OK, I hope you did not come here to find a job as a professional hitting coach. Sorry, if you did. Do not despair though. I am giving you the most valuable things I've learned making a living as a professional hitting coach in the sense that I've been paid for the instruction I've provided.
One of the greatest things about being a professional hitting coach is the close relationships they develop with players as well as with their parents.
For those who follow these suggestions, they are well on their way to being a valued professional hitting coach.
There is obviously no substitute for understanding the fundamentals of hitting. Watching video of MLB hitters is the best way to learn the ins and outs of hitting. Talking to other hitting coaches, asking questions, and discussing hitting with others are all good ways to learn.
What separates one coach from another is what coaches see. Many coaches can talk a good game, but they can't see a good game. To be able to pick up the little techniques in the swing and the root cause of the problem takes time. It's critical to observe hitters as much as possible and from as many angles as possible. Look for the fundamentals or lack of them at each angle. The straight on angle as when you are pitching to them, directly behind the hitter, and the side view are all good for observing the hitter for video analysis. Once again, many of the problems on the swing have a root cause in the very start of the hitting sequence. For example, a lack of swing extension usually results from issues from the setup or at the start of the swing.
Also, just because you tell the hitter what they are doing wrong, that doesn't mean they will just be able to go up to the plate and correct it. You must give them ways (drills) to fix the problem areas.
2. Trust Development
A major goal of the professional hitting coach is attaining the hitter's trust. This is not always an easy task and is even tougher when the player is your child.
Some keys to develop the necessary trust:
You must realize that it is very difficult to excel at hitting, the most difficult of all sports skills. Also know that just because something was easy for them or for some, doesn't mean that it will be easy for everyone, especially youth players. Just remember, that any player who really cares to improve can do so with practice and your help.
A good coach further realizes that it is not usually enough to tell a player what they are doing wrong and then assume that the player can just go out and correct the problem. A demonstration of the drill by you, an online video or another player is critical because most kids are visual learners.
Studies show the hitter will need to perform the correct habit often, up to a thousand times or so, to create a new habit and overcome the problem. Understand that their muscle memory will not change overnight.
A professional hitting coach should always set long range goals for the hitter. Instead of saying by next game or even next week, tell them that "we" can have it solved in a month (a minor problem) or by the end of the season (a more ingrained habit) or even by the time the player reaches high school (a major overhaul).
It is best to begin new muscle memory with drills on a tee or short flips, as opposed to first trying to solve a bad habit with a pitched ball. Remember batting practice is generally for timing and not necessarily for breaking bad habits.
Find the specific drill that most helps the hitter overcome the problem and have him focus on that for a long period of time.
Coaches who show patience with their players develop patient hitters who won't mind working on their skills, realizing that they will improve in time.
Give your hitter something to think about when they leave practice.
5. Measure and Challenge
Keep a record of what was worked on previously and their results for each session. Remind players of what they were successful with the past practice and what needed more work.
Have a plan for each practice and challenge them to try to beat their previous best swings. When they fail to show improvement from the previous session which will often be the case, try a few drills that may best accomplish improvement.
Remeasure results after drills to figure out the drill(s) that seemed to make the most impact. Write down that drill for future practice and for times when problems occur in games.
As mentioned above about giving players the why for what you ask them to do, also explain why a drill works. You want them to understand problem areas as well as solutions so eventually they can make self-corrections and in game adjustments.
Along with having patience and keeping expectations reasonable, always say things in ways that tell players you "Know" they will get it if they stay committed to the work. Always tell them, "You believe in them,"" This is hard stuff," but ultimately "You will get this." Take the can't out of their vocabulary with your positive attitude and belief in them.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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