PSA-I’m not going to get into the arm care routine and how we go about loosening up the arm. There are more knowledgeable people that have lots of great resources out there. If you’re looking for arm care and throwing program details, I’d suggest looking into Alan Jaeger’s work here.
Now on to the post...
Your basic practice will start with a warm-up that might consist of some running to loosen up, dynamic stretching, some kind of arm care routine, and a variety of other things. Typically, the last segment of the “warm-up” will be throwing and this will be used as time to warm-up the arm and get it prepared for the training session. If you’re a high school coach, like myself, and you have time restrictions on practices, this time allotted for throwing is valuable and must be utilized correctly. Let’s change our approach to the way this throwing time is spent at the beginning of practice.
Hopefully we’ve done what’s needed in order to have the arms in shape and ready for the demands of the season. If that’s the case, the loosening up part of the throwing session should take 5 minutes, at most, but these are valuable minutes and must be done. As long as our arms feel good, we should stretch it out and then work our way back in. The 120 ft and in mark from our partner is where we can add value to the throwing session, depending on age level and position demands. This is where we can look to focus on arm action, foot patterns and platforms, arm slots, and receiving patterns and tasks. During this time, the key is to mimic the throwing and receiving demands that will be required at our position.
The key is to link the throwing and receiving tasks to practice segments that will be performed later in practice, whether it’s during position specific skill training or during a team defense segment. For example, if our practice plan calls for a cuts and relay team defense session, our throwing and receiving task should be tied into that session. At the appropriate distance for the player’s individual position they can receive the ball and turn as if to make a throw using proper body positioning and feet without releasing the ball. Now when they go to throw back to their partner they can face the opposite direction with ball in glove and mimic receiving a relay throw using proper body positioning and feet, but this time they’ll turn and throw back to their partner. Using throwing session tasks allows for progression of the skills they’ll be called on to perform later in practice. In theory, this throwing and receiving task segment should be used to warm-up or loosen using specific throwing and receiving patterns and not so much an instructional segment. The instruction should be done prior to this time in a position specific training. As I said, use this task session as a warm-up and progression of skills that will ultimately lead to the more game-like reps later in practice.
The limit with throwing and receiving tasks is your imagination and planning. Below is a list of some throwing and receiving tasks that can be utilized:
- Quick Catch
- At a shorter distance, partners receive and throw the ball as quickly as they can. Develops quickness in their release. To add an element of difficulty, they can receive with different foot platforms: feet squared, glove foot forward, throw foot forward. This will help develop foot agility and syncing of the feet and arm.
- Momentum Throws
- Players will receive the ball with a task of choice. Before they return throw to their partner, they will get their momentum going in a direction (to target, away from target, to the left, to the right, or diagonally in different directions). Players should throw using different arm slots that are appropriate for their momentum. Helps develop arm slots and throwing on the move.
- Relay Reception and Throws
- Described above in the blog, but simply receive the ball using proper body positioning and feet; turn and mimic throw in opposite direction of partner. To return throw, put ball in glove, mimic receiving a relay throw in the opposite direction of our partner using proper body positioning and feet; turn and throw to partner.
- Force out Receptions
- As the throw approaches, treat it as a force out. This will look different depending on position. First Baseman and Third Baseman can hold the bag and stretch. Middle infield can hold the bag and stretch to catch as well as workout double play footwork at an imaginary bag. Regardless of position, stress footwork and timing of stretches and/or turns.
- Tag out Receptions
- Players receive throws and apply a tag to an imaginary runner. Adjust feet so that throw comes from different angles that they’ll see while covering a base in game. Throws from the catcher, pitcher, outfield, and other infielders.
- Group Throwing and Receiving
- Get players in small groups and align in a shape (square or triangle). This is a good way to teach/practice double play feeds and redirecting throws while having the players receive and spin glove side or throw side.
- Groundball Action Throwing
- Players can receive the throw from their partner using a task. To return the throw they can put ball in glove and mimic fielding a ball using proper footwork and rhythm in different lanes.
These are just a few suggestions on how to maximize your warm-up throwing. The best way to prescribe these tasks is to place time to complete. For example, during cut and relay throwing and receiving tasks, work your way into a certain distance to meet your position-related throw, and you have 2-3 minutes to get as many quality reps of the task in. At the end of your allotted time, we’re ready to roll into the next segment of practice. Remember, plan properly and get creative to match the throwing demands your practice plan will place on the infielders.