Baseball Coaching Robbery

Maybe it's time to fire your pitching instructor or online guru

I recently received an email from someone who portrays himself as a pitching guru. One suggestion he offered was to take video of your son’s pitching lesson, and at the end of the session go back and look for mechanical differences in the delivery when the result is good or poor, and observe the coaches’ reaction. He’s suggesting you look for places where you’re getting short-changed: highway robbery. While I agree that much (most?) pitching instruction is fatally flawed there are big problems with his suggestion.

Many coaches reward players with an ‘attaboy when they throw a good pitch, and when they produce a poor result they offer instruction. Most coaches are simply reacting to balls and strikes. The real focus needs to be on repeating the delivery pitch after pitch. In the process of learning, sometimes players just need to be left alone to work things out. It takes thousands upon thousands of repetitions to become competent. Over-instructing and constant correction leads to athletes that spend too much time locked in their head, destroying their athleticism. On that count I can agree that coaches rob players (and parents).

However, if you think you can track down meaningful mechanical alterations with a regular video camera, think again. (And it’s worth asking yourself, are you really an expert at analyzing mechanics?) Taking standard video, at 30 frames per second, can reveal only the slowest movements in the sequence. The few things you can deduce from taking video like the guru suggests aren’t going to help. You’re likely to make a massive mistake inserting yourself between coach and player. It sends a clear message to the coach that you don’t trust him. If you don’t trust the coach, what are you doing there in the first place?

On the flip side of robbery I routinely see coaches and instructors waste paying customer’s money. Poor instruction, even from ex-MLB and college players who seem competent just because they played at a higher level, results in injuries. Those lessons are worse than worthless.

You also want a coach who is willing to step up and insist players do their homework between sessions. I reserve the right to fire students if they’re not doing their homework. My reason is simple: I’m not going to waste parents’ money. If the student doesn’t do their side work it’s likely they’re less interested than the parent. If my students really want to do something else I want to help them find their passion in their own interests. If your current coach or online guru doesn’t address this it may be time to tell them, “You’re Fired.”

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