How to Select a Pitching Coach
Choosing a pitching coach can be a very difficult and stressful process on a parent. Every parent wants the best for their daughter. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a pitching coach who will hopefully advance your daughter to the level that she desires. Simply going to an instructor because she is nice is not a good reason! Here are some questions that in my opinion need to be considered:
• Mechanics/Safety: What style or basic mechanics does the instructor teach? Does the instructor understand and teach the absolutes of pitching? Are the mechanics natural to how the body moves to ensure the safest possible way to throw a pitch? The instructor should be 100% about SAFETY!
• Experience as an instructor: How many years has the instructor been teaching pitching? Where has he/she instructed?
• Experience as a pitcher: Has the instructor pitched before? In my opinion this is important because the experience of actually throwing the ball is invaluable! I have never been sky diving so I don't think I would be a very good instructor in sky diving. Could I learn the basics from a video or internet? Sure but actually having the experience of doing the skill is priceless!
• Experience as a coach: What levels has this instructor coached at? Did the instructor have success? Just make sure the experience comes with updated and current instruction!
• Reputation as a teacher: What do people say about the instructors ability to diagnose and fix mechanical issues? What do people say about the instructors ability to teach?
• Success of instructors students: Are any of the instructors students successful? Have any of the instructors pitchers received college scholarships? Keep in mind most instructors have a range of students but ask around and get some feedback. Go to ball fields and talk to the pitchers families.
• Is this the instructors main job? I think this is important because you will find that a person who instructs for a living will more than likely keep updated on current mechanics. After all this is the instructors livelihood so he/she better be good at their job to earn their dinner!
• Communication/Chemistry with students: Does the instructor have good chemistry with his students? Does he/she care about his students success and development? Does the instructor have a sense of humor and seem to enjoy teaching kids? I think learning in a relaxed and fun environment keeps the students interested.
• Parent involvement: Often I am asked by parents if they can watch. personally want the parents to hear every word so they can reinforce in the backyard. I want them to ask questions and understand why I am teaching the style I teach or the drill that we are doing.
• Video Analysis: In my opinion this is the #1 tool in training pitchers! You can see so much on video that a naked eye may miss. Also, the visual of a mechanical flaw will help the student understand what she is doing wrong.
• Cost: I think the above questions are more important. Typically you are paying the instructor and the facility so keep that in mind. I would guess the going rate for an indoor facility is around $60/hr and $30/half hour. Again, the prices may vary depending on experience and whether your indoors or outdoors. Beware of high membership rates!
• Gender: IT DOESN'T MATTER! I have read all over the internet where people are bashing genders or saying men's fastpitch pitchers can't teach women's mechanics. Lets talk common sense here. Do men and women both have feet, legs, hips, shoulders, arms, fingers, etc? Then why would we teach any different? We all want max leg drive and an elbow/wrist/fingers snap at release! The absolutes in pitching are still there! I often hear that women use their legs and men don't when they pitch. Or that men are all upper body. What? The real difference is what men can get away with in the men's game. Many associations or leagues allow men to crow hop or even hop outside the rubber which is illegal in the women's game. The men's ISF rules are the closest to the way the women's rules are. Fact is there are great women and men instructors out there and in my opinion gender doesn't matter!
• Recruiting: Does the instructor have collegiate contacts? Do college coaches respect the instructors opinion?
• Pitch Development: Will the instructor teach pitches? In my opinion when a pitcher is close mechanically to what the instructor wants she will begin learning other pitches. If the instructor waits for perfect mechanics and 50 straight down the middle strikes it will likely never happen. I do believe that without a solid lower half and base you will struggle with movement pitches. Many instructors fear teaching other pitches because they worry about injury. I believe injuries happen due to poorly taught mechanics. If your instructor says use your shoulder to throw a drop, make big stride adjustments to throw a curve or screw, or jerk backwards to throw a rise then RUN AWAY FAST and find a new instructor now!
• Observe a lesson: If your daughter does flips, T's, and k's for 20 out of a 30 minute then you need to go elsewhere. The cookie cutter academies are guilty of this! Don't get me wrong lessons should be repetitious but drills need to be purposeful and as close to a real pitch as possible. Lower half should be a big emphasis in every lesson. My typical hour lesson is 30 minutes mechanics (lower half emphasis for most of that) and 30 minutes pitch development. My pitchers throw a lot of pitches in a lesson. Keep in mind the best way to learn is to actually use the whole body so you can incorporate rhythm in your drills.
The above questions and topics are definitely a good place to start in the very important process of selecting your daughters pitching instructor. Find somebody that is qualified, successful, has the ability to teach, and is passionate for the game. I hope you find this article helpful in your search!