An EXTREMELY common question I hear from parents of new young pitchers is, “How often should my daughter pitch? How many pitches should she throw?” You may have started noticing a pattern in my answers to these types of questions: there is no “right answer” or solid number I can give you that works for everyone. There are, however, guidelines you should take into account, and that’s what we’re going to discuss today.
What Makes a Quality Practice?
“Quality over quantity” is a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard before, and it is an important key to a developing young pitcher’s practice routine. Generally, if a beginner/intermediate pitcher is throwing three days a week, that’s great. Four can be even better, provided that she’s gotten adequate rest and all four practices are quality practices. So what makes a quality practice?
- Throwing more pitches isn’t necessarily better. A practice session consisting of 50-60 good pitches thrown with mental focus beats a mediocre 100-pitch practice any day.
- In the beginning stages, understanding is more important than executing. You’ll likely find with a young beginner pitcher that one day she’ll be grooving pitch after pitch into the strike zone and the next day she’ll be throwing them into the neighbor’s yard. That day of great pitching means NOTHING if the kid doesn’t understand what results in a good pitch and what results in a bad pitch. Inconsistency at this stage is normal, and will continue until the pitcher’s muscle memory is mature. Make sure that during this stage the pitcher is understanding the mechanics and not just hoping her body will do the right thing.
- Avoid pitching while tired. All pitchers experience some degree of mechanical breakdown when they’re tired. Young pitchers who have not yet trained their bodies much are likely to break down more when tired. In the stages when muscle memory is immature, you do not want a kid to pitch tired too often, because you do not want her to ingrain those poor mechanics into her muscle memory. Another reason to focus on quality over quantity of pitches.
Rest, Rest, Rest.
If you’re blessed with a daughter who just can’t wait to get out there and practice, make sure she’s getting enough rest. Recovery is just as important as repetition in the development of an athlete. If she’s really enthusiastic, try alternating skills; pitch one day, hit the next, work on throwing and fielding the next, then go back to pitching. As the athlete approaches age twelve, seriously consider balancing skills practice with strength training to ensure safe and balanced body development.