I really like this drill for players ages 12 and up. This comes with one reservation. If the player can not hold a balanced knee lift for 7-10 seconds, this drill is probably a bit too advanced. For me, a balanced knee lift is defined as the knee lifted towards the rear armpit so the the upper leg is parallel to the ground or higher with the weight gathered over the back foot. Meanwhile, the player needs to be able to do this with out tilting his shoulders back in order to maintain balance. If that is the case, then the player should simply work on getting to that position, being able to hold it & repeat. Only then, is the “3 hops” drill is appropriate.
This drill is outstanding for players to develop body control and core strength. Ultimately, we want the pitcher to be able the control balance throughout the hops. If the player loses balance at any point prior to the 3rd hop, he should stop and begin again, as opposed to finishing the rep in an incorrect manner. After the last hop, it’s imperative that you pay attention to foot strike as the player throws the ball. It should still be initiated on the in-step ball of foot and with weight 75-80% back, just as it should as if the pitcher were throwing a pitch without the hops. The foot should land slightly closed, not pointing directly at the target in order to prevent premature hip rotation. One goal of the drill is to be able to maintain good mechanics despite the hops, not create a bad habit, such as, landing heavy on the front foot. Thus, one variation you may want to try is to have the pitcher freeze at foot strike after the 3rd hop without actually throwing the ball. Then, check for proper foot strike and ball position. Lastly, I suggest starting to teach this drill on flat ground. Then, move up to the mound. This will increase the player’s chance of success with the drill.
Initially, I like to include verbal cues with this drill. Such as:
- “Ready” (starts in stretch position)
- “Balance” (make sure they’re here before 1st hop is cued)
- “Hop, Hop, Hop” (1/2 second between hops)
- “Go!” (meaning throw)
As the player becomes accustomed to the drill. The coach should reduce the verbal cues and allow the player to self-coach and pace himself. Finally at mastery, you should be able to have your more disciplined players do this drill on the side as part of a bullpen session on his own. Lastly, don’t be afraid to bring the player(s) back to basics with the verbal cues from the coach.