Fighting ignorance

I saw a “fact check” website yesterday that had a great motto. The first part was “Fighting ignorance one day at a time” or something to that effect. Then in parentheses under that it said “It’s taking a lot longer than we thought.”

I know the feeling. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort studying, evaluating and re-evaluating the optimum techniques for executing fastpitch softball skills, I’ve also had a number of years’ experience teaching those skills to players of varying levels of athletic ability. So I have a pretty good idea of what works and the way things ought to be done.

I won’t say I know everything — there’s always more to be learned and new information comes out all the time — but I do my best to remain current, and confirm my thinking with what other top coaches are doing. That’s what I share here on Life in the Fastpitch Lane and other places as well.

Yet sometimes it can get awfully frustrating when I hear that there are still people teaching drills and techniques come from the era when mullets were in style, i.e. the ’80s. Especially when they try to foist that junk on one of my students.

I’ve seen it happen with hitting, where some team coach will start telling girls who can really rip the ball to squish the bug, take the knob of the bat to the ball, swing down on the pitch and other stuff that will actually prevent them from continuing to hit well.

Recently it happened with one of my pitchers. She was at a practice with her new team, which is connected to one of the local high schools, when the team’s “pitching coach” came over and started talking to her about snapping her wrist and pointing her elbow at the catcher (aka using “hellow elbow”). I put “pitching coach” in quotes because the guy’s only qualification is that his daughter pitches at that school and he’s work with her some.

Luckily the girl’s dad texted me right away, and he’s going to talk to the head coach, who said he knows some players have private coaches and let him know if there are conflicts. Still, until it’s resolved you have yet another person who doesn’t have a clue about how top pitchers actually pitch offering advice that was either told to his daughter at some point or that he got off some VHS tape.

People, listen up! Focusing on forcing a hard wrist snap is a gigantic waste of time! I can’t emphasize that enough. There are no muscles in the wrist. The muscles run from the elbow through the forearm to the hand. The wrist’s primary contribution is flexibility and quickness, not power.

The wrist snap occurs as the result of whipping the lower arm past the elbow in release. It’s nothing you have to or even want to try to do. Trying to force a hard wrist snap actually gets in the way of the wrist making its contribution because it slows it down. It’s not where power comes from. The best the wrist can do is add a little bit. But if you make it the focus – for example doing endless wrist flips — you’ll actually defeat the whipping motion and slow the pitch down.

If you don’t believe me, how about seeing what NFCA Hall of Famer Cindy Bristow, one of the fastpitch world’s most accomplished coaches and instructors has to say about it? Or what about Bill Hillhouse, a former men’s National Team fastpitch pitcher and another highly sought-after pitching coach thinks about the wrist snap? If those two authorities tell you don’t waste your time on it, why would you continue to do it? Or listen to anyone who says you should?

The same goes for the hello elbow. It’s completely unnecessary as well as unnatural. Follow-throughs should be long and loose. You don’t need to touch your throwing-side shoulder after you pitch. You don’t need to point your elbow at the catcher. Again, that kind of stuff will get in the way of maximizing the pitcher’s potential.

For my part, I guess all I can do is keep trying to bring good information to people as best I can, and teach my students to remain strong and steadfast in their commitment to learning why we do the things we do. We’ll continue to fight ignorance one day at a time – even if it takes a lot longer than we thought.

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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 October 13, 2012, in Coaching, Instruction, Pitching. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. My DD was asked to try out for a pretty good travel team two years ago. Not only did the coaches jump in immediately with the hello elbow junk and the back flip change, they also stopped her during the hitting segment and tried “informing” DD as to how to hit. Now during the hitting segment DD was clearly driving the ball way deeper and more consistently than anyone else on the field. I told my DW that this was a mistake coming to the tryout and you could see DD shaking her head in disgust as the thing went along. To top it off in the parents meeting afterwords we were informed that if anyone took outside training from a certain well known local training facility that it would not be tolerated and must stop. So, it turned out this team was loosely affiliated with another local gym. I raised my hand, with my DW jabbing me in the ribs as she knew I was about to boil, and asked if training outside the team time was required. Answer was no. Raised hand again and asked if this was so why did it matter where training outside of team time took place. Answer was it just does. Needless to say we walked off at this point. DD trains with two men who I consider to be the best around. One has been on the USA men’s team for over a decade and the other had been on the team for several years. The names of Hillhouse and Williams flows freely from the pitching and hitting coaches lips. At the first lesson he sat us down after DD had warmed up and he warned us that although DD was 12 and getting double digit K’s every game that she had been taught a lot of stuff wrong and that he wanted to “change everything” and told us to look up Hillhouse on the Internet. We swallowed hard and said OK and the rest is history. We “missed” the opportunity to play for that team but as they say when one door closes another opens. An 18u coach called and said he had heard of DD and asked if she would like to be evaluated for his team – she is 14- you are three hours away- he said trust him and boy was he right. We are now very happy members of a great team with a coach who knows and supports the teaching of her training coaches. Stick with your instincts and don’t put up with stupidity, cause as momma always says……. Lol

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  2. As always, informative post! I look forward to all your posts. This time, I feel a bit uneasy. My daughters pitching coach teaches follow through (hello elbow). He is infamous in our area and highly regarded. Too old to be telling him what to do or not to do. Suggestions?

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  3. Dave, great story. An informed parent isn’t always a happy parent in the short term, but he/she is in the long term. I can’t believe that one team would’ve actually insisted you stop going where you were going. Most teams are happy to have their players go anywhere to get extra help. Sounds like they were maybe more about the money – or else having to be in control of everything. I think you made the right choice. Glad it’s worked out so well for you.

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  4. Thanks, Melissa. Glad you liked the information. You’re in kind of a tough spot, especially if your daughter likes that coach. But no matter how highly regarded he may be in your area, what he’s teaching is based on old and outdated information. It will ultimately keep her from being all she can be. What you may want to do is look for another coach who teaches a long, loose, more natural follow-through. The big problem with the “hello elbow” is that it tends to force pitchers to push the ball down the back side of the circle instead of leading the elbow and whipping it through. It limits speed. Also, the “hello elbow” would only be used on a fasSo tball and maybe a peel drop anyway, so forcing a follow-through like that is a waste of time for other pitches. Ultimately it’s up to you. But take a look at what the best pitchers in the world do when they’re pitching and see if it matches what you’re being told. (And don’t be fooled by what they “say” to do. Jennie Finch talks about the hello elbow but she doesn’t actually pitch that way.) Here’s a great place to start: http://imageeventcom/siggy/throwing/windmill. You won’t see any hello elbows there. Let me know if you want more information or help offline. You can email me at kkrause342@aolcom.

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  5. Best post I ever saw you make. One of the better posts I’ve seen made by anyone

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  6. Thanks, Mark. Glad you liked it. It can definitely get frustrating fighting the good fight, especially when you seem to be badly outnumbered by those who don’t bother to learn or confirm what they think. But it’s important to keep doing it anyway!

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  7. Thank you Ken !!!! This is something we have been hearing so much of lately since our new team selection. Thus the reason our daughter still goes to you!! Wish I could get her coaches to read this.

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  8. Thanks, Lisa. You can always forward them a link to a different post, and maybe they’ll poke around at some of the others. The worst thing is that there’s so much good information out there now. If you’re serious about being a good coach there’s no reason not to know the latest thinking on mechanics. Unfortunately, too many people are content with what they learned a long time ago, or what they heard once somewhere. It takes a lot of work to keep up, but it’s worth it. As Ronald Reagan used to say, trust but verify.

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