For every pitcher, there comes a time when you simply don’t have a good game. You don’t have “your stuff” on a day or multiple days. The most common excuse usually lies with, “Oh there must be something going on with my mechanics.” From there, athletes (and Dads) will try to go take a pitching lesson, find videos on YouTube, and look for anything that can be a quick fix mechanically. The problem is; there are no quick fixes and the answer may not be as simple as a mechanical flaw.
We’ll start by talking about mechanics. You may or may not be familiar with Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hours theory. In short, his theory is that you master a skill by putting in a minimum of 10,000 hours directed to that particular skill. So in this case, if you wanted to master your mechanics, you would have to put in 10,000 hours towards solely working on your mechanics. To simplify, if you worked on your mechanics one hour a day, every day, it would take you a little under 28 years to be considered a master of your mechanics. This is why the pros continue to work on tweaking their mechanics, trying to find a little thing here or there to help year after year. Baseball is a game of adjustments.
Now you may make an adjustment with your mechanics and have success. But now you have to put in hours upon hours to make that adjustment comfortable and become second nature. If you don’t continue to practice, your body will resort back to your old mechanics as it feels more natural. This is why teaching good throwing mechanics to young kids is so important. They are creating a solid base to fall back on in the years to come. When young kids are learning the game, the focus should be on mechanics when it comes to pitching, hitting, and fielding. As you get older, the focus should be more on mentality rather than mechanics. If you’re in high school and don’t have a solid base when it comes to mechanics, then you’re already behind and will have a difficult time catching up (unless you’re a freak athlete).
I’ve come across many coaches at the youth, high school, and college levels that pound mechanics into players’ minds. I remember my college coach telling me that I didn’t have success at times because I wasn’t working hard enough on my mechanics. At the time I didn’t really know any better so I went to work and put hours upon hours into perfecting my mechanics. And then one day it hit me. My focus was directed towards my mechanics so much that I forgot what my main objective was on the mound, as do many pitchers. What should be the main focus? It’s one word; compete.
When pitchers don’t pitch well, they say something mechanically was off. That mindset needs to change. You have to compete. Now I wish I could say that after my epiphany that I became some stud on the mound. My ability didn’t change, but I started to see the game in a different way. Instead of focusing on my mechanics when things weren’t going right, I focused on throwing and competing. I started training my mind to focus on the one thing that was important, the pitch I was getting ready to throw.
Throw. To me, that’s a great word. You’ll hear all the time from parents and coaches about aiming to the target and think about your mechanics. The bottom line is this; don’t aim to your target, THROW to your target. When you aim, you may start to slow down without realizing it. You’re so focused on your mechanics and aiming that you may start pushing the ball as opposed to throwing it. Look at the pros. How many pitchers have the exact same mechanics? Zero. How many guys appear to have some funky mechanics? A lot, especially relievers. But they all have the same things in common. Solid base mechanics, they compete, and just let the ball fly. Why are they able to do that? Because they trust their mechanics and their ability that they don’t think about anything else but throwing to the target and competing.
You don’t need perfect mechanics. That doesn’t make a pitcher. Kids are taught to focus on mechanics from a young age and a lot of that is due to private lessons. Kids are taught that they’re not throwing strikes or hitting the ball because of a mechanical flaw. I believe it’s the opposite. I think players focus too much on their mechanics during times of competition that they forget one thing. On game day, thoughts about mechanics go out the window. What you have that day at the field is what you have. Figure out a way to get it done. Compete.