Coaching Tips for Arm Safety for Your Pitcher
There is nothing more upsetting than a young pitcher who suffers an arm injury. However, there is nothing more frustrating than an arm injury that could have been prevented. Let’s take a look at some Baseball Coaching Tips for Arm Safety for Your Pitcher.
#1 Overworked Arm
There are few things that will cause an arm injury quicker than overwork. It will be the coach’s job to make sure the pitcher is not being overworked in games or practices. A baseball coach should also teach a young pitcher that it is ultimately their responsibility to protect their own arm from overwork. A young pitcher needs to be honest with themselves and set physical limits that will prevent injury. For example, if the player is pitching for three different teams but is not informing any of the coaches about it then this pitcher will probably end up being overworked.
#2 Poor Mechanics
Poor pitching mechanics can lead to arm injury. The biggest culprit is the pressure put on a young elbow by pitching “side arm.” The negative effects of pitching “side arm” may not show up for a long time which makes it very tempting for young pitchers. A baseball coach should be discouraging their pitchers from pitching “side arm” no matter how successful they may be doing it.
#3 Over Throwing
A lot of young pitchers try to use excessive force in their mechanics or “over throw” in an attempt to gain velocity on their fast ball. Over throwing may do a little for velocity but it will do more to cause injury. It’s great to be blessed with a great fastball but speed isn’t everything. Baseball coaches should be stressing location and control over all other aspects of pitching.
#4 Curveball Controversy
There is no doubt that throwing curveballs at a young age increases the chance of arm injury. That’s a fact. With that said, a young pitcher will experiment with a curveball with or without an adult’s help or blessing. The important thing for a coach to do with a pitcher who chooses to throw curveballs is to monitor them closely and try to convince them that “less is more.” There is no need to throw a steady diet of curveballs the entire game because that’s just not smart baseball. A curveball should be used to deceive and at the youth level should be used sparingly. The coach should also teach their pitchers to throw a change up which is an excellent alternative to the curve ball because it does not put pressure on the elbow. You will find many opinions on throwing curveballs before high school. A fellow coach taught curveballs to his players when he coached at the youth level and told me he has mixed feelings about it today despite not having any of my pitchers suffer arm injuries. He said if he was ever asked to coach at the youth level again he would discourage his pitchers from throwing curveballs.
#5 Pitching in Practice
A coach has to be smart about using pitchers in practice. I think it’s good to simulate game situations by using live pitching but not at the expense of a pitcher’s health. For example, just because Junior isn’t one of the regular pitchers, it shouldn’t mean that the coach can just overwork him in practice. Another example is using a pitcher in a simulating game in practice who just pitched the night before. The same care that a coach uses for the game should be used in practice when it comes to pitching and that care applies to everyone on the roster; starting rotation or not.
A baseball coach should be teaching their young pitchers to take care of their arms properly. Pitchers ( especially if they pitched a complete game) should be icing down their arms after the game.
#7 Properly Warming Up
The next time the pitcher steps out onto the field after they have pitched, their pregame or before practice warm up routine should be extra methodical. The arm should be slowly, loosened up because pitching can sometimes cause stiffness or tenderness that will need to be worked out before using the arm strenuously.
#8 Monitoring of Pitcher
The coach should be monitoring pitchers very closely for any signs of fatigue or injury. A young pitcher may fear telling the coach that something is wrong or may not even understand there something wrong. This is why a baseball coach must always be watching the game with a keen eye.
#9 Communication with Pitcher
The coach should be in regular communication with the pitcher while they are pitching. Sometimes, a baseball coach must be like a detective and ask questions to get to the bottom of something like a pitcher with an injured or fatigued arm.
#10 Pitch Count and Common Sense
In youth baseball, there is ofter a pitch count rule or an inning limit. However, those rules should not be the only limit set in a coach’s mind. For example, a coach should not ignore obvious signs that a pitcher is fatigued just because there are 25 pitches remaining in the pitch count. The pitch count is merely a measuring stick to help prevent injury. The coach is a living, breathing person who must weigh all the factors presented and do what is right for the health of a young pitcher.
A youth baseball coach has a huge responsibility when it comes to protecting a young pitcher’s arm. A coach needs to be especially mindful when it comes to dealing with pitchers if they are to prevent arm injuries. The three main keys to protecting a pitcher’s arm is monitoring, communicating and responsible coaching.