I took a poll about Radar Guns on my social media platforms & it basically told me that the reason why sports parents don't have a radar gun is that #1 it's too expensive, and #2 you wouldn't know what to do with the data if you did use it. I am here to help you, & to give you a couple of stories about my younger days... as I tend to do on here, to show you that I went through all of this too. Our sport is constantly changing and there are always ways to improve. One of the best ways our young athletes can physically see themselves getting better is through a radar gun. Pitchers & hitters alike. I have teamed up with Pocket Radar (https://www.pocketradar.com/pages/softball ) and I'm going to go through the HOW, WHAT & WHY'S. At the end of this post, I have included a video of a couple of my students, using the Mobile App & the Pocket Radar Smart Coach.
HOW to use a pocket radar to effectively boost your game. For pitchers, this tool is honestly a must-have. In junior high my dad bought a Bushnell I think it was or a Jugs... I don't remember but it was before a cool small handheld one came around. He'd hold it while I was mid-pitch, and then tell me the numbers after. I am a competitor, I hate losing, in anything. My husband can't even enjoy a board game with me because I hate losing... So when my dad would sit there with the radar gun and say "Nope"... it was his way of telling me I didn't hit my mark speed.
Immediate Answers. Immediate Results. (we're living in a time of "immediate" right?)
Now I am never one to push speed, IN FACT, I am the last person on the planet to tell you that throwing hard is important. It's not. But WHAT a "speed gun" does, it tells you where all your pitches sit with and without movement, how slow your change-up is, and it tells you if you're using your body the same each time. In my opinion, the radar gun is most effective when talking about "A change of speeds". The most effective pitchers are the ones with 3 speeds. You don't know until you see that your fastball is 60, your drop ball is 57, and your changeup is 48. Devastating!! Hurting your dad or mom's hand when you throw a hard one... won't cut it when it's time to really crank up the heat and get better. The reasons WHY my dad bought a radar gun were two-fold: one because I had a hard time learning how to use my legs in high school. My arm speed was always so fast and my legs were not giving me the power I could have had. We were not done throwing until I "used everything in the tank" as he used to say. Two was because when recruiting started, which for my generation it was (7th-8th grade), colleges wanted to know what speed you were throwing and we had no idea. (BTW in 8th grade I was throwing 56ish if I remember correctly). I gained 30 pounds in college and I went from like 60 to 63-64 easily. By the time I got older, around 19-20, I was hitting 65-67. Speed isn't the most important. For some people who can throw 70+, it might be, and hopefully, it's sustainable for 7 innings. BUT if it's not... you're left with SPOTS & SPIN. Anyways.... for this generation, having a radar gun is important. And it's not meant for just pitchers! Pocket radar designed their guns to be used for pitching and hitting, for the use of bat speed and exit velocity. I won't talk too much about this because it's not my area of expertise, but a lot of the best hitters in the country/world have at least one of these three greats: great bat speed, a great mind, and a great eye.
SO AFTER YOU BUY ONE & TEST IT OUT... WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THE DATA?!
Okay so this is where you can really start to see your hard work paying off. TRACK HER NUMBERS. WRITE IT DOWN. We're going to use JANE DOE as our little worker bee for this example.
Jane Doe: Age 13
Jane Doe Pitches Tuesday:
Fastball - 55 - Accuracy - 70% Strikes
Change Up - 40 - Accuracy - 30% Strikes
Drop Ball - 53 - Accuracy - 80% Effective
Jane Doe Pitches Thursday:
Fastball - 53 - Accuracy - 60% Strikes
Changeup - 40 - Accuracy - 20% strikes
Drop Ball - 50 - Accuracy - 50% effective
Jane Doe Pitches Saturday: GAME DAY
Fastball - (52-55) - Accuracy - 60% Strikes
Changeup - (38-40) - Accuracy - 30% Strikes
Drop Ball - (50-53) Accuracy - 65% Effective
Let's evaluate her week.
Monday: Off (school)
Tuesday: School & Practice
Wednesday: School & Lessons
Thursday: School & Practice
Why did her numbers drop on Thursday? Did her lessons go as planned? Is she tired from something? Was she working on something? Was she completely aware Thursday? There's always a reason. Play detective and find out why. Lessons are supposed to help your child be better, and her numbers shouldn't drop that much. If the answer is "I'm tired" maybe shift the focus for Thursday to include more spins and less throwing reps, and throw a VERY light pen (20 pitches) Friday.
Game Notes from Saturday: All over the place in speed & accuracy declined. Is she afraid of hitting people? (that is a common issue) Does her speed drop A LOT when she's got 3 balls? Again PARENTS play detective!
A lot of this information is so useful, and it can really help you, your pitcher, and her pitching coach get on the same page. I give a lot of lessons, & the thing that helps me the most is game day footage, speeds, and asking the kids how they think the game went.
I hope that you guys understand that I did the Saturday & Sunday games, Monday night EM classes, the Tuesday Thursday practice, sometimes Friday games... I did it all. I know how much time, energy, and money goes into your kids and this sport.... but if you want to see results, and you want your kid to be a successful athlete, this is the way to go.
DONT GET CAUGHT UP IN THE NUMBERS AND SPEED SO MUCH THAT YOU PUSH TOO HARD, REMEMBER THIS GAME IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. LET HER HAVE FUN.
P.S. Using a pocket radar is relatively easy. For pitchers, you can use it behind them, slightly to the side of them, or behind the catcher (which is most effective). You start by pressing the button when the pitch is almost out of her hand and hold it until it hits the catcher's glove. Use it like a cone, if it is pointed towards a wider range you will get a more accurate number. For hitters, you can use it during their swing (exit velocity). You can stand across from them or behind them and press the button as the swing comes through the zone. There's a recall button on the Pocket Radar brand, that recalls each pitch she's thrown. If you get the Smart Coach, you can actually VIDEO and track speeds at the same time. (VIDEO BELOW)
It has REALLY upped my game in terms of picking apart my pitches. The Ball Coach is the basic radar gun without the video technology, but it does exactly what you need it to do, catch a speed.
I spent the front half of the week doing my lessons with the Pocket Radar and it was cool to see some of the kids interested in not only their speed but why one turned out 40 and the other was 38. I talk a lot about "feel" in my lessons (I'm big on BODY AWARENESS) so for the kids who struggle with "feel", I show them a video of what went wrong.
The video of the younger girl is one of my favorite students, she has improved so much since I first started seeing her. I picked her to show you because she and her dad work really hard during the week and it shows. She's throwing a change-up, & we were talking about her leaning with her front side and her finish with her back leg (proper drag & finish). They're both the same speed...but one is decent and the other is really good. I showed her the first video, and she said "my back leg?!" and I said yes I know let's fix it, and then she threw it again... improving her back leg by herself. The video transitions into one of my older students, & we are working on a curveball. Now... her front foot is at a 90-degree angle, we want more of a 45, but she's working on keeping her shoulders from coming too far forward so it's not a big deal right now. We're still in the beginning stages of this pitch for her, so her finish is still "incomplete". Her speed went from 57 to 59... within one pitch. 2MPH is a big jump, & it's easy for me to go back and look through the film and pick apart WHY. The video underneath is me in 2016 against Tennessee. I chose to clip just one at bat, where my pitch sequence went from 65, 64, 63, 65, 54. Change of speeds is so important as I mentioned earlier.