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What are the five main physical skills in baseball? Hitting for average, hitting for power, speed (baserunning), fielding, throwing. Every single coach and player works on some of these skills each and every practice they attend.
Ask yourself what your practice is missing that’s hurting you as a player or your team as a coach? If everyone practices the same way then how do you know you're getting ahead of your competition? We know what you are missing and we are here to help.
Training more is generally the option most teams and players take in order to gain an advantage over their competition. Because of this, players have to work harder and smarter to earn more playing time. “More” can be defined as spending more time on specific skills or dedicating more repetitions to a specific skill. Sometimes, the player or team chooses both more time and more repetitions to gain an advantage. Because of this, many players end up hurt or tired.
Often, practices can become lazy or lack focus due to the sheer amount of time players are required to practice for. In hitting specifically, when hitters get tired often times their mechanics break down and sub-optimal compensations occur to "survive" the practice instead of "thrive" during practice.
There are many ways you can train skills differently than other teams and players. Traditional training of hitting off tees, front toss/cage work, and then batting practice on the field just isn't enough. This won’t allow you to gain ground on those who are ahead of you as a player or team. Everyone on every team in America is doing these same activities in hitting. Because of this, coaches now are doing different variations to help maximize the training effects of the time spent on hitting in practice. Coaches are using short and long bats to force hitters to ‘figure it out’ on how to get the barrel to the ball. The issue here is simple: the players are STILL JUST HITTING! Trying to improve hitting flaws by hitting more makes little to no sense and in all reality can lead to hitting worse than before.
My son, Bryant, is 6-years-old. Each night, he reads a book to either his mother or myself and sometimes, even to his little brother, Tyson. Typically, his books rely on similar letter combinations to help ingrain certain word patterns and sounds. A common sentence would be: “A dog and a frog are on a log.”
Clearly, the book is trying to get Bryant to practice reading, understanding, and making the sound ‘og’ makes. As time goes on, the books get harder and pair sounds together. “Ben has a hen and a dog and a frog”. In that sentence, the ‘en’ sounds were paired with ‘og’ sounds to help Bryant see and hear the difference.
This is simple deliberate practice of a simple skill set over and over. He's yet to bring home War and Peace (a 1,225-page novel published in 1869) to be read with strobe glasses on and weights on his hands to make turning the pages harder...but hey, it is just the first week.
Math is taught in a similar way. Currently, Bryant is working on adding and subtracting numbers. The class goes over how adding and subtracting works with M&M’s because the students understand physical differences as opposed to abstract numerical differences faster. Seeing 5 M&M’s become 3 M&M’s because you ate 2 is a simple way to work on subtraction.
Understanding the number 5 minus 3 equals 2 on a paper can be hard for some kids in the class at this age. Another way they are working on math is counting by 1’s, 2’s and 3’s. Counting to 9 by threes is 3,6, 9. Counting backward by 2’s to 0 from 10 is 10,188.8.131.52.0. These are strategies the school is using to teach abstract math as opposed to physical math.
Both are practiced deliberately, both are repeated over and over. Again, he hasn’t been required to use a short pencil, then a long pencil, and then pencils with different lead hardnesses for writing proprioception. I think that’s in week 2!
In baseball coaching, many times it is assumed the hitter has a general idea of how to hit. Meaning they have a basic mechanical understanding of HOW to actually hit a ball correctly and with some level of power.
What does this assumption of competence lead to? Mass repetition style practices. “More time or more reps on a skill will make a player better” is the thought.
While this can work sometimes for some players, mostly it just creates a bigger competence gap between the good players and bad ones. The good players practice good movements, the bad players, practice bad movements.
While both sets of players 'can' get better from reps, the ceiling on the bad players' development is very low. Even the good players could be elevated by proper pre-hitting mechanical coaching, but are usually left alone as they are already good.
In school, however, there is no assumption that any student can do anything when they enter school. Kids are assessed for their ability in classroom activities and motor skills. Students are then grouped with kids who they can help or who can help them.
This early education foundational review or teaching of basic skills closes the competence gap and eliminates many problems that would arise without this basic teaching time.
If baseball coaches did the same thing and taught the basics of rotation BEFORE hitting, every player on the team would benefit. This simple time would allow each player to have the foundation to become a more effective hitter at practice.
Hitting is rotating the body and speeding up the bat around the body and directing the bat into a ball. By assessing players' untrained ability to rotate, and then teaching better mechanical patterns for rotation, you are insuring each hitting drill is maximally effective.
Teaching the proper mechanics of rotation would take minutes of practice time, but allow for hyper-effective and efficient hitting practice afterward. Hitting can be something players enjoy and understand as their process of preparing to hit makes rotational sense and works with how the body generates rotational power.
Instead of countless constraints, or drills from twitter, take the time to teach proper rotational technique. It’ll change your career or the career of those you teach in a massive way.