Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hitting Coach Awareness

Recruiting trips always offer the opportunity to watch other coaches work. Some third base coaches shuffle their feet, cross their arms and put their head down most of the time. Some are more boisterous and engaging, jumping, clapping, shouting, running. Every coach has his own 'style.'

I appreciate the "silent assassin coach" as much as the "energetic jumping bean coach."

I'm all for uniqueness, so long as that uniqueness isn't getting in the way of a hitter's confidence, short-circuiting his focus or sapping his energy.

How do you coach your hitters?

Do you show them what to do mechanically between pitches? Do you tell them what they did wrong with their last swing? Do you yell at them, "Knock this run in!"?

These are confusing, deflating comments to hitters. When a hitter reaches the batter's box, it is all about energy, commitment, trust and adjustment from pitch to pitch.

These are skills that we are responsible for teaching them...before they cross the white lines. Telling your hitters what to do during their at bat merely shows that you don't trust them. How, then, could they trust themselves?

These problems typically stem from insecurities in the coach themselves. Caring more about winning, or perhaps a bottom line, coaches put pressure on everyone around them.

Think deeply, how do you coach your hitters?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hitting Approach is a Skill

No doubt we live in a Sports Center-watching , highlight-infested, media-driven baseball world.

We love talent. It's impressive. Miguel Cabrera's bat control, Mike Stanton's strength, Billy Hamilton's speed.

We are obsessed with anyone who breaks records, particularly in speed, i.e. Aroldis Chapman, Usain Bolt, Rickey Henderson. And who am I to scoff at them!

All of those athletes are phenomenal, impressive, exciting, blah blah blah.

Rarely do we give these athletes the credit they deserve for their skill, or their preparation of that skill. Talent does an athlete no good if he doesn't have the discipline to work on his skill.

Baseball is a SKILL game. The big leagues are full of talented players, but the most talented players are those who work on their barrel manipulation, bunting, catch play, hand-eye coordination, ability to change direction quickly and ability to hit a breaking ball.

The minor leagues are full of uber-talented players who look, throw, run, swing and spit like Hall of Famers. And a high percentage of them will end up being released without even a cup-of-coffee.

Having an approach at the plate is a skill. It requires self-trust, confidence and calculated thought. Hitters that practice their swings over and over again may possess a skilled swing, but are missing the bridge between average and great.

Practicing approach, confidence and mental toughness can all start in tee work, front toss and BP.

Hitters that practice choosing confidence and aggressiveness, despite recent or accrued failures, have sharpened their most important skill.