By: Jill Wolforth
For my first article of the new year, I thought I’d come up with something really exciting… something motivational, something with a real bang to it. It turns out, it’s not any of those. It’s something much more practical.
At our Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp in December, Derek Johnson, the pitching coach for the Milwaukee Brewers and formerly of Vanderbilt University, shared many quality points throughout his presentation. At dinner that night, I told D.J. I would be borrowing and sharing several of them with you.
With so many schools, particularly in the south, gearing up for tryouts and games in the next several weeks, I thought this week’s topic was quite timely.
For a lot of us, the lines frequently become blurred between “working on mechanics” and “getting guys out”. As both players and coaches (and parents), we have the tendency to meld the two together instead of focusing on them separately. For example, we’ll tell a pitcher we want him to focus on his “lower half” and then when he throws the pitch high, we respond by telling him he’s got to get the ball down. So, which is it, lower half or location? Or we tell a hitter to focus on his “whip” and then when he’s early and ends up pulling the ball foul, we tell him he’s got to drive the ball up the middle.
We’ve often referred to it as a “focus on process versus outcome”. D.J. referred to it as “Over the Rubber versus Over the Plate”. I really liked that phraseology, and I think it can be a great communication phrase between coaches and players. The terminology helps to give a clear distinction. At this moment, are you focused “over the rubber,” meaning anything to do with the delivery, or are you focused “over the plate,” meaning anything to do with getting the opposition hitter out.
There needs to be a time for both, but more importantly, there needs to be a distinction between them. Frustration sets in when the lines between the two get muddy, especially early in a year when coaches and players may be trying to work on some specific movement pattern enhancements.
This certainly isn’t a new or ground breaking concept. As I stated at the beginning, it’s not flashy or motivating, but I do believe it is a great way to help players have a clear understanding of what they’re focusing on, “over the rubber or over the plate”.
Here’s to an exciting baseball season in 2017. Good luck to everyone!
**Come focus on Over the Rubber AND Over the Plate with us at our Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camps! We have Camps in April, June, July, August, and September, but spots will go fast so register today!