Posted by: Knightbird | July 14, 2010

Using TWI in Sports Training

I blogged earlier about how Mr. Terry Cox worked with me on developing a job breakdown sheet for teaching the pitching motion. It seems like today is a good time to follow up on what I am doing with this.

Yesterday I had a conversation with Jim Huntzinger and mentioned my use of TWI methods to try to figure out how to teach ballplayers various skills. I told him about the Training Matrix draft I developed for infielders and how I want to work with our coach to develop job breakdown sheets for each skill we need to teach. Coach is interested in the concept.

Jim then told me about an organization working to develop the science of coaching, using as its base the teaching methods of John Wooden. Mind you, I am old enough to have seen Coach in his prime. I was a boy when Coach brought his UCLA team to Hec Edmundson Pavilion at the University of Washington in Seattle. Gail Goodrich and Walt Hazzard are two of the Bruins I remember watching. Hazzard joined the Seattle Supersonics in 1967, their first year in the NBA. Anyway, Coach is a legend, and the management field has discovered many of his teaching methods. The name of the organization is Be Like Coach ( and its Executive Director is Mark Siwik, like me an attorney who found another passion. I sent Mark an email, and confirmed that Be Like Coach believes that TWI can play a role in teaching athletes the skills they need to be successful. I like the approach they are taking in discussing the “science of teaching youth” and “continuous improvement through collaborative learning.” These are the same principles that I have learned from my Pitching mentor, Dr. Tom House.

I want to share a story about the power of positive teaching. I will call the youngster I was teaching “Barney,” which is not his real name. Our East baseball team was working on batting skills, which I am not qualified to coach or teach. On the little league field, the local little league all star team was practicing. I went over to say hello to the man who coached my boys when they were in little league, and while there saw 2 other coaches working with their pitchers. I asked Coach if he wanted me to work with the 2 boys working on their pitching. I knew he would say yes, but I always ask because many coaches are very jealous and possessive about their coaching, and don’t want you “messing” with their pitchers. As one coach told a boy I worked with a few years ago, “Don’t work with Mr. Anderson, it’s my way or the highway” meaning you won’t play if you work with Mr. Anderson.

Anyway, after I worked with the first pitcher and got him throwing strikes, I asked for the next one. Barney came over, with a very stoic face. I am used to this. Barney would not smile as I tried to make him comfortable and explain to him what I was about to teach him, and to let him know that he would be throwing strikes pretty quickly. Does this sound familiar to those of you who know job instruction? It’s called “Prepare the Worker.” The 5 steps are to put the person at ease, state the job, find out what the person already knows, get the person interested in learning the job, and place the person in the correct position. I really tried to with Barney.

Dr. House has us find out what the pitcher knows by observing the pitcher. I proceeded to watch Barney from three different locations as he pitched. As a right hander, he was throwing high and to the right, which I have seen a number of times. After my assessment, I proceeded through the steps that Dr. House taught us. First, I made sure Barney assumed the proper balance and had the correct posture. I taught him how to lift his butt and start his body moving. I taught him how to mirror his throwing arm with his glove hand in what Dr. House calls “Opposite and Equal.” I straightened Barney up by having him drop his arm slot to the slot he would have if he threw standing with straight posture. I was not changing his arm slot, but having him throw upright instead of bent over to the side. As Barney incorporated each new skill, his accuracy and velocity improved. In approximately 5 minutes, Barney threw a perfect strike, knee high and straight over the plate with more velocity than he ever had before, and he broke out with the biggest smile he could give. If you know what a “beaming” face looks like, that is what Barney had. I asked Barney if he thought I was crazy when I told him I would have him throwing strikes as soon as he did and he nodded his head yes. I asked him if he believed me now, and he also said yes. Barney now has more knowledge that will help him make baseball more fun. Barney’s experience is what I know to be the norm when I teach pitchers using Dr. House’s methods. It takes me about 10 minutes to get a boy throwing strikes consistently with no arm stress.

In the meantime, I saw why Barney looked so dour when I stepped up to coach him. 2 of his coaches were there working with the pitchers, and neither had the skill set necessary to train pitchers. Nor did they seem to have the Job Instruction skills of “Put the person at ease.” I have seen a lot of coaches, and their coaching methods really abuse their players. They yell and scream a lot, without very solid instruction on what the skill actually is. The right fielder fielded a ground ball and wasn’t very quick to relay the ball to the proper infielder. The method of instruction was to yell what to do. Instead of approaching the boy and demonstrate, explain and have him repeat the skill, they yelled.

Dr. House teaches the science of coaching pitchers and pitching, but he also teaches us  how to make learning the skill fun for the player. I am excited that Mr. Siwik and his organization are wanting to propagate the same philosophy of teaching that TWI inspires us to do.

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