The Blunt Truth About Pitching Lessons

Does your son throw better in a lesson than in a game?
Does he generally have more focus during a lesson than a game?
Does it seem like his pitches are better in a lesson than a game?
Do you ever wonder why he can’t take a lesson performance into a game?

Go with me here…

If a pitcher can’t throw strikes..
If he’s nervous on the mound..
If he’s hanging his curveball..
If he needs to add a pitch..
or told he needs to work on mechanics..

What does a pitcher do?

He goes to some pitching lessons.

Here’s a typical pitching lesson.
See if this sounds familiar…

A very short warm-up (or no warm up at all). Sometimes playing catch is the warm up. Ugh!
Then the pitcher does a few arbitrary drills…
Then he throws a bullpen of 45-60 pitches.

The pitching coach assumes the pitching coaches pose: Arms folded, a serious look on his face as he carefully dissects and analyzes each pitch your son throws.

Then the pitching coach spends the next 30 minutes saying…

Try this.
Try that.
Do this.
Don’t do that.
Nope, that’s not it.
Almost, but not quite.
Pretty good.
Not bad.
Almost got it.
That one was good.

…the really smart ones will throw in a bunch of body part names, muscles, maybe some big words to throw you off into believing that there’s something more scientific or dare I say magical going on during your lesson.

There’s not. Quite the opposite.

Here’s why your son pitches better in lessons than he does in a game:

#1) Pitching coaches get your son all alone.

Pitching lessons are held in bullpens, pitching tunnels and gyms where the pitcher is isolated from any serious distraction. The exact opposite of what pitcher would experience during a game. During a game, a pitcher is literally the center of attention. How does isolating him in a pitching tunnel, free from distraction prepare him to pitch in a game? It doesn’t, but it sure is a great environment for a “lesson performance.”

#2) A pitching coach gets in your son’s head.

As a pitching coach, I can stand right next to a pitcher, and I get in his head. I can talk faster than he can think, I can tell him what to think, and I can direct his focus. Now that’s all fine and good, but obviously a pitching coach can’t stand on the mound during a game. So, again, we’re giving the pitcher a different experience than he would encounter on the mound.

You remove the pitching coach from standing 4 feet from the pitcher, and the pitcher is standing out on the mound all by himself in a game. Now he doesn’t have his pitching coach feeding his thoughts. The pitcher is not taught to think for himself. Because thinking for himself will not produce a good “lesson performance.”

This is why you can see a pitcher have laser focus during a lesson, but can’t bring that to the mound.

So far, here’s what we have… a pitcher isolated in a bullpen of pitching tunnel with a pitching coach standing 4 feet away yapping in his ear. Is the pitching coach gonna cut his steak for him, too?

#3) Using cues.

I’ll come clean. You want me to get your kid to throw a strike in a lesson, no problem. I can see very quickly where his release point is, and can cue him and adjust his target to where he’ll throw strikes.

Now you might say, ‘Wouldn’t that be helpful. Can’t we do that in a game? Have the pitcher adjust their cues and targets to throw strikes.’

Well yeah, you can, but that’s not what you came to the pitching coach for. You went to the pitching coach to get better, not for duct tape solutions.

Using cues as a pitching coach can get a pitcher to throw strikes, and they look good…. but it’s not really fixing the bigger issues. That would be my goal.

That goes into…

#4) Pitching coaches change the success measurement in a lesson.

A success measurement in a game is how many hitters you get out. But in a lesson, the success measurement is throwing pretty pitches. So a curveball that has big break and plops in the strike zone looks super pretty in a lesson may get crushed in a game, and vice versa… A curveball that’s in the dirt for an 0-2 strikeout gets a result in the game but looks terrible in a lesson.

No kid is going to throw 15 curveballs in the dirt and feel they had a good lesson. No Dad is gonna slap down 100 bucks and watch his kid throw balls in the dirt. They all wanna see that big beautiful break.

Pretty pitches don’t always get hitters out.

#5) They take out all the hard parts.

In a lesson, you take out the crowd, the other team, the hitter, the umpire, the situation, and all of the pressure of the game.

I have a heavy bag in my garage I use during workouts. I look awesome on that thing. I’ve connected on every punch I’ve thrown and land perfect combinations, well yeah, I took out the hard part: Someone trying to punch me!

I’m not saying that a hitter needs to stand in there all the time, but a good lesson should include pitching to hitters.

#6) You control the tempo.

In a lesson, a pitcher can take a minute to gain his composure in between pitches. He can step off for as long as he wants. He can ultimately dictate the pace at which he pitches. Not to mention, if a pitcher is losing control in a lesson, a coach can stop the lesson and talk to the kid for five minutes and calm him down, do a few of his “drills” and start up again. You can’t do that in a game. You can’t have a five-minute mound visit. You have to get the job done.

A good lesson should have a period where a pitcher pitches at the tempo he would pitch in a game.

Let’s recap and see how this all plays out in a game…

  • In a lesson, a pitcher is isolated. In a game, he’s the center of attention.
  • In a lesson, a pitcher is fed thoughts. In a game, he has to think on his own.
  • In a lesson, a pitcher is given cues to throws pretty pitches. Now in a game, a pitcher is applying a duct tape solution instead of fixing the underlying issues.
  • In a lesson, the success measurement is pretty pitches. In a game, pretty pitches get crushed.
  • In a lesson, the pitcher can control the tempo. In a game, then he has to pitch at the pace of the game.

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