Just in the past week, I have been asked by a few different parents how they can help their young pitcher avoid hitting that “wall” we hear so much about.
You know the one… Arm starts to feel “dead”; velocity is way down for no good reason; throwing more than 3 innings is extremely tough; etc…
How do we avoid that with our young pitchers? And once it happens, how do we fix it?
The truth of the matter is…there is no one, simple answer. There are many factors at work here and each situation is different. However, what I can offer up to you is that there are many things that can and will work to both avoid and to fix this problem!
Year-Round, Off-Field Training Program:
One of the best things any player can do to maintain his strength, power, velocity, endurance, mobility, etc… is to start doing a good year round (off of the field) training program.
The biggest thing I hear from parents regarding these training programs is that with “everything he is doing now (i.e. pitching lessons, Summer and Fall ball, Travel League, etc…) he has no time or energy to do anything else!”
And, while I totally get where the parent is coming from, I can only offer this very important piece of advice: “The more your young player is doing year round, the MORE essential it is for him to gain and maintain pitching specific strength, endurance, power, mobility, etc…”
Without these things, he will not only “hit the wall” before or by mid-season, he will also see a dramatic decrease in his overall performance on the mound. Finally, the chances of him getting a pitching related injury, skyrockets!
So, as I do understand that there is only so much time in the day and week…and that the player only has so much energy to give when he is being pulled in so many different directions…I also know what a year-round, off of the field strength and mobility program can do for the player. Not only will he avoid hitting that “wall”, his performance will most likely continually improve.
One of the more important parts of the Year-Round program is continuing to do it during the season. Maintaining the strength, power, endurance, and mobility throughout the season will help prevent injuries, keep the arm feeling “good” and keep performance up!
Finding a good, quality program and /or strength coach is one thing…finding the time do train year-round is another. Sometimes it is just re-prioritizing things.
Another really important aspect of preventing the “wall” is making sure the pitcher is performing a good, quality throwing program prior to the season.
The program needs to be progressive, adaptive and specific to each player. In other words, not every program is right for every player. Some guys need to tweak the program. Either way, make sure the throwing program is being followed a few months before the start of the season and make sure progresses at the right pace.
Off –Season Rest and Repair:
One of the biggest problems that I have seen in the past few years with young pitchers is an increase in year-round throwing and a decrease in rest time.
Pitchers need an off-season to allow the arm to repair itself. Without this “repair” time, injuries are more likely to occur and performance will drop big time!
Good training programs can and will be adapted so the player can work on mobility, soft-tissue, etc… while still giving the throwing arm a much needed opportunity to rest and repair.
Pitchers who get this “down time” from throwing are much more likely to never hit that wall!
The player needs to have a constant awareness of how his arm feels throughout the year. I always recommend keeping a journal. Each day the pitcher can write how he feels.
Doing this will help him gain an important awareness of how his body and arm feel.
This awareness will allow the player to know when things are starting to feel weird, or bad. This is one of the biggest keys to prevention!
Finally, it’s essential for the player to communicate with his “team” each day to let everyone know what is going on and how he feels. By “team” I am mostly referring to his parents, coaches, trainers, etc… The people who are involved in his development.
Having that awareness and being able to communicate how he feels can really help to avoid bad situations.
For example, the pitcher might be experiencing some strange tightness in his arm after a practice. Instead of ignoring it and pushing past it, he can tell his “team” and they can help decide if he might need some more rest, stretching, ice, etc…
Many players get into trouble by ignoring things and pushing through, when sometimes it only takes a day of rest, an added stretch or a tweak in mechanics to fix the problem.
Prevention is about doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things!
Once the player and his “team” understand the importance of doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things, they can make better choices throughout the year.
Implementing the good and getting rid of the bad will go a long way to preventing the player from “hitting that wall!”
Stay tuned because I will be writing very soon about how to fix the problem if the player does wind up hitting that wall. I will give some tips on fixing the problem!