“Forearm fire”, “Hello Elbow”, “Internal Rotation”, “Pitching naturally”… why on earth are there so many names for pitching and so many “styles”?
“Why do you PC’s (pitching coaches) make such a big deal out of it? Internal Rotation is just a made up term.” I hear a lot of these types of comments on the forums and on social media.
[For context: Hello Elbow]
And one of the bigger complaints I hear in the softball community is that us pitching coaches either make things too complicated or are making too big of a deal about something. “Just let the kids pitch!” “Just let the pitching coaches do their thing! You’re beating up on poor coaches teaching “Hello Elbow” and they have produced a fine number of college pitchers!” “Kids don’t understand those terms.” ” Just say you teach proper mechanics and leave it at that.”
I’ve also heard push back from people about calling it Internal Rotation specifically. There are a few pitching coaches in the community who hate the term “Internal Rotation”. Some I’m friends with and respect- and some I don’t. But I digress…they argue that since internal rotation is a naturally occurring movement in the body that it doesn’t need to be taught. Or, they say “Internal Rotation” is a made up term coined largely by the Discuss Fast pitch crowd. Well, if I may, here is my take on it.
It is important to teach what the body actually does
Before we dive deeper into the term and why I think it’s more important than people realize, I want to make an important point. Using the correct anatomy and body movement terms is incredibly important so that everyone understands what the body actually does. So many times there are well meaning coaches who try to teach what they were taught and it is just not anatomically safe or correct. Even if my students are 8 or 9 years old, I purposely tell them the correct names for body parts and body movements. “Isn’t that confusing to them?” I’m sure at times, yes. But for me, I’m signing up for a long term relationship with a client and their family. We have plenty of time where I can feed them this information on a weekly basis. If I am committing to a child and a family, I’m going to put my all into that relationship and give them every tool to be successful. And I fully believe that means teaching them the science behind what their body actually does. Even if it’s a lot of work and even if it can be confusing.
We are trying to build not just softball players but long term competitive (possibly collegiate) athletes. I want my students to understand how the body works so that they can train properly. If they are going to be weightlifting and conditioning, it is important to understand the body and how it moves. Internal rotation is a naturally occurring movement (and the fastest in the human body). That’s an incredibly important thing to understand if you are a softball pitcher.
It is important to arm kids with the facts so they cannot be “tricked” or “sold” on bad mechanics
If you know anything about my background and my story, this is what happened to me. I was taught by Doug Gillis (who I still think is one of the best in the world). Then I went to college and I was completely sold on “Hello Elbow” hook line and sinker. This wasn’t Gillis’ fault and honestly I don’t even blame my college pitching coach because he was also tricked. He was doing the best he could and he was a damn good man and coach. I love him still to this day. However, it was incorrect information. And me, being 17 years old, was absolutely going to listen to a coach I loved, in college, wanting to please him and be better for my team. I didn’t know anything about the human body. I didn’t even pass anatomy class in college.
When kids and their families understand correct anatomical movements, they are much less likely to be sold on something that doesn’t work. They are also likely to be able to spot drills or teachings that go against the general philosophy of what they are taught. I don’t want my kids at a camp or clinic getting into a pissing match with a pitching coach saying “Well I do it this way because thats what Coach Keeley wants”. There is a ton of great information out there- either things that are said differently than I say them, different drills, or maybe pieces I don’t understand well enough yet and I’m not great at teaching. I want my kids to be able to know if a drill fits within the general philosophy of what they are being taught. I want them to have an internal gauge and to be able to decide for themselves. Otherwise this just turns into a private pitching coach versus HS or college coach debate about who is right. It’s not fair to the kid stuck in the middle trying to make everyone happy (and she usually gets confused). “Do I keep my hips open or closed?” I’m trying to teach my kids about the separation or dissociation between hips and shoulders that should occur in rotational athletes and talking about Internal Rotation is a part of that.
We have to call it something
This argument that we shouldn’t call it Internal Rotation is a bit weird to me. Why does it bother so many people? In the pitching world, it is important to outline what a pitcher is doing and what she is being taught. One of the reasons coaches started calling it IR is to help families differentiate between good pitching coaches and bad ones. If a pitching coach has never heard the term Internal Rotation it doesn’t nescessarily mean they don’t know their stuff. But it can be a red flag. At the very least, it is a buzz word that will likely evoke emotion in the pitching coach and you will find out really quickly where they stand. Most that are teaching incorrect mechanics won’t say they teach “Hello Elbow”. But it’s important to outline for families what Hello Elbow teachings consist of so that they can steer clear of those people. Most softball families don’t have the time to research into every single piece of what a PC is teaching. Using terms like Internal Rotation or Hello Elbow can be helpful in having them navigate what is correct for their child.
People know now after years of research that “squish the bug” is not correct. People argue about “hands to the ball” or “barrel to the ball”. We know what a jump shot in basketball is. We know what a serve is in volleyball. Why wouldn’t we want to outline proper mechanics for a sport? Especially if you are paying for it from a so called “expert”? Go see a Physical Therapist, a Doctor, Chiropractor, or Personal Trainer who really knows their stuff and ask them if they use the correct terms for the body/ explain what is happening or if they just say “I learned this from a sports coach so just trust me.” Why would this be any different?
We have to teach pitching
While Internal Rotation and many other things in the pitching motion are naturally occurring- that doesn’t mean pitching is natural and easy. Otherwise why would people spend years and thousands of dollars learning it?! Ask any pitcher parent and they will tell you the blood, sweat, and tears (and also shin bruises) it takes to develop a pitcher. There is nothing normal or “natural” about going from a static position, trying to sprint off of a pitcher’s plate, dragging a toe on the ground, while making a windmill motion with your arm (trying to keep your elbow bent), landing with good balance, and flinging a ball towards a batter. I can think of no other sport that has such a complicated motion consisting of rotation (and resisting rotation in some parts), stability, acceleration and deceleration, with a mix of throwing and sprinting all taking place. It’s pure chaos.
I really like this discussion on DF about IR and what people call it. There are great arguments that you have to teach the kids something. Without teaching them how to pitch, most kids (and grown men attempting to pitch to their teams for BP, lol) will bowl, aim, guide, or hit everyone. While IR is naturally occurring, it still is a must teach.
“It’s just a made up internet term by the DF people”
The “Discuss Fast pitch crowd” has a lot of brilliant minds on there, dedicated to discovering and teaching the correct mechanics of softball pitching. If you aren’t aware of who these people are, some of the names include Ken Krause and Rick Pauly. You can see others on my resources page. While I wouldn’t say this group knows everything- I can guarantee you that they are committed to the truth, committed to safety, and committed to learning. Collectively they have probably hundreds of years of knowledge. If your argument is that its made up by a group of people… there’s not a better group of people to make up a term that I can think of or that I know of. So if you use the term IR, you’re in very good company.
In conclusion, I hear the point about being too technical and I respect the opinion of a great PC friend of mine when he says that the term Internal Rotation can be misused by PC’s trying to make a point or sell their services. However, I do think the term has a lot of value and merit and it is a very conscious choice I make on my part.
Some people think that I’m trying to “sell” people on a term and sell them on an idea. And in a way, I am. I want people to see a No Hello Elbow t-shirt, or see a blog post and think “huh, I wonder what that is all about.” I want parents and kids and coaches to be equipped with the truth. Because, it is the truth. It’s not a gimmick or made up. And if people learn about Internal Rotation and still pay their hard earned money learning Hello Elbow which will likely have their child end up injured- that’s on them. You can choose for yourself to be willfully ignorant. My work is about making sure that no one else gets tricked like so many of us have.
PS, do baseball coaches get flack for teaching the correct terms too?