Hitting

13
Feb

In the spirit of Valentines Day I couldn’t help but try and tie in softball to the most romantic day of the year. Not easy to do but fortunately for me reality TV made it easy for me.

I don’t mind the show, nor the staff nor the dresses. My problem lies in the fact that the vast majority of the brides seem to have put about $37.50 into their “relationship” yet are ready to drop $20,000 for a dress. Their dream romance seems to stem from having the fairy tale gown, rather than the fair tale marriage.

In fact I’ve actually watched shows, did I just say that out loud, where the “brides” are choosing the dress and don’t even have a fiance. Not kidding, I’m not sure I can understand the concept of caring more about the dress than the groom. I guess it’s harder to find the perfect gown, than a man who will spend the rest of his life loving you selflessly and sacrificially. Reality TV, here is a reality check … there is no fairy tale romance without the work. Ladies if you ever listen to anything I say … Say NO to the dress and spend the time building a solid foundation instead.

Here is how it ties into softball ….
Say NO to the new $300 bat and say YES to a $20 batting tee and a bucket of wiffle balls and DO THE WORK.

Say NO to the pretty new batting gloves with comfort pad and air conditioned grip and say YES to putting in enough practice that you develop blisters.

Say NO to the $200 sunglasses to wear in the outfield and say YES to running until you are sore learning how to judge the ball and block the sun with your glove.

Say NO to the new glove and say YES to wearing out the leather on your old glove learning to field and dive.

Say NO to worrying about how pretty the $4.72 trophy looks and say YES to the knowledge that you left everything you had on the field to earn it.

Say NO to a new color coordinated pair of cleats that help you look prettier standing around and say YES to learning how to be aggressive on the bases and actually producing runs.

Bats, helmets, gloves and cleats are tools that are needed for the job. But at the point that you put your hope in the “stuff” instead you are like a bride buying a wedding dress with no groom. Say NO to whatever that fairy tale items is that you believe is going to make you a princess on the field (your dress), and say YES to DOING THE WORK.

Category : Baserunning | Hitting | Mental advice | Training | Blog
8
May

It’s not the trendiest new dance club in New York City. Nor will you find it as you walk the Las Vegas strip. But “Club 10” is every bit as exclusive. In fact you can’t pay for admission you have to earn it.

Normally I write about “heady” things that make players/coaches/parents stop and think. Things that allow all of you in the cyber world to use your own application to what I’ve written. Not this time. This article, and “Club 10” are the exact opposite. You see “Club 10” was simply what I wrote on my blackboard when I recently made a shift from subjective evaluation of my batting students to a more objective approach. I simply wanted a way to see if they could actually reproduce their swing 10 times in a row. 10 straight line drives off of the batting tee in their favorite position. No thinking at all. No subjective hypothesis of how good their load, stride, elbow, eye contact was. Simply a statistical measure of whether or not they could take the same swing 10 times in a row. If they hit the tee, hit a popup or a ground ball they had to start back at 0.

I was pretty amazed at how long it took most of players to be able to achieve that number. The ball was on a tee, in their favorite position. Yet the pressure of actually being measured seemed to weigh on them. Instead of just swinging after 5-6 they started thinking too hard. Good thing for them that in games there is no pressure. There is nobody standing there watching them and measuring if they get on or don’t get on. Oh wait! That’s exactly what happens in games.

As with all great clubs, “Club 10” was expanded once it became a hit (pardon the pun.) Girls had to deliver 10 line drives off of soft toss in different locations, including a change up or two. For some it was much easier as they didn’t have to worry about nicking the tee. However, for others it became an even more difficult challenge because they tensed up while waiting for me to toss the ball.

Nearly all of my batters have now achieved entrance into “Club 10” off the tee and soft toss. During the most recent testing I had 7 out of my 40+ students who were able to achieve entrance into Club 25 (25 straight line drives off of soft toss.) That achievement permitted them to apply for the VIP room of Club 10. Which means I took them to a batting cage and gave them a full half of hour by themselves to try and hit 10 straight line drives off of the pitching machine.

The name “Club 10” really isn’t important. What is important is the confidence that I’ve seen developed in my students as they have seen themselves repeating a great swing over and over. They can then take that objective measurement and confidence into their games because they know their swing will be there for them. Not because I say it’s a good looking swing. Or because mom/dad say it’s a good looking swing. They know it’s a great looking swing because they’ve seen the line drives delivered one after another.

So what about you do you want in to “Club 10”? Admission simply involves your ability to repeat a solid line drive swing 10 times in a row. First earn your way in the door by hitting 10 in a row off a batting tee. Then move to 10 in a row from soft toss. Finally try to earn admission to the VIP room by hitting 10 solid line drives in a row off of a pitching machine. Basically what I’m suggesting is to stop thinking, stop talking, stop discussing, stop analyzing and start hitting.

Category : Hitting | Training | Blog
29
Oct

I love teaching girls how to sacrifice bunt. I mean I LOVE it. Partly because of the importance in the game, but more importantly because sacrifice is such an important part of life. Which is why it absolutely breaks my heart that in this game I love I see so much incredible sacrifice from parents, and so little from the players.

Performing a sacrifice bunt actually requires very little skill. The only true requirement is a simple desire to sacrifice ones self for another. The ability to bunt or not bunt, is a simple indicator of where the players heart is at. Because at the end of the day, at the end of the season, the most important things are not what can the team or coach do to help you. They are: “Where is your heart?” and “What are you willing to do to help the team?” Because those are the things that will carry you through the rest of your life.

It’s called a “sacrifice bunt” because it is supposed to be a sacrifice. You don’t get the glory, like you do for hitting a home run, because if everyone in the stands jumped up and down and chanted your name then it would be called a “glorified bunt.” The life lesson in the sacrifice bunt, is that it requires your heart to be willing to say “I want my teammate on base to get applauded for scoring the winning run, and I want my other teammate to get the applause for having the winning RBI. I’m willing to take the back seat and perform this seemingly meaningless task and be happy for them because their success means that we win.” If that is what goes through your head, then your heart is in the right place to be a great teammate and my guess is that you put 100% effort into bunting practice. But if your heart isn’t in the right place, then my guess is you really don’t put much effort into bunting practice because you are constantly thinking “Let’s just hurry up and do hitting practice so that I can look good.”

Challenge yourself as players to really examine where your heart is at. Would you want you as a teammate? If you honestly can’t answer yes, then as a player the easiest way to get your heart into the right place, is by starting with “sacrificing” yourself at home first. Seriously! Your tournaments last until after midnight many times throughout the course of the season, yet your uniforms are magically clean and ready to wear when you wake up for the first game of the next day. So when was the last time you put your cell phone down and stopped texting long enough to do the laundry for your mom during the week? When was the last time you closed the lid on the laptop and shut down Facebook long enough to help your little brother/sister with their homework so that mom could go get a mani and pedi?

Hopefully the next time you see a girl lay down a sweet sacrifice bunt, it will transcend the field and the actual act and you’ll get a glimpse of her heart. That’s where I’ll be looking.

Category : Hitting | Blog
5
Aug

I’ve had several people send me updates this week and tell me about the team wide batting slumps that had occurred in games. That’s a common thing I’ve heard throughout the years and finally challenged one of my players today to really think that phrase through. You see …

Teams don’t go up to bat together. In fact a “team” never goes up to bat. The reality is that only individuals go up to bat. Ever. While all individuals do slump occassionaly, the odds that all 9 batters happened to choose the 1 game to be in a slump in are higher than hitting the lottery.

When an entire team doesn’t bat its because 9 individuals were all more worried about what one or multiple others did at bat, than they were focused on their own “individual” at bat. Each one of the 9 girls who take at bats, needs to focus ONLY on their at bat. They need to do “their” job. They can’t help anyone else, and they can’t be helped by anyone else.

The phrase “the team was in a slump” is really just an excuse to point the finger and take the blame of themselves when they’ve placed their focus on what others didn’t accomplish instead of keeping it on what they should have accomplished.

I encourage each of you as players, especially those of you Cross Training players who take lessons with me, to really challenge yourselves. Don’t fall into the trap of “the team is in a slump” because that’s not even possible. Challenge yourself to separate your at bats from others, stay focused, watch the release point for the ball and do your job. If the pitcher is doing something unusual then make the adjustment that “you” need to. Don’t use 8 other players lack of focus be an excuse for you to lose yours.

Category : Hitting | Mental advice | Blog
26
Jul

I had a blast yesterday with several of my Cross Training students conducting a Home Run Derby. I start them in the outfield and everytime they hit a home run they back up 10 feet. I love seeing the look in their eye as they see a ball clear the fence. But more importantly I love seeing them make the adjustments that it takes to hit a line drive and they can clearly see it. As much as I’d love to I cannot reproduce that in a cage, so sometimes I have to go to the field and let them light it up. All of the girls did a great job and none of them complained about the extreme heat.

Call me a softie, but I really enjoyed Dairy Queen with all of them afterwards. Yes! Real coaches enjoy chocolate blizzards after a tough workout too.

Category : Hitting | Training | Blog
18
Apr

When students first begin learning to multiply we provide them with a Multiplication Chart. We teach them how to go through the rows and columns and memorize the values of 2 times 3, 2 times 4 etc. The expectation is that they begin memorizing the values, so that as they increase the frequency of going through it, the totals will just roll of their tongues on demand.

In hitting unfortunately we put the bat in their hands, teach them how to swing the bat but we spend very little time explaining that each at bat is a different situation. Then we get frustrated when they take the same swing on any pitch, in any count, in any situation and we can’t generate runs.

I’ve put together a handy situational hitting resource that I call my Hitterplication Chart. Much like a multiplication chart, the concept is that players should review every situation and prepare mentally for what they should do in that situation. I’ve used this with the players that I instruct for several years, but yesterday I watched a game in which a team kept stranding runners that were in scoring position several times. So I thought this might be a good topic to bring to everyone’s attention.

To get you started I want you to imagine the one pitch that is your favorite. The location where you know everytime you get that pitch you destroy the ball. We will call that your pitch. With no runners on and nobody out, with no balls and no strikes you should be looking for “your pitch.” That means you don’t swing just because the pitcher throws a strike. That is useless to you. You want to see “your pitch” because you know you will kill that one. You have 3 strikes to work with so deprive yourself of your chance to swing at “your pitch” unless you have to.

You may need to print the chart multiple times and redo it based on various situations at the bottom of the page. For example … if your team is trailing by 1, you will need to put the ball in play to the right side of the field if runners are in scoring position and just sacrifice yourself with less than 2 outs. But if your team is trailing by 5, you probably don’t want to give up an out just to score 1 run.

If you have any questions, comments be sure to leave them here so that we can all work through this “situational hitting” stuff together.

Category : Hitting | Mental advice | Blog
28
Mar

For those of you that don’t live in/around the state of Georgia. King of the Mountain is a tournament that is held every year in about 12 different locations just to ensure that I have to drive hundreds of miles in 1 day trying to get from location to location to see as many of my players as I can.

So yesterday from sunrise to sunset I got to experience all that is King of the Mountain. I got to see The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Ugly: While you are on your own in the batters box, this game is most certainly a team sport. So the ugliest aspect of the game is definitely a bad attitude. Because the bottom line with a bad attitude is one player saying “I’m upset about something and I want you other 10 players on the team to focus on me, instead of my helping you.” Unfortunately I got see this first hand yesterday.

The Bad: While I don’t expect every at bat to end with a home run, I do expect players to go into the batters box and attack the ball. Yesterday unfortunately I saw a lot of girls that looked like a deer in headlights in the batters box yesterday.

The Good: One of the things that I love about the game, is that there are players out there who do things that you just can’t coach, and they just leave you in awe of what they’ve done. One young lady, KB, is such a player. She came into a game as the pitcher after the starter walked 4 straight batters to start the game off. So the bases were loaded, no outs and 1 run already on the board. She didn’t walk onto the field in dread of the situation, she came onto the field full of energy, took her warmup pitches and then backed off the mound and looked at each player on the field 1 at a time and breathed life into them. It was amazing. She talked them through the situation and left them with …. “It’s a new ball game. It’s zero to zero. Nobody on.” She turned an awful situation around with her attitude. Pitched her way out of the inning by getting 3 outs with nobody else crossing the plate. The players all charged off the field, now pumped up and instead of taking the glory that they wanted to bestow on her she reminded them “zero to zero … lets go win this game.” She wasn’t playing the same game that 99% of the other girls out there play. She was playing the game in her head instead of on the field, and in her head she was winning, not losing.

So as a coach I can share what you shouldn’t do, I can provide advice on what the right things to do are, but what I really want to do is learn how to clone the KB’s of the world. But until that is possible, we’ll all have to just watch in awe together as they demonstrate how the game should really be played and remind us all that it never involves the expensive bats, fancy bags or costly lessons. It’s about attitude and effort, and the girls that can control it, are the ones that win despite the score.

Category : Baserunning | Coaching | Hitting | Mental advice | Blog
22
Mar

Is something that I heard repetitively tonight during my lessons and there are really only 2 answers:

1. Practice – Practice – Practice the right things and let those things become muscle memory. Everyone can look good hitting off of a tee with a net 3 feet away, or in a cage 1 time per week with the ball coming at the same speed, and same location and a net 10 feet away. To feel confident in the game you must do the work daily that convinces you that you will keep your head down. You must do the work daily that convinces you that you will use your lower body. You must do the work daily that convinces you that you will CRUSH the ball and not just hit it. Unfortunately many girls stop practicing on their own, and end up hearing 18 different things from 18 different coaches, parents and when they step in the box they are still thinking about everything, instead of reacting and letting their muscle memory do the job. If they aren’t practicing the things that give them confidence when they step into the game then there is 1 simple answer to that … change what they are practicing and do something different or change instructors. It is just senseless to walk into the box and doubt that you will CRUSH the ball. That is the only reason to practice.

2. See it in your head. I’ve been blessed to talk to a lot of great hitters over the past several years is that they all say that they “visualize” each and every at bat. That means that they close their eyes and see the swing they want to take in their mind, then they step into the box and do it. Perhaps the most vidid was from Dionna Harris who was the leading hitter on the 1996 Gold Medal winning US Olympic Softball team. She described that her pre-game ritual was to sit alone some where with her eyes closed and visual herself walking into her living room at home, turning the tv on and seeing her upcoming game played out in her head. She watched her entire “at bats”, not just the hits. Now that is serious focus and visualization. Unfortunately what I hear from a lot of parents is what their daughter does wrong. When they say “you are rolling your wrists” “you are dropping your shoulder” etc, or the girls say “I’m always lunging” “I’m always pulling away from the ball”, those things plant the seeds of that visual in the girls heads. What the girls need to do is put all of that out of their head, and visualize the swing that they were practicing all week long then open their eyes and do it.

Category : Hitting | Blog
9
Feb

Seriously the best thing that you can do to help improve your hitting in softball is take out some of the old items from your house. But don’t take them to the trash can, take them to an area where you can make a mess without causing problems.

Have a container of milk that has expired? Set it on a batting tee and swing your bat through it.
Have a few left over eggs from that cake you baked? Set them on a batting tee and swing your bat through them.
Have some left over juice bags from that birthday party last week? Stand them on a batting tee and swing your bat through them.
Have some yogurts that taste terrible? Stand them on a batting tee and swing your bat through them.

Besides just being amazingly fun there really is a point to this madness. As I shared in a previous point the goal for really destroying the ball when you are hitting is to increase your bat speed. If you just hit a juice bag “strong” it won’t break. It will go flying a pretty good distance but it won’t explode. Follow all of my tips in the F=M*Ac post and swing until you are faster enough to destroy the pouch on contact. Until you can split the milk container on contact.

But all of those things are just the warmup for the real fun … try the same thing with water balloons. If you swing fast enough the water balloon will explode immediately on contact and will give you immediate feedback on whether you are hitting with speed or with strength.

Not everything you do to improve your hitting in softball has to be the same old drills. You can add fun to your training routine by working things in like this that help improve your swing by giving you immediate feedback.

Category : Hitting | Blog
4
Feb

That almost looks like a physics formula or something. What in the world does it have to do with softball?

It has a lot to do with softball, because it is the formula for FORCE. It says that Force = Mass * Acceleration. Don’t let the “physics” nature of the formula get you rattled. It is a simply multiplication problem. If you increase the Mass and keep the Acceleration the same, then you end up with more Force. If you keep the same Mass but increase the Acceleration you also end up with more force. It is really important to understand those two variables, because what I frequently see happen is that a powerful girl swings a super heavy bat (Big Mass value) and she kills the ball because her strength allows her to swing that bat at a high rate of speed. So little Suzie-Q’s dad says “Suzie-Q” you need to try that girls bat it has a lot more “pop” than yours. So Suzie-Q swings the bat, and due to the fact that she doesn’t have the strength of the girl that owns the bat her Acceleration is dramatically lower. Hence the Force ends up not being close to what she obtained from her own much lighter bat.

So how can we apply this to something positive that can help your batting in softball? It should be obvious. We need to help you improve the speed of the bat before it gets to the ball. That is something that girls of any size or strength can do. There are a couple of easy ways that any girl can increase bat speed and neither really has anything to do with their swing.

1. Quit squeezing the bat so tight – Most girls believe that the tighter they squeeze the bat the harder they will hit it. The problem is that when you are bearing down with your hands on the bat, your entire upper body is then tense. The more tension you have in your upper body, the more it will resist your efforts to swing fast. If you “relax” your upper body by not squeezing the bat so hard, you will reduce the resistance in your body and thus increase the Acceleration of the bat and increase the force with which you attack the softball.

2. Easy for me to say “relax” your upper body, I’m not the one in the championship game with bases loaded and 2 outs, game tied and everyone in the park screaming. Obviously that is hard to do if you depend on your brain to do the relaxing. So my advice is don’t count on your brain. Instead start practicing some techniques with your hands that will allow you to force yourself to stay relaxed when you are at bat. Try wiggling the fingers of your top hand while you are holding the bat. If you do that your upper body will automatically stay relaxed and you will find yourself exploding to the softball instead and hitting it with more speed and thus more force.

3. Realize that if you are thinking about swinging and your upper body is trying to attack the ball by itself your lower body is causing resistance due to gravity. Gravity!!! Yipes enough with the science. When you are standing still all of your weight is on your feet and if they are stationary and your arms go in motion gravity causes a lot of friction between your feet and the ground. That friction is tough to overcome and your back leg muscles will endure a lot of resistance as the top of your body tries to swing but your feet are still stationary. If you begin thinking about, and working on getting your whole body into the attack mode instead of just your arms, they will no longer have to overcome all of that resistance from your lower body. There are lots of phrases that are used “Squish the bug” “Get your hips into it” “rotate” and they all really come down to the same thing … you must get your lower body in motion, in order to maximize the speed of the bat.

Gotta love science, and the fact that Sir. Isaac Newton was obviously a big fastpitch softball fan :)

Category : Hitting | Blog