When Timing Pitches, Focus on the Future
One of the things that makes hitting so difficult is you not only have to develop great swing mechanics; you also have to time them to the speed, direction, and movement of the pitch.
Since there are no style points in softball (i.e., no judges holding up cards reading 9.5 for a beautiful swing) the only thing that matters is how well you hit the pitch. Yes, having great mechanics contributes to being able to hit the pitch well, but they have to be timed properly to get the best effect.
And that’s something many hitters struggle with. One of the big reasons, at least in my experience, has nothing to do with athleticism or ability.
Instead, it’s a fear of looking bad, or of being yelled at otherwise chastised for swinging at a bad pitch. So, those hitters will wait too long to ensure the pitch is good, putting themselves behind and thus letting the ball get too deep on them before they initiate their swings.
How do you overcome that fear? One way is to teach hitters to think “yes-yes-yes-no.”
In other words, they’re always swinging until they actually see it’s a bad pitch instead of waiting to swing until they see it’s a good pitch.
Still, if they’re really worried about looking bad they may still hesitate. So here’s another way to explain it to them.
Ask them whether they can affect things in the past, present, or future. Unless they’ve skipped every science class ever they will likely tell you the present and future.
Then take a ball and hold it either even with their bodies or a little behind. Explain to them that this ball is in the past.
Therefore swinging at it is pointless because they can’t change the outcome. It’s by them and it’s done.
Then hold the ball at the proper contact point and tell them this pitch is in the present and they can do a lot with it. Then hold it further in front and say it’s in the future.
Now, if they start swinging at the future ball (too early) can they still make an adjustment and get on-time? It may not be easy depending on HOW early they are, but it is possible, especially if you have a ell-sequenced swing.
So with that in mind, is it better to be a little too early or a little too late? Too early, of course, because you can still change it. Once you’re late it’s all over – unless you happen to have a time machine handy, in which case quit playing softball and go back in time to buy some Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon stock.
It’s all about keeping it simple. Hitters may not understand some of the complexities of proper timing, but pretty much everyone can relate to the idea of past-present-future.
Get them focused on affecting the present and future and they’ll spend a lot less time regretting their decisions in the past.
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