Hitting Advice: Overcoming the ‘Rough Year’Date: 7/8/2017
Posted by: John Irwin
Hitting Advice: Overcoming the ‘Rough Year’
Assess your season and re-vamp your training for better results!
Take a look at nearly any baseball game, you will find hitters who line out and others who make soft contact that drops in for a hit. The goal is to make hard contact with the ball, but the hitter is not always rewarded statistically for doing so. Many people look at batting average as the benchmark for how well a season went, but that simply is not fair to the players because it can say more about luck than the actual skill of hitting. Youth baseball seasons often last only 20 to 30 games, which means that batting average can sway 70 points with only 5 hits. Rather than looking to batting average for the answer, here are 5 areas to help judge your season:
1. Hard hit balls: keep track of how many balls were struck well. If you average more than one hard hit line drive per game, that shows you had a pretty good season. Hitting relies a lot on timing and quickness of the swing. Many kids hit great in front toss, but struggle to hit real pitching. If this is the case, I recommend seeing more live throwers and working on drills to create a better swing with more bat speed.
2. Strikeouts (both looking and swinging): I am a big advocate of aggressiveness up at the plate. You can't learn to hit if you aren't swinging at strikes. All hitters need to learn to not swing at bad pitches, and of course hitting good pitches when they are in the strike zone. If a hitter struck out more than once per game, they likely need to work on making more consistent contact. Similar to above, I recommend seeing live pitching more often in practice to help with improving contact. Drills to help shorten the swing and create more contact will help as well.
3. Health: The shoulder and elbow can take a real beating even in a short season. Having some slight discomfort is common, but needs to be addressed via rest and proper training in order to eliminate problems in the future. A healthy diet, J-Band exercises (for the shoulder), mobility work, adding strength through bodyweight exercises and being active in general will help create a more injury-resistant body.
4. Defense: At the youth level, errors are going to happen. Rather than looking solely at errors, I suggest judging your range and ability to make difficult plays. Quick reactions, agility and a strong arm are all required to make plays with greater range. If you struggle with plays that are routine, you likely need to improve in one of those areas. In practice, I recommend long toss to develop arm strength and agility drills to improve quick movement to the ball.
5. Performing in the clutch: Character-building is one of the most important aspects of youth sports. The key here is not necessarily coming up with the big hit to win the game, but rather the mentality in that situation. Were you afraid to fail in that moment, or excited about the chance to succeed? For coaches, instilling confidence in the players rather than threatening them with punishment helps most. For players, trusting you’re ability and simplifying your mindset to "just a game, have fun" should help in this area as well.
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