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The Difference Between Real Age and Developmental Age

I had a surprising first lesson with an 8-year-old recently…

Typically when parents ask me if their 7 or 8-year-old can start pitching lessons, I tell them it would be more beneficial to wait. The average girl that age simply hasn’t matured enough physically to make positive progress in learning the pitching mechanics.

I bolded “average” for a reason: naturally, there ARE 7-8 year olds who ARE physically mature enough to tackle pitching. They are a minority, but they exist. My new student, to my pleasant surprise, could teach some of my college students a thing or two about overhand throwing mechanics! And she began to pick up forearm fire relatively naturally.

On the other side of the curve, there are also 11-12 year olds who are NOT ready. Why is that?

Real age vs. developmental age

Real age is exactly what it sounds like: if you were born 9 years ago, you are 9 years old. However, any kid who has participated in gym class, summer camp, or an organized sport would notice that not all 9-year-olds are created equal. Of course some people are naturally athletic and others are not, but there’s more to it than that; if you look at any decent high school varsity softball team, undoubtedly there are some players who have been tearing up the field since they were 6, and others who hit their stride much later. This is because everyone develops at a slightly different rate. This is perfectly normal!

What should parents do with this information?

It may seem like common sense to say, “Well, that’s that, I’ll let my daughter grow at her own pace!” and it would be lovely if everyone functioned that way. Unfortunately, youth sports programs—and softball is no exception—are getting more and more serious earlier and earlier, and there is a lot of pressure for young kids to keep up or get left behind. We believe that the level of intense early specialization in sports that is becoming a trend is detrimental to a child’s overall athletic development.

This presentation that Joe shared and this article I wrote for a strength and conditioning publication will both give you in-depth information about how young athletes develop. Attempting high level, sport-specific skills (such as pitching and hitting) before a child is taught the general fundamentals of athletic movement is exactly like trying to run before you can walk. Building aggressively on that imperfect foundation leads to an imperfect structure—by practicing and playing too much too early, a child can develop imbalances and bad habits that are very difficult or impossible to break. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that every parent take in the information I linked to in this paragraph, especially if you have a 10U or 12U daughter playing on a serious travel tournament team and/or multiple softball teams.

Here are some simple softball-specific tips that may help with the early development of your softball player:

  • Keep softball competition fun and casual until the child begins to exhibit a higher level of skill and a passion for practicing
  • Encourage your child to engage in multiple sports to develop a wide range of skills that all support each other
  • Try to avoid playing on multiple teams and playing softball all year round
  • Customize home practices as much as possible. For example, just because your daughter is playing 10U with an 11-inch ball doesn’t mean she has to practice at home with that ball if she’s struggling with throwing mechanics. Throwing a smaller ball encourages good snap in smaller hands!

 

About the author

Carly

Carly is a windmill pitching specialist and co-founder of Fastpitch Power. She has coached teams at every level from 10U to NCAA. She also designed and built fastpitchpower.com. Please feel free to leave questions and site feedback in the comments or via our contact page!

2 comments

  1. derek

    My daughter is 8. Plays for a rec league and has been approached by a travel coach to try out. She pitches and plays first base.i work with her almost daily because she loves it. Shes small for her age but the best in the rec league at almost everything. She is so hard on herself when she doesnt pitch good. What is the best way to teach her the forearm fire? I have watched some of your videos. But where do i start?

    1. Carly

      Hi Derek, sorry for the late reply. Here are a few recommended articles:
      Getting started guide – http://www.fastpitchpower.com/getting-started-with-fastpitch-powers-pitching-style-a-guide/
      Most important thing for beginner pitchers – http://www.fastpitchpower.com/important-thing-beginner-pitchers/
      Teaching wrist snap – http://www.fastpitchpower.com/teaching-wrist-snap/
      Tips for small hands – http://www.fastpitchpower.com/young-softball-girls-throwing-baseball/

      Hope that helps!

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