The Side Arm Conundrum July 07, 2016 21:13
What’s wrong with throwing side arm? Should a young player be “corrected” if they drop down and sling the ball from the side? Heck, I honestly don’t have an answer for you. I wish I did, but to say the baseball and softball worlds, and all the “experts” out there offering advice and expertise on everything from how to apply eye black to the art of the squeeze bunt, are divided on the subject of throwing side arm would be an understatement. I have an opinion, my own preference on teaching throwing mechanics, based on medical research and respected baseball and softball knowledge, but I can’t definitively tell you one way or another if it is right or wrong, healthy or detrimental. I can most definitely tell you, just like throwing over the top, that throwing side arm can be done in a right way and a wrong way, and this is what is most important. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is one of the best throwers in the game and he demonstrates the two types of throws perfectly.
My feeling is this: throwing side arm should be used like a tool, but you need to know when to use it. Throwing side arm can be a very effective tool, for middle infielders, for a quick release and to keep runners from getting into their bodies around second base (this is for higher levels of play, so let’s leave that alone for now), and for pitchers who may not have the velocity to consistently get hitters out throwing from a more conventional arm slot, and who need to change looks and speeds to keep hitters off balance. These are situational tools, to be used when the time calls for it. Hey, there are jobs that require a sledge hammer, and there are jobs that require a chisel. If you choose the wrong one, the results may not be what you’re looking for, and if you don’t have both in your toolbox, you may lose the job to someone who does. This is why I feel it is extremely important to build a solid foundation for good, efficient, and effective throwing mechanics from a young age.
Let’s look at this from the standpoint of youth baseball and softball. If a young boy or girl loves to play baseball or softball, the best thing a parent or coach can do is to teach them to play the game in a way that allows them to experience that joy for as long as possible. When we limit their effectiveness, and pigeonhole them into roles or positions where there abilities can only be utilized in one or two spots on the field, we minimize their chances at longevity.
I tell this story often, and I think it applies particularly well to this debate. I was at a high school softball game recently, during the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) playoffs, very high level play. A ball was hit to the right side, deep in the hole by the second base bag. The young lady playing second made a great play in the hole, knocked the ball down, recovered, and made a throw, a sidearm throw, to first for the out. Her throwing motion struck me because it was more of a flick from the side then a throw, and although it got there, barely, it did not have much zip on it. After a clean single, the clean-up hitter stepped to the plate and hit a shot to deep center field. The relay throw missed the shortstop, but the same girl playing second was in position backing up the play, and fielded the ball at the edge of the infield grass as the runner on first turned for home. The second baseman quickly turned, dropped down to sidearm, and threw home. It was a very quick turn, but her throw had no power, no force, and it bounced twice before reaching the catcher, a good step and a half too late. That run was the difference in the game, and it should never have scored. The runner should have been out by two steps, but the second baseman only had a chisel, and at that particular moment, for that particular job, she needed a sledge hammer.
I believe it’s best to teach kids to throw from a more conventional, over the top motion. I believe throwing this way is the most efficient, effective way to deliver the ball, in terms of accuracy and velocity. I believe it is detrimental to allow kids to throw in a way that may hold them back when the field gets larger, and the distance players need to throw gets longer. I agree that it is not always best to tinker with a young player’s natural “slot”, but when a coach or parent sees something incongruous in a player’s shoulder level, or if there is pain or soreness involved in a motion, it is best to try to adjust the throwing mechanics as early as possible. After all, even successful Major League players adjust their slot from time to time (See Max Scherzer).
If you are interested in helping your young player make this adjustment using The HeadCoach Throw Trainer, here are some simple steps to get you started:
Start on one knee, glove side knee up. Establish a solid base, where you son or daughter won't easily topple over if pushed or nudged. He should be balanced and firm in this position.
Make sure hips, trunk, and shoulders are turned perpendicular to the throwing partner, who should only be 10-15 feet away. We want to generate good rotation, and squaring the shoulders to the target too soon will decrease the torque needed to throw with velocity.
Point at the target with glove or glove side elbow. This is very important, and a lot of kids ignore this element of throwing mechanics. Pointing that glove keeps them focused on their target, and it gets them moving forward, in line with where they want the ball to go.
As the player starts to rotate, coming up towards release point, try to graze the tip of the VIA at the midpoint of the throwing wrist. Look at the VIA, and have them hold their hand, with a ball in it, so that their wrist is right at the tip. This is where the hand needs to be as they come forward to release the baseball.
As the throwing arm comes up and forward, make sure to pull that glove back into the body, tucking it into the chest. At the same time, make sure they bend at the waist, keeping their eyes directly on the target, reaching to release the ball out in front of their body. Two things you will hear coaches say over and over are "on top and out in front". Very important for getting the most velocity possible, as well as keeping the ball in line and improving accuracy.
Finally, as the player finishes their throw, be sure to follow through with the throwing hand on the OUTSIDE of that up (glove side) knee, and down as close to the ground as they can go. Bending and releasing out front, the throwing hand should reach the outside of that leg with ease.
This does not need to be strenuous throwing, it just needs to be very deliberate, making sure to really focus on completing each step correctly. Creating good mechanics is a matter of repeating certain motions over and over again until it becomes second nature. When correcting a flaw, it takes time and a conscious effort at doing it the right way, every time, over and over and over.
Start here. Eventually you will increase the distance and the velocity of the throws. For now, have the focus be on coming up and over top, and hitting very small targets. For instance, don't tell the player to hit your glove when they throw, instead tell them to hit a spot in the webbing of your glove, then hold it up and see if they can hit it. Make this a game called “hit the spot”. Aim small, miss small. Repeat. Whatever your feelings may be about throwing side arm, this has proven to be a very successful tool in making the adjustment to more conventional mechanics.
The HeadCoach Works Great for Softball Too! May 19, 2016 11:58
Our thanks to Jen Smart who posted this video and testimonial about how the HeadCoach helped her daughter throw with more power, accuracy and consistency. Her daughter's much improved throwing motion has boosted her confidence and deepened her love of the game.
"I reached out to HeadCoach a couple months ago, in regards to my daughter who had a bad case of "side arm" throwing. I tried everything to try and fix her throwing motion, but nothing seemed to work. Until one day my fiancé sent me the link on Facebook and asked me to reach out and see if this tool would help.
Justin, who is the owner of the company, graciously offered to watch a video of my daughter throwing, and was able to critique and offer me guidance regarding my daughter's throwing motion. He informed me that the tool would be able to assist in correcting her throwing motion. She wore the tool for her catching lessons, during fielding practice, and warm ups before games. The feedback I received from her coaches was how remarkable the side arm throwing was under control, how her throw downs to second base were stronger, and how much more accurate and consistent she was. A high school coach even noticed the tools effectiveness and recommended it to his own players. Most importantly, her confidence improved without the anxiety of not throwing to her capability. I would recommend this tool to any softball player struggling with side arm throwing or basic mechanics of getting the most accurate throw. Thank you so much for your guidance and taking the extra time to make sure we had a full understanding of how to use the tool, it was a complete success."
~ Jennifer Smart
If you know a young player struggling with their throwing mechanics, ask them to try the HeadCoach. Most players see significant improvement after just a few throwing sessions.
Two is Better Than One February 05, 2016 20:15
We sometimes hear people say when they first see the HeadCoach Throw Trainer, why does wearing this weird looking contraption help a kid throw better? Two reasons: cognitive awareness and tactile feedback. Baseball is such a traditional sport, it can be hard to change sometimes. We are fully aware of how "weird" our tool looks. Hopefully I can help clear up some of the confusion about The HeadCoach.
The concept and design of the HeadCoach was specifically intended to correct a flaw in throwing mechanics that is profound, extremely common, and really frustrating for players, parents and coaches. I know, because the impetus for the HeadCoach was my own son's struggle to correct the flaw that was really holding him back from throwing to his true potential. The problem has many names: short arming, aiming, chicken winging, folding, or the worst of them all (because it is misleading and unfairly sexist) throwing "like a girl".
You see it on youth baseball and softball fields all over the country: kids who force their hand next to their ear, drop their elbow, square their shoulders to the target, and push the ball to the target. They throw with no extension, with their hand under the ball, no rotation of hips, trunk, or shoulders, and little or no follow through. The result is poor accuracy and diminished velocity and force. Our tool is simple, but it is highly effective, and that’s because The HeadCoach attacks the problem in two ways, through cognitive awareness and instant tactile feedback.
Have you ever tripped on a stair in the dark, a stair you didn’t know was there until it was too late? The next time you approach that step, you take it with a lot more caution because you are aware of the danger. You lift your foot extra high, to make certain you clear the obstacle. That’s cognitive awareness. The minute a player attaches the plastic arm extension (the VIA) to the headband and fits the tool around their head they have cognitive awareness. The player is immediately aware of the VIA extending off the side of their hat. When they look out of the corner of their eye, they know it is there, so the impediment is in their mind, they are aware that something is there, and they should avoid it.
Tactile feedback is like a little slap on the wrist. If the player’s hand passes too close to the head on the way to release point, the player will hit the VIA. Our VIAs are an impediment that provides instant tactile feedback if an adjustment needs to be made. A little slap on the wrist. It doesn’t hurt, but you definitely feel it, and it guides you up and outside the tip of the VIA, putting your arm in the optimal throwing angle.
People sometimes ask me, “What if the player drops under the VIA?” Good question, but the answer is even better. The HeadCoach is self correcting. When a player drops their hand under the VIA, their throwing gets considerably worse. It feels worse, it looks worse, and the result makes them eager to change something right away. The tool guides players into the optimal throwing angle, and the residual effects are truly amazing. Players get on top of the ball, they find a more consistent release point, they start to rotate and use their bodies more efficiently. Their confidence soars, and they start throwing in a way they never could before.
Using The HeadCoach is as easy as putting it on and throwing. Players now have a choice. If they hit the VIA, they can either do nothing and continue to throw poorly, they can drop below the VIA, which feels even worse and hurts you throwing even more, or they can get their hand outside the VIA, their elbow up, reach full extension at release point and feel the difference of how it is to really throw the ball. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is. The HeadCoach is simple and effective, and the impact we are having improving the way young players throw the baseball or softball is something we are really proud of.
We are helping boys and girls all over this country throw better, and with the season rapidly approaching, now is the time to give The HeadCoach a try. Challenge your team to throw better than any other team in their league. It is a simple goal, but it may mean the difference between a winning and losing record, going deep in the playoffs, or perhaps even taking a league or district title.
The Chicken or The Egg - Part II September 25, 2015 08:50
I want you to look at the picture of these players saluting. All three have their elbow at or slightly above shoulder height. This is the optimal height for throwing the ball, and very few people with knowledge of good throwing mechanics would argue this. Now, picture placing a baseball in the hand giving the salute, and imagine trying to make that ball go straight. The fingers would be pointing across the ball, making it nearly impossible to throw with any accuracy at all. How could you correct this awkward hand position to bring the fingers from pointing sideways to pointing up towards the sky? Well, you could bring your hand out away from your head so your elbow is past 90 degrees. This would certainly fix that problem. Unfortunately, this is not what young players do. They feel they have more control with the ball by keeping it close to their head, so instead, they drop their elbows. It is the compensation for the hand position on the ball that is at the root of this flaw.
When a player aims the ball, they are forcing their hand in next to their ear, but the unnatural hand position needs to be corrected in order to get the ball to go straight. Hence, the dropped elbow. So what if you didn’t allow the hand to stay in next to the head? What if there was an impediment that prevented you from throwing with a hand path next to the ear? It would eliminate the need to drop the elbow. Dropping the elbow is detrimental to throwing because it greatly diminishes velocity. It is really hard to generate torque with a dropped elbow, because rotating the hips, torso and shoulders becomes very difficult when the arm is working like a catapult.
Players who drop their elbow tend to open up their shoulders much sooner, almost squaring to their target to throw the ball, which eliminates the “whip” needed to generate velocity. Accuracy also suffers greatly as a result of the dropped elbow, because the hand is now underneath the ball, which will either cause it to sail high of the target, or if over corrected, throws tend to bounce well short of their intended target.
Ripken Baseball has a great drill that helps address this problem. In the video, Billy Ripken and coach John Habian demonstrate how to use a hitting tee as a simple visual reminder, an impediment, to help prevent and remind players to keep their elbow up. The tee works through cognitive awareness, and if the player drops too low, instant tactile feedback, meaning they will hit the tee with their elbow.
This is exactly how The HeadCoach works for players who force their hand in next to their head. Our VIAs work just like that tee. The VIA is a visual reminder of where the hand should pass on the way to delivery. Players know it is there, so they have a cognitive awareness to make sure they get outside the VIA. It also provides instant feedback if they fail to make the proper adjustment. When a player hits the tip of the VIA, they know right away that they need to make a change in their mechanics.
Here is where it gets interesting. What if players never learn to throw with the flaw of forcing their hand in next to their head in the first place? Would that eliminate the need to ever drop the elbow? Is it a chicken/egg debate? Certainly an interesting discussion, but I firmly believe the answer is yes. If kids were trained to throw using The HeadCoach from an early age, they would learn proper rotation, proper hand placement on the ball, full extension, and optimal release point. Aiming with the hand in next to the head and the elbow dropped would never be an option. Something to think about.
If you have a player who struggles with this problem, I think the best way to address this flaw is to use The HeadCoach while doing the Ripken One Knee Tee Drill. This way, you are attacking the problem from both sides. If you are just starting to teach a young boy or girl to throw, make sure that you do as you say. Be consistent with your message and your demonstration. Learn to throw softly to your children, but in a way that shows them proper mechanics. They want your approval. They want to do it right. Be sure to teach them the right way. This is one situation where “Do as I say, not as I do” gets thrown (with proper mechanics) right out the window.
Get out there and play catch with your kids!
The Chicken or The Egg - Part I September 25, 2015 08:34
What comes first, the hand next to the head or the dropped elbow?
“Why do kids drop their elbows when they throw? How does that bad habit develop? It doesn’t help them throw better, so then why do they do it?” I get this question all the time, and I think I have a pretty good handle on the origins of this problem, and how this flaw in throwing mechanics has become so prevalent in young baseball and softball players. This is one of the most confounding and frustrating issues for players, parents, and coaches to deal with, because once this bad habit is cemented into motion memory, it can be difficult to remedy. Unless of course, you have the correct tool…
Most youth baseball and softball teams, especially in rec or park ball, are coached by very well meaning, and very selfless parent volunteers. These moms and dads should be recognized for their sacrifice and their efforts, because leagues could not function without them. Unfortunately, these same parents may unknowingly be setting kids up for problems throwing the ball for the rest of their baseball and softball careers. I want you to picture these two scenarios, because they happen every spring from Augusta, Maine to Chula Vista, California.
Scenario One, we’ll use a dad as an example. A dad/coach shows up for the first practice of the season and pairs the team up, sending them ten paces apart from each other. He tells his team to play catch, and to try to hit their partner in the chest. Now Johnny and Tommy are partners, and Johnny reaches back and fires one to Tommy, and the ball sails high and wide. Tommy runs and gets the ball, then it’s his turn. He repeats the errant throw, chucking one right over Johnny’s head. Coach then reminds them, “Remember, hit your partner right in the chest, or right in his glove.” So Johnny squares his shoulders to Tommy, shortens his arm, brings his hand in next to his ear, drops his elbow, and aims or pushes the ball to Tommy, and the ball finds it’s way to Tommy’s glove. What does coach say? “Great job! Way to go!” Tommy hears the praise for Johnny, so he does the same thing. He shortens up, pushes the ball back to Johnny, and he receives the same praise from coach. “That’s it! Great throw!” The coach doesn’t realize it, but he is rewarding the result, and ignoring the process. Now two little boys think the best way to deliver the baseball is to aim it or short arm it to the target, and the longer they are encouraged and allowed to throw like this, the more likely it is to become how they throw the ball. Their foundation for throwing mechanics is now flawed.
Scenario Two has to do with visual learning. Think about teaching your children how to do…oh, almost anything. Tie their shoes, cut their food, fold their clothes…anything. How many times do you stop and say, “Watch me. Watch how I do it”? The fact of the matter is most people are visual learners, so we’ve adapted our teaching to include some form of demonstration. When a child gets a conflicting message, however, they will more often than not defer to what is easiest to comprehend.
Here is where we run into a problem when we teach young girls how to throw a softball or baseball. 99.9% of parents cringe at the thought of hitting their precious young daughter in the face with anything, let alone a softball or baseball(and I don’t care how soft it is). If you’re reading this thinking, “Not me, she’s gonna have to learn the hard way or toughen up!”, congratulations! You’re in that .1 percentile. Now, go seek help.
You see, what we do when we teach girls to throw is say one thing(or many things), and do another. We go into long orations about getting your elbow up, pointing your glove at the target, rotating, and stepping with the correct foot, and blah, blah, blah. That’s essentially what our little girls are hearing, just a bunch of blah! Because after all we say about throwing, we then stand in front of our daughters, shoulders square, we show them the ball, put it right in front of our faces, and gently toss it like a dart with the intention of getting it in or as close to their glove, and as far away from their face as is humanly possible. No judgement here. I get it. I did it with my daughter, until I realized what a mistake I was making. I was telling her one thing, and doing the complete opposite. What did I expect her to do in return? She, like most other girls, mimicked what I did, not what I said. If we have a problem with how girls are taught to throw, and how they end up throwing as they get older, we have nobody to blame but ourselves, because we are showing them all wrong.
This is where the problem starts. But what are the mechanics behind this flaw? More importantly, how can we fix the problem. And most importantly, can we change the way we teach kids to throw so the problem never develops? Ah! There is the question. I will address this in Part II.
Arm Angle at Different Points in Throwing Mechanics March 27, 2015 20:39
A HeadCoach follower posted a picture of Greg Maddux on our Facebook page today. In the photo, you see Maddux at a point in his delivery where he is fully striding towards home plate. His arm is still folded, or in the “cocked” position, elbow bent and, in this case, below his shoulder. From looking at the photo, you might believe that this was how Maddux delivered the ball, but it is essential to remember one thing when looking at this picture. It is BEFORE his trunk and shoulder rotation.
Throwing motions vary to such extremes that you can almost say they are like snowflakes: no two are exactly the same. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know this. If a player forces their arm to stay in the cocked position all the way to release point, if their hand stays next to their head and their elbow remains dropped below their shoulder, they will struggle to throw the baseball or softball effectively, with maximum velocity and accuracy. Most importantly, they will be putting themselves at risk for serious arm injuries in the future.
Let’s look at two more photos of Greg Maddux. In the first, notice where he is holding the baseball. Crazy, right? It is almost touching his head. However, in the second picture, after trunk and shoulder rotation and at the moment of release, his arm is fully extended and his elbow is above shoulder height. Why is this? It’s because he allowed physics to take over, instead of forcing his hand to stay in an unnatural hand path.
Fighting physics is a losing battle. In the case of throwing a ball, fighting physics comes when you force your throwing hand to stay in close to your head all the way to delivery. Force equals strain, and strain leads to injury. Too often, young players are taught that getting the ball to a target, such as another player’s chest or the catcher’s mitt is the only thing that matters. I understand why coaches make this mistake, but when the result is given more emphasis than the process of throwing the ball, this is how bad mechanics are developed. A coach will reward a kid for, “hitting Tommy or Sally in the glove”, but ignore the fact that the player had to drop their elbow and push the ball like a dart to get it there. This is where we at HeadCoach can make a difference. We want to train players to throw the right way, whether they are just starting to play the game or if they have developed flawed mechanics over time and want to improve the way they throw.
The HeadCoach places an impediment (our patented Velocity Increasing Arms) in the way of this unnatural hand path to release point. If a player has developed this flaw in their mechanics, The HeadCoach will guide their hand into the optimal arm extension. If you hit the VIA, you know you need to let your arm get outside. Just follow the HeadCoach VIA. It points right to where your arm need to go. Up and out! Like Greg Maddux and Brian McCann, it’s not where your hand starts that’s important, it’s where it is when you release the ball. To get the most out of your arm, you need to let it, and physics, work for you, not against you.
Why Radar Guns Are Overrated In Throw Training March 14, 2015 16:46 1 Comment
People ask me all the time, “How hard does your son throw?” The honest answer to that question is, “I have no idea.” I really don’t, and what’s more, I don’t really care. Well, that’s not true. I care. I want him to throw hard. I want him to blow fastballs by people. I want him to get batters out, and for now, he does. You know what else? I want him to pitch to contact when the situation calls for it, and to trust his fielders behind him and reward them for their hard work by not walking too many batters, and when a batter reaches base, I want him to hold him on the best he can, and he’s gotten pretty good at that too. He hits his spots consistently, and he can change speeds and make hitters uncomfortable because he has good command of three pitches. Most importantly, he’s healthy (knock on wood). His arm has never given him any problems. His shoulder and elbow have been maintained and tuned and managed in a way that has allowed him to progress and learn as a pitcher without being overworked to the point of injury.
Leo’s ability to pitch was built on the strong foundation of good throwing mechanics, and I credit this to his use of The HeadCoach for years. I invented The HeadCoach for my other son, the one who really struggled with his throwing, but my older son has used it for training since he first stepped on a mound, and he’s been pretty successful up to this point. But, as far as how hard he throws, be it 75, 77, 82 or 84…I really couldn’t care less.
See, to me those numbers don’t mean anything at this point. My boy is 14 years old, a freshman in high school, and God willing, he has a few good years of baseball ahead of him. To dangle some meaningless and detrimental goal in terms of MPH in front of him by clocking him with a radar gun makes very little sense to me. It is counterproductive, and it could be harmful. His mechanics are very solid, and he’s worked hard to get to this point. The last thing he needs is to mess with a good thing in order to gain a mile or two an hour on his fastball. As a matter of fact, I don’t think it’s beneficial for any kid to strain to throw “x” on the gun in order to keep up with teammates, other kids in the league or any of the pitchers they see at tournaments and showcases.
Mark Buehrle is an amazing case study. He’s a bit of an anomaly, but he’s amazing nonetheless. He has defied the odds by throwing, by major league standards, a below average fastball, giving up a ton of hits, working at a very quick pace, and eating up innings. This guy would have a hard time breaking a window from 60 feet, yet year after year after year, he trots out to the mound and pounds away at the strike zone. That’s the most important thing to know about Mark Buehrle, the year after year part, because Mark Buehrle never, NEVER, gets hurt. Ever. He’s never been on the DL in his entire career, and this is a guy who makes 30 starts a season and devours innings.
Buehrle isn’t a flame thrower, and I don’t know if he’s ever tried to be one, but my guess is, he’s gone with what’s given him the greatest success. He has great control, he holds runners very well, he fields his position extremely well, and he’s been unbelievably durable. All in all, I’d say he’s an exceptionally well rounded pitcher. Isn’t this what we all want our kids to be? Yeah, I guess it would be fun to be the parent of the kid shattering bats and striking out 12 a game, but that comes at a price. Trust me, it comes at a very steep price. For now, it’s best to focus on building that strong foundation of good mechanics, getting better, staying healthy, and enjoying the game. If this hits home for you, I suggest you give The HeadCoach a try. Help your kids throw correctly, and the heat will come with time and proper mechanics. As for me, I’ll worry about radar guns when my son gets his license. Now that is something to really worry about…
Dramatic Improvement After One Session! March 14, 2015 16:38
We recently did an experiment. We took a great athlete who struggled to throw and trained her for 30 minutes using The HeadCoach. One training session, and the results were incredible. Watch this video to see what happened:
Transform the way you throw. Change the game for your son or daughter. Get The HeadCoach and fix the flaws in their mechanics that are holding them back.
The Difference Between Baseball & Football Throwing Technique March 14, 2015 16:29
Throwing a baseball calls for a different technique than how you throw a football. This can be particularly challenging for two sport athletes that need to transition between the two and still perform at a top level.
Watch this video and hear two-sport athlete Rashon Lewis talk about how The HeadCoach helps him adjust and improve his throwing technique:
Rashon hits the nail on the head when he states, “When I’m wrong, it let’s me know that I’m wrong, but when I’m throwing right, I can feel that I’m right!” You can clean up your mechanics with The HeadCoach. Get The HeadCoach and feel the difference. If your arm is traveling in the wrong arm path when you throw, if your elbow drops, and your hand comes too close to your head, you need The HeadCoach.
Dropped Elbow & Throwing Mechanics March 14, 2015 16:21
Someone sent us this question/comment after reading our FAQ’s page. “I don’t see how The HeadCoach will stop you from dropping your elbow?” It’s a valid observation, so I thought I would address the varying situations concerning the dropped elbow.
Every night on the highlights you will see MLB players drop their elbow and toss the ball across the diamond, so do you really want to stop players from dropping the elbow at all? Well, we want to give players a sound foundation for proper throwing mechanics, and two things are universally agreed upon in regard to throwing correctly. First, the elbow should be at or above shoulder height, and second, the hand must be outside the elbow. If your player is a sidearm thrower, and their elbow drops because of this particular kind of delivery, hold tight! I’ll address that at the end of this reply.
If your player is dropping their elbow and forcing their hand in next to their head, I’m certain they are not reaching their maximum throwing potential, and consequently they are not very happy with their results. They are not throwing with maximum velocity, their hand is underneath the baseball or softball, so their accuracy is inconsistent at best, and they are forcing their hand into an unnatural path to release point, and force equals strain, which can potentially lead to injury. When a player develops this “aiming” or “pushing” throwing style, they are either not getting proper hip or shoulder rotation, or they are fighting against physics, and that is a losing battle.
The HeadCoach is so effective because it is self correcting, and unlike other arm braces or restrictive devices, the only thing it forces a player to do is make a choice. If they are hitting the VIA when they throw, they can either drop their elbow lower, which feels wrong and will cause their throwing problems to become even worse, or they can get their elbow up and their hand out to where it clears the VIA, and immediately they will feel the difference of throwing from the correct throwing angle. This is not about “slot”. Slot will vary for every person. But you cannot throw to your maximum potential with your arm folded, your elbow dropped, and your hand forced next to your ear.
Our VIAs are designed at different lengths and different angles in order to guide, not force the throwers hand into the correct throwing path. It takes practice and repetitions, doing it the correct way, to retrain that muscle memory, but if you start from one knee, concentrating on getting the hand path to clear the tip of the VIA, and not cheating it by going underneath, and by rotating the shoulders with the elbow up and the hand outside the VIA, your player will feel the difference.
Now, about the sidearmer. There are so many varying opinions about sidearm throwers, and this goes back to the topic of “slot”. Every player has their own unique throwing slot, and some players will naturally develop a sidearm delivery. There are coaches who try to break players of their sidearm throwing mechanics and others who gladly encourage sidearm throwing. This is not for us at HeadCoach to decide.
However, if you want to use The HeadCoach to alter the sidearm delivery, have your player do the opposite of the “pusher” or “aimer”. Start on a knee or at a shorter distance for catch play, and have your player try to hit the tip of the VIA with their hand when they throw. This will get them to be conscious of where their hand path is at release, and if their hand is higher, their elbow will be higher as well. Again, this is a matter of practice and repetition that when done correctly can help you get the results you desire. There is also a drill designed to train directional shoulder rotation as opposed to horizontal shoulder rotation, which helps modify the sidearm delivery.
Finally, people ask all the time if The HeadCoach will turn a player into a sidearm thrower, and our answer is no. No player will make the unnatural and dramatic leap from a “pusher” to a sidearm thrower if using The HeadCoach correctly. The HeadCoach is designed to maximize throwing potential. If you practice the correct way using The HeadCoach, you will throw better.
How A Halo Became THE HEADCOACH: 2 March 14, 2015 14:51
Through t-ball and machine pitch, I tried everything I could to break Luca of his odd arm action, of the awful, folded angle he had developed, but it seemed as if his brief affair with the pitchback had created a muscle memory that became his throwing mechanics. He understood the problem, he wanted to correct it, but he could not make the physical change when it came time to actually throw the baseball. At such a young age, he was able to get by on his athleticism, but by the age of 7 he was playing up with older kids, simply because he could hit and field and run with the best of them.
His first season of kid pitch, “real baseball”, his coach asked if anyone could play catcher, and Luca raised his hand. This shocked me because he had never put on catcher’s gear in his life, but if he was game, I figured why not give it a shot. They put him behind the plate opening day, and mid-way through the first inning, the coach asked me, in all seriousness, if I had sent him to Mike Sciocia’s catching camp, Luca looked that comfortable playing catcher. It wasn’t until a runner reached first base that Luca was exposed. The first chance he got, the runner stole second. Luca picked up the ball, turned, and as much as I’d like to say he “fired” the ball to second, what he really did was heave the thing in his awful pushing motion in the direction of the pitchers mound. The coach looked at me, bemused, and said, “What’s with the arm?” Unfortunately, I didn’t have an answer.
Through the rest of that season, his coach tried to mend Luca’s throwing. No such luck. From there we progressed to club baseball, and the coaches, all who had some level of collegiate or professional baseball experience, either playing or coaching, were also stumped by this extremely athletic kid who could not for the life of him figure out how to correctly throw a baseball. These guys had seen this problem before, at all levels of the game, and they were concerned about the limitations Luca would face if he couldn’t get his throwing figured out.
More than anything however, they were concerned about his health. Most players who threw this way were susceptible to serious injuries, which could altered or even ended a their career. We videotaped Luca so he could see what we all saw, and he got it. To his credit, he got it, and he was willing to do the work to get better. His coach put Luca on a strict throwing routine, starting with a regimented warm-up program designed to fix his mechanics. They tried all the old tricks: standing him next to a wall when he threw, having him grab a fence behind him while trying to complete the throwing motion, the towel drill, the “put your right thumb in your left pocket” drill, the “drag your knuckles on the ground, don’t hit the door frame” business … but when it came time to throw in a game situation, muscle memory took over, and he reverted back to his flawed mechanics. You see, you can tell a kid something a thousand times, and they can understand it, comprehend it, visualize it, but unless they feel it, it is extremely hard to change muscle memory. These coaches were stumped as well. “Maybe he’ll grow out of it,” they said. Maybe he won’t.
I had the good fortune of meeting a man named Tyrone Powell at a clinic run by our little league when Luca turned 9. Tyrone is the brilliant, no-nonsense, head baseball coach at Windward High School in Los Angles, and at the time, he was president of Santa Monica Little League. Tyrone saw something special in Luca. After seeing him hit and field, he turned to me and said, “Kid’s good. What’s with the arm? Can’t throw worth a ding-dong.” I started to tell him the story of the pitchback and the hours spent trying to correct his mechanics, the drills, the exercises, the throwing regimen, and nothing worked. I begged him for help, begged him for the magic bullet that would fix my boys messed up arm. He looked at me…and laughed, laughed right in my face. Then he said, “You’re just gonna have to figure out something that’s gonna stop him from throwing like that. Good luck.” More laughter.
That started me thinking, and what finally hit me was that Luca’s arm, and his torso and legs for that matter, had a mind of their own. No matter what anyone told him, no matter what words we said to explain the problem, when he started to throw, if his elbow could fold, and his hand could come in, and his arm could drop, it would. His muscle memory was controlling his throwing mechanics, and there were no words that I or anyone else could say that could change it. So my job was, as Tyrone put, to figure out a way to stop him from throwing like that. So I went to work, and what I came up with changed my boys’ baseball lives.
It just hit me one day, out of nowhere. If I could figure out a way to put an impediment in the path of Luca’s arm as he threw, make him get his hand out of it’s usual path, without restricting him or inhibiting his natural arm motion, maybe I could retrain his muscle memory into the proper throwing angle. I had an idea to fashion an bar extending directly up and out over Luca’s right ear, coming right off his baseball cap. Luca is right handed, so my thought was if he folder his arm and dropped his elbow, and his hand came in too close to his head, he would hit the extension and his hat would either twist or be knocked off all together. I made a crude ring that fit around his baseball cap, and I made an extension, or arm, that shot out about 8 inches at a 40° angle.
I first tried it on Leo, who had the same issue as Luca, just not as extreme. He grabbed the gizmo and held it over his head and said, “Look, I’m an angel, and this is my halo.” So that’s what we first called it. The Halo. Leo put it on and gave it a go. He immediately understood the purpose of the tool. “So I’m here at release, but you want to be here,” he said, holding his hand up to the tip of the bar. “Right. Try not to hit the end.” Magic. Leo threw with velocity, on a line, right to my glove. “Wow.” Yeah, wow. Let’s get Luca.
With some reluctance, Luca agreed to put the thing on, and I told him to just throw me the ball, like he always did. Sure enough, his hand hit the extension, the hat popped off, and the ball went straight into the ground. “It doesn’t work. I can’t throw with it on.” I corrected him. I said, “Buddy, you can throw with it on, you just can’t throw the way you throw now with it on. Let’s keep working.” Leo encouraged him to try again. After a few more attempts, repeatedly hitting the bar, I said to Luca, “You need to get outside of that thing sticking off the hat. Hold your arm up and make sure your hand is outside and above that extension.” He did as I asked, and this guided his arm his arm to just a shade over a 90-degree angle, and he cleared the extension by a good 3 inches. “Look at it, “ I said. “That is where your arm needs to be, and to get there you need to keep your elbow from bending in, keep your hand higher, and rotate your shoulders more. You can do it. Just look right at me, and concentrate on not hitting that bar.” Luca wound up, put it all together, let it rip. For the first time since he was 5 years old, my gloved exploded with such a startling “POP!” that we were all speechless. “Do it again.” And he did. Over and over. He didn’t hit the target every time, partly because his release point needed adjustment, and partly because he had such a huge smile on his face it was tough to concentrate, but he felt it. He could actually feel the difference. He didn’t need to intellectualize it or visualize it, because it clicked, and he knew he could do it. Every time he reverted to his old throwing motion, he hit the extension and got instant feedback to remind him where his arm needed to be. Right then and there, we agreed that from now on, anytime Luca threw a baseball, he would wear this thing on his head.
Luca and I would go out to have a catch and I would say, “Grab the halo.” After a week, his throwing did a complete about face. He figured out his release point, and with the help of the halo, got his arm angle and his mechanics completely cleaned up. Leo, who is a primarily a pitcher, benefitted immensely from working with the halo. He got his arm angle figured out and his velocity shot up. It was noticeable right away, and it was incredible. That’s when it dawned on me. Think about shooting a rubber band. If you only pull it back half way, you won’t get the maximum velocity when you release it. It was the same thing with Leo and Luca bending at the elbow and dropping their hands. They weren’t maximizing their potential because they were only using a small portion of their arms. At the same time, they were putting excess stress on their shoulders and elbows by throwing with such dangerous mechanics.
The improvement in both boys was inspiring. Before the halo, Luca never really pitched because he didn’t throw hard enough to consistently get batters out, and aside from that, he had no way of controlling his pitches with his flawed throwing motion. His ball tended to sail on him because his hand was so low, and if he over-compensated, his pitches went straight into the ground. In truth, his lack of consistent accuracy made it hard for Luca to ever throw strike. But after using the halo, Luca had the confidence and the consistency to get on the mound and throw strikes, hard strikes.
As a family, we love to watch the show “Shark Tank”, where entrepreneurs and inventors go in front of a panel of investors, looking for that certain someone who shares their vision, believes in their idea, and more importantly believes in them, and is willing to partner up and invest time, resources and financial backing to help make a dream into a reality. Leo and Luca thought “Shark Tank” was the perfect place to turn our gizmo into the next great baseball training tool, but I was wary of exposing my idea to the world for the purpose of entertainment. By chance, I was telling the story of my invention to my good friend Greg Craig, a hugely successful businessman, who has watched Leo and Luca develop as ballplayers over the past few years. I recounted every detail, from the crude inception to the boys pushing me to swim with the Sharks. Greg looked at me and said, “Big Daddy, you don’t need some t.v. show to make this thing work, I love this idea and I think it’s a winner. If you want, I’ll be your shark!” And that’s how our partnership began and our little project got started.
We put together a strategy for designing a working model, developing a prototype, and making our dream into a reality; to make a revolutionary baseball throwing aide, something desperately needed, that will help improve the quality and the safety of throwing for players worldwide. Greg came up with a brilliant name that encompasses everything this product is and sets out to do: THE HEADCOACH. Worn around a player’s head in any game or practice situation, it is always there for you when you need it. It gives immediate feedback when your arm angle is wrong and needs a little adjustment. It corrects you in a way that doesn’t hinder or restrict your natural ability, allowing everyone to reach his or her true potential. Most importantly, it reduces the risk of serious injury by preventing you from throwing with a dangerous flaw in your mechanics. We have added a compression sleeve with a revolutionary angle-indicating stripe for enhanced visual feedback to complete THE HEADCOACH Throw Training System. We encourage you to try our simple, revolutionary training aid today. Wear it. Throw Better. Win. THE HEADCOACH, changing the game one arm at a time.
How A Halo Became THE HEADCOACH: 1 February 28, 2015 08:49
When my son Luca was 5 years old, somewhere deep inside his being, a switch was thrown, and suddenly he went from being kind of a…”cerebral” little fellow, obsessed with puzzles and maps, to a kid fixated on America’s pastime, baseball. The only thing Luca was interested in was baseball. He wanted to play baseball, watch baseball, talk baseball, read baseball… baseball, baseball, baseball. As his father, all I could say to that was Amen!
The year Luca started kindergarten was a bit of an adjustment. You see, from the time he was 3 years old, he had gone to an all day preschool, from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon. In his new school, for the first four weeks, his day ended at 11:45 am. I work from home, and my wife is a full time teacher and school administrator, so it was my job to pick Luca up, bring him home for lunch, and then try to get back in my office to knock out some work before I had to pick up his brother and sister at three o’clock. Invariably, as soon as Luca would finish his sandwich, I’d hear a rap on my office door, and Luca would poke his head in and say, “Daddy, will you have a catch with me?” As a former athlete and a huge sports nut, I was thrilled that my son had a passion for anything athletic, but baseball has a special place in my heart, so you can imagine how hard it was to say no. I would put my work to the side, grab my glove, and meet Luca in the yard for a catch.
Now, these weren’t your garden variety dad/son throw and catch sessions. These were marathon, wars of attrition, let’s see if we can get Dad’s arm to fall off at the shoulder affairs. Grounders, pop flies, line drives, pitching situations (man on second, two outs, bottom of the ninth kind of stuff…), and they went on and on and on. Don’t want to boast, but for a five-year old kid, Luca could really bring the heat. I loved every minute of those catches, but they lasted way too long. Lost in the moment, I’d finally check my watch and it would be 3 o’clock, time to pick up the other kids, which meant no chance of getting any more work done that day until they were all off to sleep. This really did a number on my productivity. When I expressed my dilemma to my wife Tara, she sympathized, but her idea was to take a hard line approach with Luca and just limit the time we devoted to playing baseball. Fat chance. The kid was obsessed (and I was having too much fun watching my little guy turn into a Roberto Clemente right before my eyes!) We needed to come up with another plan.
Leave it to Mom to solve our dilemma. On a run to pick up the last of the required school supplies, Tara happened to be walking down the sporting goods aisle and spotted the answer we to our problem; a pitchback! For those who don’t know what a pitchback is, it’s basically a rectangular, mini-trampoline that stands upright and at a slight angle. In the middle is a square the approximate size of a baseball strike zone.The beauty of the pitchback is if you throw it just right, the ball bounces directly back to you, no partner (or daddy) needed! Brilliant, I thought. Thank you, Mommy! Luca can have a catch with himself, and I can get back to work.
I took the pitchback out of the box and set it up in the front yard where Luca and I had our daily catches. I shared with Luca how I had one of these when I was a kid, and how great it was that he could now have a catch whenever he wanted to, even if I or his brother weren’t around. He gave me this sidelong, skeptical look, not sure if this thing was a suitable throwing partner. So I showed him how it worked, how when you hit it directly in the square, it bounced right back. I showed him how to adjust the angle, so you could get it to “throw” a pop-up or a grounder, and slowly his cynicism turned to amazement, then excitement, then after five minutes, when I finally got tired and gave him his ball back, he couldn’t wait to try! The first few throws were erratic, some high, some low, some not quite finding the target, but when he hit the sweet spot… oh the joy! “You like it?’ I asked. “I love it!”
Great. “I’ll be in my office if you need me.”
But he didn’t need me. He had the pitchback. He’d come home from school, eat his lunch, and run out to play with his new “friend”. After a week or two of no knocks on the office door, I started to miss our catches. I wanted to play ball too, so I finally took matters into my own hands. I grabbed my glove and poked my head out into the yard. “Hey Luca, wanna have a catch… with me?” “Sure Daddy.”
Okay, so there we were, no more than 20 feet apart from one another. I reared back and zipped one to my boy, which he nonchalantly caught like a seasoned veteran. “This kid’s a first ballot hall-o-famer.” I thought to myself. Then, as I stood there waiting for his return throw, the cannon blast from my little howitzer, the strangest thing happened. Try to picture this… Have you ever bought really cheap fireworks, the kind you get at a roadside stand that come in a box with cellophane packaging and has a bunch of different pyrotechnic cylinders with names like The Incinerator or Green Dragon orArmageddon? You take these things out and they look like you could strap one to your backside and fly to the moon. But what always ends up happening, after you anxiously light the thing fearing the loss of multiple digits, then run like your life depends on it covering your ears waiting for the deafening “BOOM”…is nothing. Nothing happens. The thing turns out to be a glorified sparkler, a dud. Well, that’s the throw I got back from Luca, a dud.
I thought, “Maybe he doesn’t want to hurt me, thinks I’m a little rusty, since it’s been a while since our last catch, and he’s been working everyday with the pitchback.” I threw the ball back to him and assured him it was okay to let it fly. He wound up, cocked his rifle and…pffft. Another dud! This time I noticed something different about Luca. He wasn’t throwing the ball to me, he was pushing it at me. I quickly gave the ball back to him and said, “Luca, come on now, reach back and fire one at me.” He looked at me funny, then proceeded to make an equally funny looking throw, where his arm went back fine, but when he went to throw the ball, his elbow bent, his hand dropped down to his ear, and he pushed the thing over to me like he had never seen a baseball before in his life. I was horrified. I thought, “What the… Luca has turned into a little French kid.” I panicked. What happened to my boy, my future big league star? He now threw…LIKE A GIRL! (I mean no disrespect, I assure you. I have six sisters, none of whom throw like a girl. It’s just that some girls AND boys, throw, you know…different.)
I went over and guided his arm back. I showed him how to get his elbow up higher, and his hand outside his elbow. I put him in the proper arm angle, I physically placed his body into the right position, but every time he went to throw, his arm would drop, his elbow would fold, and his motion would look like he was throwing with the wrong hand. How could this happen? What had changed in the few weeks since we last…the PITCHBACK! Oh no, the pitchback. I quickly put the dreaded contraption back in my place at the other end of the yard and made Luca show me how he played catch with the devil. Immediately, he went to his “new” throwing style, and aimed for the center of the box like he was in a pub shooting darts. “Why are you throwing like that?!” I demanded of my 5 year old. “Because, I have to put it in the strike zone or it doesn’t work.” “Doesn’t work?” “Yeah, it bounces sideways, or goes into the bushes or the street…” Oh jeez. “Sometimes I miss it all together, so if I throw like this, I can hit the box.” “Ok, but I can move. I’m not stuck in the ground with stakes. I can bend and jump and I’m good at catching, so throw me the damn ball! (I didn’t really say that). I stood in front of the pitchback and told Luca to concentrate, think about how he used to throw, before this, this…disaster entered our lives. I could tell he was confused, and frustrated, and not having much fun at all having me back as his catch partner. He gathered himself and made his best attempt to throw me the perfect Nolan Ryan fastball right down the middle, but what came out was a bizarre, floating, meatball of a toss that looked like an out-take from “A League of Their Own” (again, I mean no disrespect). Luca was disappointed, I was flummoxed, and until I could be sure not to inflict any more damage to my kid’s psyche, I thought it would be best to just walk away for a while. “It’s okay buddy, we’ll keep working on it.” “Can I still throw with the pitchba…” “Absolutely not!”
End of Part 1. Be sure to read Part 2 to find out how this amazing product evolved into the incredible game changer it is today.