Off-Season Tee Progression

Written By: John Lampros

Creating an Off Season Tee Work Routine

Using the Tee Effectively to Develop Quality Hitters

The use of the tee in baseball swing development has become quite the conversation piece in the world of #HittingTwitter over the last year or so. Some coaches believe that hitters should not leave the tee until they have an “elite swing pattern.” Others are so anti-tee that they have publicly denounced tee-work as a whole.

As with most things in the development of high-level athletes, I believe in the gray area. The following contains some of the warning signs for bad tee work and processes that I have found work the best in creating a tee routine. We wanted something that helps the player prepare for the ultimate goal: in-game performance!

Pre Tee Work Preparation

Movement Work

I will start out by saying, there is a tremendous amount of bad tee work being done throughout the country. One of the first things I look at when assessing a new hitter is how they approach the tee on their own. One of the worst things to hear from a hitter is “I use the tee to get loose.” If you are using the tee as a warm-up, chances are you are setting yourself up for failure down the road.

Before my hitters jump on a tee, we will typically go through some sort of movement prep activity, using PVC pipes, Rebel's Racks, medicine balls, foam rollers, etc., to prepare for the act of delivering a blow to a baseball.

Game Like Visualization

Don't Hit Just to Hit

The second red flag I see with young hitters is a series of mindless “cardio hacks”. This is where the hitter stares at the tee, while rapidly and repeatedly swinging with no real plan. The last time I checked, we hit a moving target in the game of baseball. 90% of hitters I work with have no concept of visualization when they first walk into my cage.

One of the first steps to setting a solid foundation for tee work is visualizing a pitcher and having a plan on EVERY swing. This creates a tempo and a load process that is more likely to translate to an in-game scenario.

Make it Correlate

One final qualm I have with the use of the tee is the recording of “Tee Exit Velocity”. In my opinion, there is no better way to wreck a game swing than repeatedly test a young hitter’s exit velocity on a tee. Most of the time hitters are over-coiling, losing connection, and trying to hammer the ball into the ground as hard as they can. Which could lead to higher exit velocity, OFF THE TEE ONLY. If you go to a showcase or a camp and all they use for exit velocity is a pocket radar, off a tee, then you are in the wrong place. 

I get it, we can gauge raw strength and all that, but are we really getting a glimpse of the player’s in-game performance and abilities? I think not. 

Give Your Hitters Ownership of their Tee Work Routine

So how do we create tee work that allows a player to efficiently prepare their swing to perform in-game? Enter a constraints-based tee routine, and hitters taking ownership of their swings. One of the things I hear most often from my hitters at the Junior High and High School levels is that their tee stations at practice really have no direction. They are sent to mindlessly take swings off the tee, fill time, and "get loose" for live BP.

I have tasked my hitters with creating a tee routine that will help them get “dialed in” to attack the day.

Allowing hitters to take ownership of their training puts them in a position to be the best version of themselves that they can for the team. As coaches, we are not here to be dictators, but vessels in the development of the athlete.

Parameters For Effective Tee Work

The two things I asked to execute for their routine, were that it needed to be between 40–50 swings, and only the last 5–10 should be their “game swing”.

My hitters have been exposed to dozens of constraint-based drills aimed at focusing on one specific portion of the total package that is a high-level baseball swing. Most of them chose 2–3 of those drills to put into their own routine, and the results have been pretty solid. There are far fewer “tee-killers” and they find barrel far more consistently.

Having the confidence in the swing itself when we move on to hitting a moving target allows us to dive deeper into a situational approach, hunting zones, and other game applications.

 

Tee Work Progression

Below is a basic tee routine that I use to prepare my swing for battle. Again, when working with amateur hitters, it is imperative to allow them to take ownership of their training. Just because this particular set of drills seems to work for me, it may not work for the next guy. The tee featured in these drill videos is a Tanner Tee with a Launch Angle Tee adapter.

LAUNCH POSITION — 10 TO 15 SWINGS

 The goal is to accelerate from a still position.

STEP BACK TO NO-STRIDE/STEP BACK TO LAUNCH — 10 TO 15 SWINGS

The goal is to walk back into a stacked load position and generate acceleration without a secondary load.

SEPARATION — 10 TO 15 SWINGS

The goal is to create separation between stride foot and hands to create a “stretch” that is released through the ball at contact. *This drill is also good for guys that get stuck and collapse on the back-side, in teaching them how to create momentum*

It's Their Career...Not Ours

In closing, I have seen first-hand the ability for a hitter to be transformed into an animal via concise and efficient tee work. I have also seen hitters that hold themselves back due to inefficient tee work.

At the end of the day, ownership and attention to detail are what take hitters to new heights. As coaches, we need to continue to foster ownership and accountability in our players and let them aid in the development progress. After all, it is their career… not ours.

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