Fastpitch hitting: sometimes you just have to say huh?

Last night I was doing a hitting tune-up with one of my students. She’d been hitting the ball pretty well, but over the weekend she struggled a little bit. She told me her coaches told her she was dropping her back shoulder and her hands.

I just sort of rolled my eyes because usually when people say that they don’t know what they’re looking at. But then, before she stepped up to the tee I discovered the cause of the problem. She quietly said to herself “Hands to the ball.”

“Where did you get that?” I asked. “Did those knuckleheads tell you that?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“Ok then riddle me this,” I said. “If you take your hands to the ball, what are you going to do?”

She thought for about a second, went through the motion of doing it and the lightbulb came on.

“I’m going to drop my hands,” she said.

And there you have it. Her coaches were telling her to do the exact thing they were saying was a problem. It’s no wonder so many players have trouble hitting.

This is why you have to be careful about what you say as a coach. It also helps to actually know what you’re doing instead of repeating the same bad advice that limited your own playing career.

Most importantly, when you’re instructing a skill, listen to what you’re saying. You just may find what you’re saying, and the result you’re trying to achieve, are at odds with each other.

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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 June 20, 2012, in Coaching, Hitting. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ken,I’ll admit it, I’ve said those words too. I must admit, I don’t see why that would cause you to “drop your hands”. Could you give me some insight? I see it more as a direct path to the “inside” of the ball (obviously you don’t really want to take your hands to the ball – ouch).

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  2. Hi Lee, probably the easiest way to explain it is to demonstrate it. Place a ball on the tee about waist high, which today is considered a high pitch. Now take your hands/the knob of the bat on a direct line to the ball. What happens to your hands? If the hands start at your shoulder and have to move to your waist to get to the ball, they’re going to go down. You will most likely end up with your bat either level to the ground or, if the ball is a little higher than you thought, the head of the bat above the handle. Now look at what great hitters do. When they hit a waist-high pitch their hands are fairly close to the height of their back shoulders, and their bat is angled down, somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees. You can’t do that if you’re taking your hands to the ball. The other problem is you’re placing too much emphasis on the hands in the swing, which can lead to early disconnection from the back shoulder/body rotation. When that happens you have a weak arm swing. Now, you can say “You don’t literally take your hands to the ball.” But when you’re working with kids, if you tell them to take their hands to the ball what are they going to do? Drop their hands to take them to the ball. It’s no different than telling them to stride straight forward or bend their knees. Whatever you tell them to do is what they are going to do. A better cue is to tell them to keep their hands near the back shoulder as they turn and then throw the barrel/fat part of the bat at the ball when it’s time to actually hit it. That’s the end you want to hit with, so that’s the end you should be putting the emphasis on. Get them thinking that way and you’ll see fewer weak ground balls and popups, and more line drives and hard-hit balls. Hope that explains it. Ken

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