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The season is quickly approaching and our schedule is packed with hitters who are trying to get ready for their upcoming tryout. We are always working on ways to help our hitters get better, and the question for us is how do we, as private instructors, make sure the hitter is fully prepared for everything they may face during the season?
We at Baseball Rebellion are beginning to transition SOME lessons to more of a pre-season preparation phase. Notice I said only “some” lessons are transitioning. The transition to more of a season preparation approach should always be dependent on age and skill level.
The average 10-year old will benefit more from continuing to develop rotational speed within a movement pattern rather than chasing in-game success at their local 10U tournament.
However, it is vital for hitters who have worked hard to improve their approach and movement patterns to test that pattern and ensure they’re ready to perform at the level they desire. Sure a swing may work on a 20-mph front toss, but that is not what they are judged on by their peers. They must be able to hit while in a game environment.
Whether working with professional athletes or an average sixth-grader, they all want the same thing. They want the confidence to take what they have worked on in the cage all offseason, and successfully implement that in the game. Check out one change Mookie Betts has made in his swing over the course of his career:
I want to be clear about one thing during this article. Teaching and instructing the proper movements will always be the primary responsibility of a hitting instructor to the client.
Just because the season is approaching and the lessons are shifting to a season prep phase, doesn’t mean the hitter can ignore movement quality. For example: if a hitter's posture is forward in their turn, their results will be flawed no matter how many constraints thrown at them.
Notice the forward posture of Mookie Bett's Chest during the 2015 season in which he hit .291 with 18 HR's in 597 AB's
The posture change in 2018 led to a .346 BA with 32 HR's in 520 AB's and an AL MVP.
The ability to challenge a hitter in training is key to recognizing flaws in movements or even mentality. It's easy for hitters to feel comfortable and take their best swing against tee work, front toss or even BP. Successful training shouldn't feel comfortable.
As instructors, we must make sure the hitter maintains confidence and aggression while facing velocity whether via pitching machine or live at-bats.
Not only does the way we challenge hitters change during this phase but also the goal of the lesson changes depending on the hitter's needs. This requires a level of openness and honesty between the instructor and the hitter.
For a middle school kid, this may be their first taste of playing on a bigger field. The days of the 220ft bombs are now over and those hits are directly to an outfielder. They must learn to adjust their turn to hit the ball lower and harder to give themselves the best chance for success.
This is an example of a sixth-grader training on a smaller field that he will play travel ball on. His ability to hit drive the ball in the gap is being trained.
On a bigger field the focus shifts from driving the ball to and over the wall, to hitting it lower and in front of the outfielders.
A high schooler on the fringe of making the team with a coach that wants players to hit the ball on the ground has to be aware of that and we as instructors have to be aware of that.
While instructing and researching hitting is our full-time job, at the end of the day, we don’t write the lineup card. This doesn’t mean we abandon a movement progression and mentality to do damage, we simply teach hitters the proper way to hit the ball lower while maintaining their aggression.
This typically involves changing the hitter's vision on the ball as well as the depth of their turn. The turn will be slightly flatter than normal with the intent of hitting higher on the ball.
The video below shows a drill we use with our hitters to achieve swing accuracy and a better understanding of how to successfully hit the ball higher or lower.
Just because private instructors aren’t on the field, doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible for those results. Developing and understanding a plan for each hitter to be successful is what makes the season fun for us.
The teaching doesn’t stop because games are being played. Our job is to teach them, then prepare them.