How Hitting Coaches Can Bring Their A+ Game...Be Like Yoda!
Good hitting coaches are everywhere, but great ones are hard to find. Many of these "good" ones claim they've watched hundreds of thousands of feet of video footage, read many books on the subject, and have done plenty of online surfing making world renown surfer Kelly Slater raise an eyebrow.
On the other side of the coin, there's those who claim professional or big league experience, but lack the teaching skills necessary to dumb hitting down, so anyone can follow the instructions to become a successful hitter.
Unfortunately, passion alone does NOT make for great hitting coaches. 3 great hitting instructor musts:
- Do their research (books, DVDs, and other popular media),
- Have taken thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of swings in practice and game situations, and
- Strive for the ultimate stage of enlightenment...be able to teach hitting to a 5 year old!
When you're pulling hitting information from sources (ours included), make sure it passes the gut & noggin test. If your gut is telling you something doesn't seem right AND your brain is having a hard time conceptualizing the information even after reading over it 5-6 times, then scrap the source.
If it makes sense, then it might be worthy of your time.
If it's difficult for a full grown adult to understand, then how can a 5 year wrap their head around it?
The most important piece of information any great hitting coach can pass on is the "why" behind everything swing-speak. Without that, hitting theory has NO legs.
This article is NOT meant to discourage hitting coaches or instructors into thinking they'll never be great, uh uh, hitting can be taught by anybody, to everybody, in an easy to digest step by step program.
In following, we'll go over the 4 main ingredients making up great hitting instructors.
1. Listening & Communication
Listening and communication are the keys to great hitting coaches...from showing up on time to problem solving a player's last At Bat.
Another important aspect is being able to dissect the swing into small digestible parts, so the player can wrap their head and body around it.
Nothing is more frustrating for a 5-year-old player than hearing words like rotation, linear, swing plane, etc. That's what we call hitting geek speak. These words have to be translated into their language, or they'll be spending their fleeting attention at the soccer game nearby, instead of you.
Which brings me to another great coaching point on communication:
When you teach hitting, describe it like you would to a five year old. Now, I'm not saying if the player is 16 years of age, to goo-goo & gaga them, but dumb down the language a bit, so not only the player understands, but the parents too.
To get my five-year-olds to keep their head down and on the point of contact (not pulling their head up in excited anticipation of seeing the batted ball), I ask them how they play their video games? With their head cocked to the side looking out of the side of one eye, like a parrot, or with the attention of both eyes, like a tiger?
If you're a parent who's never played the game before, don't fret, here's myself in your shoes (but with a different scenario)...
I started learning how to swim freestyle recently because I'm going to start racing triathlons. Well, being a land dwelling athlete my whole life, I know how to swim, but it's not a pretty sight. The majority of books on swimming freestyle use swim geek speak, so I needed something that talked in a language I could understand (5-year-old speak). I found a system taught by Terry Laughlin who does a fantastic job of breaking down the seemingly complex efficient freestyle.
Which brings me to coaching point number 2...
2. Making Small Circles
Making small circles means breaking apart a complex movement into tiny easier digestible parts. The baseball swing is complex with lots of working machinery doing different things, often at the same time.
Great hitting coaches know this and should only work on 1 tiny digestible part per week, especially for younger players, until they get proficient at it, then build to the next thing.
Remember, it takes 21 days to create a habit, so progress slow, and have faith that less info is always more.
Think of building muscle memory as an old LP record, the more you listen to the record the deeper the grooves get on the surface...the same thing applies to your brain with learning a new movement, the more you practice a movement, the deeper the grooves become in your central nervous system (brain & spine), and muscles.
Be careful here though, because muscle memory can work for or against you. Practice the right movement over and over or else bad locomotion will stick to your cerebellum, Doctor's orders;-)
3. Investment in Loss
As great hitting coaches, sometimes we must take one step back in order to take two forward. The reward is bigger in the end, we waste less time, and it's okay to fail, as long as we're learning and growing.
I've never heard of high performance athletes saying they've learned so much from winning, 99.9% of the time they learn most from losing or failing. In school, if you get a 3 out of 10 on a test, you fail. Baseball is the only sport that rewards you for failing a majority of the time.
Although, don't be the one who's failing the most;-)
4. Infinity Learning
One of my favorite Ghandi quotes is,
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
I get most of my baseball hitting inspiration, NOT from baseball popular media, but from multi-discipline sources. Here are a few of my indirectly linked baseball sources:
- Fitness training and bio mechanics,
- Soccer, and believe it or not
- Classic literature and other business self help.
Sometimes it comes from a character interaction (mental game) in a book, and other times from extreme endurance athletes...
The list goes on, and is by no means exhaustive. You can find inspiration anywhere, with any subject...take a break sometime to give your mind a rest on baseball, and good things will come to those hitting coaches who are patient.
This article wouldn't be complete without a famous Yoda quote:
"Much to learn you still have."
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