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Max recently turned 12-years-old. He has been in the Baseball Rebellion pitching /hitting program for the last three years. Max plays for Evoshield Canes 12U team where he plays middle infield and is one of their starting pitchers. He attends Immaculata Middle School in Durham, NC and plans to go to Cardinal Gibbons High School. When he is not playing baseball he is tearing it up on the basketball court. Max is 2026 draft eligible, a straight-A student and hopes to attend UNC-Chapel Hill in the future.
The first time I met Max was when he walked into our now retired name ITSbaseball facility in Hillsborough NC. He was decked out UNC Tarheels gear and shaggy hair.
I was 30 at the time and Max was going to be 10-years-old. It was funny because during the whole evaluation he was telling me that he could throw 70 and throw it harder than me. For his age, Max did throw fairly hard. 50 mph was his hardest throw that day. Granted he just got up on the mound and chucked it at the target.
For just meeting him he made it seem like we knew each other for years. Almost like he was competing against me and I wasn't even throwing. At this point, I realized the confidence in Max was second to none. Needless to say, we accepted Max into the program instantly and got started trying to utilize his talents. Here is the video of his evaluation two years ago.
As we started to see Max more and more you can tell he was going to be something special. Watching him throw a baseball is much different than watching him run for the first time. Let's just say you could hear Max's footsteps on a construction site with every machine on.
We worked through every phase of the program step by step. Utilizing the Wave Drill, Rivera Drill, and Cross-Arm Shoulder Rotation Drill almost every day.
His upper half was pretty solid to start with, however, his lower half needed a ton of work. If you are familiar with Baseball Rebellion, most people around the area can tell when you take lessons here. The rhythm of the windup and leg kick gives it away.
The video below shows how we utilized a mirror on the side of the pitcher's mound. We want kids to be able to see their heel as they are driving down the mound. In this rep by Max, he shows his heel a little soon. This creates false energy which makes him want to jump out of his delivery. Even though we made tremendous strides in just one year, we had much more work to do moving forward.
I mentioned in Max's bio at the beginning, he has recently turned 12 in early March. He plays for the 12U Evoshield Canes National Team where he pitches and starts at shortstop.
Whenever Max comes for a lesson nowadays it is mostly not a focus on body movements. We have to tweak somethings, but never a revamp of his mechanics. For example, In the video below we focused on creating speed down the mound. By driving the hips and then kicking out to increase velocity. This made him have a little more intent through the pitch which translated into 70mph on the radar gun.
The things we have to focus on with Max is how to stay out of his own head. He gets frustrated when he gives up hits and walks guys. When Max is on I would put him up against any 12-year-old in the country. Getting back in the game when he is struggling is the biggest things we talk about.
I love working with Max and seeing his family in the facility. Having the trust from not only mom and dad but grandma and grandpa as well. We are all on the same page on how to make Max the best he can possibly be. The ceiling for this kid is as high as they come. Every time I see him he wants to challenge me to a pull-up contest, or a push-up challenge.
The funny thing is he never gives up and actually bet me in a pull-up contest. His heart is crazy big, his personality is even bigger, and oh he is great a the game of baseball. Put those three together and you get a chance at being a future Big Leaguer. It's so fun to be part of young kids like Max's life and help them reach their dreams. Talent is not always the greatest tool of an athlete, but learning how to hone the simple skills I mention in this article gives a kid like Max a chance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nello fixed his arm swing by me giving him a few verbal cues:
These simple cues helped him to gradually start to get his elbow below his shoulder and create a safer and more efficient shoulder rotation.
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.
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.