Top 5 Ways Player’s Get Worse From Team Practice

Written By: JK Whited

Top 5 Ways Players Get Worse from Team Practice

The way team hitting / batting practice is organized, and the culture that is created during practice can be either very helpful or damaging to your baseball/softball player's ability to take quality swings and not feel afraid to take them.

Here are just a handful of situations or batting routines that might be happening to your player at practice and if you are a coach, let's take some time to perhaps rethink how your baseball/softball team's hitting time is being used.

5. Not Hitting

Not Hitting At Practice

Yes, this does happen! Before I get too critical on coaches and their practice plans here, it should be said that I love defense. I was a catcher my whole career and love making defensive plays and stopping runs from scoring.  It's crucial for the outfield and infield to be able to communicate and work well together, but do we really need to skip hitting so that there can be three hours of bunt coverage? Especially on a play that gets ran once a year! Every baseball and softball player in the lineup will get at least two at-bats in a game. The one secret play, that never works, is not worth the time. Do the math, get some swings in.

PRACTICE SOLUTION

If you have to have entire practices dedicated to defense, just be sure to do the same for hitting. Even if a player has what might be considered a "bad swing," at least they can develop timing with their bad swing and have more of a chance for success

4.  Throwing Bad BP or Front Toss

bad bp or front toss

One of the more frustrating things for us to see is a player that has a good swing but gets worse because his coach can't throw front toss or batting practice.

It is even more frustrating when the coach who just bounced five balls in a row gets mad at the hitter for not swinging.

Most young players are afraid of their coaches already and don't want to"talk back."  So what happens?  The player will undoubtedly start taking awful swings at awful pitches just to appease the coach and ruin his own practice time. Every time the coach throws a bad pitch, the player should take, which can even be used to the hitter and coaches benefit.

If the coach continues to throw poorly, the player should then be allowed to go work off the tee or go through dry swings where they can practice good movements.

PRACTICE SOLUTION

Coaches should practice throwing strikes overhand and front toss. Before any us at Baseball Rebellion became a full-time instructor, we had to become great at front toss and BP. Not to say we don't make mistakes, but baseball and softball hitters, especially ones learning new movements, have to have a certain level of consistency with each pitch so they can focus more on their swing. If one of your responsibilities as a coach is to front toss or throw batting practice, you need to be somewhat good at it, or you will only make your team worse.

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3. Batting / Pitching Machines

If you are not currently an in-person or online client of the Baseball Rebellion, it's challenging to visualize practicing a baseball/softball swing without hitting a ball. All of our clients know how to train at home with no bat, no ball, and have huge gains in their swing. Taking your team or player to a batting cage or even bringing in a "portable" batting machine to practice seems like a good idea in theory.

The problem with machines and creating a good swing occurs in the timing of the pitch, especially if your swing has a good loading phase. Since most pitching machines have zero to very little pre-release action, the hitter can struggle at getting started, therefore throwing off their entire swing pattern. This is especially difficult for baseball and softball hitters who have just started to learn this type of movement.

Bad Baseball / Softball batting or pitching machine

There are many different types of pitching/batting machines out there, and some are better than others. Any machine that shoots the ball out without any warning is one to watch out for. These can be extremely frustrating to a hitter with movement. The ball will suddenly appear which gives it the perception as fast, but the speed of the ball is normal to slow, causing the hitter to suddenly jump forward but then realize they are super early getting their front foot down.

Unless you are very in-tuned with your body and timing, there is very little hope for consistent or powerful contact. No baseball or softball player out there wants to look bad in front of his teammates and coaches, so they will begin to strip away movement from their swing. Ultimately the once good swing is now sliced down to a panic-induced wrist snap. Months of training and money has been wasted.

PRACTICE SOLUTION

This is a tough one because I do understand the need to take swings with a moving ball and as mentioned earlier, and good throwers can be hard to come by. For players, if you can't work on good timing with a negative to positive move forward, then my advice would be to start with your front foot already down. If your mechanics are already good, you can still work on lots of other parts of the swing like hip rotation, front and back leg action, and barrel path, just to name a few.

However, if the hitter's mechanics are already bad, I am afraid these types of machines can only cause more frustration and negativity.

2. Situational Batting Practice

A lot like bunt coverage practice, there is a definite time and place for situation hitting practice. But often baseball and softball teams spend countless hours of hitting/batting practice time on nothing but hit-and-runs, slashes, bunting, two-strike approaches, etc. Again these are times that may only happen one or two times a game, hence the name situational.

STOP slash bunting in Baseball or Softball

Now if you are dedicating the opening round of batting practice to a few bunts and one or two hit-and-runs, that is one thing, but making entire rounds dedicated to hitting the ball backside on the ground can be detrimental to a good swing.

In rounds like those, the hitter is forced by the demands of the coach to hit every pitch, even inside pitches, to the backside of the field. Again, the hitter, being afraid to disappoint the coach, will adopt a weak backside mentality, creating a slower delayed turn of the barrel to flick the ball that way. Then when the game comes around, the coach wonders why his team can't drive the ball. The "backside approach" round can work for very specific cases of timing issues but usually not for the whole team. These types of rounds will create mental and physical issues in most baseball and softball hitters that could take a long time to overcome.

PRACTICE SOLUTION

Immediately after a brief situational round, allow your hitters to "let it fly." Get them ready to do what they will most likely have to do in the game, Hit! I think a lot of coaches out there would be surprised in the performance of their hitters if they introduced more power rounds in their practice or even dedicated one to a home run round. Not only would the players have ready their aggressive mindsets, but they would also have a lot more fun knowing they have the freedom to go for it. Less fear and more aggressive hitters should be what any baseball or softball coach should strive for. Don't be afraid to see how a player can develop over time with this kind of practice. The baseball and softball players that we work with everyday start to learn how to hit doubles on purpose and their mishits become hard singles.  As a hitter, it feels great knowing you can make mistakes and still get on base.

1.  Quick Pitching the Hitter

I chose this topic as number one because it seems to be what all of my clients have in common. We spend months before the season getting their swings to be powerful and consistent. During this process, they are allowed to move freely through the entire swing then reset before the next pitch. In this resetting time, they have they can regain their composure, think about and make adjustments, and then take another good swing. 

Coaches have to remember that practice time is the hitter's time to get better and not their time to see how many swings they can take in two minutes. Too many of our hitters will see us during the season, after months of training, and all of a sudden they have a shorter yet weaker swings with no finish.

Before they even get their shoulders fully rotated, they are slowing down and hopping back into their stances. They cut out their rhythm, their forward motion, and their finish to get ready for the next pitch. Time and time again they fall victim to the "practice culture" in baseball and softball.

When they finally do take a full and aggressive swing at practice, the coach will already be throwing the next pitch before the player has a chance to reset. So when the player decides not to swing because they are not ready, they get yelled at.

Now fear has been installed in the young player, and they cut down their swing to make the coach happy. This happens every day for some kids, and all of us here at Baseball Rebellion have to work on getting them back to where they were two months ago.

PRACTICE SOLUTION

Take less, but better swings. The old saying goes "quality over quantity," and nothing could be more true for baseball and softball swings and practice.

With every quick restart with zero time to think, your hitters are getting worse. If you have a limited time for hitting at practice, then use the time wisely. Cut each round down by three or four swings and let the hitters focus on their swing and training, whatever it might be. If you're a player with this issue, don't be afraid to let a pitch go by from time to time or ask the coach to slow down.

All players should be able to speak to their coaches and ask for time. It is the player's practice after all.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, I understand how difficult it is to be a coach at any level. Every level of baseball and softball has its obstacles to hurdle when it comes to practice. Things like field time, coaching assistance, even balls can be hard to come by.

I don't want this article to bash on all coaches, everywhere, who try hard to do it right. But trying hard and not knowing, are two different things. We have tons of FREE articles on here that can help you become a better coach. If more coaches took the time to improve upon some of this issue, everybody and the sports of baseball and softball would benefit.

Lastly, if one of your parents is taking a player on your team to see a professional instructor, please respect their choice to outsource their information and invest their money. Let their players focus on his or her specific goals and work on their swing regardless if you think it's right.

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22 thoughts on "Top 5 Ways Player’s Get Worse From Team Practice"

  1. Dutch Rebel says:

    I want to thank you for taking the time to write another article full of valuable information. I really don’t know where I would be right now, if I hadn’t found The Baseball Rebellion.

    I am currently using the wisdom you guys put out to literally transform my swing. The problem is, I feel everything my coaches teach goes against what I know is the right way. This is really frustrating. I am thinking about stopping from going to team practice until my swing reaches the level of a true rebel. But this would probably mean that I will be benched during games, so it’s a bit of a dilemma.

    What do you think JK, should I continue going to team practice and games for experience, or take a break from all the chaos and focus solely on improving my movements?

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Dutch,

      Well this is a very interesting question and I completely understand your concerns. There are a lot of variables that would factor in such decisions as not even going to team practice. It would be a very difficult question for me to answer in this kind of format having never met you and since I don’t have any feel for your personal situation. It’s one thing if you were 10 years old and didn’t like your coach but you seem older than that.

      I would really like to help you the best that I could. Give us a call sometime next week so that I might have a chance to wrap my head around your situation and we can discuss your options.

      JK Whited

  2. Ryan says:

    Again, another excellent article at the BR! This article and your website in general should be required reading for all coaches. Just yesterday at my kids youth 10-12 y.o.pre-game warmup the coach was throwing soft-toss like he was getting paid a dollar for every ball he tossed. My son was out of breath when he finished! That session of pre-game soft-toss had absolutely zero redeeming value as far as true hitting fundamentals are concerned and as you correctly stated probably does more harm than good. It’s very frustrating as a parent who invests time and money for the player to learn correct movements only to have it stripped away by poor coaching…Thank you to all at BR for the informative articles. Keep’em comin’!!

    -Ryan

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Ryan,

      Thanks for reading!

      JK Whited

  3. Glen Noto says:

    You make great points in this article. Can you suggest an efficient model for Team BP?

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Glen,

      Great question. My thoughts on a model for team BP would really be determined by the age, talent level, and the facilities that I have at my disposal. There are also things like how many coaches/parents I might have working with me at practice.

      Typically speaking for youth levels of baseball, I would put a high priority on movement(swing) improvement and helping them learn certain things are okay that most coaches don’t like. Things like this might be swinging up, gaining ground forward, trying to hit the ball out of the infield are just a few. My mindset is a better practice culture that is free of fear and full of improvement with the correct information. Regardless of how it is set up, the culture can still be extremely positive in nature.

      If you would like me to be more specific, please don’t hesitate to call me at our office number or check out our Coach’s Clinic available online.

      JK Whited

  4. Rob Bolduc says:

    JK,

    Awesome and timely article! Couple questions. What are your thoughts on underhand front toss for baseball hitters compared to overhand BP? I have had several people criticize that I do a TON of underhand front toss with both my son (who works with Chas online as well as you and Gabe when we are in the area) and the various teams I coach. I hear “that isn’t the angle or velocity the pitch will come to the batter at in a game” etc etc. That said, for the reasons you state in the article, I am much more consistent in the zone underhand front toss than overhand. In fact, I would say this is generally true with most coaches. Plus, it really allows my son and my team to focus on the various aspects of the swing we are concentrating on that day. Am I missing the boat and doing too much underhand front toss to the demise of my hitters?

    Second quesion regards your thoughts on “varied timing drills” or “varied reaction drills”. I am sure you are aware of what these are but I have never seen anyone during my onsite visits at the Rebellion using them so I am not sure on your perspective. If you are unfamiliar, these are drills where the coach sets up a home plate at, let’s say, 25 feet, 30 feet, 35 feet, and 40 feet. The coach will employ either underhand front toss or overhand BP and the player will move back and forth between the various home plate locations during the session. Obviously, this messes with the hitters timing and attempts to mimic offspeed and fastball pitches in a controlled setting, forcing the player to “wait” on his timing for the balls at the further locations and “speed’ up the swing for those at the nearer locations. As a coach, I am always looking for ways to mimic what a hitter will actually experience in a game and no question Pitchers disrupting hitters timing is at or near the top of the list. Conceptually, this seems like a really smart drill to help the hitter with their timing. Is it?

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Rob,

      Great question regarding underhand front toss and over hand BP. We do both here at the Rebellion. Mostly at the beginning we stay with underhand so that we can stay mostly consistent in the middle of the zone to allow “new hitters” to focus on their swings without the worry of a varying pitch location. What people forget about underhand front toss is that if thrown correctly, the ball will still peak and then come back down through the strike zone. In person we make sure that we can accurately make this happen over and over again to mimic a real pitch as much as we can. If the coach is too close or too far away or has no feel for how to flip then the hitter will not get an accurate pitch angle representation. Quality underhand is vital for any age of hitter who is learning to move differently. As the quality of the swing goes up, the coach can then move the strikes around or even mix in bad pitches(I like doing that a lot). Then we like to move to overhand once the hitter had a grasp on movement quality, timing, and adjustability.

      I like the sound of that drill. Just be sure the ball flight moves with the distance changes of the hitter. Otherwise you will throw off their visual component of the pitch. Thanks for reading!!

      JK Whited

      1. Chas Pippitt says:

        Rob/JK,

        A better way to do the drill (in my opinion) is to slightly move the thrower while the hitter isn’t paying attention.

        having him/her move plates is too obvious. Sometimes my screen is a foot back, and then i’ll move the bucket another 6 to 9 inches back as well.

        This varies the pitch distance. Also, a good tosser can easily throw changeups or vary his/her pitch speeds with some practice

        Chas–

  5. andrew sliwkowski says:

    JK,
    Great article!
    I was wondering if you might recommend a solution when batters receive 50+ mph during a game? Soft toss (etc) doesn’t quite reproduce the timing and the (worry whether the pitch might hit him) and the sting resulting in off center hit. My son had a good question during the videos of players on site – do the BR pitchers pitch to the BR hitters with BR catchers…. and from what we can see the pitch is underhand, and what speed is generally thrown?
    Thanks in advance!
    fyi: my son hit his 1st home run 220 feet (with BR RR, BDB) and watching BR videos 🙂

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Andrew,

      Great to hear about your son’s recent success! Hope he is having a lot of fun.

      When it comes to reproducing a “game like” feel then that is where coaches should train to throw harder strikes to smaller kids, or teams should inter-squad more at practice. Timing in a game against pitchers that throw harder is just a matter of adjusting when the hitter starts their move forward. If the pitcher throws harder, start to move sooner. Bad contact that stings could be a number of things wrong with the swing or the player could be early too often. Again that is just a timing adjustment.

      We actually have had older BR pitchers throw to older BR hitters in our cages before. Besides that, we don’t normally have that happen. I think there might be some injury liability issues when it comes to hitters taking live hacks inside vs pitchers. Too many things could go wrong, especially with the little guys.

      JK Whited

  6. Steve Black says:

    JK – I couldn’t agree more – my practice plan revolves around three (3) things – Throwing Receiving; and Hitting –
    throwing workouts not just tossing the ball around and loosening up – if we can’t throw we can’t play.
    Receiving: Deep flys in the outfield 380 – 400 ft; and progressive grounders in the infield –
    HITTING. I have them do Rack drills for stride and turn; then heavy ball tosses; T-Work and then to front toss (Front toss only so almost every pitch is good – and it is quick – we go through that 2 – 3 times for each group of players then rotate.

    For team defense – I sometimes I play 21 outs – I have 4 runners and I just hit infield/outfield with runners and get the outs/tally up scores.

    the #4 on your list (I think Bad News bears gif video) just cracked me up – so funny I’m laughing again.

    Hi to all, The Rebellion is the best there is.

    steve

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Steve ,

      Can’t thank you enough for the kind words. Really like how you broke down practice. Sounds like an efficient practice schedule. Keep up the good work!

      JK Whited

  7. Sue DeWitt says:

    I am wondering about overhand pitching to softball players for hitting practice. Should this NOT be done because the release point is different between overhand and under hand pitching? Could this effect hitting because they are learning to hit from an overhand release?

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Sue,

      Thanks for your question and it’s an interesting one I’ve never really considered. After thinking about it I’m not sure that’s a great idea, UNLESS you are trying to get a particular hitter to swing up more. Visuals change everything so I would have players who constantly swing down to try and swing up to some self-toss or more of a men’s league slow pitch arc. For most players who already have a nice upward barrel path then I don’t really see the benefit.

      -JK Whited

  8. Bat Drag says:

    I have no bat drag off a tee, with the tee in the correct position, but when i transition to any kind of soft/front toss or live pitching, my bat drag comes back. Why does this happen?

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Good question. Honestly I think it comes back because a live moving ball requires timing. So the elbow shoots forward to delay the barrel speed and then snaps it around when it’s time to hit the ball. Try thinking about creating the snapping or accelerating of the barrel behind you more but let the pitch get closer to you before you “GO”.

      JK Whited

  9. Bat Drag says:

    Would you mind clarifying what you mean by snapping or accelerating of the barrel behind you? Thanks!

  10. Bat Drag says:

    Thank you for the help! My bat drag is fixed!

  11. Karr Fager says:

    Excellent! I actually agreed with almost everything you said. I have been preaching a lot of this for years, and most coaches don’t seem to get it. I know the exact situation you talk about when we spend 2 and a half hours of our 3 three of practice on bunt coverage. Without going into detail, I have also dealt with situations including bad BP pitching, not hitting, and situational batting practice. The one that drives me nuts is quick pitching the hitter. I absolutely cannot stand it. Here are my full thoughts on that: http://baseballhideout.com/should-i-do-drills-rapidly-or-take-my-time/

  12. Gary Longest says:

    I disagree with your stance on pitching machines at the elementally through high school levels. Batting T’s, soft toss and front toss all are beneficial in developing a good stroke. However, none of them prepare the player how to hit pitches that are 20/30 mph faster than they ever see in practice. Our response to your alternatives to a pitching machine: we do not have enough enough pitchers to have serious inter squad practice games. At the high school level, where do we find coaches/ parents, friends who can throw 75+ mph pitches to 15 players in a 2 hour session? We have a very good pitching machine and here is our format: We use a large batting cage enclosing our pitching machine and an assistant coach. The speed is set at 70 mph and we work up as the competition rises. The distance is 50 feet. The coach shows the batter the ball and says “load”and lays the ball in the machine. The batter lays down 3 bunts and takes 8 swings ( with 10 seconds between pitches ). We incourage hitting the ball right up the middle. Each batter gets 3 rounds per day ( 6 hunts and 24 swings ) . If nothing else, our players are not overwhelmed by a serious fastball. We also think it will help develop quick, short swings. We also practice curves/sliders. In our 8-10 age leagues, alll teams use the same 1 wheel machines for practices and games. There are no walks. The games are brisk and a typical 6 inning score is 9-6. We do not start using pitchers until age 11 and yes, we have top notch, high school, college and even major league pitchers…..all with very few injuries. I was glad to not read that you oppose a pitching machine because batters can’t see it coming out of the pitchers hand……..as if you do when using a T, soft toss or front toss. Thanks for listening.

    1. Admin says:

      Great comment Gary! We use a Spinball 3 wheel machine much more in our lessons now than we used to. The main thing we should have stressed is allowing the load process to happen when using a machine. It sounds like you do that well, so that matches the way we use the machines. Preparing for velocity is extremely important to hitting in games.

      Chas–

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