Team-supplied lessons

Had an interesting email discussion today with Coach Mike. It revolved around a local team that “supplies” its players with hitting lessons. The basics are that they charge each person in the organization an additional (non-optional) fee, then contract with a hitting instructor to provide lessons to everyone in the organization.

The free market advocate in me tends not to like that arrangement. I think parents should be free to take their kids anywhere they want to get lessons. I doubt as an instructor myself that I would be totally comfortable with an entire program being directed to me either. 

But I can also see the other side. At least this program is sure that its players are receiving regular lessons throughout the year. Assuming the instructor they contract with is qualified (and I have no reason to think otherwise), it could certainly present an advantage. Of course, with any private instruction situation success or failure is 90 percent the player and 10 percent the coach. Still, receiving regular instruction versus sitting around watching TV or texting incessantly ought to produce some results.

I’d be interested in feedback from others as to how common a practice it is for teams or programs to hire out a single instructor on any aspect of the game for the entire program. If you are or have been in that situation, how did you feel? Did you have the option of opting out and working with your own coach, and if so was the fee refunded to you?

The most pressing question to me, though, is if you were in an organization that did that and suddenly they said “here’s that part of the fee back; use it to hire your own private coach” do you think families who didn’t already have a coach seek one out? Or would they just pocket the money and forget about lessons?

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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 September 16, 2009, in Coaching, General Thoughts, Instruction. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’m not sure if you are talking about my team or not but I’ve been doing this for 3 years now. We do a fund raiser to provide the fianaces for the lesson and if the parents/player chose not to do the fund raiser then the money comes out of their pocket. The reason we started doing this was to make sure the players were working in the off season and we also found an instructor that was teaching that same things we were teaching so it helped reinfore our coaching and helped the players/parents work on the right things at home. Over the years the hitters that never progress are the ones getting all of their instruction from baseball playing fathers. Going to a softball hitting specialists has made my team the best team north of the city for our age group several years running now.

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  2. i cannot get parents to take their kid to any instructor even when they admit their child needs more help than the coaches can provide in practice. I had to make it a rule that if your child wants to pitch they have to have private instruction on a weekly basis. I don’t have a problem with it if it is the only way to get the team where it should be. Unfortunately parents around here want the cheap way out not the best way.

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  3. Robert, that’s always an issue. Sometimes it’s money (especially now), sometimes they can’t be bothered, and quite frankly sometimes they just don’t see why they should have to. I think that’s one of the biggest advantages of team-based instruction. It guarantees they’re getting something. It may not be the ideal (although I would hope the team would vet the instructor before signing on) but it’s more than a lot of teams get.

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  4. Sorry Paul, your comment got stopped by the spam filter for some reason. I just saw it now. Your team is certainly one example I had in mind and it has produced results. I was talking to another dad who told me his daughter’s team doesn’t specify who does the lessons, but the first thing they want to know is where you go for hitting, pitching, SQA, etc. If you don’t have one they’ll direct you to it. In many cases if you leave it to the parents alone the lessons probably won’t occur. It’s definitely a strategy to make sure that critical off-season work is happening. Definitely better than dads passing along the bad information they got when they were playing baseball 10-20 years ago. If a new kid comes to the team, hits well, and already has a hitting coach do you let them stay with that coach? Or do they have to change to the team’s coach?

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  5. I have become a huge fan of team supplied lessons. This appears to be the best way to make sure kids are working on it during the off-season. It really hurts a team to have half of their kids going to lessons while the other half doesn’t pick up a bat until April. How are these kids going to get better? Team practices are there to give repetition and allow them to see live pitching. Yes, you try to tweak things here and there, but you just don’t have the time to work with the kids on anything major. I’ve become such a fan of team supplied lessons, that if fundraisers or alternate funding aren’t available, then I’m OK with an organization charging an extra $600 (or whatever the cost – assumed 15 lessons at $40 each here for an example) for registration under the assumption it will be put directly toward private instruction for that specific child. I would hope that giving up that much money would motivate a parent to get them to an instructor to use up the money they paid. I’m torn as to how that money can be spent though – a specific instructor or group of instructors selected by the team, or any instructor selected by the parent/kid. I see value in team selected instructors. As Paul mentioned, they chose one that taught what their team was teaching – similar philosophies. That lets the team coaches reinforce what is being taught to the kid. But then I see the other side of things too. Maybe a kid or the parent disagrees with the philosophy being taught. Go onto any chat board and you will find people arguing about how to hit because there are so many philosophies to hitting. Also, what if the kid doesn’t relate well to the one instructor? I’ve seen many kids shut down and learn nothing because that wasn’t the right instructor for them. Either way the money is spent, private instruction, for travel ball players, is a must.

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  6. Hey Paul. I am curious who you guys use for hitting instruction and what is different about the hitting style from that of baseball swing. All of the clinics that I have gone to run by the HC of the top D1 colleges and US national teams all have taught their players a swing that is pretty much identical to a baseball swing. The concept of a difference between a softball swing and a baseball swing has been vanishing over the years. But given the stated success of your hitters I’d be interested to know what they are doing differently.

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  7. I too would be very interesting in hearing what the difference is between a baseball and softball swing. To me, most girls can’t get away with swinging w/just arms (though that is not a mechanical difference since everyone should do it) and that girls cannot cheat and let their hands drop due to possible rise balls. I don’t see any mechanical difference though. Softball hitters must be ready for many more different pitches, but that too is not a mechanical difference in terms of hitting. Correct me if I’m wrong Paul, I believe the team uses Rachaad Stewart out of Pro-Player in McHenry. He is a former pitcher in the Braves and Orioles minor systems from the mid to late 90s. He made it to the AA level and was minor league player of the year in 95 at the A level. I am unable to find any info on him in regards to his softball experience as Pro-Player and other on-line sources don’t list it – only mention his history from the minors which appears to be pitching oriented (14 AB total). He also does pitching instruction and appears to also be quite successful at that – I see a recent article showing him with a kid signing a letter of intent with Creighton University, another one with Univ of Dayton and yet one more with Univ of Miami, FL. I know where I want to send my son as he gets older. I would be interested in knowing what experiences or training he had to make him a softball hitting specialist and what or how he teaches softball players differently than baseball players. He seems to be very successful at whatever he does, pitching and hitting.

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  8. Guys, there is no difference between a baseball and a softball swing. None. Anyone that tells you different is selling you a bill of goods. None other than Mike Candrea and Sue Enquist have stated as much. Both used to teach a different swing. Now they teach a “baseball” swing. And they will tell anyone who will listen there’s no difference. If you want to see for yourself, check out this thread from the Discuss Fastpitch forum. There are some good clips comparing Albert Pujols to a softball hitter, and some other good information. http://www.discussfastpitch.com/softball-hitting/1815-baseball-vs-softball-hitting.html

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