I coached a high school feeder program team for 10 years between my two boys and during that time learned the importance of developing a pitching rotation for my team. There are numerous reasons this is important, but to me the most important one is to save youth pitching arms! My whole point in developing a rotation was to make sure I didn’t overuse any of the pitchers. I developed a rotation of who was going to pitch when and stuck to it no matter what, sacrificing many wins over the years. Also children develop at varying speeds, so that boy that wasn’t as good as a youth may end up being the star down the road. Giving them an opportunity to pitch when they are younger will be a big benefit for them down the road.
Dr. James Andrews the renowned surgeon that specialized in arm surgeries is on a crusade to make sure youth pitchers are not overused. I agree with him and applied it to my coaching of youth sports.
I typically had 12 boys on my youth teams. The first thing I did was to develop as many pitchers as possible. This doesn’t mean they were all good pitchers. My goal was to teach them proper mechanics and to get them to throw strikes. Anyone that can throw strikes can pitch at the youth level. I made sure to take time at practice to let everyone that wanted to pitch have his time on the mound. This took time away from other drills, however was worth it in the end. I typically would have 8 kids that could and would pitch for me.
We typically played a 45 game schedule in an approximate 2.5-month period. This typically meant 6-8 games a week. That is a lot of games during the week, so as much pitching as possible was needed. This meant around 42 innings per week is what we played. I had my top 4 in the rotation that typically pitched in the tournaments or league games and I would limit them to 6 innings a week. Of course we didn’t measure by innings we measured by pitches a week. 6 innings roughly equated to 100 pitches a week. Typically this was split up in two 50-pitch (3 inning) outings spread out by at least 4 days. I then had the other 4 pitchers that were developed pitch the remaining 18 innings.
We had a pretty talented team, especially our top 4 pitchers. We typically would win around 30 games a year. I can almost guarantee we could have won an additional 5 games if we used those top 4 pitchers more often. But at the end of the day it is a youth baseball team and nobody really cares how many wins we had. The high school coach was much more concerned with developing pitching and not destroying young arms to win games!
For all of the youth coaches out there please take time to develop as much pitching as possible and also form a pitching rotation and stick to it to not overuse young arms. I can almost certainly promise you that you will lose games using the lower level pitchers, but when these kids are able to pitch in high school it is a big win!