Welcome to the first issue of Coaches Athletic Digest!
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Hopefully the information in today's issue will be helpful to our baseball and softball players as they enter their seasons.
One of the things that we have seen as players are entering the facility and are hitting, either live or off the pitching machines, is the lack of balance they have throughout their swings. This tends to happen more with the younger ages, as well as with the high schoolers. One thing that I've learned as a coach, is the importance of having good balance. I've been fortunate to have worked with some great coaches and instructors through my career as a coach. Balance is something that we see players needing help with day-to-day and that we take for granted, Therefore, I feel that this important aspect is overlooked during hitting sessions. The focus seems to be "we need to get in as many reps as we can." Hitting over the last 10 years has somewhat changed from rotational hitting , Linear hitting, and or a combination of both - whatever school you believe in, the bottom line is without balance none of these styles are achieved effectively. This post is dedicated to shedding some light on what we feel is being overlooked, and in no way are we saying that our style or teachings are superior to other approaches that are being taught. Hitting is a topic that we can talk about in great length and great detail, but again this issue is an opportunity to share a few things you can work on with your ball player.
One of the key things that we look at here at the facility is how the player sets up to the plate. What we are looking for is a nice balanced position, and as you can see with Jake below (photo #1) he is in a squat balance position.
Hand positioning, bat angle are going to vary from player to player. We will have the player stand on a 2 x 6 and take dry cuts to see how balance they are throughout the swing. From time to time we'll have the player take a pre-stride or go in to a loading position prior to the swing (photo #2).
What we're looking for and trying to achieve is a solid balance position. A good measuring tool to see if they are balanced is to walk behind them or off to the side and give them a little push. If they are not in a balanced position, most likely they will fall forward or off to the side. Once the player feels comfortable going from a balanced position into the pre-stride or loaded position, we will take cuts off the tee. On a sidenote, make sure their hands are in position closer to the body. If the hands get away from their body or they "cast" away from the body, they'll lose their balance as they are swinging. Momentum should be transferring forward upon contact, and what we communicate to the kids is we want to hit with a firm front side. Here is another picture of Jake demonstrating hitting with a firm front side (photo #3, #4).
After spending some time understanding what good balance feels like, and hitting off the tee, we will graduate to soft toss, but still hitting off the 2 x 6. As we progress with these drills, and feel that the balance is where it needs to be, we'll remove the 2 x 6. As we are continuing hitting off the tee and soft toss, we want to make sure that our stride, whether it be taking a pre-stride or striding into contact, that we are working with a balanced position. Both feet should be in a straight line from one another. This is something to watch for once they start taking cuts off the tee, soft/front toss, machine or live. This photo demonstrates Jake's stride opening up, which causes him to pull off the ball (unbalanced) and not hitting directly through the center of the ball (photo #5).
Hitting through the center of the ball means we are trying to drive the ball right back up the middle. We want our barrelhead to get on plane early and stay on plane longer through the swing. If that front foot opens, the shoulder will follow as well as the hands, causing the player to be pulling off the ball.
We go in to a lot more detail regarding the swing during lessons at the facility, but the purpose of this issue is to get you to think about your player's balance and how it is relevant to their swing. We hope that you enjoyed this content and invite you to share it! This Digest will remain free forever, and anyone can register here, If our staff can help in any way, please feel free to contact us through this website, or by calling Coaches Athletic at 541–687–2909.
Yours in Sports,
The Coaches Athletic Team