Arm Action: The Bourne Identity Or Identity Fraud?

baseballthinktank Youth Coaching Tips

Arm action is unique to every individual.

Arm action is your identity, it’s your signature.

Your identity and signature can be easily influenced but difficult to change, ask Jason Bourne.

It get’s even better, keep reading!

Your arm action begins to form its identity at an early age.

It’s influenced by numerous factors in the early beginning, with the most important being intent.

If you missed the earlier article, Player Development: Ingredient #1 is Intent, you can read that here.

The body is a complex machine and it moves according to the goal of the activity.

For example, Goose Gossage’s intent was to throw hard from an early age, therefore his delivery centered around trying to throw it harder. The end product, a Hall Of Fame Pitcher that threw the ball hard. Sound simple?

My beliefs and understanding of the power of intent, are the reason I recommend every young pitcher to try and throw the ball hard,forget about everything else. There is plenty of time to learn the importance of changing speeds and location.

Well, unless you’re looking for instant gratification and a weekend trophy, then by all means, make the 10U season the highlight of the players career.

My son will be told to THROW IT HARD!  There will be very limited coaching and only one goal, THROW IT HARD!  This will continue until he’s around the age of 12.

Young players that spend time focusing on throwing the change up and breaking pitches will begin to form movement patterns to give them the best opportunity to throw change ups and breaking pitches. (Read this article.)

This equates to less intent to throw the ball at higher speeds and decreases their chances of ever reaching their maximum potential for velocity.

Most coaches will say that pitching is not about throwing the ball harder, you have to be able to pitch by locating and changing speeds. Those same coaches, chart every pitch while sitting behind the radar gun.

Sooner or later, every pitcher will be judged by the gun.

I am fortunate to work with professional pitchers on a daily basis and many of those guys can throw the baseball upwards of 95 mph. If you ask most of these guys how they are able to throw the ball so hard, you will hear them say, “I’ve always tried to throw the ball hard.” Sound simple?

Now that you understand how arm action is born, so to speak, let’s discuss how it’s influenced.

Positive and Negative Influencers Of Arm Action:

I have already shared my opinion on why young pitchers shouldn’t throw breaking balls and off-speed pitches (you can find more info here.)  Now let’s shift gears to emulating other pitchers.

One culture that is well known for emulating pitchers is the Dominican Republic. As YOUNG kids, they see their fellow countrymen and Hero’s succeeding and do their best to emulate their style. It works for them because they start this at an early age. Now this brings me to my next point!

I spoke at length to a parent last night about a pitching camp his son recently attended. In the camp, the instructors had each player pick out a MLB pitcher and placed them in groups according to which pitcher they felt looked most like them.

Keep in mind, the pitcher attending this camp was 16 years old. The instructors asked each kid to do their best to emulate the MLB pitcher’s style.

I would say that’s fine, if you’re a young pitcher. Heck, I would even encourage it!

However, if your son is past the age of 11 or 12, Emulation becomes Imitation.

Why would you spend time trying to look like someone else?

Do you really think that’s the best course of action?

Why wouldn’t you spend time building your delivery around what you already do and trying to find ways to do it better?

Why wouldn’t you spend valuable time finding ways to increase timing and efficiency based on your movement patters versus someone else’s!

I’ve got an idea, why not take pride in how you do things? Why not say, it’s OK to look different! Take pride in how you do things and spend time focusing on your strengths, rather than the impossible, turning your weaknesses into your strengths!

Back to the story, the pitcher was so caught up on trying to look like Roger Clemens that he actually regressed. His delivery was very forced and the movements looked very “false”. It wasn’t natural and there was no sense of timing or rhythm to his delivery.

Before I go any further, I want to share with you my definition of timing. Timing is critical to pitchers. Many refer to timing as connection, meaning that the body is working together.

Timing is the idea that each movement reaches its destination in time or space and enables and promotes the next movement.

An example of poor timing would be the position of the feet/hips at landing that would cause undue stress on the shoulder and arm and keep it from decelerating or slowing down properly. (More on that later)

In conclusion, emulation can be good at an early age but not as you have matured and your movement patterns have been established.

Bottom Line:  Take Pride In Being DIFFERENT, that’s OK!  Don’t get caught up on what others view as pleasing!

Here’s what I want you to do…

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