I’ve been trying to remember the formulas I’d use to gauge where my athletes were in regards to their throwing development. Typically the torque drill was a good barometer of where you’d be off a mound; pulldowns would be about 3-5 mph higher than on a mound, that kind of thing.
I knew there would come a point where I’d plateau, be stuck hovering around a number for a couple weeks at a time, but finally breaking through and starting to see gains again. It’s normal, it happens.
What I figured, however, is that day would come after getting to the low-to-mid 80s off a mound, not after hitting 80 once on a pulldown.
Since this faithful day three weeks ago, I’ve been in a rut.
My best pulldown since this was 77 mph.
My best standing since then was 67 mph (record is 70).
And for the last 10 days I haven’t been able to break 62 mph on double knee. (record is 64)
I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t having a mental effect on my testing days. Instead of letting the ball go with full intent, I’m now taking constant inventory on my body positioning and sequencing. Definitely not the place you want to be when you’re attempting to set records.
This year I’m coaching my two daughters 8U softball team. And although there’s a reluctance on my part to truly teach proper throwing mechanics because of the ensuing backlash and “ackshully that’s not right” pushback I’ll get, there is one parent whose daughter is a very good athlete that’s been curious about what I’m teaching my kids, and asking questions.
One of the main points of instruction I’ve told him is playing games (baseball or softball) is like playing golf. You can’t practice on the course. Once you tee off you have whatever you have that day, and you have to compete with that.
Once it’s game time there’s no tinkering, self-exploration, or inventory checklist about what you’re doing right or doing wrong mechanically. There’s just competition. Go compete with the highest level of intent you have.
The preparation is where you fix the flaws. Training. This is also why I contend my kids would be far better off never playing youth sports and simply spending the next 6-8 years training and developing, instead of learning all the bad habits that come from games-only and coach dads that just know what they know.
And so I have to take a step back and remind myself of all the clubs in my bag. There are drills designed to help promote the areas I’m weak right now. Naive of me to think I was just going to be able to click back into 26-year-old me training at the Regal Athletic warehouse popping 85-mph torque drills left and right. I was a finished (or nearly finished) product then with multiple years and 10,000 hours of training youth up to professional pitchers. I had done all the preparation already.
Now, I’ve done nothing for 12 years and to think the muscle memory would be enough to get everything back into shape is just silly. There’s more tinkering, self-exploration, and an inventory checklist to do.
After consulting with some friends in the industry I’ve narrowed down to a couple key movements I’m going to be focused on for the next couple weeks:
First, early hip rotation while keeping the shoulders closed. This is one of those old-school teaching things that never really made sense. “Your shoulders and hips should be in line with the target”. No, they shouldn’t.
Getting the hips opened early allows for more rotational force for when the upper half turns to release. Two drills, one with a 4-lb med ball and one throwing, will help give my motor movements the feedback need.
The cue here is to keep the toes of the drive foot pointed away from the target as long as possible. This allows the hips to open early pre shoulder rotation.
Next is the figure 8 or connection drill.
Add a little momentum to the process while attempting to get the hips out of the way early, and try to promote some linear drive before full rotation. You can see from the still shot, both lower and upper halves rotate together, and I’m not really getting any momentum forward, I’m just spinning around myself.
The last thing I’ve been told when checking in with the industry pals is the most obvious. As one put it “lift fucking heavy weights”.
It’s not as if I wasn’t aware the physical strength component to this wasn’t going to be the most important. I’ve mentioned it a few times in this space. I come from an era when pitchers were instructed to never lift weights, never throw long toss, get long, tall and fall, etc etc. These things are all silly, of course. And I know they’re silly which means I should, at this point, know that yes, I need to lift fucking heavy weights.
So two weeks with a focus on these three things and we’ll see where we’re at. In addition, need to worry more about unhooking my over-thinking brain and just throwing the shit out of the ball when it comes time to do so.
And avoid capturing these types of reactions on video and getting disapproving looks from my wife.