Teaching Hitting to Youth in 9 Powerful Steps
Teaching hitting to today's youth poses quite a challenge especially due to the over-stimulation inherent in super interactive video games and computer multi-media.
Your job as a coach/instructor is to work 3 times as hard to get the point across. We're going to talk about 9 HOT tips to boosts kids' response to a flesh and blood coach!
Commandment Numero Uno: Slow Motion & Tee Work
You need to explain to kids that tee work isn't just for babies, and all college and professional athletes use them on a daily basis to fine tune their swings.
This tool is the best dollar for dollar when teaching hitting to youth because of the slo mo factor. By this I mean, you have to slow down training for the young kids until they build the right muscle memory of what a good swing feels like, what better device than a tee.
Number 2: Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS Method to Coaching)
Break the ideas you're going to work on by weeks, 1-2 issues maximum, not more than that. Depending on the age group, the younger they are, the more important building FORM will be, so make it simple. Remember, you aren't in business to win all the time...your job as a coach/instructor is to develop these kids to do the right thing...winning games always comes second.
If it takes a few weeks to get a concept, like proper bottom half FORM, so be it, the kids will get more out of that than moving to the next big concept every other day. Keep it simple, hitting a baseball is hard enough.
It's also a good habit to repeat very important concepts over and over, make the kids recite them back to you. Sound like a broken record and don't feel guilty about it, make them say, "We know coach!" Music to my ears=-)
Number 3: Feedback & Praise
Always, always, always give feedback to kids when you're teaching hitting. The older they are the less you have to, BUT it's still a necessity. Because the kids can't see themselves, as an outside observer, you have to give them an "atta boy" or "need fixing" comment.
Also, it's okay to give praise, NOT false praise...if they execute bad FORM, then show them how to do it right. Which brings us to our next important point I hear a lot of coaches failing into...
Number 4: Keeping Calm & Not Showing Frustration
Whenever instructing a youth hitter, never show them you are frustrated in getting a point across to them because they think it's their fault, it's NOT. You have to do a better job of reaching them...
If you're throwing batting practice and they've missed every ball you've thrown up there, then take them back to the tee or regress to whiffle ball work. It's okay to take a step back, some days will run smooth and others will be a train wreck, it's a reality we instructors face.
When you show frustration it sends a false signal to the player they're dumb and slow, that may not be what is intended, but that's how the kid sees it, so restrain.
If you sense yourself getting frustrated, then try to find something, anything, to praise the young player with. The glass is always half full with kids.
Number 5: Relate to Kids' Likes/Dislikes
Teaching Hitting is like playing video games, kids play their video games with both eyes focused on the television screen, so why can't they keep both eyes down on the ball at contact instead of coming up to see where the ball is going and pulling their head?
Find out what your kids like to do, is it
- Video games?
- Other sports?
You can get a lot of hitting concepts over to kids by explaining it in a different way.
Number 6: Change the Scenery
When structuring your practices, use 10 minute or less stations. With young ones you have an ADD/ADHD problem with their attention, so change it up, do different drills, mix in some games, and above all KISS! Which brings us to...
Number 7: Games!!!!!
This is a must ingredient when teaching hitting. Hitting is fun, but can be very frustrating and disappointing at times. By playing fun games you get everyone involved and, like I've said before, you have a bargaining chip if they goof around too much during the work part of practice.
Hitting games like Total Bases and Backward Baseball are very fun and can eat up a lot of time, and the best part...?
The little kiddies learn the value of team work and competition, which is so vital to taking practice to the batters box. You can mix in other games like Last Man Standing, Kickball, and 3 Flies Up to keep things fresh.
I've taught 5 year olds up to 60+ years olds and the one constant is to keep learning the game FUN.
Number 8: Off Limit Drills
Make sure you don't move too fast for the age group you're teaching hitting to. For instance, teaching the Down & Through System to 5-8 year olds...you'd be better off teaching the INTERNET to an ant. It's virtually incomprehensible and extremely inefficient.
The 5-8 age group is better off learning the proper waist down mechanics, learning to curb fear in hitting, and working on their patience at the plate. With 9-13 year olds, you're reinforcing the above and lightly seasoning the Down & Through System. 13 years and up you have free reign, and you should also introduce the use of a wood bat.
Last but NOT least...
Number 9: Homework
Teaching hitting to youth is NOT effective unless you give the kids homework to practice at home. Success comes from quality repetitions, and the sooner they get the concept the sooner you can move on to the next key issue. Your team is only as good asyour weakest link.
But, this does not give coaches/instructors the authority to burn their kids out with 3-6 hour practices 7 days a week even at high levels of play. There's work and then there's overwork.
It's not healthy for young kids to be playing in 170+ games a year, you think that's outrageous?? I know a dad, right now, who has their 12 year old son playing in that many games...what he doesn't know is, in a couple years, his kid will rebel and throw baseball away forever. NOT good.
Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills.com is all about the 80/20. If you follow this key principal (what the majority of this site is based on), then you can shorten your practices, and the kids will get more out of their time with you. I hope you enjoyed this teaching hitting article, it turned out longer than I thought, but every point is crucial to coaching/instructing the youth of today.
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