There’s strong, then there’s…
Ok, I decided to borrow the Army’s slogan for this one. The full saying from them is there’s strong, then there’s Army strong. With a son who is on his way back to Afghanistan after a 15-day leave I guess the Army is on my mind.
What made me think of this today was working with one of my students, a girl named Haley, tonight. With the holidays and all it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen her. Haley was working hard when I got to the facility tonight, really putting a lot of effort in. Yet because she was trying so hard she was forming a bad habit. As she moved into release, she sort of did this arm curl move where she pulled her hand straight up instead of letting the forearm and hand whip past the elbow.
I told her I realized she was doing it because it felt strong, but it actually was limiting her speed. It was also putting her at risk of injury, most likely to the elbow but also possibly the shoulder the way she was tightening everything up.
We worked on getting the arm long again at release and after a little while she was back on track and moving on to other things. As she got it corrected she could feel how much easier it was to throw hard by staying loose. I told her she’d last a lot longer at a tournament that way too.
Fortunately, Haley is very coachable as well as being talented, so it was easy to get her to change. Not every kid is like that, however. They will want to stay with what feels strong instead of what actually is strong. But just because something takes a lot of effort doesn’t mean you’re using strength efficiently. Most players who are “in the zone” will tell you the activity feels almost effortless. That’s definitely true for pitching. They’ll use a lot of energy, but it will be easy energy. If it’s not, something is wrong.