One question that I get all the time is, “My son or daughter’s arm needs to get stronger. What can I do?”
Well, I really think it depends on age. For players ages 5-11, I say…… “Mechanics, Mechanics, Mechanics”. Learning to use larger muscle groups more effectively is the key. This is difficult, because much of it requires balance and core strength, which the majority of these players ages 5-11 have very little. Teaching concepts, such as:
- Getting weight on the balls of their feet prior to throwing
- Weight slightly back
- Reaching back and showing the ball as if someone was standing behind them. This is especially difficult with girls because they really have to fight “big ball, little hands”. I saw it when my daughter first picked up an 11″ ball, from playing with a 9″ baseball in t-ball. Then I saw it again this year when she transitioned into a league that uses a 12″ ball.
- Eyes on target. I like to tell kids to pick a spot in their partners glove the size of a dime, see it, and throw to it.
- Step with the glove-side foot towards the target. Although, I suggest refraining from telling them to “point their toe at their partner”. I believe that this eventually promotes players, especially future pitchers, to landing heavy (too much weight forward). Focus on getting the whole leg and foot going towards the target in a soft, but aggressive manner.
- Extend the previous step by teaching a crow hop to help smaller bodies use momentum.
- Getting elbows “equal & opposite” distance from each other after separation.
- Release ball in front and let arm follow through after release. I like to tell kids to “waive good-bye”.
- Finish with a “clean glove-side”. This simply means allowing the glove-side elbow to collapse as the throwing arm comes through its motion. When the glove-side elbow remains stiff , the glove will finish below the waist. Often times this will lead to players losing accuracy, usually high.
- Lastly, make sure that their “playing catch” partners provide a good chest high target. You should emphasize that recievers of throws have their thumbs together at chest level in order to help their partner.
For older players (ages 12 & beyond) here’s a typical throwing progression that I’ve used:
Daily Throwing or “Playing Catch” Progression
- On Knees; place throwing elbow on glove at chest high & elbow up; allow upper to remain still & only bend elbow and release the ball; make sure hand extends downward after release (hand should not look like it’s throwing darts); possibly use a ball with one ring of tape around it in order to emphasize proper rotation; 8-12′ apart; 10-12 reps.
- Flat Footed Facing Partner; emphasize “equal & opposite” elbows & “clean glove-side”; Twist torso; 15-25′ apart; 10-12 reps.
- Glide (Transfer weight on balls of feet); place feet on target line at a distance as thought they’ve already strided the glove-side foot to throw; opposite foot position of the previous step; rock forward-back-forward while maintaining the nose over the belly button; release ball to partner on 2nd forward movement; 20-30′ apart ; 8-10 reps.
- Step & Throw (separation & strike point); Basically, just like #5 listed above ; now emphasize glove-side foot landing on the in-step ball of foot at about a 45 degree angle; 40-60′ apart based on age & strength; 10-15 reps.
- Step Behinds; baseball pitchers only; for balance & target line; start in a stretch position; back foot steps behind front foot towards target; knee lift towards rear armpit & throw; great chance to work on touch pitches like change-ups; 45-60′ apart; 10-15 reps
- Long-toss; gradually moving back from each other; using crow hops; emphasize “no rainbows”; straight throws as if they were an outfielder throwing through a cut-off man; the highest a ball should get is twice the players height; get to a distance where partners are one hopping each other; 100-130′ apart based on age & strength; 5-7 reps.
- Run Daily; Running helps the arm recover.
On a regular basis, players need to do more than “loosen up”. To often this “loosening up” time ends up being a social session for not only the players, but also the coaches. Thus, this allotted time usually lasts longer than necessary with no goal in mind. Arms need to get stronger as the season progresses. Be patient. In turn, keep an eye on your team. If you’ve played 6 games in 5 days. It may be wise to have a light arm day. Rest is necessary. That’s you have your team “loosen up” with 5 minutes as the maximum, or do not throw at all.
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