Bill Hillhouse and the PCM

I admit I’m a little behind on my softball reading, but I just read a great article on Bill Hillhouse’s House of Pitching Web site. It’s a rant about what he calls the Pitching Coach Mafia (PCM) and how it’s ruining the chances of pitchers to have a great career. He couldn’t be more right on.

Bill is a somewhat controversial guy because he calls it like he sees it, and doesn’t mind it if people don’t like that. As I read the article, though, all I could think was “right on!” He is constantly crusading against some of the bad techniques that are being taught by various instructors who may mean well but shouldn’t be teaching.

One example Bill mentioned is locking the elbow while pitching. I have stood in gyms where kids I knew were taking lessons extended their arms out as far as they would go, locked their elbows, and pushed the ball through the circle. They tend not to continue pitching by the time they’re about 15. Other examples are “closing the door” (slamming the hips closed), exaggeration of the wrist snap, and slapping the leg with the glove. Ouch!

One I’d like to add to that list is touching the shoulder with the hand after the pitch. The reason given for doing it is to make sure the pitcher follows through. But she doesn’t really. A follow through involves bringing the elbow through, not just the hand. Trying to touch the shoulder with the hand is a proven way to develop elbow problems, and it will actually make you throw slower, not faster. It will also prevent you from learning other pitches.

In the article, Bill also talks about the folks who know nothing about hitting but teach it anyway — which is why this post is also classified under hitting. Things like slapping the back with the bat make no sense at all, yet enough girls do it that somebody has to be teaching it. Bill says he thinks the hitting problems are worse because while not everyone feels qualified to talk about pitching a softball, everyone thinks they know how to swing a bat.

Be sure to check out this article, as well as others on the site. He’s a great resource to tap into.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on March 5, 2008, in Coaching, Hitting, Pitching. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Are these hips slamming closed or are they staying open till the arm passes as Bill teaches? http://imageevent.com/siggy/throwing/windmill?p=0&n=1&m=24&c=4&l=0&w=4&s=0&z=9

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  2. Mark, good to see you here and posting comments. Sorry about the delay in them coming up. The software I use tends to hold posts from new people for approval in order to fight spam. I had a lot of that too, but approved you. Welcome!As for the clip of Cat, if you look at her release, she’s throwing a curve ball. Many pitchers are taught to bring their hips around when throwing a curve ball. It appears to be a back door curve too, so that may have some impact on it. I have other video shot by a friend of mine on-site that shows little hip movement. So I still stand by the hips not being a contributor. And don’t bother with the Ueno clip — she is an exception that proves the rule in my opinion.

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  3. Sitting at home sick and came across the link so I went to town with all my extra time. I like Bill and I like his wholistic learning protocol but he’s sadly mistaken about the order of the kinetic chain as regards the hip. He thinks it follows. Actually it leads and then it follows. If you watch all three windmill clips on the following link you can see it. It’s less obvious on Finch but it is there. http://imageevent.com/siggy/throwingHe even stated the hip followed on an overhand throw. I let it alone.But I’m not that concerned about it because I believe Bill produces good pitchers. Given the intent to throw the ball hard good athletes figure it out without even knowing they are doing it. What I WOULD like is for you to learn the swing as a whole rather than as bits and pieces you try. You are on the right track on a lot of things but you don’t understand the why of much of what you teach.

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  4. Mark, I understand the swing as a whole, better than you must realize. In fact, one of my big complaints about many of the self-appointed experts is the way they parse things down to the sub-microscopic degree, as if great hitters focus on every little muscle and tendon. But breaking down the pieces is an important part of the learning process as well. Have you read The Talent Code yet? If not, give it a read. Breaking things down, doing them slowly, perfecting little pieces is a very important part of becoming a high performer.

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  5. Steve would agree with you on your complaint. I have not read the Talent Code but my daughter recommends it. Keep an eye out for outstanding softball talent with Ivy League academics for me if you would.

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  6. Steve would agree with you on your complaint. I have not read the Talent Code but my daughter recommends it.

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  7. I have long used breaking down a skill into smaller parts or as i call it “chunking”. I call it chucking because as you alluded to Ken the gurus come up with 43 steps to hit a softball and by the time you get to three the ball is in the glove. I am a professional fire captain by trade and we use mastery training techniques to imprint our young firefighters with the critical skill they must know to not only save others, but often themselves. Starting saws, tying knots etc on a fire ground with full gear, gloves, masks, and stress is nothing like doing those things in a nice warm station in broad daylight. So we chunk up the skill and drill on each piece until it can be done blindfold, hands behind back, standing on head…lolI use the same methods in teaching pitching..(Hillhouse follower btw) and rotational hitting (situational rotational hitting is more accurate. The chunking promotes the quicker development of muscle memory and gives the coach and athlete a common language to speak for in game corrections.

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  8. Dave, that makes sense. In fact, I think “chunking” is the term used in The Talent Code to describe that way of learning/teaching. Having those fire skills is sure a lot more important than being able to hit a softball, so if it works there it should work in other areas. I was glad when Hillhouse came along, by the way, because I was teaching that method already, and he validated a lot of what I was doing. Good guy, too. He came on strong when he first broke out, but has apparently mellowed a bit as he’s gotten into it. There’s nothing like struggling to help a player to keep you humble!Mark, I’ll keep an eye out for those players. Definite follow your daughter’s advice and read The Talent Code, and Talent is Overrated too. While I still believe DNA is a factor in what you can ultimately achieve (i.e. if you’re not built for world class speed no amount of work will give it to you) it’s far less than we assume. That’s the good news. The bad news is it takes a lot more work to get there than most people are willing to do — kids or adults.

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  9. Pete Rose being a case for your point.

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  10. Absolutely. Minus the gambling, of course!

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  11. An obssessive compulsive nature can yield extreme results in both directions.

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  12. Yeah, good point! 🙂

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