A Must Read for Youth Baseball Coaches and Parents

Written By: Dave Shinskie

Think Before You Teach

This article is for all youth coaches if you can't tell by the title. It is a simple and direct message that applies to those coaches who think it is necessary to change kids without explaining why or what they are telling the player to do.

The coaches I am referring to are not out to hurt the kids or make them perform worse. It just so happens that the things that were taught to them at a young age do not work to optimize youth players in today's game. There is too much information and too much accessible technology out there for coaches not to research it.

I will talk about a young man that I had in a lesson the other day. I will discuss:

How I recognized the inefficiencies being taught to him at his practices.

Why the things he is being told to do is detrimental to his progress and health.

What he can do to help eliminate the bad and have a respectful response to coaches when asked to do them.

Recognize The Problem

Let's start with the 10-year-old Nello C. and how I recognized something different from the last lesson.  Like every lesson, we start out in the "wave drill". This an upper body specific drill that helps with trunk and shoulder rotation and a strong front side brace up. Which helps hitters throw harder while still maintaining proper mechanics.

How I Noticed

I noticed that his arm was getting way to high to the point I can see the ball over his head. We are used to seeing coaches mess with players, so I didn't even ask why he was doing this. I simply said, are you learning that at practice? His answer was yes, "my coach told me to get my elbow up over my shoulder".

 

This is an example of what it looks like from the back when trying to get the elbow above the shoulder.

Bad Arm Position
Bad Arm Position
Bad Arm Position 2
Bad Arm Position 2
WHY This Is Bad

There are a few reasons why this position is bad for throwers to get into. As a pitcher, the ball is visible to the hitter very early which make it easier to pick up. You want to be as deceptive as possible by hiding the ball as long as you can when pitching.

Getting the elbow above the shoulder has a very high injury risk. The picture above and to the left is of Nello after he starts to rotate. His elbow leads into the throw which puts massive stress on the small ligaments of the elbow. I will explain later why this causes more stress and hinders longevity of a thrower.

Hiking the ball up is another way of saying the elbow gets up to fast. This is also a phrase we hear a lot from our clients that their coaches say to them. Many times this causes high throws and errant pitches because the pitcher cannot get behind the ball properly. Coaches need to see these things, put two and two together, and stop telling kids to hike their elbow up.

Let's talk about what we can do to help Nello and kids like him to fix these problems and have a voice for themselves.

Fixing The Problem

Speaking to Nello's mom, I explained to her my concerns about the things he hears at Little League practice. I told them if they are paying for private instruction here at Baseball Rebellion and spending the time that he needs to have a voice when introduced to bad coaching. A respective voice at that.

We talked about how he can have his own voice and be respectful to his coach, but ask questions. For example, "Why should I hike the ball above my head, won't the hitter be able to see the ball?" Another question he should ask is, "When I do that, I feel it in my elbow, Why?" Questions that a coach telling a kid what to do should be able to answer.

I also told them to relay the things we talk about in lessons. Please let your coaches know, I am willing to collaborate with any coaches to double down on elevating a player's performance and health.

What We Fixed

We went over some things that are detrimental to throwers health, longevity, and performance. In the pictures below we can see the changes that we made within a few minutes of the lesson. Here are the things we fixed and the way we fixed them.

The picture on the left shows Nello getting his elbow back down below his shoulder and hiding the ball much better than before. Having the ball behind his head causes deception and has his arm in the healthiest position as possible.

The reason this is safer for throwers is depicted in to picture right. His external rotation of the ball is still behind his head and inside the frame of his body. This his shoulder and elbow are more supported by the big muscles of his back. Which all allows him to throw safer without losing any velocity.

IMG_1219
IMG_1217
Verbal Cues

Nello fixed his arm swing by me giving him a few verbal cues:

  • Keep your elbow closer to your hip
  • Feel your elbow stay below your shoulder
  • Pretend to place the ball into an imaginary hoodie

These simple cues helped him to gradually start to get his elbow below his shoulder and create a safer and more efficient shoulder rotation.

Coaches and Parents

Please Try This at Home

I am holding a 10-pound weight in these pictures. In the picture on the left, I am holding the weight outside of my body. This looks similar to the position that Nello was in in the first two pictures when the coach told him to hick his elbow up.

In the second picture, you see my hand and the weight behind my head and inside the framework of my body. The same as when we fixed Nello's arm swing and external rotation.

I want you to try both. Tell me which one you can hold the longest and which one has more stress on your shoulder/elbow.

IMG_1220
IMG_1221

Conclusion

Coaches

This is an article meant to HELP coaches and ask them to research all the information out there. We also want to help give a young kid or parent a voice to question a coach, if it is needed. I also think youth coaches need to focus on training the fundamentals of baseball. Such as ground ball footwork, proper relay positioning, baserunning situations, and what it means to tag up.

It's amazing how many kids need these simple things from their outside coaches that don't get it. Any coach is welcome here at Baseball Rebellion any time, for free. Coaches can call us, ask us questions, learn from us any time they want. Together we can help mold young players on all levels of the game.

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