Daily Archives: March 6, 2008

Practice v. instruction

Just completed the ASA ACE certification test, first level. Passed it too, in case you were wondering. I know I railed a few weeks ago about people being forced to take it, but hey, you do what you gotta do.

It’s pretty simple, mostly common sense. If you’ve been dreading it, don’t. Many of you could probably take the test and pass it without first watching the video. It’s on a par with traffic school — an online program I know well, unfortunately.

There was one question, though, whose answer I disagree with. Actually it’s the phrasing of the question. The point they’re trying to make is instruct/talk less, let the players do more. I agree with that. But what they ask is will players learn more by practicing, or by instruction/talking? Or something to that effect. Their answer is by doing.

That’s not necessarily true. You can practice a long time and with great sincerity on doing things wrong, and become good at being bad. Kids who throw with their elbows below their shoulders get to be pretty good at it, but it’s not a skill that will take you very far. Seems to me that poor throwing mechanics make you easier to cut in tryouts. They usually mean you blow a play at a crucial time.

Before you can practice effectively, you need quality instruction. Otherwise, you’re like most guys driving. When we get lost, we’ll troll around for hours rather than ask for directions. Eventually we get to where we want to go, but sometimes we miss the party.

Great hitting video excerpt on YouTube

One of the problems that seems to come up a lot with hitting is that the folks who are teaching it often make it way over-complicated. They put in a lot of steps, get lost in a lot of minutae, and ultimately leave the hitter more confused than when he/she started.

This video excerpt  on YouTube does a great job of simplifying the concept of what is often called rotational hitting — using the big muscles of the body to rotate the body, and ultimately the bat — into the ball to develop more power. Ken van Bogaert does a great job of explaining why you want to use this technique, how it works, and even provides a little info on some drills to help develop this type of swing.

What’s particularly interesting about it is Ken doesn’t use clips of steroid-enhanced athletes to make his points. You can find those all over the Internet. Instead, he shows young baseball players who are still in the learning phase. While their swings may not be perfect, you can see how over time they will be well ahead of other kids who don’t learn these techniques. After all, it’s one thing to teach the enormously gifted how to swing. It’s another to get the same type of results out of the average kid who’s on your team.

The clip is there to entice you to buy the full video. (Fair disclosure: I was a consultant on the video, although I receive no compensation as a result of it.) It’s worth the investment, especially if you’re struggling to learn all the terms and techniques that Mike Candrea, Sue Enquist, and many others are espousing. Ken keeps it nice and simple.

The players shown are all baseball players, but that’s ok. It’s the same swing. The principles apply just as well to softball. I know. I’ve used them myself for years.

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