Protecting young arms
Being a youth baseball coach comes with a lot of responsibilities, being a good role model, teaching fundamentals, and teaching respect. There are a lot of youth coaches that excel in those areas and then fail to protect the players from future injury.
Having been a youth pitcher and pitching all the way through college, I learned quite a bit about taking care of the pitching arm. Unfortunately for me my high school coach didn’t understand this and caused a lot of arm problems for me, however I learned from it. As a youth coach developing a deep pitching staff is very important. This coupled with making sure your desire to win doesn’t outweigh the safety of your pitching staff are keys at protecting young arms. I have developed a rotation of 7 pitchers to make sure I never overuse any single pitcher. Anyone that says they are not talented enough to develop that deep of pitching is kidding himself or herself. I also adhere to strict pitch counts.
The pitch count system I use starts season on a 40-pitch count. I use two-week increments and will increase 10 pitches for each two weeks. I coach 14 year olds, so I cap the pitch count at 70 pitches at the end of the year. Coupled with the pitch count I make sure the boys are getting adequate rest between times they pitch. I shoot for at least 3 days rest between times they pitch. I like them to take 1-2 days off from throwing completely after pitching 50+ pitches and then play catch on the 3rd day. Typically this will have them ready to pitch that 4th day. Another important thing for any pitcher to do is ice their arm the day they pitch.
For those that don’t have the coaching staff to keep track of pitches, a good barometer to use is the average pitcher will throw 15 pitches an inning. You can figure 25 pitches for a rough inning and 10 for a very quick 1,2,3 inning.
I have witnessed too many youth coaches ruin pitchers arms when they were youth. I can’t even count how many pitchers I saw at youth age that dominated (and were overused so the coach could win) that didn’t pitch in high school or beyond due to arm problems. I have personally sacrificed many wins in which I could have used some of my top pitching just to make sure I adhered to my pitch count policy.