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Softball Players: Don’t Hit Like a Girl! Hit Like an Athlete!

Written By: JK Whited

In the last few weeks, I have done more Googling, Youtubing, and researching than I have in the last year.  Why? I have been trying to find ONE person in the softball teaching/coaching profession that speaks about hitting as if it were a sport.  A sport that required speed, strength, and coordination.  Just one person that spoke hitting in terms of being ATHLETIC! I think this video sums up basically all the videos that I have found.

For many of you that follow the Baseball Rebellion, this video is of no surprise. Baseball players are subjected to this type of instruction on a daily basis from their youth, high school, college, and other instructors.  The more I looked into it, the softball "way" of teaching hitting is no better, maybe even worse.  Girls all over the world are being taught to be unathletic and static in their swings.  Why?  Well for many of the same reasons that our baseball guys are being taught the same things.  There is also an underlying FALSE BELIEF that girls can not move the same way boys can.  Girl softball players of all ages are often taught in gender-specific ways and literally told that they are unable to produce explosive movements. I will let Chas jump in and tell you a quick story about what one of his online clients ran into with one of her former coaches.

A few of my online clients used to go to a former Team USA  Softball Player for lessons.  This excellent player is limiting her own students by saying that softball girls, "Can't hit that way" when she sees our hitting theory.  She said that "Girls can't turn like that.  They don't have the strength."  (Another funny insight is this coach has a Drive Developer and uses it in lessons but in her 'own way' because she doesn't think girls can move like we teach...)  Now, I have a huge problem with that statement for so many reasons.  Our own female athletic role models are LIMITING our youth softball players.  How is that happening???  Girls may not be as strong as boys in most cases, but every single girl in our program has hit the ball harder almost instantly.  Girls Can Turn This Way.  Girls Can Hit Like Athletes.  Do Not Let Your Daughter Be Limited By Backward Thinking Coaches, No Matter Their Playing Credentials.

Feel Vs. Real - Softball Edition

Former Team USA members Jessica Mendoza and Crystall Bustos are great examples of women with tremendous athletic ability that teach what they feel rather than what is real.

Here is Jessica Mendoza talking about hitting the outside pitch.

What's the magic word in this video?  Hands, hands, and more hands.  Mendoza is a tremendous athlete yet she speaks nothing about moving athletically to hit an outside pitch.  She even goes as far to say, NOT to rotate and keep the hands inside the ball.  Let's quickly break down these pictures.

jessica mendoza roatation

In the picture to the left, Mendoza demonstrates what she doesn't want the hitter to do.  However, during her live swing, you can clearly see her hips are fully open with explosive rotation.  She is a great athlete and swings the bat athletically.  Can she explain this?  Again she can not help but to move this way.

jessica mendoza hands2

In the picture on the left, Mendoza talks about how she wants to keep her hands inside the ball, thus the barrel stays elevated.  Also notice how little rotation she demonstrates at the same time.  I will say that her comment on depth of the pitch and contact location is good, however, she takes every bit of explosiveness out of her swing in TEACHING it. You can clearly see in the other picture that Mendoza keeps her hands connected to her shoulder, gets full rotation, DROPS HER BACK SHOULDER, and the barrel comes from behind the pitch.  Not to mention she is also swinging up!  (Click here to find out more information on avoiding the downward swing path.)  To me, she could be even more athletic and explosive especially in her forward movement.  Jessica Mendoza is at the top of the softball game and has made it as far as she can in her sport.  Why would she change?  The problem is that she teaches what she feels, rather than how she really moves her body.

Here is an image of Crystl Bustos demonstrating pulling the knob and then using ONLY her wrists to make the barrel turn to the ball.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.15.25 PM

Now let's look at her hands' position through this game swing.

bustos swing comp

At what point in her actual game swing does she pull the knob that far with zero barrel movement?  The answer is easy.  She doesn't.  This swing is an explosive movement. You can see tremendous rotation as the pictures progress through the swing with great upper half mechanics.  In the 4th frame, you can even see the barrel blurring behind and around her back shoulder(pointed out with the arrow).  In her demonstration, Bustos brings the knob to the ball which causes the barrel of her bat to slide past her shoulder.  Learn more about deep barrel acceleration here.  The swing continues to rotate with a nice UPWARD path of the barrel.  Factor in her overall body type with her consistent pattern and it's no wonder she has been a softball powerhouse for a long time.  It is clear that Mendoza and Bustos have overcome whatever instruction they have been given in the past.  They are high-level Rotational Athletes and they move as such.  Unfortunately for most young girls out there, they are being held back because of their size, gender, and their own misinformed coaches.  Many girls will never overcome the moves they are taught because they are not athletic enough to overcome their instruction.

Explosive Softball Hitters

Can you see any similar patterns in the videos above?

  • Weight moves to the front side. Check.
  • Pelvis and shoulder separation. Check.
  • Explosive hip and core rotation. Check.
  • Barrel shaping around back shoulder into an upward barrel path. Check.
  • Hands staying with the back shoulder all the way to contact. Check.
  • Back foot off the ground. Check.

All high-level explosive movements, all highly successful softball players.

Final Thought

By no means is this article intended to bash Jessica Mendoza or Crystl Bustos. Both women are great athletes that reached the top of their sport.  We want to shed light on the fact that these women, like their MLB counter parts, play at a high level because their movement patterns are explosive and consistent.  We will never teach our softball hitters to slap hit because we know for a fact that young girls can hit the ball hard no matter their age and or body type.  Power is power.  Every ball that we make contact with can be close to or at our potential as an athlete. That does not mean home runs.  It simply means that if the ball is on the ground, in the air, or anything in between it needs to be hit hard.   Instead of teaching the smaller, faster girls to run and slap, why not get them to have gap to gap power.  Wouldn't you rather have your lead-off hitter on second instead of first?  As for the bigger girls, they have to hit the ball harder and further to have a chance at playing at higher levels.  Let's stop holding them back.  Let's make this insult a thing of the past.

JK Whited - Leader of the Baseball Rebellion

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19 thoughts on "Softball Players: Don’t Hit Like a Girl! Hit Like an Athlete!"

  1. Owen says:

    Amen and amen! I know that when I was coaching softball I taught girls how to swing as athletically as possible (although I’m quite sure I didn’t do as good a job of it as you guys).

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Owen,

      Keep on keeping on! Thanks for reading!

      JK-

  2. Steve says:

    Thanks very much for the softball chalk-talk. This is going to help me tremendously in teaching my female hitters. I do believe, however, that the lefty slap is a great tool in softball, especially for the quicker kids.

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Steve,

      You are very welcome. Speed a lot of times can actually hold back players as well. Young players who are naturally fast often get held back because of their speed. Their coaches/instructors think that speed can not equal power. So they are taught to “slap” the ball around, bunt for hits, put the ball in play and beat it out. Unfortunately for those kids, there comes a day when they can not out run the ball. Works at 8 years old but not 15. So I suppose it is all about when coaches want to set up their girls/guys for success. Teach a kid to be only a slapper now, extremely hard to pick up an explosive swing later. Why not be able to swing with power, then have the ability to drag for a hit or slap when you need it. I would never want the slap hit to be my best option.

      Most women’s softball fields range anywhere from 200 to 250 feet. Slapping the ball around in such a small area of space and finding a hole seems to be extremely difficult. What percentage of players can really be great at that? Every girl would have a better chance of getting on base if the average ball that she makes contact with is at or around her power potential. A powerful swing will provide higher averages. No matter the body type and speed, maximum power is always obtainable.

      JK-

      1. Tracey says:

        Any decent instructor would not teach a kid to slap before hitting for power AND I don’t know what softball fields your girls are playing on but the range is more in the average of 190 to 225 feet. I also disagree that an explosive swing is harder to teach later. It really depends on the kid you are working with, how diligent and motivated they are in their practices, and how receptive they are to want to change habits. You mention that “slapping the ball around in such a small area of space and finding a hole seems to be extremely difficult”. Not if the kid is fast enough. The defense has to make a three part play perfectly. The ball has to be fielded, thrown, and caught without a single hesitation or bobble. If it’s not, their is a runner on base who will more than likely steal the next base. Slap hitting is an offensive strategy used as another weapon against dominant pitching. Speeds in the mid to uppers 60’s from 43 feet are equivalent to what the 10 top hardest throwing starting MLB players are currently throwing 94.5 – 95.9 mph. These guys are professionals and make millions! The information you are putting out there is simply your opinion, which you are entitled to, but it shows that you lack a true understanding of the the strategy of fastpitch softball at higher levels. I agree that slap hitters have to be a triple threat. They cannot simply by one dimensional and slap. To maintain the opinion that someone cannot acquire additional skills as they progress in their career is not only untrue, but is completely limiting an athlete. I played with an All American pitcher who went on to be an Olympian who went home and developed a new pitch over every summer we were off. People can do just about anything they put their minds to unless you tell them they can’t.

        1. Gabe Dimock says:

          Tracey,

          I think we can agree that the topic of slapping was not the main topic of JK’s article. We certainly aren’t saying that slapping shouldn’t be a part of any player’s arsenal. It just shouldn’t be the main focus unless you are in the top 1% of runners. Do you currently work with softball hitters?

          -Gabe Dimock

  3. Warren Mills says:

    Totally agree with the hitting. So glad to see others who won’t limit girls. However, the slapping comment is a little off. The purpose of teaching the slap, in my opinion, should always be to give an athletically fast girl that extra tool in the bag. Think of it this way. Why does the infield in baseball sometimes move in with a runner on third. It’s because it gives them a chance to make a play at home if they can get the ground ball. But why not play that way all the time. Because it cuts down on the number of balls they can catch. Since softball is a much quicker game than baseball, the effectiveness of a “slapper” is multiplied, and must be addressed defensively. So if she can only slap, it’s still a problem, but if she can bunt, slap short, slap long (over the shortened infield) and hit for power, she becomes an unsolvable problem. They can’t be everywhere, even in a small field, and if they have to play close to have a chance at that girl who can get to first in 2.7 or less it makes her power hitting even more effective. So draw them in if you can!

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Warren,

      You know as well as I do that there are only a few girls who are truly ‘FAST’. Like, hit leadoff for a top 15 team fast. If any girl is taught to slap that ISN’T that type of a sprinter, then she’s being limited.

      Our contention is that ‘effectiveness’ of slapping at the youth level is like bunting every time in 10u baseball or teaching Tee-Ballers to hit grounders to take advantage of kids who can’t catch and throw yet.

      Girls athletic differences are much greater than boys, and a dominant girl can change a game at the youth level with slapping. But it’s very unlikely that girl going to be able to do that against girls who are on her level. That’s why we say girls shouldn’t slap generally. There are always outliers to what we say, but the outliers prove the rule.

      There’s something to be said for being good at 4 things, but it’s much better to be GREAT at one thing.

      Mike Trout CAN bunt…but man he’s more valuable with that power.

      Chas–

  4. Maggie Carper says:

    Chas,

    Great article – After a few more months of lessons we can prove to all the doubters that girls can hit like athletes!!!!! I’m all in with the rebellion!

    Maggie Carper

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Maggie,

      Very cool comment. You’re doing great! I’m about to check out your most recent video.

      Never let someone hold you down because they don’t ‘think’ you can do something. We at BR know you can.

      Chas–

  5. Audrey says:

    I interpret what she’s saying differently. I agree with what she is saying bc i’ve coached girls that do what she’s saying you want to avoid. And these hitters I’ve had did not find success when they rotated around so hard or fast with their hands that far behind….they miss the ball or get a weak grounder to left side.

    to me she’s not saying DON’T rotate. she’s saying don’t do this harsh rotate around like you would on an inside/down the middle pitch when your trying to swing and an outside pitch. “Back leg stay with the hands and drive thru the ball”…..theres rotation in that and she’s doing it!

    case in point…look at the upper left freeze frame where she says “don’t do this” she has rotated around too much for an outside pitch which will =weakness. compare that to freeze frame below that on the left when she’s hitting. she has not rotated as much when she actually swings bc if you do the hit will suck! i’ve seen it a million times!!! Look and compare her back knee on those two frames, top left is clearly rotated around more towards the pitcher whereas bottom left is not as much bc its an OUTSIDE pitch.

    Im speaking about the Mendoza videos/pics by the way!

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Audrey,

      I combined your posts, but did not edit any of the words, hope that’s ok!

      Simply put, you have never coached or coached against girls who do what we teach the way we teach it. When you do, you’ll know.

      Also, we’re simply pointing out the un-athletic and inaccurate way that girls are taught over and over. I have numerous clients who have left team USA softball players to find better instruction. I wish coaches who teach ‘hand dominated’ swings luck, as they’re going to need it long term to win.

      Chas–

  6. catfish says:

    Maggie I have a 14 year old daughter who has had this terrable hands first stuff taught to her for a long time, and has been very limited for the amount of core strength she has!!!!!!! Having said that she with BAD mechanics could out hit most of the 14u boys all stars! Also I had 4 of the boys off of the allstar team in the cage with her not a chance of hitting her pitching! The best and biggest kid laughed at the first 3 because they couldn’t hit her, then he got in the cage and told them” ill show you how it is done.” 49 pitches later he finally foulded off a ball, then said now ive got it down. Fast ball in the eyes sent him bailing!!!! Said holy crap, change up away not a chance! Finally after 51 pitches he gave up!!!! Any way back to the point! I new that my daughter had much more in the tank for the power she was not seeing for the strength and athletasism she has! on friday I found chas’ web site. Have spent about 12 ours watching video and reading his blogs. The one that sucked me in was the video of whitney larson from alabama, who my daughter and I tevoed every game she was on, watched it in slow motion over and over again and new that was the swing we wanted. So today at 4pm I began trying to get her close to that swing as I could for chas to break down in video. went from hands first to the decent power ell every one talks about(that cannot be done if you throw the knob at the ball, and not 1 coach could ever solve that issue so I knew it was impossable to be done) in just a little over an hour! still have a ton of work to do with the feet, hips, head, and exstintion of the bat AFTER contact but am happy with improvements we made just by watching the videos, his comments and reading his posts! And wow does he have ALOT of video EVIDENCE, had other things that needed to be done beside softball. Thanks for all of the hard work chas, and cannot wait to see nemo hit in april. Although the rest of indoor season may be a struggle for numbers while we fix 2 years of bad habits. Only thing is my younger 3 girls wont have the bad habits from the gitgo, that my oldest will now have to try to over come.

  7. Frank says:

    A few points. First I agree wholeheartedly and suffer the same frustration as you describe. Point 1) The main reason this stuff is taught is because the main governing body of softball (ASA) sanctions these methods being taught by Team USA and Mike Candrea. So when one tries to argue against these methods you also hear the inevitable ” well they are Olympic coaches/players and NCAA championship coaches/players…what are you?”. So right away there is a perceived credibility gap and again their methods are the “official methods” of the ASA. Point 2) Team USA players as well as other Olympic players and Pro players use slowpitch softball bats meaning 34in/28oz bats at least. They get them from the manufacturer painted with the fast pitch scheme to help sell products. You can get away with a lot of hitting mistakes hitting 65mph pitching with a 28oz bat. In fact I am starting to suspect the same thing in college ball now. Too many off balance flick of the wrist type swings going over the fences now. If these players ever used the proper mechanics as you describe they would have to move the fences back to 250 ft at least…maybe more. So yea, when coaches are being guided by the main sanctioning body of the sport to teach a certain way – it explains a lot IMO.

  8. Tracey says:

    I think you are extremely misinformed as to the point of slap-hitting. It is an offensive strategy, not an insult. I agree with you that hitting mechanics are hitting mechanics and should not differ in the way they are taught to males and females. However, the slap hitters today at higher levels of play can also put the ball over the fence. You should really make a better attempt to understand the game of fastpitch softball prior to making such remarks. All eight Division 1 WCWS teams included slap hitters in their line-ups. I dare say, their knowledge of the game extends beyond yours. Making a comment about not having a slap hitter in softball is as ignorant as me saying you should not have pitchers in baseball like Mariano Rivera who simply come in to close a batter or two. You are showing a complete lack of knowledge for the game. The swings may be the same, but the strategy and way the games are played is different.

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Tracey,

      While I appreciate and agree with your views on the strategic side of softball, I still strongly disagree with the idea of slap hitting and I think you missed the entire purpose of what I wrote.

      I want to empower softball players of all ages and sizes with the knowledge that they don’t have to resort to slapping in order to be a productive part of the team. Just like I want our baseball boys not to be labeled as “the bunter” on their teams. Just because a girl is left handed, fast, or small doesn’t mean that they have to be converted into that type of a hitter. It just means you don’t know how to make her more explosive hitter and more of a power threat in the box. The fences in softball are a joke and if girls where able to get better information then what is currently out there they would have a much higher ceiling. There is no telling how many girls could have been better, had more fun, or even gone to college had some coach not told her that she needed to slap because he/she wanted to win games at 10U. I understand that trying to make a play on a perfectly timed slap is hard to defend and I get the strategical approach. I also know that doubles and especially home runs CAN’T be defended and drive in more runs.

      To say that there is not a time or a place for a strategical way to hit, bunt, hit and run, etc. would be a ridiculous statement for sure. The difference is that I see girls who are not big in size, absolutely smash balls over the fence and that more girls could be doing it. If a girl is coordinated enough at any level to “slap”, she is good enough to learn a better and more powerful way to swing. More girls could be driving the ball in “slapping situations” if more knew how to move their bodies in a better way.

      Thanks for reading!

      JK-

  9. Matt says:

    I think the overall theme translates to many sports. As a “big guy”, I was stuck pitching and playing first base. I did well, but my athletic ability was stunted a bit because I didn’t get to experience other areas. That’s all he’s saying here. If you force a slap strategy on a “fast” youngster, instead of teaching her how to hit (properly) first, you’re skipping out on a huge opportunity. The best thing about power sports: almost anyone can hit for power! So why not teach everyone to hit the ball harder? Smaller athletes can’t get away with the mistakes that larger athletes can. They just can’t physically muscle the ball. But, there have been plenty of decent power hitters that haven’t been “huge” (referring to baseball here).

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Matt,

      Really like your take on this article. You hit the nail on the head. We just want every player baseball or softball to maximize their potential in hitting. Not that the ability to slap or bunt well isn’t a good weapon to have, we believe it just needs to be a sub weapon of a player. Not their only weapon. Thanks for your insight and thanks for reading!

      JK-

  10. Ruth says:

    This is so refreshing. It seems that power hitters have a disadvantage right now in softball recruiting, and it’s a shame. In fact, I know some travel ball organizations that are notoriously biased against bigger, more powerful athletes. Something is wrong with the game when teams have half of their lineups slapping.

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