This is the third of three installments of my interview with Brad Woodall. I hope that the community at BCB will join me in tipping our collective hats towards Mr. Woodall for his time, effort and sincere contribution to answering questions I, and hopefully others have had.
Brad's approach to teaching is very refreshing and definitely very complete. I feel it is worth mentioning again, that his approach is so much more than regurgitating cliches, running drills, and collecting payments. Athletes from all sports can benefit from his experience and expertise.
I do also want to mention the value in video analysis as well. When Brad studied video of FtJ Jr., and said that the boy reminded him of Derrick Turnbow, it made me realize that my son needed a haircut, his vision checked, and more consistent mechanics. Even if you are not in the Madison area, sending videos back and forth can be an invaluable asset.
But enough of that, onward and upward....
In the season you pitched in Milwaukee, you had one of the best seasons with the bat that any Brewer SP has had. Obviously, you took your hacks very seriously. What does, a pitcher, know about hitting? and what is your message to young hitters looking to you for help?
I always thought of myself as a hitter that happened to get an opportunity to pitch professionally. I studied hitting, was good friends with infielders, outfielders and catchers, and worked on hitting religiously. I was limited in that I did not have much power or speed so was not a good candidate to play a position in professional baseball. I solicited advice constantly from hitting coaches and gained a good understanding of what a hitter is trying to do at the plate. I used this knowledge in pitching, but I was a better hitter from it. It is a bit of a misconception to assume that a pitcher does not know much about hitting. I spent my career studying hitters and their mechanics to find the best ways to get them out. Many times you will find me coaching a hitter from this angle, where I will tell them how I would try to get them out based upon the mechanics of their swing or their approach at the plate. Then I will suggest corrections based upon these observations. If I had to give hitting advice in one sentence: Understand your strengths and weaknesses as a hitter and develop a hitting strategy based upon taking advantages of those strengths. Much of my work with pitchers and hitters at the high school level is predicated upon knowing yourself as a player and pitching and hitting to your strengths. If we spend all of our time chasing our weaknesses, we lose track of knowing what we are naturally good at doing.
It seems to me, that there are three elements to a pitcher's success; velocity, location and pitch type.
a.) How do you teach velocity?
b.) How do you teach pitch location.
c.) How do you teach pitch types or movement?
There basically three physical qualities of a good pitch; location, movement, and velocity. A pitcher to be successful in the major leagues must have 2 of the 3 that are above average. For example, certain pitchers have great control and movement (e.g Greg Maddux). Others have great velocity combined with control ( ) and others have great velocity and movement ( ). You do not have to have all three but you better have 2 of the 3 to be a big league pitcher.
My philosophy on teaching these are to see what a pitcher naturally does well out of the three and focus on that. I cannot make a pitcher with below average velocity suddenly find a 95 mph fastball. What I enjoy about developing pitchers and hitters is being able to take what they already do well and make it better. For example, if I work with a pitcher that has natural sinker spin on the ball, I focus on how to make that sinker better and develop a general strategy for that pitcher to be successful with that pitch. Many times, a pitcher has the ability to be successful but has not realized how to utilize his strengths effectively. I enjoy being able to take each individual pitcher and getting them to gain a better understanding of how they can use their pitches to win games.
There are many ways to teach velocity but there is not one fool proof solution to increasing velocity. I am constantly looking for ways to improve velocity in pitchers as it is a primary goal for many players with which I work. It is a combination of natural arm speed, size and leverage, mechanics, and timing within those mechanics. My job is to take each pitcher and try to get the most velocity out of their bodies. Many times it is numerous incremental adjustments to mechanics that add up to additional velocity.
However, the progression to good velocity is to achieve the proper mechanics, gain the confidence in throwing strikes with those mechanics, and then adding the natural aggressiveness that comes with the confidence of throwing strikes. It is not easy, but it works.
Consistency of release point is crucial in the success of a pitcher. I work on this with pitchers more than any other aspect. Location is a byproduct of repeatable mechanics and consistent release point. We work on establishing simple, repeatable mechanics and then fine tuning the release point in practice. This starts with having a location purpose with each throw during warm-ups and training our bodies to find a consistent release. Then it progresses to working on the mound and making numerous pitches to the same location. A big part of establishing good control as a pitcher is to be able to make the subtle adjustments to locate a pitch to the inside or outside corner.
Many times a pitcher either has good movement or not. Most pitchers wish I could move the ball like Greg Maddux did, but they are unable to do so. However, movement comes in many forms so most pitchers have the ability to move the ball to a certain degree. The key is to be able to understand how to use the movement to the pitcher’s advantage. I work on helping the pitcher make their movement translate to outs on the field by locating pitches appropriately. For example, if a right handed pitcher has good sinker movement, we work on keep the ball down and ideally in to righties as that is the location that maximizes that movement and makes it more difficult to hit.
Instead of slaying catfish in the Carolinas in between coaching sessions, Brad Woodall has decided to spend his time shoveling his driveway in Wisconsin. Why is this?
My wife is from the Madison area but there is more to the story than that. We met while in college at UNC. After college, I was playing professional baseball and she was a professional swimmer. We lived in Chapel Hill when we were not traveling for either baseball or swimming. When our professional playing/swimming careers ended, she became a Division 1 college swim coach. She coached at UNC, Northwestern, and her Midwest ties led her to the UW Swimming coaching staff. She coached the badgers for 8 years prior to establishing Woodall Training in 2008. Although I am not a big fan of the Midwest winters, we love Madison and this is now home for us.
Do you work with teams as well as individuals? Are you able to work with a team or player that is not in the Madison area?
Yes, I work with teams and individuals throughout Wisconsin. I conduct player clinics for all ages and coaches clinics for organizations. I am now taking Woodall Training on the road for baseball clinics in South and North Carolina. I am looking forward to working with many of the youth baseball organizations in Wisconsin and beyond, conducting camps and clinics for their players and coaches. If you are interested in setting up a clinic for an organization in your area, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or .
We also offer remote instruction utilizing online video analysis. Players are able to send a game or practice video to me. I will analyze mechanics and provide suggestions/drills for improvement either over the phone or via email. It is amazing how technology works these days to allow for such sophisticated instruction methods.
I enjoy working with all levels and ages of baseball players, as coaching strategy and technique differs with each player and team. That is the greatest challenge and most rewarding aspect of being a coach is to get the most out of each player or team that we coach.
What does Woodall Training have to offer besides baseball instruction?
In addition to baseball instruction and clinics, we offer swim instruction, clinics, personal training and fitness boot camps utilizing TRX suspension training, one of the best methods of strength and conditioning on the market today. We are excited that our business is growing by the day and we are able to have a positive influence on so many people in our area. For more information on what we do and the programs we offer, go to www.woodalltraining.com , read more about us or join our mailing list.
This concludes the interview... Thanks Brad!!