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Recently I had a Baseball Rebellion client come in as he does every week for his hitting lesson. His dad asked me a great question that I am sure many of you parents or coaches have had before. "how should my baseball/softball player get ready to hit right before a game?" Normally this is a very easy question to answer, but with the scheduling of travel ball tournaments, the 8 a.m. game start times, and usually sub-par facilities at baseball/softball fields, you can see where it might get difficult, to do an easy thing. So I started thinking about a few different scenarios that parents/coaches might come across where they may not know what to do before games. I'm sure there are many more so I will be happy to answer your questions in the comment section below.
We've all been there before. The 8 a.m. game at a field an hour away. Up at 6:30 and at the field at 7:40 leaving most coaches and players with nothing to do but wait for the rest of the team and then play. With the 20 minutes that you do have, let's break down Baseball Rebellion's ideal hitting routine to the minute.
This can be a number of exercises/drills, but anybody who has been a part of the Baseball Rebellion knows how to activate the "hitting muscles". Whether using the Rebel's Rack and/or Drive Developer Bands, or some Core/Trunk activation. This should also include some light running to stimulate the blood flow to the lower half.
This particular part of the preparation should be focused on getting your body and mind synced up and in rhythm with the swing. Focus on moving forward well and executing a full rotation of the body. You won't have time to get into many particulars of the swing, but you should have a more macro focus on what's going on. For instance, making sure stride distance is maximized.
Now a lot will depend on the facilities at this point. In almost every scenario hitting a little bit would be best, but we know sometimes that it is not possible.
If there is a cage then the next 10 minutes should be used hitting moving balls if possible. The hitter should focus on fully moving the body forward and getting the foot down late. If there is any chance you know the pitcher at this point, you can try to create the most accurate timing that you can (especially when to start your swing). If the pitcher that day throws harder than average then a coach can put a little more on the BP pitch in order to recreate a game-like experience. Rounds should be short and high intensity, especially towards the end.
If there is not a place for hitting to be done and you don't have time to set up a net of some sort, then there are other options as well. Baseball and softball hitters can use medicine ball throwing as a substitute for hitting. This can really get the blood flowing and ensure that the hitter is staying with their technique. Also, dry swings (done the right way) can be a good substitute. Outside taking batting practice, nothing is quite as good, but these other options will make the best of what you can do in such a short amount of time with limited facilities.
This situation will be familiar when you have those doubleheaders that are 2 hours apart. No time to go back home and rest, so you have to stay at the field and wait for your next game. Unfortunately, at this park, there are zero places to hit and nothing but time to burn. After a quick bite to eat and rehydrating, go work on your swing and/or make any necessary hitting adjustments from game 1.
One great piece of training equipment that we use at the Baseball Rebellion is a dowel rod. Dowel rods are super handy when you can't hit and don't have a medicine ball. You can see me using one in the GIF above. They are very easy to put into a players bag and can be used in a variety of ways to improve the baseball / softball swing. If there are identifiable issues in the swing such as, stride length too short, incomplete hip/shoulder rotation, or the swing path was flat or down, then you can make some minor adjustments to be better for the next game. I know no one can fix everything in one hour of dry work, but certain things can be improved enough to make a difference, especially with the right mindset.
Mindset and swing intentions can be one of the easiest things to improve, even with limited time between games. If it is clear that you or your player was not aggressive in the first game, just assure them that being aggressive is the best way to hit, and there is no reason to fear failure (striking out). With some good movement work and a change in attitude, any baseball or softball player can really turn a tournament around quickly. Try to refrain from things that might put added pressure or more fear into players, as that will not solve anything, especially long term. Once an adjustment has been identified, run through some simple footwork, drills, or dry swings that will improve/make the adjustment i.e. full turns with a dowel rod or Rebel's Rack.
If your player is having trouble with off-speed pitches, work on adjustability with audible cues. This would require the coach/dad to get the player to either go through their movements as if the pitch were a well-timed fastball, then have to adjust their timing with an audible cue. This is not as good as the visual cue from a ball, but can still train the reaction you want out of the body.
For those of us lucky enough to play baseball or softball past high school, we know that as you get older, the preparation time before games only gets longer. In college, we would show up to the field about 3 hours before the game and in professional ball, I know sometimes those guys are there even earlier. Nice facilities make swing preparation so much easier. So if you find yourself at a tournament having the 4 p.m. game, don't be afraid to show up an hour or so early to get your body and mind prepared to have a good game.
In the end, every baseball/softball player is different and needs to figure out what gets them both physically and mentally ready before games. For some hitters, it could just be as easy as a 10-minute tee session and they are good for the day, while other hitters may need a more structured plan. I know that preparation before games can be tough for most coaches and parents at the youth level. I hope that this might help organize your thoughts on how to get your player's A+ swing ready and perhaps make some quick adjustments between games. If you have a specific issue like these, please leave a question below and I will be happy to help you out. Thanks for reading!