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If you are doing a mechanical overhaul, the batting tee is the best place to do this. When a player has a ball moving at them, it is really hard to be thinking about mechanics at the same time. If you want to create proper muscle memory without frustrating the snot out of your player then use batting tee drills primarily.
I believe it’s important for players to see the entire swing demonstrated to give them some background information of the swing as a whole, but then begin breaking it down one aspect at a time. Once again, work with dry swings and the tee when changing mechanics.
A key point here is that we coach one aspect at a time until it is mastered. If you try to have a player change 3 things all at once, they will become overwhelmed and frustrated. Give them 1-2 things to master before moving on so that they feel like they are making progress.
So much of working with our hitters is psychological. For some players it can be an extreme challenge to stay positive. Every player is different, so we have to “read” each player accordingly. But regardless of personality, it is important to stay positive with the player to help them see their progress and remind them of what they are doing well.
As coaches, it is easy to pick things apart constantly (with good intention). If this is all that a player hears from us, they will soon become discouraged.
Once the player is ready, begin incorporating front-toss (or machine) drills. It is important to see how a player is swinging when a ball is coming towards them. Often times a player can do things properly off of a tee, but then their swing breaks down in the cage or a game. It is important to identify when their swings don’t “transfer” from the tee to the game so that the player understands what to work on.
When I first started coaching, I thought my job during games was to remind each player of every little thing they were doing wrong with their swing during the game. I learned the hard way! While giving some fastpitch softball hitting tips during games are ok on occasion, we want our players to have the mindset of “see the ball hit the ball” when they are in the batter’s box.
Thinking about every mechanic in their swing during a game only creates “clutter” in her mind, and “clutter” is bad. Practice is the time to pick things apart as a coach…games are not. Players perform the best when they are feeling confident and “free.” So we must do our part as a coach to help them by reminding them that they can hit and their swing is good. Muscle memory is very hard to change in the middle of a game.
Hitting can be one of the most rewarding parts of softball, as well as the most frustrating. Mechanics are only half of the battle. That is why there are some average hitters with great mechanics.
(By Tim Covey, Founder of Covey Sports)
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