Players who are struggling at the plate usually have a flaw in theirswing that is causing the problem. Correcting the flaw as soon as possibleis imperative because a physical problem quickly turns into a mental problemat the plate. As coaches, it is our responsibility to diagnose and correct aplayer's swing as quickly as possible. If left unattended, the player willquickly lose confidence in her ability and it will take much longer beforeshe returns as a productive hitter.
Correcting flaws in a playerÃ•s swing is most often more difficult thanteaching a beginning player. It takes much longer to discard a bad habit andrelearn a correct swing than it does to learn it correctly from thebeginning. Unfortunately, most players do not learn to swing the bat fromtrained coaches. They often learn from a parent or a well meaning coach whoends up taking the team because he/she was the only parent willing to giveof themselves so his/her daughter could play on a team.
There are many ways to approach the problem of correcting flaws. I thinkthe most effective way to institute change is to put the player in a hittingsituation that is self-correcting. My feeling is that the more we dwell ontalking about the problem and how we need to correct it, the more the playerthinks about the problem. The player is already not feeling good about herhitting. Rather than telling the player what she is doing wrong, design adrill that will put her into a situation where she cannot commit the flaw.Sometimes just talking about the specific flaw compounds the problem becausenow the player becomes overly conscious of what sheÃ•s doing incorrectly.When she gets into a game situation, she should not be thinking about herswing Ã‘ it should come naturally.
Let me give some concrete examples. If you have a player that isconsistently swinging up and popping the ball up, put her into a drill inwhich she is unable to get her arms into a position where she can swing up.Place a hitting tee with the ball set up as high as needed to force theplayer to swing properly. While she is working on the drill, talk to herabout how that swing feels and ask her how it is different from what she'sbeen doing. Notice that we have not discussed the negative but rather thegood things about this new swing.
After you have completed enough repetitions on this drill, test to see ifit is in muscle memory by lowering the tee to a normal level and see if shecan replicate the new swing regularly. If the flaw returns, raise the teeagain and repeat until the tee can be lowered and the player still swings atthe proper bat trajectory.
Another example would be when a hitter is casting the left arm, causing along arcing swing. Rather than having a long conversation about shortcompact swings vs. long slow swings, put the player into a drill where shecan no longer make a bad swing. Have the player facing a chain link fenceand have her stand so she is one bat length away from the fence. (Hold thebat to her stomach and have the other end of the bat touching the fence).Now have the player swing the bat so she does not touch the fence. If shedoes not use a compact swing she will make contact with the fence, givingher instant feedback. (Do not use a good bat!) A shrub or net willaccomplish the same results.
In summary, when you have a hitter that needs correction, design a drillthat addresses the particular part of the swing that needs to be changed.Practice it until it is stored into muscle memory. Spend time discussing thepositive things occurring at this practice station rather than what she wasdoing wrong before.
Hopefully the hard work will carry over into the hitting cage, and moreimportantly into the next game.