Baseball Hitting Techniques-Good, Better, Best

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Baseball Hitting Techniques-Good, Better, BestBaseball hitting techniques

Whenever you have a conversation about hitting, it always revolves around technique. Baseball hitting techniques are varied. Players swing many different ways. What we believe as coaches will dictate what technique our players are going to use. We will have a discussion today about good technique, better technique and the best.

Kids are willing to try things to make themselves better. As coaches, we want to help them reach their potential. These two facts make for a great combination. However, coaches need to be sure that what they are trying is what is best for the player.

There are three predominant swing camps. No, we are not discussing linear v. rotational hitting. We beat that conversation to death. Anyone holding on to either side is full of hot air. We are referring to pushing the knob to the ball, connection or barrel to the ball.

By watching a video of a player’s swing everyone that is at least a little open-minded can see that players move forward (linear), then plant their front side and rotate (rotational) so there are elements of both in every swing. Too much of one or the other and you have an ineffective swing that needs work. The real questions now are what the right swing pattern is with the hands? The other one is how do you achieve it as a hitter?

Digging IN

So we dig into the three options. The first way that we will review is the knob to the ball method. As with most things in hitting this is a delicate topic. I believe there is a place for this phrase when you are coaching hitting. The problem is it is a cue for individual players who’re getting their hands stuck behind them, not a great hitting method.

Knob to the ball

Why isn’t it a great hitting process? Naturally, it creates problems that a player can only address with athleticism. Many players, especially young hitters, don’t possess enough athletic ability to be successful consistently using this method.

Baseball hitting techniquesThe first problem that swinging “knob to the ball” creates is that it forces the hands out in front of the swing creating a contact point in front of the body. That means the batter has less time to decide if it is a good pitch to hit. The batter is also making contact with the ball with their arms extended further from the body most of the time creating less power.

The second problem with “knob to the ball” hitting is swing plane. The hands getting in front early creates a downward swing path. This swing plane will cause the hitter to hit a lot of groundballs. Hitters don’t like groundballs; pitchers do, so hitters are forced to manipulate the swing plane. The manipulation that most hitters will use is to drop their back shoulder excessively. Yes, the back shoulder should be lower than the front but in a straight line. Dropping or dipping the back shoulder is an unnatural curved spine position that will promote an extreme uphill swing plane.

Players that hit with the “knob to the ball method can be successful if they are great athletes and spend a lot of time working to create compensations for the flaws in their swing. If a player can have success, then you can’t say that it is a bad way to hit. So, we will call this method good. There is a better way though and let’s face it unless there is some physical reason why a player can’t do something better why wouldn’t you teach them the better way.

ConnectionBaseball hitting techniques

The connection method is the primary focus of a rotational swing. Back when the debate between linear and rotational hitting was raging connection was a term that was preached by the rotational side. Connection only means that you keep your hands stationary around the shoulder area of the body as you rotate your core to the pitch. The point of this is so that when you rotate you don’t drop the barrel of the bat too early and lose all of your power before the bat enters the hitting zone.

“Connection,” is not a great method to use when hitting. It is better than the “Knob to the ball,” way because it keeps the hands in closer to the body and creates a better leverage position at contact for more power. With the hands closer to the body it also promotes a deeper hitting zone which translates to more time for the batter to decide whether they want to swing or not.

Connection-The flaws

Connection still doesn’t create the maximum amount of time for a hitter’s decision process though. It also requires a considerable amount of athletic prowess to establish timing for off-speed pitches. Both of the previously stated systems need a hitter to wait until they recognize a pitch before they can begin generating power.

The problem is that force in both swings starts from the time the player starts their forward momentum. When a player stops this movement at toe touch to wait for an off-speed pitch, the player loses some of their power.

The players also have to restart the rhythm of their swing. Not being able to have a continuous swing stride to finish is the biggest flaw in most hitter’s swing.

Barrel to the ballBaseball hitting techniques

The barrel to the ball method has a lot of similar traits to the other two methods except for barrel path.The question you are asking yourself or should be asking yourself, right now is why is it any better than the other two methods then? I will tell you in a single sentence. The barrel to the ball method creates power through barrel movement. You don’t need to move your body to create energy this means that your body movements can be used to create timing. Baseball hitting techniquesGreat concept, right?

How do you describe the Hitting of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, or Albert Pujols? I would describe it as effortless. That is what a barrel to the ball swing will create for your players.I will explain the process and the benefits as simply as I can.

Breaking down the mechanics

There are similar pieces to every swing. There is a load phase, a stride phase, and a swing phase. How players do these things vary.  Sometimes to their benefit, sometimes to fix a flaw and sometimes to mask a weakness.

Loading

In the load phase of any swing, the players draw their body back to gather their weight into their back foot. Loading is done in preparation to stride and then swing the bat.

With the first two methods, this phase is critical because it is the first chance that a player has to create a window for timing. A player can load back and wait in that position for a short period to change how soon they will get to the swing phase where contact with the baseball occurs. Players are encouraged to maintain quiet hands during this phase of the swing to keep the swing simple.

 

With the barrel to the ball method, the player loads in the same way but the load is just a process to get the body moving the bat creates the power by starting to make progress in this phase. A player should tip the barrel up, and back this is where the power starts.

Striding

During the stride phase, the player is starting to generate power by shifting their weight forward. The stride is considered to be the time when the hitter’s weight stops going back and begins to move forward until the front toe touches the ground. When the toe touches the ground, we call it toe touch, and in the first two methods, it is the last chance to create timing in the swing. Players will often try to land soft and stay back with their weight at this stage.

The problem with this is that when you try to stop or stay back at this point, you break the kinetic chain working in your swing. Or you have a situation where you will lose stretch in your “spring X pattern,” as Joey Myers would say in his book, “The Catapult Swing System.”

Swinging

In the swing phase, the hitter has to put the sweet spot of the bat into the path of the ball to make contact. The “knob to the ball technique teaches players to swing inside the ball. The reason for that is the natural barrel path is going to take the bat from the inside to the outside on a downhill trajectory. No hitter is trying to do this so they must compensate for the bat path.

When using the connection process coaches will talk about taking the hands to the ball. A hitter needs to master the separation of the hands because if a player maintains the connection through the swing, they will not be able to reach the outside corner without a long bat and their feet as close to home plate as possible.

The barrel to the ball method allows a player to use the barrel momentum to generate power so they can separate their hands from the body. The ability to separate with power makes it easier for players to hit any pitch in the hitting zone.

Benefits of barrel to the ball

In the stride is where the real advantage of the barrel to the ball method starts to come out. Because we are using the momentum of the barrel to create power what our body does in this phase is only used to create timing. A hitter can speed up or slow down this part of the swing. It doesn’t affect the amount of power they are releasing in the swing phase.

The barrel to the ball swing method will allow you to rotate your hips to the front while keeping your hands back and upper body slightly closed. By doing these two things, you are in effect holding off your swing longer. Doing these two elements gives a hitter the ability to generate power in their swing. At the same time that they recognize what the pitch is. Using the barrel to the ball system also means that you will hit the ball deeper so you can maintain leverage for power and gain time before needing to release the swing. More time before releasing the swing means more time for pitch recognition.

The attributes of the barrel to the ball method make it the best way to hit a baseball. Because it allows the batter to wait longer and do more while they are waiting it will make hitters better than they have ever been. This hitting method has been proven throughout the history of baseball and is still going on today. Players like Ted Williams swung the bat with these principles. Major leaguer Josh Donaldson among others is using this swing system to make themselves better hitters as we watch today.

Coaching points

A hitter is only going to be as good as his mechanics and abilities allow them to be. As a coach, you should try to find the best swing pattern to bring out the potential of your players. To get a more in-depth with the barrel to the ball approach that I have described you should read two books.

Baseball hitting techniquesThe first book is “Elite Swing Mechanics,” by Bobby Tewksbary. Bobby is a great swing guy. He has worked long and hard to understand the swing mechanics of some of the most successful hitters ever to play the game. He has also worked with hitters from young kids to big leaguer’s and makes hitters better.

The second one is the book I mentioned before, “The Catapult Loading System,” by Joey Myers. JoeyBaseball hitting techniques does a great job breaking down the science of what the body does during the swing. He is a lot like Bobby in the fact that he has dedicated a lot of time and effort to the subject of hitting and understanding how we get the body to do what we want.

Both of these guys have a similar background as well. They both played D1 college baseball and couldn’t get much beyond that because their swings failed them. They both tell in their books how what they didn’t know hurt their pursuit of their dream of playing baseball.

Being the difference

I implore you to be the coach that stops crushing the dreams of kids around the world because you didn’t know what to teach them. Explore the world around you. Examine the efforts of others and find the right answer for every young baseball player you coach. You never know who might become the next Teddy Ballgame with the proper teaching at the right time. You could be watching your T.V. one afternoon and see the kid you taught to hit when he was eight hitting a home run in front of 50,000 screaming fans.

Or you could be the guy that inspires the next book about hitting or pitching mechanics by a baseball player who didn’t quite make it all the way. Don’t worry though they usually thank their coach for teaching them to learn more from their failure than their success.

Time to take your newfound knowledge and put it to the test. Before you run out to the field check out the post, “Youth Baseball Batting Practice-Tips for progress” This will give you a good plan to take what you are working on and maximize your ability to get there.

Thank you,

Coach Wood

 

 

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Baseball Catching Tips-No Stealing

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Baseball Catching Tips-No Stealingbaseball catching tips

One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the stolen base. As catchers, we take base stealing personally. Even though we know that bases are stolen on the pitcher, it is our job to defend our hurler against this theft. We are the guard dogs on the porch. Quiet, confident and ready to tear up anyone who tries to invade our world. The baseball catching tips provided by Coach G are the training we need to be ready when the thief approaches.

Introducing Coach G.

This post is part two of our ongoing series about the catching position with guest coach Greg Creager. Coach G. will impart upon on his wisdom about the secondary position for catchers. Based on his lifelong passion for baseball and the catching position. A former D1 catcher, now a youth baseball coach and partner at the Fort Smith Baseball Academy, Coach Creager is dedicated to helping educate coaches everywhere so they can prevent years of bad habits at the catching position. The secondary position is what catchers need to be able to block balls and prevent steals.

The secondary position is what catchers need to be able to block balls and prevent steals. This position is crucial for any level of baseball, especially once stealing is allowed. Players must master this stance at an early age to be successful.

Coach G’s words of wisdomBaseball catching tips

So, last week I posted about coaching catchers. It seemed very well received and got a lot of good feedback, so I’m happy to continue this weekly post. Here is Coach G’s second catching tip of the week.

Since we talked about the primary position last week, and determined that the primary position is for no runners on with a chance of stealing and less than two strikes, it’s only appropriate that we talk about the secondary position.

The secondary position

Catcher’s use the secondary position when there are runners on with a chance of stealing and also when there are two strikes on the batter. From the signal position after giving the sign, once the pitcher comes set, you want to increase the width of your stance, inside of your heels should be outside your hips, with the right foot slightly back. You should have the toe lined between the arch of your left foot and heel. You want a good angle with your chest over the knees, butt up with femur and tibia at a 90-degree angle, and back should be at a 45-degree angle.

This posture will allow you to stay linear if you need to make the throw on a steal attempt instead of popping straight up. It also puts you in a good position to block on an errant throw. Having too much offset will not allow you to block a pitch in the dirt squarely and will cause the ball to bounce off you at an angle.

Your throwing hand should be 1 of 2 places, either behind the glove or on top of your thigh, so it is a quick transfer if you are throwing. With everyone always concerned about catcher POP times, if you want to see those drop, then this stance is what can help tremendously. Just like in the Bible, The Church of Baseball says “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

Importance of pop times

As with most things in the game of baseball catcher, pop time is a stat that makes people feel like they can measure a players ability. Obviously, there is a significance to the time, so we track it. A pop time is the measurement of the time it takes for a catcher to receive a ball and get the ball to a base. In most cases, we keep this stat for throws to second base.

Baseball catching tipsFor a pro level catcher, anything under two seconds is considered an excellent time. A good college catcher should have a pop time of fewer than 2.1 seconds. High school catchers should be shooting for something below 2.2 seconds. A J.V. catcher under 2.4 is considered good.

I would like to point out that I didn’t give a measurement for anything under the age of 14 or 15 because applying measurements like velocity (using a radar gun), running speed (stopwatch timing) and pop time (stopwatch timing) don’t matter when we are talking about players who have not physically matured. We have all seen the kid that throws hard in Little League get lit up on the big diamond all the way through high school because he doesn’t develop as much as the other kids. Adding the pressure of needing to reach a number will make young kids frustrated if they are at their physical limit already.

The other half of stolen bases

Pop times are only half of the equation for throwing runners out though. The other half is how long the pitcher takes to get the ball to the catcher. A catcher with a long deliberate motion will give base runners of a head start to steal. Base runners and coaches also like to steal bases when they think a pitcher is going to throw an off-speed pitch, so they get more of a head start.

If a battery (pitcher and catcher combined) can keep their equation total under 4.o, they have a good chance of throwing out a lot of runners. The equation would be “Time to Plate” + “Pop Time” < 4.0 seconds.

Summary

Getting catchers in a good physical position will aid them in lowering their pop time. Having proper throwing mechanics will help as well. Working with kids at an early age will help them when it comes time for them to shine. As the runner breaks and the game gets faster, position and mechanics will take over. If you have taught them right, any potential base stealer will know better than even to try. Thou shalt not steal.

If you missed the first post in this series be sure to check it out. Baseball Catcher-most needed player

Thank you,

Coach Wood

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Play Catch for Better Baseball

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Play Catch for Better Baseballplay catch for better baseball

Play catch for better baseball seems like a no-brainer. Who doesn’t think that playing catch is an important part of baseball? I will answer that question, almost every youth baseball coach in the world. You are sitting there reading this saying, “Not me!” I am sitting here writing this thinking, “Yes you.”

Coaches must prepare a team for everything

Most coaches start practice either with a stretch and throw or vice-versa. The problem is not many youth coaches pay attention to the throwing part of it because the players are just warming up. Well whether you are warming up, hot or cooling off there should be a purpose to your movements.

When a player is, “Warming up,” they are more aware of what their bodies are feeling. Warm up is the best time to train the brain to use proper fundamentals. When players use good fundamentals during their entire practice, they are more likely to return to them unconsciously during high-pressure situations. Preparation is the name of the game, and it is never too early to start preparing.

Receiving position

Play catch for better baseballHave you ever watched kids when they are warming up? They have gloves down at their sides, or they put the glove way out in front of them like they are going to will the ball into it before it thrown. Neither of these is good mechanics for receiving a ball during a game usually. There are exceptions first base and some tag plays, but most of the time, you want a player standing shoulders squared to the the thrower in an athletic position with knees and hips flexed. Their eyes should be looking in the direction of the ball, and their hands should be about shoulder height on either side of their head. This stance is called a receiving position.

Throwing mechanics

That is the firPlay catch for better baseballst part of playing catch. The second part is the throw. Throwing mechanics are just as important for a fielder as they are for pitchers. The other thing about the mechanics is that they are pretty much the same whether you are pitching, catching, playing infield or outfield. The distance of the arm swing is the only thing that changes.

 

A pitcher and outfielder are going to have the most similarity in their throwing arm swing or arc. Both positions have time to deliver the ball but need to maximize the velocity at which they throw. Infielders and catchers have more similarities in their throwing arc. Catchers and infielders require velocity on their throws but gain more of an advantage by getting the ball out of their hands quicker. Therefore, their arc is much shorter than pitchers or outfielders.

Pairing for mediocrity and excellence

At the college level, we try to have players warm up with other players who play similar positions. This way we can have the players monitor and help each other maintain the proper throwing and catching techniques. Our starting shortstop plays catch with the starting second baseman on game days and on practice days he warms up with the backup shortstop.

This method, in my opinion, is the best way to have players warm up at that level. At the youth level, it is somethingPlay catch for better baseball that may not work for your team. Youth players are learning the game. They are probably all getting exposed to playing multiple positions and may need to learn all for throwing arcs. As a coach, you are also dealing with the issue that some kids are better than others at playing catch.

I would like to promote a team-first player second philosophy to warming up. With this system, the player who is the weakest would play catch with the strongest player during warm up. Continue pairing players like this all the way down the line. Pairing this way will help the weaker players catch up with, the better players, in theory, making your team better. I don’t like to hold good players back though so my solution to that is each day you practice or have a game your players should rotate. Pairing players who are stronger together and players who are weaker together from time to time.

How do you play catch?

Playing catch is a part of practice because it is a part of the game. When you play catch the right way you give yourself a valuable tool to use to become a better baseball player. Better players tend to make better teams. Always observe how your team plays catch in warm up. Instruct players when necessary, and ball all means make them focus on doing it right.

Going out

Playing catch the right way will start with players relatively close to each other. The distance should be such that both players can comfortably throw the ball with extreme accuracy to the other. After about three to five throws one player should start backing up a couple of steps every couple of throws. The player should continue to back up until the players have reached a distance that is slightly longer than their hardest throw. Both players should be reaching each other on a hop.

The goal of every throw should be accuracy at a good velocity. Throwing a ball where you want every time softly doesn’t make you a good player. Just as throwing the ball hard all over the place doesn’t help either. There is a velocity and accuracy combination that each player can obtain that works for them. Belt buckle to head, between the shoulders is a good area to throw the ball. Make sure your players understand that and do it.

Bring it in

Once players have reached the one-hop range, the player that was backing up should start working their way back to their partner. On the way back players should work on positional defense. Ground balls for infield fly balls for outfield and catchers should receive and pop.

As an infielder receives a ground ball, they should go through their mechanics of fielding and stride into their throw. They should then return a ground ball or fly ball depending on their partners position back to them. Outfielders should do the same thing with fly balls. Finally, catchers should crouch into a position to receive a pitch when they catch the ball they should pop up to throw a runner out and return a throw to their partner. All of this is done with the same accuracy consideration as well as continuously closing the distance between players.

After a few weeks, you will find that if you can get your team to play catch for better baseball that is what you will get. The better ball will happen right before your eyes. For more information about how to play catch check out my article, “Teaching Baseball FUNdamentals.”

Thank you,

Coach Wood

 

Don’t forget to get your copy of “The Science of Sticky Coaching” by Joey MyersPlay catch for better baseball

 

 

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Baseball Catcher-Most needed player

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Baseball Catching-Most needed playerBasseball catching

The catching position is the most important as well as the most under coached position on the baseball field. A great baseball catcher can make pitchers better, make a defense stronger, and keep a game plan on course.  So why don’t coaches spend more time educating themselves and players about correctly fielding the position?

Introducing Greg Creager

This article is going to be the first in a series by a fellow coach. Greg Creager has played catcher his whole life. He played D1 college baseball until an injury ended his baseball playing career. As with most of us with a passion for the game, his dedication to the sport has never stopped. He is now a partner at the Fort Smith Baseball Academy located at 10818 Old Hwy 71 Fort Smith, AR.

I became acquainted with Greg through a Facebook group called “Coaching Baseball – Tips, Drills, travel teams, and more…” Greg often posts great information and comments. When he posted the following tips on catching I had to contact him and see if he would let me bring his knowledge to more people.

Greg’s words are top notch information about the catching position and if more coaches take the time to teach good athletes how to catch the future of baseball will be a lot brighter.

Importance of a catcher

Baseball catchingCatchers, as you know if you read my page about the position, is the most important position on defense. A great catcher is a leader both physically and emotionally. Catchers are an extension of the coach on defense.

The catching position is the brain of the baseball team, yet most youth coaches but kids behind the dish that they can’t play at another position. Or worse they put a good athlete behind the plate and don’t give them any instruction. With inferior ability, lack of coaching, or both, players develop many bad habits that are hard to break.

Coach G’s words of wisdom

I work with a lot of catchers. One thing I notice that is becoming an epidemic is the bad habits that get started at young ages.  I have also seen these problems are the result of a couple of things, 1.) the coach knows nothing about catching and doesn’t spend any time, and 2.) at an early age (coach pitch) they just throw a kid back there that they don’t necessarily want to play in the field. So having said that I hope to change that with hopefully one child and one uninformed coach at a time.

So here is Coach G’s first catching tip of the week. Baseball catching

Primary stance: this is the usual position catchers are in without runners on, the threat of stealing or two strikes. This setup allows you to sit more comfortably while still performing the most typical duties of calling and receiving pitches.

You want to be low in your stance giving the pitcher a good low target. Being relaxed with your legs slightly wider than your shoulders with your toes angled out, which allows your hips to be open. (A good rule of thumb is the plate is 17 inches wide, and your knees should be on each side of the plate when you squat.) Your mitt should be in the center of your body, away from your chest with your forearm (not elbow) resting on your knee. Be sure to have your mitt at about the same height as your batters knees which should be the bottom of the hitting zone. Keep your throwing hand down at your side behind your leg NEVER BEHIND YOUR BACK.

*When the catcher puts their throwing arm behind their back it puts them in an off-balance position. It also causes the shoulder joint to be in a more open position making the catcher susceptible to foul balls causing injury to the shoulder.

Also don’t set up so far back off the plate. Get as close as you can while still being out of the batters swing to get those low strikes instead of those low balls that should have been strikes.

Stick the strikes,

Coach G.

Summary

Coach G’s words are a description of the primary catching position. There are other positions that a catcher needs to learn. Over the next few weeks, we will continue to bring you all of those stances as well as the mental responsibilities of the catcher. We will also get into the differences between coaching youth players (Little League) and older kids (Travel and 90-foot basepath).

Thank you,

Coach Wood

*Coach Wood’s added note

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Youth Baseball Coaching-Better than your coach

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Youth Baseball Coaching-Better than your coachyouth baseball coaching

Every generation strives to be better than the one before. Kids want to be better than their parents. Parents want their children to be better than them. My father taught me this lesson when I was young. Youth baseball coaching is the same. You can be better than your coach.

 

There are three keys to becoming a better coach.

  • Learn
  • Communicate
  • Develop

Learning to coach

Learning the game of baseball is a long process. There are four key parts of baseball you have to get proficient at to be a good baseball coach. Each category is as important as the next. You may be able to win with one or two things being a little off, but you will not get consistent results if you can’t teach all four.

PitchingYouth baseball coaching

The first or the four is pitching. When it comes to pitching, you must learn that every pitcher has to deal with two things on the mound. A pitcher must be mechanically sound. Mechanics will allow the pitcher to be consistent. Good mechanics will help a pitcher achieve positive results and maintain their health.

The second part of pitching is the psychology of pitching. Understanding how to deal with pressure, adversity and success are all important to a pitcher. Pitchers also have to know how they approach hitters. Teaching pitchers the mental side of the game is just as important as teaching the physical skills.

Hitting

Getting players interested in hitting is probably the easiest part of coaching baseball. It is also the hardest part of the game to teach. Hitters need the same two things that pitchers need mechanics and psychology. Both require much discipline for a player to be successful.

Mechanics

Hitting mechanics are important to learn as a coach. The hard part is learning the right things. There are a lot of hitting guru’s out there preaching to anyone that will listen. You will have to sort through the noise. I would recommend not taking the advice of most of the professional hitters. Some of them succeeded because of what they did not what they thought they were doing.

youth baseball coachingIn the book “The Catapult Loading System” by Joey Myers he explains a lot of the biomechanical processes that take place during the swing. I would recommend reading the book. It gets challenging at points but if you press through you will learn what the bYouth baseball coachingody needs to do to make successful hitters.

I also recommend reading “Elite Swing Mechanics,” by Bobby Tewksbary. Bobby has worked with friends of mine that played at the big league level. He has put a considerable amount of time and effort into learning how a swing should work. The reading is definitely above the middle school level, but the information will work with players as young as five-years-old.

Mental

The mental side of hitting is little more challenging than the physical elements. Good hitters have an approach. An approach is a plan for their at-bat. Many players will enter the box with the idea that they are going to see the ball and try to hit it. If you can teach players to think a little more about what has happened and what will happen, they can be betyouth baseball coachingter prepared. Preparation usually leads to success. I would recommend reading my post about hitting approach.

Finally, I would suggest you read “The Mental Side of Hitting” by Mike Epstein. Mike is a great hitting coach He was a good professional player, but most importantly he played under Ted Williams. Ted Williams was one of the few big league hitters that actually understood what he did in the box. He was teaching and using terms and philosophies that were not thoroughly understood until this decade back in the 1930’s.

DefenseYouth baseball coaching

As a coach, you have to understand situational baseball. You must teach players to think for themselves on the field. Players have to have the ability to know what they are going to do before they have to do it. As slow as the game of baseball can seem it is too fast for a coach to tell every player what they have to do with the ball in every situation before it gets to them. Understand defensive baseball and where the ball is supposed to go then practice it over and over.

Coaches must also understand the philosophy of their defensive choices. Some of the time this is going to depend on the game situation. Other times it will be based on what your players can do. Usually, it is a combination of both. It will be up to you to learn what to do when and how to teach it to your players.

Offense

Just like defense, there are offensive situations that players must know what they are doing before it happens. Coaches need to teach them during practice. As a coach you need to know what your players are going to do so, you can coach the runners on base properly.

Again like with the defense you have to have an offensive philosophy. Game situation and players skill sets will dictate what your philosophy is. A fast runner can be more aggressive than a slow runner. However, when you are winning or losing by a bunch, you may want to be more conservative.

Communication is the second key

Baseball coaches are teachers, mentors, disciplinarians and role models. All of these things require a coach to be a good communicator. When communicating with players and parents, you must be clear and decisive. Make sure that you are always upfront and honest. Nothing shuts down communication faster than dishonesty. Make rules and don’t change them because your best player can’t follow one. I know as well as anyone else that sometimes situations change. Sometimes you decide to do things a certain way at the beginning of the season and it might not make sense anymore later on. When you come across a situation like this make sure you make it clear to all players and parents what the standard will be going forward.

Learning styles

A good coach will understand their player’s learning style. You have to have tools to understand what way each one Youth baseball coachingof your players learns the best. Do they learn through seeing, hearing or feeling? In the book “The Science of Sticky Coaching” Joey Myers shows how we can determine a player’s primary and secondary learning methods by having a conversation with them. In less than five minutes you can learn a player’s learning style, and you don’t even need a college degree.

Just knowing how a player learns is not going to be enough to get through to some players. You will need to know how to communicate with them different ways. The words you use to explain the same thing to two different players may give you two different results. Players interpret things differently. You need to have a vast vocabulary of terms that mean the same thing.

Mechanics v. Cues

Coaches also need to understand the difference between mechanics and verbal cues. An example of this would be Mike Trout on the MLB network explained that his swing thought is to hit down on the top of the ball. Now if you watch a video of Mike Trout hitting a baseball you can tell that he does not swing down nor does he hit the top of the ball very often. If he did with his power, he might bury the ball into the ground in front of home plate.

The point is Mike Trout has good swing mechanics but uses a verbal cue or thought to help him maintain. Those mechanics. You don’t want to teach a kid to swing down at the ball, but you may be able to help a player that is dropping his barrel to be more successful by using the verbal cue of hitting down on the ball. I hope you see the difference.

Planning is good communication

Good communication starts with having a plan. My mother used to tell me all the time, “Think twice before you speak.” Thinking things through is a great plan. I would suggest that you write out your plan before the season starts. Have a practice plan for every practice and stick to it. You will not go wrong if you stick to your plan.

The final thing that I would like to go over in the communication section is praise. A good coach gives players praise for their action, not their ability. Telling Johnny, he made a good play is not going to get you as much as telling him he worked hard to make the play. Praising effort over talent is the key. No matter what skill level a player has, they can work hard. Not every kid can throw a ball fast, but every can work hard to throw the ball better.

Developing players is the final piece

The number one priority for every baseball coach should be developing players. The younger your players are, the more development you should be trying to achieve. Not all players will grow at the same rate, so you have to have patience. As a coach, you ask players never to give up and you can’t either.

youth baseball coachingUse your knowledge and communication skills to make every player better. Be creative with your drills. You are coaching individuals they are not cookies you can’t put them in a mold and make them all the same. If you use your knowledge of what a player is supposed to be doing, communicate it to them and develop creative drills that keep their attention while building their skill level you will make them all the best they can be.

The bottom line is making players better helps those players enjoy the game more. Being good at something is always more fun than not doing it well. Better players having fun win more. I don’t have any scientific studies to prove this. I am basing this on my 40 years of playing and coaching the game of baseball.

Finally

These three keys will unlock your potential as a coach. Remember that even though you are coaching people that are younger than you and may not know as much as you must keep learning to be a good coach. None of us are so good at what we do that we can’t learn to do it better.

Thank you,

Coach Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coaching All-stars-Get the most from the best

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Coaching All-stars-Get the most from the bestCoaching All-stars

You have been a good coach for the whole season. Your team finished in first place, and now you have been selected to coach the All-star team. Congratulations you are coaching All-stars. Along with this honor comes the responsibility of organizing a new group of young players and their parents. Good Luck!


You are probably in a groove working with your team. They know you and your expectations. At the same time, you are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Time for everybody to get out of their comfort zone. There are changes when you coach All-stars. First, you don’t understand the quirks of your players as well as you would like. Second, you don’t know their parents as well as you need to.



Most important first step… expectations

Coaching All-starsThe first thing you will need to address is the expectations. The parents are going to want their child to be the star playing short batting third hitting the game-winning walk-off grand slam. You will need to address the need for the team to be a team and not a group of individuals. One goal, one mission, one mindset is what will make their child’s All-star experience a success.

Have a parents meeting and encourage them to sign an agreement that includes the phrase, “I will support my child.” It should also include that they will not yell direction to the players from the stands. Most of all positive encouragement goes a lot further than extra help. Make sure that everyone understands that coaches coach, players play, and parents cheer. You might also want to discuss a twenty-four-hour rule for conversations about game decisions.



Team first

Now we will dig into coaching the team. There is an interesting dynamic in All-stars. All the players are usually pretty good at some part of the game. Your team is made up of the best players from several different teams.


Most of your players can probably pitch. Likewise, most of your players are going to be able to play anywhere on the field. However, most of them probably spent the majority of the season and maybe their playing career in a position in the middle of the field, short, second or center. You probably have one or two kids who are primarily catchers maybe one or two that are only first basemen. The team might even have a player or two that are pitchers and hopefully can play another position without hurting the team too much.


The coaches are going to have to find out who is going to play where. Who your starters are and who your bench players are going to be. Then you have to get the players and the parents to agree with your decisions. Sit players down and discuss their role. Then address the parents the same way. Knowing what your plan is ahead of time makes your decisions easier to understand. Remember that a great coach is a great communicator.



Selling the “BUY IN” step onecoaching all-stars

That leads us to the “BUY IN” process. Getting parents and players to believe that you know what you are doing and what you are doing is in the best interest of the team.


The easiest way to do this is going to be a two-phase system. The first part is to set a team goal. “We are going to strive to be the best players we can be,” is a team goal. “We are going to develop friendships and teach each other our strengths,” is a goal.


WINNING is NOT a goal.

Winning is something that happens when you WORK to achieve a common goal. As a coach, you should never be mention winning to parents or players. Working toward a goal is what all conversations should revolve around.



Selling the “BUY IN” step two

coaching all-starsThe second part of the system is going to be group ownership. Using words like “WE” and “OUR” you will encourage everyone to participate in the achievement of the common goal. “MY” and “YOU” are separatist words that make the players and coaches feel like an individual. We have a short amount of time to get this group of players to bond and become one unit working together. You need every trick in the book.


Being an All-star is not about ability. The difference between the last player on your bench and the next five kids that didn’t make the team is probably more mental than physical. All-stars is a mindset. Team players make All-star teams because they worked withing the framework of their team to improve both their strengths and weaknesses.



Who are you coaching?

Now that you have addressed the parents and players mentally you will need to start working on the physical part of baseball. You have to figure out who is playing where and when. It is time to identify your players.

During your first session together, you are going to want to quickly and discreetly figure out your lineups. You need to access players physical and mental tools. The following practice plan will give you an opportunity to accomplish this.



Coaching All-stars Practice plan




First Practice: All-stars

Infield: Whole team

Four stations- first base, second base, third base, shortstop

Each player will field a ball at each position making a throw to first base. After their turn, each player will rotate to the next position. 1B to 2B, 2B to SS, SS to 3B, and 3B to 1B sprinting behind home plate to get there. Give all players a number in order (index card in pocket). Numbers allow you to know at the end of the session which made a mistake mentally following directions. This drill will test physical ability as well as ability to listen and process instructions.

Outfield: Whole team

Two stations- LF & RF

Group in LF fields balls (fly balls and ground balls) then makes throws to 3B. Group in RF fields balls and throws to 2B. Switch groups every ball. Players should sprint along outfield fence to change groups. All players have consecutive numbers so you can see if anyone has made a mental error following directions.

Make an “A” and “B” team based on performance during individual drills.

Team Defense:

Team “B” takes positions. Use extra players as runners. Run situational defense for six to nine outs. Have a coach hitting with a soft toss to get a better feel for players ability to move on pitch and range in the field.

Replace team “B” with team “A.” Run the drill again.

Accessing your team this way will give you an idea of how your initial thoughts translate to gameplay. Running team “B” first will also show you who your front runners are and who your scrappy players are. Some kids will give up some if they are not picked to play shortstop first. You need to access your team’s mental makeup as well as physical all the time.

Base running:

The whole team does situational base running drill. Tell the team to run three different situations and split them into three groups. In addition, do not address the team again until the all three tasks are complete.

See if players can remember what comes next without coach intervention.




Here is a link to the all-star practice plan PDF so you can print it easily.



Moving forward

Now you have an idea of what your team is, who makes up the team and what their strengths and weaknesses are. You are going to want to give each of the players something to work on a simple drill that will help them improve a weakness at home.


During future practices, you are going to want to run a “dynamic” warm-up session followed by individual drills then team drills. Finish each practice with a two to three round BP.


Individual players

The drills you use to work on player development are going to be determined by your player’s strengths and weaknesses. You should always work on weaknesses first then end with strengths. Weakness first gives more time to work on problems.  Working on strengths last builds confidence. Alway try to finish sessions doing something that allows players to succeed.



Team coaching all-stars

Coaches don’t spend enough time working on situational baseball. I know this because there is never sufficient time to work on situational baseball. Teaching everything you should do in every situation takes a lifetime. Spend as much time as you can working on situational defense.


Running  “4 on 4 on 4” games during practice is an excellent way to work on situations. If you don’t know the game, you put four players on each offensive team. One team will hit. The other two teams field while a coach pitches. The teams will rotate every 3 to 6 outs. You can also do the scenario you used in your first practice.


Pitching and defense are going to make your team more successful than hitting. Therefore, work on pitching and defense first, so you reinforce the concept then work on offense.



Psychological approach

You will want to start and end each practice with a psychology session. Pre-practice you want to state your long term team goal and a short-term team goal. Doing this will get every player on your team on the same page making for a targeted practice session. During your post-practice addressing of the team, you will want to leave them with a message that keeps the focus on what the long term goal is and bring their attention to the next step in the process.


Be sure that you don’t move on to the next phase in the process until your team has shown proficiency in the current step.

Let’s recap. First, create a “WE” environment for your players and parents. Second, make sure to workout your team with precision and excellence toward a common goal. Finally, run your All-star team like it is an organization and not a one-month dream team. If you do these three things, you and your team will have success, fun and make lifelong friendships.

Thank you,

Coach Wood

P.S. Since you have established yourself as a quality coach you know that getting better is the name of the game. This book has some great tips on how to take your coaching to the next level.coaching all-stars

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Coaching Sportsmanship-Youth baseball’s biggest goal

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Coaching Sportsmanship-Youth baseball’s biggest goalcoaching sportsmanship

When coaching youth baseball you need to list out your priorities. Coaching sportsmanship should be pretty high on the list. I have been carrying on conversations lately with quite a few youth baseball coaches and they all say that sportsmanship is high on their list of coaching points.

Poor Examples of Sportsmanship

Then I get on the internet in chat groups and watch videos. I witness coaches teaching things that would not be considered good sportsmanship. I see comments in chat rooms like, “If you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying.” I get sick to my stomach.

I had one youth baseball coach actually tell me in a chat room that I shouldn’t ask for a coach who’s team blatantly cheated on video to be fired. “He has a family to support,” was the argument he had for letting this poor example of human behavior continue to lead young men.

I am not the reincarnation of Christ. I don’t claim to be perfect in every aspect of my life. I can say that I am fair, honest and trustworthy. I also can say that without a doubt I have always played fair and taught every player that I have ever met from the age of 5 all the way to the adults that I play with to play fair.

Whenever I encounter a situation where a player or coach is not playing by the rules I ask for them to be enforced. If they are not enforced I find a way to enforce them myself within the rules. That is how I was raised and taught to compete.

Call em’ like you see em’

There are far too many adults that feel teaching a child to win should come before teaching them the fundamentals of a sport. These adults should be called out for what they are, BAD COACHES! If you have a child playing for one of these poor role models, speak up. Tell them you don’t need their poor choices being taught to your children.

Difference between FAIR and RIGHT

In a society where there is great debate over how “soft” we are getting and all the complaining about how kids should get equal time whether they earn it or not we are losing the battle to poor sportsmanship. Instead of teaching kids that if they pay they play we should be teaching them to show up, on time. We should teach them to work hard to achieve their goals. Everyone should want their child to experience how hard work and dedication to learning can give them an achievement that no one will ever be able to take away.coaching sportsmanship

There are plenty of great coaches in youth sports. Some of them care a lot about the children they are working with. Coaches are role models and need to act accordingly. Teaching a kid to run around the bases while the other team throws the ball around the field isn’t teaching the player to be better it is teaching them to pick on the helpless. Complaining to umpires about judgment calls in a baseball game being played by 6 to 8-year-old kids is not caring about fair treatment for your team it is being a jerk who is putting winning at the top of your priority list.

EGO’S checked at the door

When you volunteer to be a youth baseball coach the first thing you need to do is check your ego at the door. You don’t matter half as much as the players on your team do. You don’t win or lose baseball games. It is all about the kids. If you think you won the game then you are not teaching your kids to play the game without you which should be your goal.

Buy into the big picturecoaching sportsmanship

As much as I believe that we should keep score at every level of baseball, because the kids care and there are lessons to be learned from winning and losing, I also believe that you can’t lose if you play hard, learn and have fun, no matter what the scoreboard says. I have come out on the losing end of the score in some of the greatest games I ever played in.

At 13 years old I got to play in a Pop Warner Super Bowl game. One of the greatest experiences of my life. 50+ players, cheerleaders, and coaches got to fly from Massachusetts to Florida together. We all got to stay in a hotel together. Every one of us was allowed to put on our uniforms and represent our team our parents and our town. We got killed so bad I don’t even remember the score. I do remember getting on the field making plays the way my coaches taught me. I remember walking off the field at the end of the game with my head held high. I played on a team that did it right all year long. Just like we were taught.

There are a lot of kids that have had the opportunity to win a championship that they deserve. I applaud every one of them.

Cheating or paying attention

I question how to make things better and cheating never crosses my mind. Surely as a coach, you have to respect your own ability to teach enough to not resort to cheating. Trick plays are one thing, outright cheating should never be a resort. If you get to the point where you are considering cheating, just quit coaching. It will be a better ending for everyone.

Teaching kids the hidden ball play is not cheating. Using illegal equipment is cheating.  The difference is a hidden ball play teaches both the players that are running the play and the players getting caught by it to pay attention at all times on the field. This is something that a coach should teach during practice. Using an illegal bat gives one team or player an advantage beyond what can be taught and is a safety risk.

R.I.P. coach

As a coach, you have to ask yourself what you want your players to remember about you after they are done playing. Do you want them to think back and say what a great man who taught me to have fun with integrity and discipline? Or would you like them to remember you as that guy that coached my team when we won the championship because I ran 10 feet inside the base rounding third and scored from second on a play that he designed?

I will strongly encourage you if you agree with the latter don’t be a baseball coach or any other coach for that matter.

Thank you,

Coach Wood

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Baseball Video Analysis-Using it to coach

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Baseball Video Analysis-Using it to coach

Coaching is about making players better at every level. Whether you are coaching youth baseball or coaching pro baseball, your mission is to improve your player’s ability. Baseball video analysis helps coaches get players to reach their potential.

Baseball video analysis


The use of video analysis will assist you as a coach improve a player’s skills. Mike Trout, arguably the best hitter in the sport today, uses video to make sure his swing is the best it can be. If we are teaching our players to hit like the best players then why wouldn’t we use the same tools when they are available.



What you need

baseball video analysisIt used to be hard to use video to analyze a player, but now it is as simple as downloading an app on your smartphone. There are several apps available the one I prefer is Coach’s Eye. Power Chalk is another app that is available. The key to all of them is to find one and use it until you are comfortable with their system. Both of these apps are free and offer in-app purchases.


There are also computer programs that you can buy. Most are costly, and you need need to buy additional video cameras to use the system. RightView Pro offers packages ranging from $299 to $6,000. For a youth baseball coach, this is a huge of out-of-pocket expense.



Do you really know what you are looking at?
baseball video analysis

Knowing what you are looking at in a hitter’s mechanics is the essential part of using baseball video analysis to make yourself a better coach. Anybody can learn how to use an app. Knowing what you are looking for is a lot harder.


You must become versed in hitting mechanics. Immersing yourself in the world of baseball mechanics can be time-consuming. There are so many opinions about how we do things. I would strongly recommend that you research by reading and watching. When you read a book by a former or current authority on baseball, take their words and then watch what they are doing. In a lot of cases, you will find that there is a difference. What they do is not what they say.



So what is right or who should you follow?baseball video analysis

That is hard; I have found a handful of people that I trust. We start with Ted Williams. We end with Ted Williams. Ted was the greatest hitter of all time. He knew things about hitting and explained them in detail back in the 1930’s that people are just catching up to now.


My next resource is a combination of individuals. The gentlemen behind Epstein Hitting, dad, Mike played for Ted Williams. He got to work with Ted and listen to his teachings first hand. He has passed that knowledge down to his son Jake and others through his hitting instructor certification classes and his books. You can find more information online at Epstein Hitting Online Academy.


I also follow Bobby Tewksbary. Tewksbary Hitting is one of my favorite places to get hitting information because I know some of the guys that Bobby has worked with personally. They are on top of the mechanics and mental side of hitting like few others in the game today. Once you get on his website, you will be hooked if you have even an ounce of interest in how to hit a baseball. I would recommend getting his book Elite Swing Mechanics.


Finally, I think that the information put out by Sean T Plouffe at Hitterish.com. Sean talks about a lot of the mechanics of a great swing. He has a lot of videos that reinforce what he is teaching.



Hitting always comes back to Ted Williams

baseball video analysisThe thing that you will find when you visit all of these sites and read or watch the material that they present is that they are all doing what Ted Williams said was happening over 70 years ago. I am not taking anything away from these guys. I think they are great but if Ted Williams had the video analysis and the internet, I wonder if any of these guys would have a job today.



Some things you might not know you don’t know

Unless you have been studying the baseball swing for the last 15 years, there are things that you have probably learned that you shouldn’t have. Vidoe has brought an understanding to hitting mechanics that we just didn’t have when we were growing up. If you have not played baseball in a progressive program withing the last ten years you need to do your players a favor and catch up on hitting.

Understanding hitting mechanics will allow you to look at the swing of your players and determine if they are getting their foot down early or learning to use their stride and balance to keep inside the baseball and hit every pitch. You will be able to see if a player is long to the ball or short and quick allowing more time for pitch recognition. Are your player’s getting on plane and staying there or are they swinging down, looping or pulling off?



How to use your baseball video analysis system

The biggest problem with using video analysis is getting a good video to analyze. When taking video make sure that the angle you are using will allow you to see the particular mechanic you would like to address. If you are working on the leg drive of a player, you have to get video from the opposite batter’s box. If you are slightly in front of or behind the hitter, you will not get the angles you need to measure correctly.


When you are looking for hand path, you will want to use video that is taken from directly behind, or in front of the hitter. If you are trying to see if a player’s hands are released too early in the swing process, you may not get a good angle from the opposite batter’s box view.


As the person getting the video, you will also want to keep in mind that having a reference point in the background is very helpful. Using a backstop or another player works in live game video. When you are in a batting cage see if you can find a grid to use as a backdrop.


A good analyzer can look at a bad video and make good suggestions. However, getting the right video will make it a lot easier to definitively correct poor mechanics.



Analyze the video

Now that you have a good foundation of hitting mechanic knowledge, an app on your smartphone and a good video, you need to break it down. To thoroughly analyze the video, you must have a system. Most hitting guys will tell you to start from the ground up and I don’t disagree. The legs are the most important part of any sport including baseball.


After addressing the legs, you will move up the body ending with the hands. The sequence of analyzing will go feet, legs, hips, shoulders, head, then hands. If you follow this process, you will never miss something in a hitter’s swing.



Don’t get stuck on one swing

When using video to analyze your players you need to remember that the video does not lie. However, you can see things that are there because of something that happened outside of the frame. When breaking down a player’s mechanics you can’t use just one example. Make sure you get a few samples for each hitter. Something that is wrong in one swing may not be a habit. It could be an adjustment to a variable like pitch location or speed.


Breaking down video will help you develop young players if you use it the right way. Be sure to educate yourself on the mechanics you are analyzing. The best tool any coach has is their knowledge of the game.

Thank you,

Coach Wood

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Hitting Approach-How to coach the approach

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Hitting Approach-How to coach the approachhitting approach

Every hitting coach I ever talk to uses the term “approach” when talking to a player about hitting. Almost every player I talk to about hitting has no idea what that coach is talking about until you start asking them questions. This post is going to help coaches teach a hitting approach and get players to understand what they are learning.



What is a Hitting Approach?

The first thing we have to do is define a hitting approach. A hitting approach is simply the plan that the batter is going to use during an at-bat. Things like offensive philosophy, where a batter is going to position themselves, what pitch the batter is looking for and where the batter wants to hit the ball are all things that make up their approach.


A hitting approach is flexible. Meaning that what your approach is during your first at bat of a game may not be what it is in the 3rd at-bat of the same game. An approach is so flexible in fact that it may change from one pitch to the next during an at-bat. As the situation changes so must the approach.


An example would be a batter comes up to the plate with a runner on first base. On the second pitch of the at-bat, the base runner steals second base. The hitter just went from being a mover to being a producer. This changes where they are trying to place the ball and what pitch they are probably looking to hit thus changing the approach.



Coach the approach

hitting approachThat brings us to the hard part, how do we teach such a flexible thing to kids. As a coach, I believe in keeping things simple. Start with explaining the fundamentals of offensive situational baseball. Tell your players about the three things that every hitter can be. An “on-er,” someone that gets on base. Or a “mover,” someone who pushes the runner into scoring position. Finally a “producer,” a hitter that drives in runners from scoring position.


Which one of those three a batter is will not be defined by their position in the batting order but by the situation of the baseball game. If your four-hitter is leading off the second inning, he is an “on-er.” His job is to get on base, put pressure on the defense and help the team.


hitting approachUnderstanding what their mission is at the plate will help a player start to build their approach. The player also has to know how they are going to use their strengths as a hitter to battle the strengths of the pitcher. Your cleanup hitter is probably not going to be bunting to move a runner over even if they are in the role of a “mover.” When your number 9 hitter is in the position of “producer,” they may be looking to get a safety squeeze down to drive a run in.



I know me. Do you know me?

Starting with the basics a player needs to know themselves. Some hitters are very confident, they know the strike zone and know they can make contact on most pitches. Other players aren’t so sure they, maybe they swing and miss a lot or have a weakness for chasing that ball at the eyes, so many kids have a hard time laying off.hitting approach


As coaches, we have to help each player develop their approach accordingly. I remember struggling my sophomore year in high school. My coach pulled me to the side and said,”You know you get three strikes every at-bat don’t you?” He then told me that I should never come back to the bench unless I put a ball in play or swung and missed three times. That was my approach, swing and hope you make contact. Not the best approach but that’s what the coach wanted until I snapped out of my funk.



Take care when coaching

We use phrases as coaches to get our players to do things. We have to be careful who we are saying certain things too. You don’t want to confuse a player by contradicting their approach with a coaching phrase.


Some of the phrases I hear are, “box it up,” or “see ball hit ball.” To me, that means two different things. “Box it up” means be selective pick a zone and don’t swing unless it is in that zone. Whereas “see ball hit ball” means if you pick the ball up early swing at it.



What are we talking about?

So now we have an understanding of what we want to teach when we are talking about a hitting approach. How are we going to get our players to understand what we are teaching them?


The first thing we need to explain is that an approach is a plan and like Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Our hitters need to know that their plan is going to change. They need to take the time to think through an at-bat.


In youth baseball, I group everything into four levels. You have straight instructional baseball. This level includes T-ball and coach pitch into the first year of kid pitch. Then there are transitional baseball beginners; this level would be kid pitch baseball on the smaller fields including modified fields. Players then move up to advanced transitional baseball. This level is when the players are on a full sized diamond for the first couple of years mostly middle school, Babe Ruth and Senior League type baseball. Finally, there is competitive baseball. Competitive baseball  I would consider to be anything from J.V. through varsity high school, 16u and up travel teams and Legion baseball.



Instructional Baseball

hitting approachWhen you are talking to younger players at the instructional levels, they can have a simple plan.
With T-ball players, it may be as simple as explaining that the where they stand in the box affects where they are going to hit the ball. For a player that is facing live pitching for the first time, they may want to deal with the speed of the pitch. With a fast pitcher, they may want to go into the box and think to get my foot down early and stay middle/opposite. They can be successful as long as they have a plan and know what that plan is.



Transitional baseball beginnersHitting approach

The approaches we teach players as transitional baseball beginners are a little more complicated but need to be widdled down to their simplest form for each pitch of each at-bat. There are more situations in a baseball game the older a player gets. The approach gets complicated only to the degree that you have to have more than one approach so you can hit in all situations.


Transitional baseball beginners are dealing with stealing and pitchers and catchers that are more consistent. Pitchers are going to throw strikes, and runners are going to change positions on the field during an at-bat. Players need to be able to adjust their approach based on the situation.


Younger players are less likely to think along with the game. They are learning and don’t have years of experiences to draw upon for guidance. As a coach, you are going to want to make sure you have a system in place to help that during an at-bat or a game when circumstances change.


When there are runners on base, you have signs that you give to a batter to let them know if you want them to bunt or hit and run. Therefore, you should have an indication to change their approach. The signs don’t have to be complicated you don’t even have to hide them. Give a verbal command like, “Now you’re a mover.” If your players understand offensive situational baseball, they will be able to understand you and what the team needs their approach to be.



Advanced transitional baseball

Hitting approachAdvanced transitional baseball brings on a new set of challenges. Though a lot of coaches treat this level as competitive, I still consider it an instructional level. At this level, you are still teaching a lot about the game of baseball. The introduction of leading is a new concept for some players at this level. Also, the size of the field changes what players can do with the ball on offense and defense.


A player’s hitting approach is going to be modified as well. Hitters may be changing their primary roles as they move up. A kid who was hitting 220-foot home runs the year before may now be asked to drive the ball in the gap to the opposite field because that same ball is a 220-foot pop-up now. So being a producer has gone from meaning hit a home run to get a base hit.


Players at this level should be asked to think along with the game more as well. As a coach, you are going to review a player’s decisions more as opposed to helping them make the decision. By letting them make the decision, you assist the player to learn to deal with critical thinking in high-pressure situations. We can do it for them or teach them to do it for themselves.



Competitive baseballHitting approach

Now the fun part, competitive baseball. At this level, a player must know how to adjust their hitting approach between pitches or even have two approaches for a pitch. That is an odd concept for some players.


A player is stepping into a situation where pitchers can throw multiple pitches to several locations in almost any situation. I like to think of this as logic and “what if” preparation.


Logic says the pitcher is going to try to get ahead early, so I am thinking fastball middle away. What if he decides that I am looking fastball, so he is going to throw a curve. Now I have an approach for both. I should be able to pick up a high school curve from release, so there is plenty of time to adjust if I have a plan before the pitcher releases the ball.



The key

Hitting approachThe key to teaching hitting approach at any level is going to depend on the player’s knowledge of the game and the coach’s ability to communicate the team’s needs to that player. With the combination of those two things, players will become better hitters, and better hitters make better teams.


Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how to “Coach the Approach.” I would love to hear back from you after you apply this at any level. I am sure that it won’t take long for the results to show.

Thank you,

Coach Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Youth Baseball Batting Practice-Tips for progress

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Youth Baseball Batting Practice-Tips for progressYouth baseball batting practice

Most youth baseball coaches miss out on one of the best opportunities available to them. Youth baseball batting practice is the most underutilized tool in the coach’s toolbox. Have you ever asked yourself, how can I get more out of my team’s offense?



Failing your players

Most youth baseball batting practice goes like this. The coach stands on the mound with a bucket of balls. The players go out to their positions, and any extra players fill in space between them. One player stands in the batter’s box and hits while the other players try to make plays.


This system allows the coach to throw fewer pitches to the batter. The players in the field do nothing productive, and the first five hitters usually get a good BP session after that the coach rushes everybody else through because of time restrictions.



So how should youth baseball batting practice be run?

First, we have to agree that batting practice is practice for the hitters. You are going to focus your attention on getting as many swings as you can for each player on your team. Defense is not that important.



Hitting groups

Now that we are in agreement let’s move on to the process. For the sake of this discussion, we are going to usYouth baseball batting practicee a hypothetical team that has 12 players. To run this system effectively, you will create hitting groups. Try to make the groups even. On our team, we have four groups of three hitters.

Group one is usually the top 3 hitters in the batting order. One player is the batter while the next player will be on deck. The third player will be doing soft toss with another coach or tee work on their own.



Workstations

The batter will be in the batter’s box, or I prefer to move them back a couple of feet from backstop so that fewer balls leave the field. The coach will be throwing pitches to this batter from a distance of about 25 tYouth baseball batting practiceo 3o feet, not the full distance.


The on deck batter will be in a place where they are not going to get hit by stray balls but can still see the coach. While this player is waiting, they should be doing dry swing drills. Working to maintain or improve their swing mechanics.


Youth baseball batting practiceThe third batter will set up at the hitting net. Working on solid mechanics not trying to see how hard they can hit a ball into a net 5 feet in front of them.


Running BP this way is going to keep three hitters all woking on getting swings at the same time because youth baseball batting practice is about the batter.


What happens during bad BP

That sets up the how of batting practice now we need to explain what we are going to do. Most coaches just throw ball after ball to the batter that is at the plate. Some hitters will see 20 to 30 pitches in a row. Trying to get a player to hit the ball is hard work. Repetition is necessary. However, you have to remember that most players will only swing on average 2 to 4 times in a given at bat. If they get four at-bats in a game, the are only looking at taking 16 swings. So taking 30 swings in a row during batting practice is going to make them tired.


 

When players begin to get tired, they start to compensate. Compensation creates bad habits. In conclusion, what you are doing to try to help your players is probably hurting them. Therefore, spacing the swings out and giving them a purpose is what you should be trying to do instead.



Running a good BPYouth baseball batting practice

Youth baseball batting practice will be broken down into three rounds. In the first round, you will have your players go through some situational hitting. Next, you will work on developmental hitting. Last you will do a round of free swings to see if the player incorporates what they have worked on into a game swing.



Situational hitting

The situational hitting round covers fundamentals needed to manufacture runs. Sacrifice bunting, bunting for a hit, moving a runner into scoring position with a hit, and sacrificing in a run according to the defense, i.e., infield in or back, are necessary skills every hitter should possess.
Youth baseball batting practice


When doing situational hitting, the coach should ask every player on the team to get a sacrifice bunt down. Some of the faster players you may want to have practice bunting for a hit as well. You should also work on moving a runner with the infield in by hitting a ball in the air. Next, you will want to work on getting runners over hitting behind the runner. After this, you will want to work on the hitter getting sacrificing runs in when the infield is playing in by hitting a ball in the air to the outfield. Finally, you will work on getting a sacrifice to get a runner to score when the infield is back by hitting a ball on the ground.


Situational hitting gave your hitter two bunts and three to five swings in the first round. Now you will move on to the second round in your youth baseball batting practice.



Developmental hitting

Youth baseball batting practiceIn the developmental hitting round, you are going to be working on your player’s ability to focus all of their effort on mechanics. Good mechanics are going to help a player hit the ball to all fields, but the best way to work on them is to hit the ball back up the middle or to the opposite field. Pulling the ball happens all by itself it takes discipline to stay back and hit middle/opposite.


The developmental round will consist of hitting 6 to 8 balls middle/opposite. If a player is struggling, you can give them a couple of extra but no more than ten swings.



Swing awayYouth baseball batting practice

The final round of a quality youth baseball batting practice is the one the players like the best. Free swings are exactly that. Now that you have worked on team needs and player development the players get to show off what they can do. It is alright for players to pull the ball in this round. As a coach, you are going to throw eight to ten pitches to each player watching to ensure that they are maintaining their form as they try to hit the ball all out.


You will run through the remaining groups the same way. All of your players will get a couple of bunts and between 17 and 23 swings. More importantly, the hitters are strong because the swings are spread out over three rounds. This BP system ensures that they are getting useful quality swings and not developing bad habits along the way.



Everyone else

Keeping in mind that youth baseball batting practice is for the hitter you may want just to have the other players shagging in the outfield. However, because youth baseball practice is limited, you may want to run some other defensive drills during this practice time.


Youth baseball batting practiceAs long as you have qualified assistant coaches, you can have infielders taking ground balls between pitches. The outfielders can work on fly balls as well. The coach hitting the extra balls must make sure to only hit them in areas where it is safe.  Only hit extra balls between pitches to the batter. The other option would be to shield the players with a protective net in a designated fielding area.


Another thing that you can incorporate is to have the batter run out his last swing. Running it out will allow the fielders to try to make a play. It also gives each hitter a chance to do some baserunning.


Run all of the extra defensive drills like any other drills you run in practice. Do every drill with the purpose of getting better. You don’t want defense interrupting your hitter’s efforts to get better.

Thank you,

Coach Wood

 

 

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