Monthly Archives: November, 2011

Developing Pitchers

Below is an article about developing players from the Baseball Excellence Newsletter. It is in complete alignment with the Gamers philosophy.

THE HEALTHY PITCHER

Developing Pitchers

Anyone who has participated in baseball, whether as a player, coach or parent understands the enjoyment and inherent merits of this great game. It is the very difficulties and skills required to play at a proficient level that give baseball much of its appeal and enduring qualities. Succeeding at something that is difficult is very rewarding.

Baseball is also a developmental game. It takes years to master many of its skills and players must come to understand that fact. Even at the professional level learning must come in stages.

Baseball also requires a controlled mental state with an understanding of the failures that will come with a long season.

Baseball Excellence believes that development should take precedence over winning.

Appreciating the beauty and symmetry that comes from playing baseball is rewarding even if your team sometimes loses a game. The importance lies in the game itself and players should eventually come to learn that simple fact. Parents and coaches should teach respect for the game.

Playing baseball and competing against other teams should be an enjoyable experience. The ‘win at all costs’ philosophy is a non-productive approach. This “results-oriented” mindset will usually stunt the growth of young baseball players. It is also responsible for many youngsters prematurely leaving the game.

We have talked about this subject so much on our web site that in the interest of brevity we came up with an acronym for this philosophy. We call these coaches EROC- End Results Oriented Coach (or Coaching). This is a philosophy that embraces only Winning and does not take into consideration teaching the necessary skills that allows players to advance. This serves the ego of the coach but does not serve the development of the player. EROC may appear to have the advantage in many youth leagues but as players advance this philosophy fades away, unfortunately along with many players.

We believe that development will lead to winning and is the best long-term approach. Coaches who know the game can make every pitch a learning experience and happily offer knowledge to their players.

Why name this article The Healthy Pitcher? Pitching is a large part of baseball and out of all baseball injuries the pitcher statistically loses the most playing time. We believe that the concerned coach and parent want to become informed about the causes and prevention on arm injuries. However the rise in reported injuries reveals we may not be paying attention to the data.

The medical evidence certainly supports a wise and cautioned approach to the development of pitchers. Is the all-too alluring specter of “Just Win Baby” overshadowing common sense? It is when winning supercedes development that young pitchers are put at risk.

There is a phenomenon in youth baseball that we call the ‘Dilemma of the Ace.’ Because of growth spurts or genetics many young pitchers throw very hard. It is because they throw hard they are in such demand. And because they can dominate another team, coaches have a tendency to overuse them. The extreme forces used when pitching a baseball and the overuse by the coaches put these pitchers at tremendous risk of injury.

There is a startling statistic that over 60% of youth pitchers do not go on to pitch at even the high school level or beyond. The primary reasons are injury from overuse, and poor throwing and pitching mechanics.

Hopefully many coaches who frequent our site will take this to heart and use this off-season to educate themselves to the details of pitching.

Little Things Matter

I once worked closely with a famous CEO, Chuck Knight from Emerson Electric (he retired about 10 years ago). Although Chuck was responsible for a huge global company, he had a unique and extreme ability (borderline obsession) to focus on “little things”. If there was a slight flaw in your logic, or numbers on a spreadsheet did not add up, he would latch onto it and use it to challenge your thought process and your core belief is what you were recommending.

He had no tolerance for illogical thought, and even less for lack of passion.

To Chuck, little things mattered because they indicated the quality of your thought process and your level of passion.

During one presentation at Emerson, I casually “rounded off” operating profit margins from 16.1% to 16%. A rookie mistake. Chuck called me on it, saying “we sell our grandchildren for a .1% around here son”. Still not sure if he was joking …

So, I learned that little things matter. Little things add up to big things. The long-term is just a series of short-terms. Your success right now dictates your long-term success (unless you plan on winning the lottery).

With that mindset, it is hard to be lazy and let things “slide by”. Pursuing excellence requires a focus and dedication to little things that matter.

Let’s apply this to teenage baseball players. You have all heard coaches say “do the little things right” – from baseball coaches, basketball coaches, football coaches. It is a great compliment for a baseball player if a coach says that “he does the little things right”. Success in baseball comes to people who do the little things right, whether that is blocking a ball in the dirt, throwing strike 1, hitting the cutoff man or taking the extra base.

All those little things add up to success. That is what pursuing excellence is all about. Paying attention, and excelling in all things – big and small.

Here are some more baseball examples of little things what will determine your success: the 3 check points of the wall drill on EVERY swing, proper head position on EVERY throw, perfect footwork on EVERY groundball, 4 seam grip on EVERY throw, etc…

In the Gamers program, we spend a lot of time working on these “little things”. Our program practices are scripted out to the minute. We are trying to teach you to pay attention to little things, to be aware of them, and to care about them.

What about little things like wearing your uniform and hat right, tucking in your shirt, having a nice clean haircut, and looking and carrying yourself like a baseball player? Little things like that say A LOT about you as a player, your team and your program. That’s why we care about them. Little things matter.

It’s true in school too – do you frequently miss easy questions on tests? You knew the answer, you understand the concept – but you just make a stupid little mistake and missed a question. If you received B+ or C+ on your report card, I can almost guarantee you that, if you had done more of the little things right, you could have raised your grade to an A or a B. A couple of missed questions on a test or a late or forgotten homework assignment
are the difference between a B+ and A.

Little things matter – they make the difference. But, to recognize and take action on the little things, we need to be aware of them. We need to be aware of and observe the little things. And, we need to care about them.

Little things separate winners from losers – in baseball and in life.