The art of the throw is often one of the most overlooked aspects of a player’s talent, yet it’s also one of the most important baseball skills. Players’ time is usually spent going over fielding drills, and batting practice, while throwing is left in the dust.
A stand-out, all around player needs to be able to throw well and hard, whether they’re a pitcher, infielder, or outfielder. A player who can throw from third and cut someone off at first is invaluable to the team.
So how do you coach a player to be able to throw harder?
Go Back To Basics
If the foundation of a house is shaky, it doesn’t matter how pretty the house, it’ll always be unstable. There’s no overnight solution to throwing a ball harder, but speeds can be increased when they’re practicing sound throwing mechanics.
The speed for someone already practicing good mechanics will gradually increase slowly over time, with concentrated work.
On the other hand, if you have a player who is throwing mechanically incorrect, changing their habits and improving their mechanics can result in an immediate improvement.
Check the fundamentals, and make sure you get them in order before trying to coach for a higher speed. Make sure that players are showing:
Good lower body alignment
Proper arm action
Even if your players have been “getting by” with the way they’ve been doing it for years, improper form will keep them from advancing their skills any further. Old habits are hard to break, so fixing past wrongs will be a slow process. Make sure you’re doing throwing drills through the course of training, a couple of days a week with ample rest time in between to avoid any injury. It will take time and practice to break old habits and form new ones.
Without the correct grip, maximum velocity can never be reached. Check your players’ grips, making sure the fingertips of the index and middle finger are on a seam. Their thumb should be directly under and centered between the two fingers.
Good Lower Body Alignment
Everything all hinges upon the placement of the lower body. The throwing action begins with players making a complete 90-degree turn of the throwing arm foot, allowing the front shoulder to line up directly at the target. Make sure that your players are squaring their back foot up completely, especially during warm-up sessions. Work on making sure that they land on the ball of their lead foot when throwing, as this will allow for top arm speed, too.
Proper Arm Action
Here may be one of the most difficult habits to morph into better form, but with patience and practice, a determined player can. A player must swing their thumb under their fingers on the back swing and maintain that position until the arm starts its forward motion. They should raise their front side elbow to shoulder height and point it directly at the target, coordinating with the throwing arm action.
It’s absolutely imperative that the thrower’s stride is aimed directly at the target so that maximum leg, hip, and torso rotation is possible. This direct step allows for the maximum extended release point, which is also necessary for top speed. With this arm extension, the weight should automatically transfer, and the player’s back leg should come up and forward after the release.
Strength training doesn’t necessarily make for a faster arm, but an overall increase in body strength can help with arm recovery. A program appropriate for the players’ age designed by a knowledgeable trainer is important. You’re looking to develop the entire body with an emphasis on leg strength, core strength, shoulder area development, and forearm strength.
Once the fundamentals have been mastered, you can then start to work on some drills designed specifically to throw harder. These may look like pitching drills, but don’t let that fool you. They can be hugely beneficial to everyone on your team.
(For a right handed thrower)
Have them lift their left leg up, finding their balance point (as though a pitcher).
Hop towards their left hip (forward toward the target) three times.
Release that leading hip and explode the body forward onto the left leg by allowing the left hip to lead. It’s very important to make sure the thrower is leading with the hip, making sure to follow through.
(For a right handed thrower)
Have the thrower start out in a lunge, looking like they’ve just thrown the ball. The right foot should be pointed at a 90° angle, and the left foot facing forward with the knee bent. Start with hands together in the center of the chest, neutral position.
Rock forward onto the left leg.
Rock back onto the right leg, collecting the left leg up as they do.
Come back forward, placing legs in the same position at the same time they throw, making sure to follow through.
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