Expert, textpert, keep it simple

For the past few days I’ve been e-mailing back and forth with Ken Van Bogaert, a hitting guru of some note. He has produced some of the best hitting videoson the market. More importantly, he is not content to stand pat with what he knew, and is always seeking to improve the programs. We were talking about a couple of finer points of hitting, things we have discovered produce results. I’ll get to some of that in a later post. But as we e-mailed, the discussion turned to many of the online experts and the maxim of KISS — keep it simple, stupid.

It is amazing to me how complicated some people make hitting, pitching, and other athletic movements. They get all caught up in the most minute details, pointing out every little movement they see (or think they see) made by top-level players. For the sake of this post we’ll refer to hitting since that’s what Ken and I discussed, but it applies elsewhere as well.

What you see a lot of is scientific or pseudo-scientific jargon that I suppose is meant to make the person saying or typing it sound smarter than everyone else. I suppose if you’re doing a scientific treatment breaking down all the elements of hitting it makes sense. But if your purpose is to learn how to teach someone how to hit, it’s very possible that all that extraneous information will just get in the way.

One of my favorites is the focus on “scapula loading.” It is often touted as an essential element of having a high-level swing. I find that amusing. I’ve taught a lot of hitters to be successful (within their willingness to work hard) and have never once used the term or concerned myself with scapula loading. To be honest, every time I try to think it through I have to look up where the scapula even is.

Hitters, especially youth players, have enough trouble just grasping the basic concepts of what you want them to do. The more complex you make it, the more difficult you make it to achieve the results you want. Ken and I agree that there are certain basic things you teach, and there are a whole lot of other things that just happen as a result of doing those basic things correctly and enthusiastically.

I use a basic three-step instruction to teach hitting: step-turn-swing. Those are the most core elements to a good swing. Do them in the right order and you’ll be well on your way to success. Within each of those steps there are other instructions, of course. For example, just prior to taking the step it helps to make a negative movement backwards. Once a student has the core ideas down, we add the negative movement in there as an enhancement. If I understand correctly, that’s when scapula loading would occur. But if they make a good negative movement — one that is designed to help them move into rotation faster and more powerfully — they’re going to load the scapula as a result of trying to make a quicker, more powerful movement.

Coaches who really want to help their players improve should make an effort to separate the necessary from the superfluous. The further you get from the concept of swinging the bat in a manner that allows it to make hard contact with the ball — and in language that simple — the more difficult you make it for your players to execute the skill under pressure.

In his book The Science of Hitting, Ted Williams provided a very practical method of talking about hitting. He didn’t get caught up in a lot of biological jargon or equations. He simply said “make these movements.” And Ted knew as much about hitting, even back then, as anyone ever has. We would all be wise to learn from his example, and keep it simple.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on October 24, 2007, in Coaching, General Thoughts, Hitting. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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