I have been reading a lot of comments from other pitching instructors about avoiding certain drills. They give a variety of reasons for this. Some argue that drills focus on certain points instead of the entire delivery. Others argue that drills are static and that they are not a representation of actual pitching.
The truth is, I agree with both of those statements. Drills DO focus on certain points within the delivery and since it is a drill, it is different than the entire delivery put together. The fact is those who argue against drills do not understand how a person learns and processes new information.
In education, we use a technique called scaffolding. Scaffolding is built upon the idea that in order to learn new information, you must establish a base with the basic information first. Once a skill or a concept is mastered, then the student is ready to build upon the previous information and they are ready to learn a new concept. This is the basis for why drills are important. The pitching delivery is too complex for most pitchers to put together while working on new techniques or while processing a new concept. Drills help isolate parts of the delivery so the pitcher can focus only on one or two specific points in the delivery. Scaffolding works in the classroom and it works when teaching pitchers new skills, especially young pitchers who are working on building their entire delivery.
The other concept that is important to remember when teaching pitching is differentiation. Differentiation is the ability to teach the same concept in different ways to different pitchers. Each pitcher learns differently. Some pitchers have the ability to process new information and implement it right into their delivery. Other pitchers learn differently and they need the concept to be broken down so they can "see" how it works. Either way, coaches need to be able to adjust their teaching style based on the player. To say that "drills are bad" may work for some pitchers who have the ability to make adjustments easily, but for others who need more individual attention, pitching drills help them learn the new skill or concept, and that benefits everyone.
Coach Mike Grady
Coach Grady has 10 years experience working with pitchers of all ages through private and group instruction, including 6 years experience as a college pitching coach. This blog is dedicating to helping pitchers of all ages improve their game.