Least favorite softball hitting drills – Part one
There are a lot of great drills out there to help fastpitch softball hitters learn to hit more effectively. Then there are some that seem to have no purpose at all. They might appear to be a good idea, but in truth they work counter to what you’re probably trying to accomplish. Today I’m going to talk about one of them. Don’t bother looking for part two right away — it’ll happen when it happens.
Anyway, the drill is one I used to use. There are plenty of names for it, but I’m going to refer to it as rapid fire. Essentially, a coach gets down into soft toss position, and then starts tossing balls at the hitter in rapid succession. As soon as one ball is hit the next ball is tossed. Keep doing that for 10 or 15 tosses.
Theoretically, the drill is used to teach hitter to have a quick bat. Yet it’s completely useless for that, because the swing you end up taking has nothing to do with your game swing. All you really wind up doing is swatting madly at the ball in order to keep up. In fact, in my opinion this drill probably does more harm than good because it works against the principles of good hitting.
What is one of the keys to good hitting? It’s timing — recognizing the pitch speed and creating a controlled explosion into the ball. When you’re doing rapid fire soft toss you have no opportunity for timing whatsoever. There’s no load, no stride/weight shift, no connection, no rotation into the ball, no extentions after contact, nothing. You just use your hands and arms. Is it any wonder that players who are forced to do this drill repeatedly end up with wimpy arm swings? If your goal is to get your players to pop up and ground out, this is the drill for you!
Another thing it does is destroy any semblance of a good bat path to the ball. The hands go wherever they have to in order to make contact. Most of the time that’s somewhere other than where the hands should be when swinging. And the worse the coach is at tossing, the worse the bat path will be.
But what about batspeed? Doesn’t it at least help with that? Not really. Batspeed is the culmination of a number of things in the swing. Personally, I think the hands and wrists are one of the least important contributors. So a drill that isolates them isn’t going to do much. Except maybe encourage an early wrist roll.
Bottom line is any drill that sacrifices good hitting mechanics, and the core principles of hitting, for some isolated (and perceived) gain is a bad drill. If you’re using it, drop it from your practice plan. Now. Before you do the kind of damage hitting coaches have to spend weeks to undo.
If you want to develop batspeed, have your hitters learn to use their bodies more effectively. Make sure you understand the kinetic chain of hitting so each body part is firing in order, at the right time. Speed up the pitching machine or have your hitters stand closer while you front toss. Anything but fire ball after ball at them.
As I said, I used to use this drill too. Then I learned better. You can do the same.