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So What Does a Pitching Coach Do, Anyway?

Written on October 28, 2009 at 4:50 am, by Eric Cressey

EC’s Note: Today marks the first of what I hope will be many guest blog posts from Matt Blake, an absolutely fantastic pitching coach who works out of the cage at Cressey Performance.  Matt is way ahead of the curve with what he’s doing, and the results he’s gotten with a lot of our athletes – from high school all the way up to the professional ranks – are nothing short of fantastic.  I consider myself tremendously lucky to have him as a resource with whom I can interact every day. Today’s post from him is a bit of an introduction and preview of what’s in store from us in the months to come.

Since Eric mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago that he would like me to start contributing some articles to his blog, I have been debating about how to introduce myself to the EricCressey.com crowd and what his audience might want to hear.

All sorts of thoughts had run through my head on whether it should be oriented toward pitching mechanics, maybe talking about what Eric and I are doing together that separates us from other Elite Baseball Development programs, or maybe even a tidy little piece about who I am. Lucky for us, though, we have Eric’s business partner Pete around, and he conveniently gave me my first blog topic on Saturday.

As everyone on this blog probably knows, Mike Boyle recently released a new product called Functional Strength Coach 3.0 last week. So, on Friday, Eric loaned me his copy to take home to view. I did my part and watched 6 of the 8 DVDs that night (for those of you counting at home that was about 5-6 hours of material straight to the dome on Friday Night; I promise I’m not that big of a geek normally). Upon return on Saturday morning, and much to Eric’s shock, I gave him back the six DVDs that I had already watched and told him I would only need the other two for the afternoon.

functional_strength_coach

Here is where the crew of pro baseball guys from Pete’s office chimes in. “Why would you spend six hours of your Friday night watching DVDs that have nothing to do with your field?”

At first, I was kind of tongue tied, like, “Yeah, I guess that was pretty foolish, I teach pitching, so why would I want to know how to train people for functional strength?” And, to be honest, I continued to think about this most of Saturday, trying to justify why I just did that.  As I came to my contemplative answer, I realized the very exact same reason I am working with Eric at all, is why I’m watching these DVDs on Friday night.

When it comes down to it, I believe to be the best at anything, you need to understand the inherent depth of complexities for what you’re dealing with and this more often than not may involve pursuing multiple fields of knowledge to truly grasp your own discipline. In some sense, I believe the leaders in any field are polymaths of sort and this is something Eric clearly demonstrates in his own regard.

With that said, for me to provide the most knowledge and best service to an individual, a team, or camp of baseball players, I should understand why we are using foam rolling before we static stretch. Why would SMR of this nature would make sense before stretching and then proceeding into a dynamic warm-up?

I should understand what flexibility deficits are and why they are affecting a player’s performance.  I need to know why mobilizing the hips and thoracic spine while stabilizing the lumbar spine is allowing us to create more torque and whip for a pitcher. All of these things have huge ramifications for both player and coach, and if I want to optimize my players’ talent, then I need to be able to convey to them the importance of our drills and Eric’s exercises.

There is a reason for all of it, we’re not just throwing darts at the wall and hoping it works out for the player.  I’m also not going to claim to have all the answers for this, and that is why I am constantly searching for the next piece to add to my arsenal. It could be a psychological book about focus, or even an Eastern Martial arts book about how Tai Chi helps you find your center. Not any one of these books would have all of the answers on how to be a great pitcher, and they may even have none…but, at the end of the day, if I can take one thing away from Mike Boyle and add it to my knowledge of pitching in any way, then I just made myself better as a “Pitching Coach,” whatever that may be loosely defined as.

So I guess to answer their question: I was really watching Functional Strength Coach 3.0 because I plan on helping Eric turn out a large number of pitchers in Hudson, MA who are capable of throwing a baseball freakishly hard and stay healthy while doing so.

collins_stride

Obviously, there is a lot more to pitching and what we are working on together than that, but I think that should get the ball rolling. Over the next few months, I will be contributing more substantive articles that will cover a lot of the biomechanical aspects of a pitcher’s delivery that Eric and I see daily and how best to activate and optimize awareness for each piece of the puzzle. We’ll talk about what a flexibility deficit looks like in a pitcher and what its ramifications are in a player’s mechanics. We’ll discuss how we attack something of this nature with soft tissue/mobility/strength work and then how we teach the player to incorporate this back into his personal mechanics through progressive drill work.

The end goal is obviously to remove the limitation, and in turn, raising a pitcher’s velocity ceiling and keep him healthy. This could include anything from hip mobility, to thoracic spine mobility, to glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD), to a host of other issues. All of these issues could be holding a player back from optimal performance and maybe even putting a pitcher at a serious risk for injury.

Well, that is more than enough for one blog, and I want apologize for ransacking your daily allowance of blog reading time if you made it this far with me. I tried to get a word count limitation on my post from Eric, but he told me to just let it rip. I guess this was my definition of letting it rip…

Matt Blake can be reached at mablak07@gmail.com.


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3 Responses to “So What Does a Pitching Coach Do, Anyway?”

  1. Roger Lawson II Says:

    And let it rip you did, Blake. Great way to start my morning, and I hope to see more of this kind of insight in the future.

  2. Cole Ellis Says:

    Great post, especially this part “I believe the leaders in any field are polymaths of sort and this is something Eric clearly demonstrates in his own regard.” Very true. Going to start using that word often. As a sports chirorpactor I tend to use techniques and assessments from all fields and specialites, practice is more fun, patients get better quicker and the increased knowledge allows me to converse with other specialist and be on the same page. Looking forward to more posts in the future.

    Dude, I’m waiting for the tapes, won’t even except new pts until I get them, plus I ordered Assess and Correct – a lot of watching and then implementing.

    More later,
    Cole

  3. Don Ervin Says:

    Besides having good work ethics, combined with a good constructive {Dynamic, moving, stretching program,} combined with proper constructive {Bull Pen} sessions, along with eliminating over and under use and abuse etc. {a pitcher} must have and must execute proper body mechanics}which most young aspiring pitchers{DO NOT HAVE}which is the reason for the enormous number of chronic sore arms, elbow and shoulder surgeries within all levels of baseball including Major league pitchers, Ten year old’s having to have Arm surgery is simply ridiculous.
    Through scientific research it has been proven that a pitchers body in motion/movement from the rubber to it’s final flat back follow through position should function within a series of sequenced, chained reactive body movements first led by the hips then followed by the stride foot and leg, most aspiring pitchers not knowledgeable of this fact, first tend to lead the hips with the stride foot and leg, which is starting backwards and breaks the chain sequence and leaves the arm to absorb the enormous amount of strain,and tension built up during the body’s throwing movement/action instead of allowing this tension and strain to dissipate within the large muscles of the lower body.
    I have it in writing that Tom House says that it makes no matter what kind of a pitcher one is,”FAST BALL,}{SLOW BALL,}CURVE BALL,} etc. their mechanics are the same which coin sides with what scientific research says about the series of sequenced chained reactive body movements.

    Lastly my opinion of most so called pitching coaches at any level is very low due to the fact that most do not follow sports science research
    and therefore do not know how to teach the proper pitching body movements and how these proper movements work in sequence. I observe this over and over.
    Being a keen student of the player individual skills of the game, particularly with proper pitching,teaching knowledge skills which most coaches do not partake in is of the utmost importance to being able to do justice to each and every athlete coaches come into contact with.
    Don Ervin
    dfervin32@yahoo.com

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