaks, I realized I was confusing the hell out of him. What I should’ve done was have him focus on one small element of his swing until he felt comfortable enough to move on to the next correction.
I know I confused him because I confused myself with the way I was explaining things. When he told me his old t-ball coach taught him to use the “squish the bug” technique, we ended up going down this giant rabbit hole with me explaining why that’s not the proper way to teach hitting.
What I’m trying to say here is, to keep it simple and most importantly, keep it fun. These are young kids who are learning how to play a very technical game. We ultimately want them to develop a love for the game so they keep playing, so try not to confuse them by throwing all of your knowledge at them in the same lesson.
Teach Pitching Delivery In Chunks
Pitching, especially, needs to be taught in individual chunks. You will not perfect a pitcher’s windup, stance, balance, grip on the baseball, and follow through all in one lesson.
Doing an information dump of pitching tips on a child will be a waste of both your time and theirs. Remember that these are children so try to work on one or two things only and explain them in a way that will be easy to understand.
Keep It Simple
The way my son learned to pitch is the same way I learned to pitch. He had a good arm at an early age but had never pitched before. We started our pitching instruction lesson with the windup. I showed him where my feet would be positioned on the rubber.
Obviously, there is so much more to baseball pitching but my main focus was getting him comfortable with the windup. I wanted to help him lay the foundation so he’d at least have the basics down.
If a parent or coach can simply teach pitchers the basics at an early age then we can all enjoy a much more exciting brand of baseball. Provide your pitching tips in mini bite-size lessons so that they retain the information. Once you are done with all of the lessons, it will be much easier for them to piece it all together.
Monitor Pitch Counts
It’s important to monitor pitch counts and for coaches to be fluent in the Little League pitch count rules. This will help prevent overuse, which can lead to serious injuries that may require surgery down the road.
According to research presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s annual meeting, 15-to-19-year-olds made up 56.7 percent of all Tommy John surgeries performed in the USA between 2007-11, with the average rate increasing by over 9% per year.
If that doesn’t scare you into monitoring how often and how hard these young kids are throwing then I don’t know what will.
Final Thoughts On Youth Pitching Tips
Ensuring young pitchers understand and practice the right techniques is key to their development and confidence on the field. It’s essential to maintain a healthy pitching arm by following basic guidelines and always consulting with a professional before making significant changes to your throwing routine.
When teaching young pitchers, focus on drills that emphasize specific aspects of pitching such as balance or pitching from the stretch. This approach helps to reduce confusion and enhances their readiness for live games.