Does your athlete hit very well at times and others not so much? Maybe when you are practicing on your own time, he or she does great, but when the game starts, your athlete may not even hit one ball. The most important ways to improve your son’s or daughter’s hitting are both physical and mental. Let’s start with the physical.
1. The first key physically to hitting is balance. The most respected coaches in any sport will concur that balance for controlled movement is paramount. All experts also concur that an athlete must put the feet at twice the shoulder width with the athlete’s weight forward on the balls of the feet.
Once that is accomplished, it is easy to check your athlete’s balance by just putting your hands on the shoulders and gently pushing your athlete back. If the weight remains steadfast, then balance is achieved. Next, position your athlete with his/her weight proportioned, seventy percent over his/her back leg with the back knee inside the back foot. This position is maintained until right before contact with the ball. The final “tell” is that your hitter must maintain balance after each swing.
2. The next physical aspect that needs to be taught is traditionally called the “LOAD” or “trigger”. This is a movement that is initiated by the pitcher starting forward to throw the ball. A hitter must start the swing from breaking inertia with his/her balanced body. It is done by tucking the front of the waist which lowers the front shoulder and pushes the hands back and up away from the back shoulder. This important movement gets the hands ready to swing the bat. The hands must be at the least positioned at the top of the strike zone and behind the back shoulder but still being visible by the pitcher. If the hands go behind the body out of the sight of the pitcher, then your athlete will have to swing with shoulders and arms, which is detrimental.
3. The mental part of hitting is the most crucial in training your athlete. The mindset of hitting is that your athlete is swinging the bat at every pitch. A hitter does not have the time to recognize that the pitch being thrown is a strike or a ball. Therefore, the hitter needs only to make one decision in the blink of an eye. You must teach your hitter that on every pitch the bat is going to be swung. No questions asked, he/she is going to swing the bat at every pitch until the ball’s location tells the hitter to stop the swing. The hitter only has the time to react to stopping the swing. The hitter does not have time to choose when to swing.
This is called YES YES HITTING. No longer does a hitter not swing at a pitch right down the middle, belt high. The decision is, “I am swinging the bat at this pitch until the ball tells me to hold up and take the pitch.” This mental approach allows your hitter to make only one decision in one half of a second.
With these tools, you can help your athlete improve hitting consistency and confidence.
Getting Smarter Every Day,
Your NextLVL Team
P.S. If your child is new to hitting, be on the lookout for our blogpost next week because we will talk about developing your child's hitting next Thursday.