Half-day college clinics

With winter break fast approaching for the schools, I have started receiving the e-mails offering skills clinics at various local colleges. It’s always interesting to see what they have to say.

First of all, let me say those clinics are a great way to expose your daughter to college coaches, especially if she already knows where she wants to go to school. Attend a few and the coaches will get to know her, and if they think she can help them they’ll give her a good look. They’re also good for getting a “second opinion.” You or a private coach may thing your daughter is on the right track, but a good college coach might differ, or at least offer some suggestions on ways to improve. Of course, if the coach (assuming he/she is there) says you’re looking good, that’s great validation too.

Now on to the real topic. I received a notice recently that included a pitching/catching clinic. Maybe it was just worded poorly, but it said at the pitching clinic you will receive basic instruction on skill development and work on specific pitch development including the drop, rise, screw and curve. To me, that’s a pretty tall order.

I don’t see where much of any of that will really be accomplished in that or any three-hour clinic. I don’t know, but I doubt they’re really looking for raw beginners. They might be able to tweak someone who is already taking lessons or learning to pitch on a regular basis, but they’re not going to “teach” anyone to pitch. Likewise, I question whether they can teach anyone a new pitch in that amount of time. My guess is they don’t think they can either; the best they can do is take something and make it better.

For example, you think you have a curve because you have a “curve ball grip” but it doesn’t spin in the right direction. They can probably help you get the right spin, and maybe start actually seeing a break in the ball.

That’s probably not what people are going to read, though. They may very well assume that sending their daughter to this college clinic means she will learn to throw those pitches from scratch — maybe one of them, maybe even all. I’ve had parents of nine year olds tell me how impressed they were that their daughter was shown how to throw all these different pitches at a HS clinic. No she wasn’t. She was shown there are different pitches, but she didn’t learn a damned thing. Especially when her primary challenge was getting the ball over the plate without any fancy movement.

The truth is pitching is an iterative skill. It takes lots of repetition and tweaking to get any of it right, much less all of it. Even big-time pitchers struggle with it day to day.

So when you see one of those announcements, know what you’re getting into. Go for the right reasons. But don’t expect miracles. If it were really that easy, they’d be charging a lot more than $75 for it. I know I would.

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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 November 14, 2008, in Coaching, General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Sounds to me as if the wording was accurate. Pitch development is what is being promised. You insinuated a beginner would not learn a drop ball in day. Yet, the word development does not suggest creating from scratch a seasoned pitcher. Development: act of improving by expanding or enlarging or refining.A collegiate pitching coach could take players with pitching experience and refine their skills in three hours. They could present drills, grips, spins, follow throughs, positioning that would refine a player’s pitching skills.Must have been a slow week of topics for you.

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  2. I agree it’s possible that a good pitching coach, collegiate or otherwise, could take something that’s already there and make it better. But that’s not often what people read. That was the real point of my post.Clinics can be valuable if they’re approached correctly. A good coach (college or otherwise) can provide a fresh point of view, maybe tweak some things, and help a pitcher improve. In that amount of time he/she can probably improve on one pitch. But the pitcher is still going to have to work over time for it to stick. I’ve observed some really excellent pitching coaches conduct half day clinics. I’ve seen them make corrections and show pitchers better techniques, body postures, etc. than they’re using. I’ve then seen those pitchers go on to continue what they were doing before. That’s not the fault of the coach — he/she can only provide the information. But it is part of the reality. Again, I think it’s good for pitchers and other players to attend these clinics. But it’s important that they (and their parents) are realistic in their expectations.

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