By Brian Lovett, Johnson University Pitching Coach
When I address my guys for the first time one of the topics we cover is what it truly means to know yourself and one of the major factors of that is being completely honest with yourself. The worst lies you can tell are the ones you tell yourself! I am going to cover the eleven topics I discuss with my guys and expect them to fully understand. I ask these questions and rely on them to give me an honest assessment. It is step one in learning how they see themselves. As time goes on I will reflect on their answers and will revisit them and possibly make adjustments to them with some feedback.
- Repertoire -What pitches do you throw in a game. Not what pitches do your throw with your throwing partner when your not getting loose properly, the pitches you actually try and get hitters out with. It is important for us to fully understand what they have at their disposal.
- Strengths – We break this down into 3 categories. Physical, Mental, and Fundamental. Physically, do they have a strong lower half, arm, and core? Are they well conditioned and prepared for the physical demand of playing at the college level? Mentally, do they handle adversity well? Do they take constructive criticism well and put it into practice? Fundamentally, do they understand the importance of the little things? Are they willing to work on fundamentals daily?
- Limitations – We also break these down into the same 3 categories. Physically, do they need to get in the weight room? Do they need to condition more? Are they throwing enough? Mentally, do they struggle with failure i.e. bad pitch, inning, outing? Can they slow the game down enough between their ears? Fundamentally, are they doing something that is prohibiting them from competing at this level? Do they think basic fundamental work is for little leaguers?
- Out pitch – What is there go to pitch when they need a strikeout?
- Lead strike pitch – what pitch do they know they can get over for strike one? Vs lefty, vs righty, third time thru the lineup?
- Groundball pitch – what pitch do they know will give them the best opportunity to get a groundball?
- Put away combo – what pitch sets up your out pitch?
- When things aren’t going your way what happens – I break this down into 2 categories, fundamentally and physically. Fundamentally, do you rush thru your mechanics? Do you get lazy? Mentally, are you letting the moment overwhelm you? Are you going thru your pre pitch routine?
- When you are in the “zone” what is happening – I also break this down into the same 2 categories. Fundamentally, are you completely trusting your mechanics and release points, as well as, the pitches being called? Mentally, are you just letting the game happen?
- What pitches get you back in the zone – what pitch do you completely trust and feel like gets you back on track?
- What are some of the distractions that make you lose your focus?
These 11 categories set the baseline for the relationship we will have throughout the career of the pitcher. By knowing the answers to these questions I can set up a better game plan for each individual and remind them of what they do well if they start to stray. It is imperative to get to know all your guys with as much depth as possible. I allow my guys to have a lot of freedom and input to what they do on game days, as well as, in between starts and that gives them ownership in the process. I basically give them some structure and let them fill in the rest as long as it fits our philosophy. I will say most kids coming into the college level can’t truly answer all of these question, but it gives them an idea of what they need to know in order to have some success at this level. I hope this helps you build better relationships with your guys and obviously tweak the questions to benefit your philosophy if need be. At the end of the day it’s about building trust amongst yourself and your pitchers and allowing them to be a part of the process.