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Little League Coaches Hitting Clinic Session Organization

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1 Little League Coaches Hitting Clinic Session Organization
A few points about coaching kids and coaching hitting (just my opinions) (10 minutes) What’s and How’s of Hitting (30 minutes) Mechanics Rhythm and Timing Strategy and Mental Approach Drills and Progressions (50 Minutes) Break down some of your swings Put into practice Question and Answer: As we go. Goal: Starting tools and things to think about It isn’t rocket science But it does help to have an idea

2 Coaching Kids It’s a GAME! Have fun! Positive Reinforcement
5 minutes practice with joy more useful than 5 hours of drudgery Positive Reinforcement We all get excited at times, etc.; the more positive you can be, the better the results Hitting is difficult; kids must learn to manage failure; have a sense of humor Every kid is different. Have to learn personalities and tailor instruction Work as a team We’re all in it together; the more we can help each other, the better we all will do

3 Coaching Hitting Hitting is difficult: patience is key!
Both hitter and coach! Take long-term approach. Be happy with small successes, they’ll add up over time. Work with natural swing Allow natural athletic ability to come through. Don’t want things to be mechanical. Different bodies, different styles, different strengths; Can be successful hitter in a variety of ways. In the end, we do want everyone to swing basically the same right way; how they get there will be different. Don’t overwhelm: Work on one thing at a time. Celebrate success, but don’t be satisfied! Strength, weakness, strength. Repetitions: Muscle memory.

4 A few important miscellaneous things
Bat weight: too heavy bat kills hitters Good Rule of Thumb: weak arm/nose test Heavy bat drops and drags through hitting zone Upper body sways Choke up on bat if needed! (Ty Cobb: .367). Batting gloves are good Just can’t really work on hitting without gloves Coaches: Pitching L Screen a must Don’t end up in the emergency room.

5 Three Areas of Hitting Mechanics: What the various parts of the body do to swing the bat most effectively. Rhythm and Timing: How we get our swing to the right place at the right time. Strategy/Mental Approach: Hitting pitches in different zones against different pitchers in different game situations.

6 The Real Basics Be Aggressive! Be ready to hit (early!)
Be up there to hit! Hit the ball hard! Be ready to hit (early!) Swing at good pitches! Eyes on the ball! Head must be still! Rotate your whole body Hit ball out in front

7 Mechanics Simplified Swing: Rotate, Finish.
Rotate Body. Finish through ball with arms and hands. Body first, arms and hands second. Hands straight to and through ball. Palm up, palm down! All through hitting zone. !Not a tennis racket Use back shoulder to accelerate hands (don’t drop hands and sweep). !or a golf club Maintain some flex in lead arm to avoid slow long arc to ball. Palm does not face target.

8 Rotate, Finish Hit ball out in front. Palm Up, Palm Down
Rotate, Finish Hit ball out in front! Palm Up, Palm Down! (Some flex in lead arm!)

9 Mechanics: A Bit More (1 of 2)
Grip: Door-knocker knuckles Stance: Balanced, Athletic, Flex in ankles and knees, Relaxed upper body, Hands near back shoulder, Head straight, 2 eyes to pitcher, Some easy motion. Recommend square stance. Stride: Preparation and Rhythm Begin before ball in air (Watch Manny). Weight shift back; small counter-rotation; small motion of hands. (“Loading up.” Don’t overdo.) Some tension in lower half; upper body must remain tension-free SOFT FRONT FOOT ON STRIDE! Front toe closed Rotate in place (minimizes head movement, among other things). Weight shift during swing: “Back to middle.”

10 Mechanics: A Bit More (2 of 2)
Rotate in place. Head cannot move. Rotation: Push from back side. (But push to rotate.) Use back foot. (Don’t just let it roll over.) Don’t pull from front side (subtle) Rotation: Firm front side. Front leg pushes front hip back to aid rotation. Do not collapse front knee! Rotation: Frame rotates as one. Hips and shoulders turn together. Rotation: Feel the back shoulder accelerate the hands. Want hands reasonably close to body: “Short swing.” Rotate all the way through ball. Drives ball in the air. Arms and Hands: “Power V” (Dusty Baker) DO NOT EXTEND TOO SOON. Extend through ball, not at ball. DO NOT ROLL WRISTS OVER; DO NOT HOOK! Finish OUT (to pitcher), not across; finish where you want the ball to go.

11 Rotate. Finish Hit Ball in Front Palm Up, Palm Down
Rotate. Finish Hit Ball in Front Palm Up, Palm Down! (Some flex in lead arm!)

12 Palm Up, Palm Down! Don’t Extend Too Soon! Extend Through Ball!

13 Finish all the way through! Back arm finish out, not across!

14 Killers Moving head Lunging at ball (Landing hard on front foot)
Front arm lock-out Stepping open (in the bucket) Wrapping bat around head Hooking hands through zone Collapsing front side

15 Subtle Killers Trying to swing with arms too soon Upper body tension
Too late preparation/initiation of front side Dropping hands Overactive wrists Quick front hip Roll over back ankle

16 Rhythm and Timing Preparation
Hitters have their own individual rhythm and timing mechanisms. We work to change this just a little at a time. Preparation should begin before the ball is in the air! Early initiation of front side preparation. Prepare, recognize, swing. (Young players may have trouble with this). Many players: recognize, quick stride, swing. Learn to wait for the ball. Wait for fastball, wait for change-up. Stride is for preparation and rhythm only; separate stride from swing (otherwise beat the ball into the ground).

17 Rhythm and Timing The Hitting Plane
Contact is made in different places for inside/middle/outside pitches. The contact area is a plane diagonal to the plate. The more inside the pitch, the further out in front (towards the pitcher) is the point of contact. Likewise, the further outside, the further back (towards the catcher) is the point of contact. Regardless, the contact point is still out in front of the hitter.

18 Drill Progression Repetition (of the correct way!) is critical. Must develop muscle memory; in hitting, there is no time to think, only to react. Tee Soft Toss Short toss Batting Practice Live Hitting

19 Hitting off a Tee Great for warm up Great for working inside/outside
Important for players to understand: tee stand is not home plate Must have ball teed up in proper place; must hit ball out in front. Visualize ball coming in from pitcher Precise in ball trajectory: hit ‘em where they ain’t Basketball: work on finish through ball. Great way to learn to hit to opposite field with authority; Palm up, palm down! Best drill for wrist-rollers: feel hand position.

20 Soft Toss Great for focused mechanics work, focused rhythm work; lots of kids, lots of swings 45° angle between tosser and hitter; tosser must make good toss into hitting zone Visualize Many variations Soft step High toss: tomahawk (especially for “sweepers” and wrist rollers); finish straight out Low toss: drive, don’t lift: “take out pitcher’s knees” Cut off inside pitch (hitter turns) Basketball: drive through ball; palm up, palm down. Get excellent feedback through hands; players can feel hand position through contact Again: Be precise in ball trajectory. Don’t practice grounding out to shortstop.

21 Short Toss Toss from 25-30 feet. Use screen.
Great intermediate step between soft toss and regulation pitcher distance Work on rhythm! Initiate front side early. In/out; Up/down; Slow/fast Learn to hit with authority to all fields; hit the ball “where it is pitched.” (Good place to practice “taking inside pitch” drill with tennis balls: make sure players know to turn back to catcher, take it in the back.)

22 Batting Practice Clear mind: focus on the ball. See the ball and hit it. Use other drills to work on mechanics and develop muscle memory. I only make adjustments during batting practice with advanced hitters. Hitting with counts develops plate discipline. Situational hitting (man on second, no outs; man on third, less than two outs). Critical to have a pitcher that can throw strikes. Move up closer to batter if you have to.

23 Mechanics of the Swing: Detailed Analysis
Stance Preparation/Stride Rotation, Rotation, Rotation! Head Feet and Legs Torso Arms and Hands Finish

24 Stance (1) Relaxed, Comfortable, Athletic, Balanced!
Flex in ankles and knees: weight on balls of the feet Can pigeon toes in a little: Keeps front side closed, aids in turning back side Head turned all of the way to pitcher: binocular vision Position of hands is variable; relatively close to back shoulder Highly recommend square stance Open stance: difficulty with outside pitch; maximum bat speed generated too late—after contact zone Closed stance: severely reduce hip rotation, difficult to drive ball; difficulty handling inside pitch

25 Stance (2) Hitter position in box variable
Typical position: front foot at midpoint of plate, 6-8” off plate On plate: For hitters looking to pull the ball; takes away the outside corner; dares pitcher to come inside Can be intimidating to pitcher, especially if physically big hitter Takes guts; will occasionally get hit Off plate For hitters looking to go opposite field; reduce chance of getting jammed, but may give away outside corner Forward in box More field to hit in; angles keep ball fair (so bunters should move up in box a bit) Catch breaking ball before it breaks too far Ball gets to hitter quicker; must be ready Deep in box More time to see ball and read pitch Give breaking pitches more chance to break Tougher angle to keep ball fair; need to work ball to middle of the field

26 Preparation and Stride (1)
Variable from hitter to hitter Maintain some easy relaxed motion in batters box:. Cannot be a statue! “Loading up” (Lift front foot to shift weight back) Subtle weight shift. Control front leg! Early! “When pitcher shows you his pocket, you show him your pocket.” (Dusty Baker) Sink a bit into back leg Some counter-rotation of torso Will build some tension in lower body to release into swing Some small motion of hands back to shoulder or just behind ! Don’t overdo loading up. Upper body stays relaxed. ! Don’t turn head. ! Don’t lock out front arm. ! Don’t wrap bat back around head

27 Preparation and Stride (2)
Stride is for rhythm and timing only! You do not hit with your stride! Do not lunge forward! Soft on front foot!! Land on ball of foot. (Swing initiated with a drop of the front heel). Do not shift weight on stride (minimal weight shift). Rhythm: Learn to wait Don’t even really need a stride at all Nomar; Jeff Bagwell Front toe closed on stride

28 Rotation, Rotation, Rotation!
Hitting is a rotational skill: I cannot stress this enough; Torso (Frame) rotates basically as one. !! Too much forward weight shift causes myriad problems. Shift weight “back to middle.” (Separate slide) It is primarily rotation of the body frame that accelerates the hands and bat! (Use of body’s large muscle groups.) Arms are mostly along for the ride. Arms finish the swing. Too much arm action early in the swing leads to a long, slow, weak swing. Basic swing: Rotate body, finish with arms and hands

29 Pitfalls of Early or Too Aggressive Forward Weight Shift
Hinders rotation Moves head Susceptible to changing speeds or pitches moving in the zone (Can’t “stay back”) Increase relative speed of pitch: susceptible to being jammed on inside pitches Harder to get bat out in front Tends to cause wrist rolling

30 Rotation, Rotation, Rotation! Feet and Legs
Back leg main driving force of rotation, especially early in the swing Want to initiate rotation by pushing from back leg. Use back foot to push. Don’t just roll over back ankle. “Turn the back side” Initiating turn by pulling from the front (“quick front hip”) slower and weaker Back leg, classic “L.” Be sure cause, not effect! Front leg firm, straightens, and pushes back Strong pivot for rotation Push back to rotate front hip back Good key: drop to front heel to initiate Front toe will eventually rotate open. ! Do not collapse front leg: death to rotation

31 Rotation, Rotation, Rotation Torso
Whole frame rotates together: hips and shoulders move as one Keep frame straight: no bending at the waist Slight lean into plate ok; Lean away from plate no good (“pulling off the ball”) Slight angle back to catcher ok: straight line through front leg and torso Maintaining balance throughout entire rotation obviously critical

32 Rotation: Arms and Hands
For most of the swing arms are just along for the ride. Rotate with body, finish with arms Frame: Must bring arms along with torso rotation. Coordinated rotation Elbows should be close to body so that hands are swung in a tight arc Back elbow tucks to body at start of rotation; pulls bat back Keep front elbow tight as well Useful for some players: keep hands inside ball Relaxed upper body until driving through ball Have players feel body accelerate hands! Critical point: Palm up, palm down at contact! !! Do not roll wrists at contact

33 Finish Hips fully open at contact; must hit ball out in front
Extend arms THROUGH BALL. (Through ball, not at ball.) ! Must avoid too early extension of arms (sweeping) Palm up, palm down through entire hitting zone!! ! Avoid reaching and “hooking;” again, hands inside ball Keep bat in plane of ball for as long as possible Arms and bat should finish pointing right at pitcher before wrists naturally begin to roll over Finish where you want the ball to go

34 Rhythm and Timing Prepare early: ideally, before ball is in the air.
“Prepare, recognize, swing” Sooner or later, hitters who “recognize, stride, swing” will have trouble Learn to wait. Help deal with changing speeds. Rhythm: Cannot be a statue. Motion and balance in stance and preparation. Variable: each player needs to find his own rhythm; changing a player’s rhythm in preparation must be done cautiously Plane of contact: diagonal vertical plane. Must “cut off” inside pitches and wait on outside pitches Practice, practice, practice

35 Hitter’s Approach Aggressive attitude: Be up there to hit.
Get a good pitch to hit!! No strikes: “Zone up”: look for a particular pitch: your strength One strike: hit a good strike Two strikes: protect the plate, battle, make the pitcher throw as many pitches as you can Patience: Be up there to hit, but take a walk Know your strengths and weaknesses: What is your pitch? Look for your pitch until 2 strikes. Read the defense: Is there a big hole to shoot for? Know the situation (i.e. man on 2nd, no outs: look for pitch to hit to right) Try to figure out the pitcher: Is there a pattern? What are his tendencies? The better the pitcher, more aggressive early in the count; can’t fall behind a good pitcher

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