Sunday, September 4, 2016

Planning to Hit

                                                                                                  (photo credit:

"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." - John Wooden

Wooden nailed it when it comes to hitting, too. Whether you are a college, high school or travel ball coach, or a hitter working on his craft during the summer or winter months, you better have a plan.

Imagine a body builder wandering around the gym, deciding in the moment what to lift and how much to lift. Without a precise plan that can push today's limits while maintaining a month's perspective, Schwarzenegger and Pujols would both be up a creek without a paddle.

Great coaches, and great hitters, have a plan.

"Most people over-estimate what they can do in one year and under-estimate what they can do in a decade." - Tony Robbins

When you think about how to create a plan, think about your goal for the year, the semester and the month.

When we plan for the fall, we plan in segments. Over the course of a fall season, we have a skill work segment, team practice segment, and then more skill work. Our first set of skill work is three weeks, with one hour each week to work with a hitter, divided into two, thirty-minute sessions. Without a distinct focus and direction, we couldn't optimize the time allotted to help our hitters improve.

The first two weeks of fall are focused on rhythm, tempo and timing. We introduce our bunting technique and hold players accountable for execution. We hit on the field with front toss for quick application of approaches, and move to the Hack Attack for competitiveness and execution of what the hitters have learned. During this segment of skill training, we get to work with our hitters in groups of four, twice per week for thirty minutes.

The last week of skill is spent incorporating the competitiveness of at bats, count hitting and integrating approaches. We have three weeks to get hitters ready before they see the first live bullet in an intraquad.

Our plan also includes side work (next to the main BP cage) of exit velocity testing, forearm/grip strength development, mental game training, breathing techniques and mirror work. In the cages, during those two weeks, hitters throw to each other, work tee drills, overload and underload train, front toss, do mirror work and hit mini wiffle balls with a taped broom handle.

We begin video work of their mechanics, though we chat very little mechanics in the first three weeks. Our plan is to develop rhythm, tempo and timing (our approaches) first. We believe that when a hitter implements these, there are fewer mechanical adjustments needed.

The fall is also a great time for getting to know our hitters. My wife and I have our hitters over for dinner in small groups over the course of the first several weeks, grilling out and opening our home to them. Building trust and understanding our players is part of our plan.

Just as a coach needs a plan for his hitters, a hitter needs a plan for his personal cage time.

Hitting off a tee for 75 swings isn't hitting, it's swinging. Hitter's must practice hitting more than swinging. Learning timing and practicing hitting where timing is required, is where hitters make jumps, improve and become better hitters.

Does your plan include taking 15-20 swings in one round? That's called cardio. Take rounds of 8-10 swings with 12-15 seconds between swings. This best replicates the cadence of your duel with the pitcher, and will challenge you to work on your routines and self-talk.

Have a plan and go hit, hit, hit!

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