Many coaches in multiple sports have found the value of adding speed measurements into practice as a powerful training aid for their players and coaching methods. Unlike the bulkier and more expensive radar guns of the past, used exclusively by scouts to measure fastball velocity, the Ball Coach radar was designed as a training tool for coaches and athletes of all ages. It is just as accurate within 120 feet of range on a baseball/softball, and its discreet size makes it ideal for measuring youth and professional athletes without affecting behavior.
Below is a guest blog story from a youth baseball coach/parent who is using the Ball Coach radar as a valuable training tool for many purposes including to help his players gain confidence.
Coaching a Little League team always provides unique challenges. In Tee Ball, you’re showing them where to stand, how to hold at bat and where to throw. The journey continues in Coach Pitch with added level of difficulty for timing a baseball while overcoming the fear of having a ball thrown in your direction. The stress level often multiples quickly once there is another kid throwing hard and trying to get you out.
At this age, every MPH the kid standing a little more 40 feet away throws can add ample amounts of doubt and distress. This angst can fuel a few, but more likely causes even the best little sluggers to lose the will to hit.
This fact, recalled from childhood, reaffirmed by casually watching little league games and witnessed in the first AA team practice gave me an idea. Perhaps there was another way to utilize pitch speed data to improve results?
At the age of 9-10 (and for many years thereafter), players should NOT be concerned with how fast they throw a baseball. In fact, the last issue holding me back from making a purchase was starting a bragging war inside the dugout or being asked “how fast do I throw”.
The theory I hoped to test was this: If the kids knew the actual speed of the opposing pitcher and could equate that to their own experience it would remove some anxiety at the plate and allow then to have better at-bats (and more importantly a better time!).
As a cash-strapped dad, the thought of buying a baseball radar gun was daunting. Mobile phone radar gun apps proved to be fruitless. Frankly, it was not simply the money holding me back. I also weighted factors such as size, durability, ease of use and reliability when choosing which radar gun to buy. This is what led me to Ball Coach by Pocket Radar. But I digress, as this is not a story about how to buy a baseball radar gun. So, let’s get back to point.
To test the theory, I brought a Ball Coach to the batting cages for an early season practice. Two tunnels were in use. One coach feeding a machine one ball at time while firing instructions at the eager younger hitters in between swings. Discreetly, I grabbed my radar gun from my pocket and started gauging each pitching machine. Although the calibrations where identical, the left side registered 34 MPH while right alley was up around 38 MPH. I did not speak a word to the other coaches to adjust the machines nor make mention of why I had a radar gun to begin with.
The final drill of the day had the kids split into two groups with five swings per player. The group with the most contact off the machine would be the winner. Since I was the only one aware of the actual speed discrepancy it presented an opportunity to utilize the radar gun speeds.
Predictably, the players in the slower tunnel won the first round by a slim margin. Quickly I suggested to switch cages. The results flip-flopped, although the difference was slightly smaller. Being a group of smart children, several spoke up about the first machine was easier. They had mentioned it during the practice in passing, but never made issue of it.
Rather than force a tie-breaker, (ok fact is our time was up) we took the kids aside and explained how I used a radar gun to determine the four MPH difference between cages. Make no mistake everyone provided they could hit slower pitches as well as faster ones. Still a step was missing. We needed to quantify what the speed truly meant versus pitchers they would face.
The kids had already seen each other pitch at an earlier practice. Clearly, one arm on the team was far above and beyond the average AA player. They also had a couple “experienced” arms and a few complete rookies. Everyone got a chance to throw against the gun. The “ace” hit 42 MPH, the AA veterans 36, 33 and 32 respectively. The rest, most ranged in upper 20s to lower 30s and a good time was had by all. It was really cool to see them take mechanics seriously to throw “faster”.
Nonetheless the purpose was to showcase the speeds they just saw today would be very close, if not spot on, to the best pitchers their league would have to offer. And they all proved to themselves on this day that they could hit either speed.
Opening Day was up a week or so later. Just like the big leagues, every manager runs out their best arm to the mound to start the season. Perfect timing for the next two in the process, which was demystify the fastball this opponent had to offer.
Feeling a bit like a fool scouting 9-year-old pitchers, I pulled out the Ball Coach and proceeded to get the speed for the pitcher during his warmups. Although he was hitting about 34-36 MPH on his strikes, to the dad in me it seemed faster. Ah ha, this is the exact phenomenon I was hoping to vanquish for the kids.
Shaking off my own concerns, I took the data to the manager. He rallied the kids for a final pre-game pep talk and informed them of pitch speed was exactly what we’d been facing at the cages (not to mention against each other in practice). The message clear, you don’t worry about it anymore and take your hacks just like they have been.
The coaches continued the routine of providing pitch speeds throughout season anytime a “hard” thrower took the hill. Each time you could see the reassurance provide relief amongst the team. Without a doubt this lineup had the least amount of kids bailing out on strikes or swinging at anything (or never at all).
Okay, truth be told we didn’t come out and score 20 runs in any game. More accurately the team hit better than most, drew plenty of walks and relied on our own good pitching with solid defense to win. It was a formula that led to a second-place finish in the regular season and run to the title in the postseason tournament. More importantly, it built a lineup of confident young hitters and provided another use for a baseball radar gun.
Here are a couple of pics from guest writer, Kevin Aron, featuring his son and the team:
Please give is a call toll-free at 888-381-2672 from 9 AM to 5 PM Pacific Time, or e-mail us at info@PocketRadar.com if you have any questions or would like to share your Pocket Radar stories.
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