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Teaching Control to 10U Pitchers

I am a (new) pitching coach for a 10U team. This is my second season and 3 of my 4 pitchers are returning from last season, all of which pitched for the first time last year. My starter has AMAZING speed for her age but lacks sufficient control. I've tried so many drills with her and it doesn't seem to improve. However, she picked up on the change-up very quickly and is extremely accurate with it. At this point, she holds the league record for most batters hit, so until I can figure out how to teach the control, every pitch she throws is a change-up. I'd love some help with her!
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,752
48
Dallas, Texas
It helps to have good form. Assuming she has good form:

"Control" means being able to put the ball where you want it. Because "what is a strike" varies from field to field, batter to batter, umpire to umpire, and day to day, the pitcher has to move the pitch location from left to right and up or down.

So, you first teach how to throw the ball to the left or right. Then you teach how to throw the ball up or down.

Start with left and right. Ask the pitcher to throw the ball outside. It doesn't matter how far outside it is, as long as it is right of the center line of the plate. As soon as she does it once (not twice, not three times, once), ask her to throw a pitch inside. Again, it doesn't matter how far inside. Then, you repeat this, over and over again. Inside-outside-inside-outside. 100 pitches would not be too many.

Then, do up and down. Ask the pitcher to throw the ball low. It doesn't matter if the ball rolls to you. Just, the ball has to be low. After she throws one low, ask her to throw one high. Again, it doesn't matter if the ball goes over your head and over the fence. Repeat this several times until the pitcher can consistently throw the ball low or high at will.

Next step: Divide the strike zone into four quadrants--upper right, lower right, lower left, upper left. Do the same thing as before. Tell her you want a pitch in the upper right quadrant. It doesn't matter where the ball goes in the upper right quadrant, as long as it is in that quadrant. She does that until she succeeds. Then, go to the lower right. Same thing...repeat for all quadrants.

When she can throw into all four quadrants at will, then randomly call for pitches in different quadrants. She will likely be able to do two or three of the quadrants, but won't be able to do one or two. If so, then stop, and ask for several pitches in that particular quadrant again. Then, go back and ask for pitches in random quadrants.

This takes a lot of time and effort. This isn't something a kid picks up in 15 minutes of practicing twice a week for a couple of months.

Ray
 
Thanks for tips, Ray.

I have actually been doing EXACTLY what you suggested with her twice a week since January. She does it without effort to me and my catcher in practice but as soon as a batter steps in (whether in practice or a game), she forgets all coaching and goes wild. I stand on the sidelines and encourage and reinforce our coaching sessions and she'll throw one or two great pitches and then goes awry again. So, I guess my actual problem isn't control but building confidence? I'm not sure what the next step is for her.
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,752
48
Dallas, Texas
First, she is 10 YOA. If she is throwing hard and has control at practice, that is much more important than for her to throw strikes at a 10U game. The goal is to have a great HS pitcher, not a great 12U pitcher.

"Confidence" is a word that can't be defined. So, I think it is worthless to talk about confidence or lack of confidence.

Specifically, she is tensing up her muscles during a game, which stops muscle memory. To put it another way, "She is getting her head between the ball and the pitch." It is the pressure of the game situation that upsets her. She is thinking instead of doing.

This isn't unusual--this is "the" battle between an athlete's body and his/her emotions. How does a person perform at the top of his/her game under pressure? To do this, you have emulate a game situation during practice.

The way I approached this problem: This is going to sound cruel, but it really isn't. This is relentless teasing. A good sense of humor is essential. During practice, tell her you want her to throw a strike. And, then you tell her she can't. Tell her that she is going to throw the next pitch over the backstop. Talk to her all the way through the pitch, giving her negative encouragement. Talk about how impossible it is for her to do it. Try to get her giggling. Say she doesn't have enough talent--she is too slow, too short, too small...whatever.

If she is a normal DD, she will react with defiance and an "I'll show you attitude." When she does it successfully, treat her success as an accident. Like, "you did that, but can't do it again. The ball is going into the next county this time."

During the game when she pitches, you have to stop caring if she hits a batter or not. Set up a criteria for when she is taken out of the game.
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,752
48
Dallas, Texas
Like all teasing, the key is knowing "how much".

My DD's pitching coach would stand next to her as she pitched and say this stuff to her. Stuff like, "You are whipped cream. No, you are the air they put in whipped cream. You couldn't throw a ball through a tissue paper--make that a wet tissue paper." She would start laughing, and he would just tease her more.

But, she got where she could focus solely on pitching and not even hear him. That carried over to games.
 
Feb 13, 2009
26
0
North Carolina
CoachJB, Sluggers is dead on and explained this very well. Take heed when he says to "know how much" when teasing her into doing what you are asking for. Different girls have a different tolerance for teasing and the type of teasing that will give you the reaction you are looking for. Not knowing the girls personality keeps us from helping with these finer points so it is up to you. But, this technique has worked for me more times than I can count. So many girls have this issue because they think too much. Let us know how it works for her.
 
Mar 6, 2009
64
0
You may also want to consider being a batter yourself (don't swing) when she is practicing. You will want to switch both sides of the plate as the visual is different for the pitcher. Examples of how important visuals are: I cannot throw a strike as consistently when not pitching to a catcher and I throw better when a batter is in the box. But I have seen pitchers throw better without a batter and even without a catcher. Get her practicing every time with someone in the box. She needs to get to the point of not even seeing the batter.

Bill
 

halskinner

Banned
May 7, 2008
2,695
0
I agree with Bill on his post.

It is obvious from the posts about this pitcher she has a focus problem.

I CAN define confidence for a 10u pitcher.

Confidence for a 10u pitcher is throwing strikes and getting strike outs.

She has a confidence problem because she is unable to focus on what she needs to focus on, HER CATCHER!

Here is chapter 50 from my book. I hope you understand it.
---------------------------------------------------------------------
KEEPING A PITCHER'S HEAD 'STRAIGHT' ã 1999,2001

When your young pitcher is on the rubber, their main priority is pitching the ball. They must be able to focus on that to be the most effective pitcher they can be.

That is often times very hard to do with everyone else and everything else going on around them.

If they keep their head "Straight", pointing straight toward the catcher, they will have a much better chance of keeping their focus on the business end of their position.

Many things can contribute to a pitcher losing their concentration. Runners on the bases, the other team's coach yelling, their own coach yelling, the other team, Mom/Dad and the runner they just walked all are contributing factors because they all cause the pitcher to think about something, or someone, that is not "Straight" ahead of them. All these things cause the pitcher to look away from what is "Straight" ahead.

It is hard to be oblivious to everything else going on around them, however, that is what they must strive for if they want to be the best pitcher they can be. They must forget and block out everything that can distract them from pitching.

Here is one thing I tell my young pitchers at the start of the season; there are only 4 people on the field when you are pitching, the pitcher, the catcher, the umpire and YOUR NEXT STRIKE OUT VICTIM.


Those are the only people that are important to you when you are pitching.

Even the well meaning coach that thinks yelling something to his pitcher every pitch, or every other pitch, is going to help her to focus better, is mistaken. The pitcher must turn her head, either to the left or right, to look at the coach when he/she is trying to say something to her. This action alone causes the pitcher to look away from the catcher and the strike zone, where she should be devoting ALL of her attention/focus.

Playing a second position, such as 2nd base, can be especially hard on a pitcher trying to keep their head "Straight" when it comes to their pitching. Right before they go to throw a pitch they sometimes give a quick "check" look at any runners on the bags. They will do the same thing before the ball is returned to them from the catcher. Both of these actions turn their head and their attention away from what is directly in front of them. When a young pitcher gets in a tense situation, or simply starts to 'lose it', the only person that can keep the pitcher's head "Straight" is the only person on her team that is directly in front of her, THE CATCHER!

When a pitcher starts to get distracted and starts losing their focus, the catcher must do whatever is necessary to bring the pitcher's attention and focus back to her. The catcher must say/yell something to the pitcher, right before returning the ball, with every pitch if necessary. The more the catcher keeps the pitcher's head "Straight" and pointed toward the catcher, the more the pitcher will focus on that part of the game and NOT be distracted by everything and everyone else.

The catcher may even, at times, have to give the pitcher a little insulting kick in the pride to get her head "Straight" again. One of my favorites has always been this; Right before the catcher throws the ball back she takes off her mask, takes 2 steps toward the pitcher and yells "Hey, we didn't come here to play slow pitch, now THROW HARD!" then she fires the ball back to the pitcher.

Simply yelling, "Throw hard", 3 or 4 return throws in a row, with a little more irritating tone in the catcher's voice each time, can usually irritate a pitcher enough to force them to focus on the catcher and forget about everything else. They will also normally start throwing very hard to try and knock the catcher on her backside for yelling that during the game.

Whatever you feel is appropriate for the catcher to yell is what she should yell. She should be talking/shouting SOMETHING to her pitcher with almost every return throw.

Doing this constantly during the game not only keeps a pitcher's head "Straight"; it can also be VERY annoying and distracting to the other team's batters.

Yelling something TO your pitcher ABOUT the batter will not only keep your pitcher's head "Straight" and in the game, it will also break the batter's concentration on the pitcher. "OK, easy out", "OK, you own this one" "OK, slow runner, ball back to you, plays at one".

Keeping the pitcher's head "Straight" is something every great catcher has always done for their pitcher and their team.

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