The throwing skills you need to master before taking pitching lessons
Learning to pitch starts with understanding and being able to repeat a series of throwing skills. Pitching lessons are great, but start with teaching the gift that lasts a lifetime... proper throwing skills. Let’s identify the three movements you need to feel to throw and pitch for a long time.
1. Fast thumbs: Clean arm action starts with the ball being taken out of the glove with the throwing thumb initiating the take away. In fact, make sure both thumbs quickly turn down as your hands and glove separate to throw. Fast thumbs equal fast elbows and fast elbows will generate the arm speed needed to throw hard. Spend time learning fast thumbs, as this initial movement is crucial to developing arm action and pitching skills later on. Players that pull the ball out of the glove with their entire hands will not survive the cut as they go to the big field at age 13.
2. Swim and Swivel: Ask your players what they did the last time they were swimming in the pool. Hopefully they show you a long, smooth freestyle-type swim stroke that should resemble proper throwing skills. Above-average throwers at every level will have the glove reach out (not pointed or straightened out) toward their intended target and then pull back or swivel the glove back into the body to help the back shoulder finish the throw (remember open the door?) “Swim and swivel” is also a movement all position players must master to throw hard. The swivel action of the glove will also help elevate the throwing elbow as you begin to release the ball.
3. Reach and shake: Watch the throwing arm after the ball is released. Players with sound throwing skills will finish their throw with their hand reaching out and across their body, finishing near their opposite knee. If you have closed and opened doors and have truly flipped your laces, the finish should be easy. Stopping or pinning your throwing arm against your chest will cause injury and reduces velocity. The sports docs are quick to point out that most arm injuries occur during the deceleration phase of the throw (after the ball is released.) Learn to shake out the arm after the throw, reach through to your target and--like the trunk of an elephant, shake the arm out and across your body after release.
Master the trilogy of throwing listed and then you’ll be ready to learn the art of pitching!