If you can’t keep your mind open, keep it ajar
Had a discussion at the end of the Mundelein Thunder Board meeting last night that is probably worth mentioning. Not so much for the topic itself but for what it brought to mind afterwards.
One of the things all of us coaches have to guard against is getting so caught up in what we teach that we close our minds to anything else. Paul Nyman at SetPro used to talk about this with hitting, and referred to it as adopting a religion. When people gain religious fervor for their beliefs, they tend to close out any contrasting ideas, even if the evidence shows otherwise. There’s a lot of bad information based on old beliefs out in the softball world, so it’s especially dangerous for us.
The topic had to do with bunting. The Thunder as an organization teaches running both hands up the bat and keeping them together to bunt. We went to this several years ago and have been teaching it for a while. The reason we made the switch was A) we were exposed to it at the National Sports Clinics by a college coach and when we tried it it was more successful than the traditional split-hands bunt. We defined success as getting the bunt down reliably in fair territory and in the direction we want it to go. Which is primarily toward the pitcher, and sometimes toward the first baseman.
Mike Hanscom, our 10U coach, doesn’t care for this technique and I think would like to see it change. He learned split hands as a player and believes it is a better technique. At the last National Sports Clinics he reported that all of the coaches demonstrated split hands, and when asked subsequently the ones he questioned said they don’t change it when the player comes in, but would teach it split hands if given a choice. Of course, many of those coaches might also say that they wouldn’t teach the rotational hitting mechanics being espoused by Mike Candrea, Sue Enquist, and Carol Hutchins either, but that’s a story for another day.
What I wonder how many have actually tried the hands together technique and discarded it, and how many are more of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mindset and have determined there is no need to change. They may believe there is no need to look at other techniques, or they may have determined ahead of time that it is not as good as hands together or hands partially separated.
Of course, that cuts both ways. I have to admit to a bit of religion on hands together myself. I see the technique used quite often both at the Womens College World Series and increasingly in baseball. As I mentioned, I’ve seen players use both and have more success with hands together. Like the college coaches, if I get someone new in at the 14U or 16U level who uses split hands I don’t change it — unless they’re having problems. Then I will ask them to try the technique. Most have preferred it once they tried it.
Ultimately, I am not sure that there is An Answer that will settle the question. But it does point out the importance for all of us, me included, to keep our minds open and constantly question what we teach rather than just doing things because that’s the way we’ve always done it. You may wind up right back where you started. But at least you’ll know how you got there.