How to work with a high school baseball coach to protect your son's arm.

This is directed primarily to our high school coaches, but also to parents who have been through it. I'm sure this topic has been discussed before, but I couldn't find a specific conversation about it. I never faced the issue, but I'm trying to help some parents who are about to.

Is there any constructive way for a parent to discuss pitch counts, rest days, cold weather, etc. with the high school coach without making it confrontational? I would never recommend ultimatums, so what else can you do to try to work with the coach to protect your son's arm?

I never said one word to my son's high school coach during the 3 years he played varsity baseball, other than "Hi, coach". But my son wasn't a pitcher. I'm not sure how I would have handled it if he was.

Original Post

Mid, I can address this topic generally but to best help those parents you are speaking to, any specific details for their situation would be helpful...  do they have concerns with the coach due to history?  Are they new to the program?  What year is the player?  etc., etc.

If your son is a pitcher, you can and should discuss with the Head Coach your opinion.

During our Area Code games one of the parents [a MD] mentioned that he and the Head Coach set a pitch count for his son, a 95 mph pitcher from Ohio.

I said that if I was the Coach I would agree. He would pitch the 4th -7th innings and I would drill the middle infield 30 minutes extra each day to make double plays to keep the pitch count down.

When we travel to Australia, Japan, Korea our coaches,  all pro scouts or former MLB pitchers maintain a strong pitching formula. We also interview each pitcher as to his personal approach to his game. He will not catch, play shortstop, if he pitches.

Bob

<www.goodwillseries.org>

Main one will be a freshman LHP. 5-11 with no facial hair. Average velo now, but you can see it's coming. Could easily see varsity innings as a freshman. Coach has a track record of using his best pitchers as much as state pitch count rules allow, regardless of the situation. 

OK thanks Mid.

So, these are the things that come to mind.. 

I wouldn't bring it up prematurely.  If this player "could easily see V innings...", that doesn't necessarily equate to him throwing a lot or taking a heavy load that first freshman year.  I would give it at least a little time for the player to settle into the program and maybe see where he stands and what guidelines (if any) the coach shares directly or what is observed with other P's in regards to pitch counts.  Also, make sure player/parent knows specifics with regulations specific to age/grade in the state he plays in.  Are the counts less for freshmen than for upperclassmen?  Are those guidelines sufficient to satisfy the concerns of the parents? 

If, after figuring things out first hand, they still feel they must address concerns, I think these are the keys...

Pick the right time and place to talk to HC.  Ask for a few minutes in private.

If, when talking to the coach, the parent first shows appreciation, support and respect, the HC should be much more open to mutual discussion.  The parent should also assure the HC that he will always let son handle his own business with the coach except for those few issues where parents have to be involved.  Assure the HC that you will always support the team, the program and his coaching decisions and will never be that problem parent.  Let him know that the only time you would ever speak up or raise a concern would be with any safety/health issues.  And being a parent of a young pitcher, that is particularly challenging for you.  Show appreciation that player has the opportunity to be a key pitcher for the team.  Share that son would never bring up this concern because he only wants to be a good team player and do whatever coach and team need him to do.  Share that you have done a good deal of research into proper pitch counts for a pitcher that age and you were hoping to compare notes and gain a better understanding of what the coach uses as guidelines.  Be open to a different perspective and ask questions if his guidelines differ from yours.

If things are presented this way, the coach should be very aware of your concerns and expectations in regard to proper care of the health of son's arm.  If any issue arises after that, the groundwork has been laid to take whatever action is necessary.

For myself, as a HS coach, I am very insistent that the HS sports experience includes the direction of the HS athlete handling things themselves.  But, as is discussed often here, safety and health are the exceptions (of course, as would any type of abuse).  So, if a parent handles things in a respectful manner, I have no issue addressing those concerns and working to a satisfactory resolution.  Most other coaches, I believe, are of the same mindset.

 

TOTAL PITCHES THROWN IN A GAME
Varsity 110
Sub Varsity 90


REQUIRED REST PERIOD
VARSITY
86-110 Pitches 3 Days
61-85 Pitches 2 Days
36-60 Pitches 1 Day
1-35 Pitches 0 Days

SUB VARSITY
65-90 Pitches 3 Days
45-64 Pitches 2 Days
25-44 Pitches 1 Day
1-24 Pitches 0 Days

These are GA's rules.  I could definitely see a parent being concerned that on Friday the Freshman kid could legally throw 90 pitches and do it again on Tuesday. In our district the games are typically Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday so this scenario is plausible. 

I think the real challenge is in the smaller schools.  In GA we have a fairly small season compared to many other states.  Our JV schedule was 21 games in 6 weeks, and we had 21 kids.  The Varsity schedule was 31 games in 11 weeks...plus any that are needed for playoffs, with 25 kids.  When you have roster sizes like that the potential for overuse in minimal.  In schools that have roster sizes closer to 12-15 with seasons lasting 12+ weeks...well yeah, there may be a glitch there.

Florida State Fan posted:

A good coach understands the implication of protecting arms, there should never be any reason to speak to the coach.  Unless of course he comes to you and ask for opinions.   Just my 2 cents worth.

I wish that were the case everywhere, but not in my experience. Thankfully, my son is not a pitcher but as a catcher, in weeks with 3 or 4 games, he was able to tell the coach his between inning-throws would be sandbagged and throws back to pitcher rainbows to save arm for when he needed to throw hard.

cabbagedad posted:

OK thanks Mid.

So, these are the things that come to mind..  

Thanks for the thoughtful advice, cabbagedad. I'm trying not to get to specific about the player for privacy reasons. His parents are tall, and his doctor says he'll be at least 6-5, so he's really just starting puberty. The kid has played/pitched 8 months/year since he was 8 years old. Dad and club coach have never let him (or any of his teammates) come close to overuse. Everybody pitches. Has never had any type of arm issue.

State PC rules are the same for all ages/grades (including for the occasional 8th grader at a few private schools). In general the rules are good, but like CaCO says, there are situations that an educated parent could have a problem with.

Golfman25 posted:

I don't know. It's high school.  Should the kid talk to the coach about any concerns.  And now that pitch counts and rest are mandated, why should your kid get different treatment?

I agree with coach cabbagdad that safety and health are the exceptions to the "don't talk to coach" rule. I wouldn't put my son in the position of talking health to the coach, and he wouldn't do it anyway, he'd go out there and play regardless of any risks. I'm happy that most states now have some kind for pitch count rules, but every pitcher is unique, and there are many unique situations. For example, what should you do if the kid is just back from a week-long illness and his legs aren't ready to go 100 pitches?

It's been said on this forum countless times... parents are ultimately responsible for protecting their kids. Sometimes those decisions aren't black and white.

Bottom line is it just depends on the coach.  Some will welcome the conversation.  Others will immediately brand you as one of "those parents" as soon as you ask for a meeting.  Just gotta play it by ear.  Fortunately, depending on which state you live in,  the new pitch count/rest rules should eliminate the need for most of the meetings. 

MTH posted:

Bottom line is it just depends on the coach.  Some will welcome the conversation.  Others will immediately brand you as one of "those parents" as soon as you ask for a meeting.  Just gotta play it by ear.  Fortunately, depending on which state you live in,  the new pitch count/rest rules should eliminate the need for most of the meetings. 

I'd rather send an email if it came up.

I have watched our HS varsity coach abuse his starting pitchers...if I had a son who pitched we would absolutely be having a conversation.

I watched our top kid throw 3 innings of scrimmage and the next week take the mound in the opening league game and throw 115...Granted this was 2016, the year before pitch counts but they only help a little. Just the way the ramp up in the MLB right??

I saw this year a kid throw 60 on a Tuesday, take his 2 days off and throw 100 on Friday...in the first week of April. Most HS coaches are there to win...end of story.

There is a kid who is going to a local D1 who lost 7 MPH over the course of the school season, he threw a max load every single time he took the ball. By the time the playoffs rolled around he was a shadow of his April self.

it happens every spring.

old_school posted:

I have watched our HS varsity coach abuse his starting pitchers...if I had a son who pitched we would absolutely be having a conversation.

I watched our top kid throw 3 innings of scrimmage and the next week take the mound in the opening league game and throw 115...Granted this was 2016, the year before pitch counts but they only help a little. Just the way the ramp up in the MLB right??

I saw this year a kid throw 60 on a Tuesday, take his 2 days off and throw 100 on Friday...in the first week of April. Most HS coaches are there to win...end of story.

There is a kid who is going to a local D1 who lost 7 MPH over the course of the school season, he threw a max load every single time he took the ball. By the time the playoffs rolled around he was a shadow of his April self.

it happens every spring.

Amateur career Edit

Kluber attended Coppell High School in Coppell, Texas. While pitching for the school's baseball team and amid overuse by his high school coach, Don English, Kluber developed a stress fracture in his elbow, requiring surgery and the insertion of two screws. He went unselected in the 2004 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft.[1]

That is a quote from Corey Klubers Wiki page. LOL. Just bring that to the coach and ask him if wants to infamous for eternity.

I guess I wouldn't bring it up unless my son suggested a problem. We've been lucky, we didn't have pitch counts until this season, but coach never seemed to over pitch my son. He's been their number 1 for probably two years now (a 2018) and this year played third base when he wasn't pitching, and first base when the senior at that position pitched.

Son has commented that he gets a little tired when he plays a DH and pitches the first game, then plays third the second. He saw coach at a practice soon after and said "hey coach, can we talk about next year and where I'll play?"

Coach says — "you'll be our starting first baseman, we need to watch your arm."

I guess we're lucky.

Just as a note, Iowa's pitch count rules make me a little more comfortable than what GA seems to have.

IOWA —TOTAL PITCHES THROWN IN A WEEK
Varsity 180

GEORGIA — TOTAL PITCHES THROWN IN A GAME
Varsity 110 — same for Iowa
Sub Varsity 90 — same for Iowa

REQUIRED REST PERIOD

FOUR DAYS REST — 91-110, Iowa
86-110 Pitches 3 Days — 66-90, Iowa
61-85 Pitches 2 Days — 41-65, Iowa
36-60 Pitches 1 Day — 26-40, Iowa
1-35 Pitches 0 Days — 1-25, including he can pitch the next game of a DH, Iowa

 

MidAtlanticDad posted:
Golfman25 posted:

I don't know. It's high school.  Should the kid talk to the coach about any concerns.  And now that pitch counts and rest are mandated, why should your kid get different treatment?

For example, what should you do if the kid is just back from a week-long illness and his legs aren't ready to go 100 pitches?

 

Pitch him 95. 

That's the kind of conversation that has to happen between the kid and coach.  "hey I was sick, not 100% yet.  I'll give you what I got, probably 75 pitches." 

I am very thankful for the rules Illinois put in this year. Never had to speak to the coach about anything! As a result my son saw less innings as a sophomore varsity starter than he did as a freshman on JV. He's a kid that can throw 105 pitches without much fatigue on most days, and with 5 days of rest required at that number in order to pitch another full 105, he never pitched more than once a week all season. As a result he never pitched with a dead arm and had a successful season with no pain. 

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