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NFCA Coaching Tip Of The Week: Hitting Flaws

 

Players who are struggling at the plate usually have a flaw in their swing that is causing the problem. Correcting the flaw as soon as possible is imperative because a physical problem quickly turns into a mental problem at the plate. As coaches, it is our responsibility to diagnose and correct a player's swing as quickly as possible. If left unattended, the player will quickly lose confidence in her ability and it will take much longer before she returns as a productive hitter.

Correcting flaws in a playerÕs swing is most often more difficult than teaching a beginning player. It takes much longer to discard a bad habit and relearn a correct swing than it does to learn it correctly from the beginning. Unfortunately, most players do not learn to swing the bat from trained coaches. They often learn from a parent or a well meaning coach who ends up taking the team because he/she was the only parent willing to give of themselves so his/her daughter could play on a team.

There are many ways to approach the problem of correcting flaws. I think the most effective way to institute change is to put the player in a hitting situation that is self-correcting. My feeling is that the more we dwell on talking about the problem and how we need to correct it, the more the player thinks about the problem. The player is already not feeling good about her hitting. Rather than telling the player what she is doing wrong, design a drill that will put her into a situation where she cannot commit the flaw. Sometimes just talking about the specific flaw compounds the problem because now the player becomes overly conscious of what sheÕs doing incorrectly. When she gets into a game situation, she should not be thinking about her swing Ñ it should come naturally.

Let me give some concrete examples. If you have a player that is consistently swinging up and popping the ball up, put her into a drill in which 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 the player to swing properly. While she is working on the drill, talk to her about how that swing feels and ask her how it is different from what she's been doing. Notice that we have not discussed the negative but rather the good things about this new swing.

After you have completed enough repetitions on this drill, test to see if it is in muscle memory by lowering the tee to a normal level and see if she can replicate the new swing regularly. If the flaw returns, raise the tee again and repeat until the tee can be lowered and the player still swings at the proper bat trajectory.

Another example would be when a hitter is casting the left arm, causing a long arcing swing. Rather than having a long conversation about short compact swings vs. long slow swings, put the player into a drill where she can no longer make a bad swing. Have the player facing a chain link fence and have her stand so she is one bat length away from the fence. (Hold the bat 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 she does not use a compact swing she will make contact with the fence, giving her instant feedback. (Do not use a good bat!) A shrub or net will accomplish the same results.

In summary, when you have a hitter that needs correction, design a drill that addresses the particular part of the swing that needs to be changed. Practice it until it is stored into muscle memory. Spend time discussing the positive things occurring at this practice station rather than what she was doing wrong before.

Hopefully the hard work will carry over into the hitting cage, and more importantly into the next game.