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Friday, December 18, 2009
Hitting Mechanics - 400 Swings Per Hour
By Brian Schreder
I recently posted the details about hitting fundamentals (stance, loading, bat speed generation, swing, follow through) and the feedback was pretty consistent. "Great description, but where are the drills to perfect the swing!" Truth be told, the drills we do can be found all over the web. The secret sauce is not in some special new drill, but in organizing the hitting practice to maximize the fundamentally correct swings to develop proper muscle memory.
Before I put together the 60 minutes of drills, let me reiterate that perfect practice makes perfect play. If the players are not swinging with correct fundamentals all they are doing is reinforcing bad muscle memory. Bad muscle memory means there will be "holes" in the swing, which translates into offensive outs and player frustration. Perfect practice creates good muscle memory that means more hard hit balls.
What we do is set up six different hitting stations around the field and divide the team into six groups (try to keep only two players per group). To get 400 swings in 60 minutes using six stations for one hour allocates 10 minutes per station. The pitching machine station can only provide about 40 swings in the allotted time. This leaves us with 360 swings for 5 stations; therefore, you must average 72 perfect swings per station per player.
Here are some example stations:
1. Overload / Underload practice swings: 5 sets of 10 overload and 10 underload = 100 swings focused on bat speed. Practice swings without a ball develops a good fundamental swing with good balance.
2. Pitch location tee work: 2 sets of 10 inside, 10 middle, and 10 outside = 60 swings focused on hitting location and driving the ball to all fields. Working off a tee adds the element of hitting the ball without ball movement so the batter can focus on another element, in this case driving the ball to all fields. By removing the ball movement a batter can develop good balance and contact point location to be able to hit to all fields.
3. Semicircle soft toss: coach soft tosses 10 balls from the front, 10 from the side, 10 from behind, 10 from the side, and 10 from the front = 50 swings focused on hitting the center of the ball. Coach soft toss adds the element of a slow moving ball with the batter focusing on hitting the center of the ball at the contact point for line drives into the outfield.
4. One handed tee work: 3 sets of 10 front hand only and 10 back hand only = 60 swings focused on hand movement through the hitting zone. The front hand guides the bat through the hitting zone while the back hand provides the power to the swing. This drill isolates the hand movement through the hitting zone.
5. Wiffle ball short toss: 3 sets of 10 inside, 10 middle, and 10 outside = 90 swings focused on putting the whole swing together but with the ball moving at a slower speed than during the game. At a short distance, the coach can locate the pitch at different positions within the strike zone to provide additional batting practice for hitting to all fields.
6. Batting practice off a machine: 40 swings focused on timing the swing. By mixing up machine balls from different manufactures, the ball movement and speed are slightly varied to simulate different pitcher's ball movement. It is very difficult to teach hitting mechanics off a machine, but can be very effective with batter timing.
There is nothing special about this set of stations other than you can get a lot of swings very quickly and isolate the individual hitting mechanics. We will use different station drills throughout the season to provide variety and work on specific skills.
What I want to encourage is that you, as a coach, think about how to maximize the number of swings per practice by sub-dividing the players into smaller groups and use multiple hitting stations. What drills do you know that fall into these broad categories? Okay, switch them in for variety.
Youth-Athlete.org (http://www.youth-athlete.org) provides insights for parents, coaches, and young athletes around the world. Youth-Athlete also provides tournament listings (http://www.youth-athlete.org/tournament), suggestions to parents and coaches that enable a successful season, more on hitting mechanics (http://www.youth-athlete.org/blog/page/Hitting-Mechanics.aspx), and a community for open questions.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Brian_Schreder
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