Crazy stuff people teach about hitting

So tonight I was doing my last lesson of the evening. It was scheduled as a pitching lesson, but the dad asked if I would take a few minutes at the end to look at his 13U daughter Hannah’s hitting. When we got to that part I asked what exactly he wanted me to look at and he said the whole thing. It seems Hannah wasn’t hitting the ball very hard.

I figured the best place to start would be to ask her what she thought she should be doing — what has she been taught in the past. She told me that she had been to a few hitting clinics at a local D1 college, one I think most people would consider a top 25 program. I couldn’t believe what she then told me.

Apparently, all of the instruction had focused on the following: to start the swing raise your front elbow, and bring your back elbow down into the slot (my term, not hers). Next pull the front elbow, and then push the hands through at the ball.

That was it. No mention of the lower body, or the hips, or how to use the shoulders. Nothing. Nada. It wasn’t that she didn’t remember. It’s that’s all there was.

I then had her demonstrate what she’d been taught. After a couple of swings, where she perfectly executed exactly what she’d been told, I stopped her and said no wonder she is having trouble. We then started working off a tee.

We only had a few minutes so I couldn’t get into a full bore hitting lesson. But I figured I could at least help her use her arms correctly. I put her into the “turned” position, where the hips have mostly come through while the shoulders were still in their starting position. (Some call this the “stretch” position, I believe.) I had her keep her bat angled, then hit the ball off the tee.

In just a couple of swings she was hitting the ball harder than she had with a full swing. We finished by having her take a few full swings, focusing on maintaining what we’d worked on for the end of the chain.

I don’t know if it’s going to help her much this weekend. I mean, I’m good but that’s spelled with two “o’s.” If she works the drill I gave her during the week it may. But at least it’s a start toward becoming a better hitter.

The reason I share this story, though, is as a cautionary tale that can’t be told too often. Remember, just ’cause someone coaches at or plays at a D1 college or has some other impressive-sounding credential doesn’t mean they know the first thing about hitting. Or pitching, or fielding, or any other aspect of the game.

When you’re told something, don’t take it as gospel. Look at what great players do and compare that to what you’re being told. If the instruction doesn’t match what you see, find a better instructor. (If it’s a team coach, find a diplomatic way to ignore it and seek out better advice.) There’s a lot of bad information and theories floating around there, and listening to it will actually make you worse than if you just tried to stumble your way through it yourself.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of good advice out there as well — advice that will match what you see being done by top players. Some of the “experts” may disagree with one another on certain points, because it’s not quite an exact science. There is still room for interpretation. But what you’ll see is a lot more similarities than differences among good instructors, especially in the bigger picture. Certain aspects, such as the sequence of events in hitting (hips, then shoulders, then bat) are universal.

In tonight’s case, I’d bet good money that not a single even decent hitter on this college team does anything close to what was being preached in the clinics during their games. They may think they do, but they don’t.

If you want to be successful, don’t take anyone’s word for it. Even mine. Verify what you’re being told by comparing it to what great players actually do. If it’s wrong you’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time, and you’ll experience success a whole lot sooner. And if you find it’s right, you’ll be able to pursue it a whole lot harder. As it should be.

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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, 2012, in Coaching, College softball, Hitting, Instruction. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. “Look at what great players do and compare that to what you’re being told.”Amen, amen and amen. You can’t believe someone just because they have a great resume. Coaches with great resumes teach opposing things about hitting more frequently than not. And when you compare what you are taught to great hitters, that HAS to be slow motion and or frame by frame video because the important stuff happens in about a tenth of a second. If it’s allowed I’d say where you can find a collection of elite female hitting clips.

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  2. Mark, I figured you’d like this post. There is still room for interpretation between what different people see in video, but I think many things are pretty obvious as to whether they happen or not. For example you can see that the hips turn before the hands launch in all great hitters. Go ahead and post the link. I’ve posted it before. It’s a great resource.

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  3. Yeah, your comment was certainly right up my alley. And yeah, looking at video has it’s limitations. For instance you can’t see muscle action or momentum. You can only infer it. Our ability to “see” what is there is limited by our pre-existing understanding of the swing and by our education. Still, it’s the best first tool for the average person to sort out the good instruction from the bad. Here is the clip collection I spoke of. http://imageeventcom/siggy/hittingKeep in mind most of these are inside pitches since more of those went for distance.

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