I was standing just a few cages away when I took a minute to watch a father and son start having a catch. It brought back some great memories I have of my own Dad and I, and the too-many-to-count catches we’ve shared together.
But just before I cracked a tiny smile, I saw the teen-aged boy bend down to grab a few sheets of paper. He looked it over for a moment, then called his dad over to take a peek at it as well. They separated and when there was enough space between them, the boy began doing what I guess somebody (not me of course!) might call a throwing drill.
After a few tosses, the boy picked up the throwing program (?) and broke into another drill.
Once the father and son completed a few drills, the boy stopped throwing and stared at his dad with a confused look on his face. He said to his dad:
What drill shoud I do next?
The father didn’t have the program in front of him, so he just shrugged his shoulders and asked the boy if they were done. The boy shrugged his shoulders, said, “I guess so,” and wrapped up their throwing session.
What started out as a feel-good moment for me, turned into sheer frustration. I appreciated the time the father and son got to share together, but I couldn’t get past the fact that they wasted their time (if throwing a baseball correctly or with a purpose was the plan they had in mind when they first started tossing the ball back and forth).
Let’s forget about the fact that I thought that every drill they did was useless. I think an overwhelming majority of drills of any kind – hitting pitching, and fielding – are a colossal waste of time.
But I have to address the problem with having access to, or being taught drills that are advertised to increase skill levels.
Drills get in the way of progress!
Look. I’m not saying that there aren’t a few solid “drills” out there. But after those few, the rest are busy-work at best. They might fill up a private lesson, and tricks players -and parents – into thinking they’re really working out. But at the end of the day, they are spectacular time WASTERS.
Take this father and son duo. They threw the ball around for nearly a half an hour. When they stopped, they had no idea if they were actually finished, if they accomplished anything, or what point the drills served them in the first place. (Don’t think I didn’t politely ask them what each drill was teaching them!)
When it was all said and done, the only good that came out of these drills, was a better understanding of performing those drills… not how to throw a baseball in an actual game.
This is the main reason why I can’t stand to even use the word “drill.” I prefer to use the word “exercise,” or the term “skill work.” After all the whole point here is to physically work at developing a skill.
I have no idea what baseball skill is developed when for example a pitchers rest one foot on a bucket, or when hitters try to make contact with baseballs dropped from someone standing on a chair. (I know the perceived reason behind them. They were described to me when my coaches recommended them to me as a player. My coaches’ explanations for using them didn’t make sense then either.)
Now I suppose the question can be raised, “Well what are we supposed to do? Just pick up a ball and throw it? Grab a bat and take some hacks?”
Of course not.
But if you’re training program is filled with drills you’re just doing because they’re popular, you saw someone else doing them, or you need to fill up the time you’ve committed to training, you’re going in the wrong direction.
This off season, don’t make the mistake of picking out a few random (aka popular) drills in order to improve your game. Take a good, hard, objective look at where you are right now, and where you believe you can be when the spring season rolls around. That’s the first step to taking control of your baseball career, and also the first step in developing a well though out plan of attack that will return far better results than a list of drills.