Teaching effort is tricky since it’s hard to tell from the outside if a player is giving their best. But thanks to a very simple tool, measuring & increasing effort isn’t so difficult.
Everyone, including the pitchers wants to increase their speed, and while speed isn’t everything, giving your best on every pitch certainly is. It’s not that pitchers aren’t trying – of course they are. It’s more like they’re trying safe. What they’re trying to do is not make a mistake, instead of trying to release the ball with as much force as they can create and then learn to control that effort.
Ah, learn to control. That statement is key, because in order to learn how to do anything, we must first mess it up a whole bunch of times. Learning any skill takes time and yet that’s something we don’t tend to allow our pitchers – time to learn how to control their control. We expect pitchers to somehow figure out this wacky skill in about 3 weeks and then be able to do it relatively error-free for an entire game.
As soon as a pitcher throws a bad pitch we come unglued and panic, which only makes them want to avoid bad pitches at all costs. Which equates to them backing off their try in order to not make a bad pitch. It’s like a hitter slowing down her swing so she never swings and misses…it would be ridiculous for our hitters to do that and it’s as crazy for our pitchers to as well.
So, what do we do? Well, I’ve had a bunch of success using a very simple radar gun – the Ball Coach by Pocket Radar. It looks like a cell phone, and only requires you to hold a button down while your pitcher pitches. Her speed pops up in the window and it’s super easy to use.
To help your pitcher improve her effort, pull out the Ball Coach and start timing her speed. But, do it in a way that helps her figure her speed out for herself. Here’s how:
- Have her throw a pitch & ask her to tell you what her speed was.
- Then have her pitch again, and again, without telling her her speed, this time ask her “Was that pitch … Faster? Slower? Or the same?”
Initially, she won’t have a clue. But ask her to focus on whether her arm felt like it moved faster through the air, whether her hand pushed the ball out harder, or whether none of those happened. If none of those happened then she was slower, if both happened she was probably faster, and if only one happened she was probably close to the same speed as her last pitch.
Within 10 minutes of making the pitcher feel and figure out her own speed (instead of simply telling her what her speed was on each pitch) I’ve had pitchers of all ages go from answering “I have no clue”, to telling me within 1 mile an hour what their speed was for every pitch!
Pitchers can also start to feel when their effort is safe instead of FAST! When your pitchers turn their focus toward giving more effort it’s REALLY important that you not care where the ball goes – and that you tell them not to worry about it either. When you’re first working on speed and effort try not to tie it to control.
This will also work great for your hitters (hitting off a T) and for your defensive players when they’re throwing overhand. The Ball Coach is a super-simple device to use, it’s small and lightweight and it also records speed as slow as 25mph – which really helps if you have young pitchers who can’t yet throw the ball very fast but still want to see their speed, and know they’re improving!!
Get more help improving your pitcher’s speed with the following products: