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Baseball Hitting Trainer: Curtis Nelson Interview

Baseball Hitting Trainer Interview: How To Transition Cage Swings To The Game With Curtis Nelson

 

Here’s some of what will be discussed in this baseball hitting trainer interview with Curtis Nelson:Baseball Hitting Trainer: Curtis Nelson Interview

  • Rapsodo getting used as a paper weight?
  • What are the top two mistakes that you see coaches doing when they’re teaching hitting?
  • Random pitch training. Explain that a little bit, how you guys do that, and how that looks…
  • How to transition grooved cage swings into the game
  • Do you teach your hitters any kind of plate or pitch approach?
  • How do you evaluate hitters and teach them to make an adjustment?
  • How do you get a pull happy hitter go oppo, and how do you get an oppo happy hitter pulling the ball?
  • “Curtis, so and so said that timing cannot be taught?” What do you think about that?
  • What are some of the adjustments you have hitters make to slow pitchers?
  • Where can people who want more information find you?

The following is the above video’s baseball hitting trainer video transcription.  Let’s get to it!

 

Joey Myers  00:27

Very cool. How did today go?

Curtis Nelson  00:30

It went well. I got a couple guys actually in town from AZ, that was fun and got some good work in, so today went well. My internet was not working at the end there, so always fun but I’m not a big tech guy so the tech stuff for me sometimes gets me a little fired up.

Joey Myers  00:50

What were you using the internet for? Were you just showing them some baseball hitting trainer video and stuff?

Curtis Nelson  00:54

Yeah, so I send a lot of videos from here. When I make either a voice over video or I make myself showing a drill or something, I send from the cage. I try and get most of my work done here. We got a nice little like 6000 square foot cage here.

Joey Myers  01:10

Beautiful.

Curtis Nelson  01:11

370 foot cages with 20 foot ceilings and 25 foot nets. It’s kind of a fun little one. It’s kind of our little home, it’s old school. My boss played at LC state, he has been doing this in the state of Washington for years and years and years and years. He’s got a little bit of that old school, so “you don’t like that cookie cutter” kind of look, you know?

Joey Myers  01:32

Yeah. I agree you guys don’t have HitTrax or any baseball hitting trainer like that either.

 

Baseball Hitting Trainer: Rapsodo getting used as a paper weight?

Curtis Nelson  01:37

Conforto bought me rapsodo, I’d say four years ago now, kind of when it first started coming out. He went out and bought it for me and just kind of gave it to me and I use rapsodo occasionally. I think that you know for some of my young ends or some of my high school guys, I want to go to a PAC 12 school and I don’t know any Pac-12 guys that are below 90 miles an hour on their exit velocity. I think it’s good to be able to show them that obviously with recruiting videos nowadays and in a lot of these colleges are asking for it right? I think that is an important metric.

Curtis Nelson  02:12

Obviously, if you make a swing adjustment and your exit velocity drops a big amount, there’s probably something behind that right so I think that there’s a time and place but in my experience with hit with rapsodo I’ve seen a lot of really good-looking swings and then when they go on rapsodo it starts becoming a little bit more of a slow-pitch softball home-run Derby, but as long as we’re using it the right way.

Curtis Nelson  02:35

I like to use it when I’m doing mixed BP. I like to do it when it’s more of a live setting. You know, we have our pitching rapsodo set up in our hitting rock solo setup in the same cage and we’re doing live stuff, you know, closer to the season time. I think there’s a lot of value there but most of the time a rapsodo is kind of getting used as a paperweight.

Joey Myers  02:52

An $8500 baseball hitting trainer paperweight?

Curtis Nelson  02:57

Yeah, I think that the first one we got was like five grand or 4500. Whatever. Not the second one, but that’s a very expensive paperweight change.

Joey Myers  03:06

Exactly. I’ll keep this in, sometimes it depends on what we talked about before just to get warmed up. I’ll keep it in. I think I’ll keep that stuff in. But are you ready for an official start?

Curtis Nelson  03:18

Yeah.

Joey Myers  03:19

Alright, let’s do it. Hello, and welcome to swing smarter monthly newsletter. This is your host Joey Myers from hitting performance lab dot com and with me today is actually our first intro. We had a little phone call earlier today but I’ve heard so much about Curtis Nelson, through a mutual friend Daniel Robertson, I call him D. Rob and Daniel was hitting with Curtis quite a bit in the off-season, this past season that he played in not just last year, but the year before. I think the year before, I think it’s been a couple years but I’ve heard Curtis through D Rob and there’s a lot of mutual hitting minds that surround Curtis. First of all, I want to welcome you into the show. Welcome, Curtis.

Curtis Nelson  04:01

Thanks for having me on. I look forward to it.

Joey Myers  04:02

Thanks for coming on, man. Okay, cool. We had a little conversation, which I’m going to keep in like I said, about rapsodo and different things and got to see your cages, just kind of cool. One of the questions that I wanted to ask you since I’ve seen a lot of your stuff on Twitter, and I agree with I think most of it. You’re one of those guys, we call them lone wolf, mad scientist and the guys that tend to think for themselves and don’t follow others lockstep, right?

Joey Myers  04:06

You take a little bit of something, somebody’s saying, “Hey, I think that works. Let’s go try and experiment with my hitters and see if that’ll work with them”. If it does, you keep it, if it doesn’t, you throw it away. I’m really looking for those lone wolves, the ones like myself, who are on like a passionate curiosity journey to try and find what the truth is what really works. My question to you is, what are the top two things, baseball hitting trainer mistakes that you see out there on whether it’s Twitter or social media, that you see coaches doing when they’re teaching hitting?

What are the top two mistakes that you see coaches doing when they’re teaching hitting?

Curtis Nelson  05:05

I think the first one to me kind of goes back to at a very young age, kind of what is the typical things taught with very young hitters.  You’re typically going to see, you know, take the weight back, take the hands back, as a pretty generic kind of thing taught. I think if you look at a lot of really good swings, there’s so many different guys out there, I love all their swings and their different commonalities but at the same time, I think you see so many hitters that have this certain sequence involved in when they get to a certain position.

Curtis Nelson  05:40

You see, some hitters might have a certain movement in their swing that might be different, but it works for them. I think at a young age, you see a lot of hitters with a big movement backwards, a huge hand load getting outside the body.  It just starts to create these habits at a young age that can really start to affect us as we get older and pitching gets better.

Curtis Nelson  06:02

I really like to see limiting the amount of move, we go back and allowing our hands to kind of get to a good hitting position. More on the forward move, we don’t want it to be rushed, we don’t want it to be something that kind of jerky, it might feel that way for someone and feel smoother for another person. That’s the individuality about it.

Curtis Nelson  06:23

Ultimately, I think that that would be like my number one thing, I see is so many hitters come in, and they’re constantly with a big shift back, a big hand load on the way back and they’re constantly fighting their bodies. That’s the number one for me. We talk a lot about not chasing results and chasing exit velocity. I think at the exit velocity side of things is something that’s important for hitters to know and understand the end.

Curtis Nelson  06:25

Like we were saying before, if you see a big drop in exit velocity, you see a big drop and how the balls coming off the bat, and then there’s some rolls there for us but I see a lot of hitters, a lot of young hitters nowadays on the internet, that are trying to chase results instead of chasing the process that brings about the results.

Curtis Nelson  07:09

Everything for me is about getting hitters better in the game, we have to be better hitters in the game, whatever we’re doing inside in terms of training that needs to translate to the game. If whatever you’re doing, whatever style or thoughts you’re doing, or however your training is translating to the game outside, and you’re a better hitter because of it, then great, we’ll work our way around those things to a certain degree and make sure we understand the difference.

Curtis Nelson  07:35

I think those are my top two things right now, it’s making sure that whatever we’re doing is going to translate to the game. That’s all that matters. We don’t want to be caged hitters; we want to be gamers.

Joey Myers  07:43

Right. I know one thing when D Rob was training before his last year in independent ball, he was doing with you guys, you mentioned it here too, it’s the baseball hitting trainer random pitch training. Explain that a little bit, how you guys do that, and how that looks.

 

Random pitch training. Explain that a little bit, how you guys do that, and how that looks…

Curtis Nelson  07:58

I started doing it as a player when I was young myself and one of my good friends, Cody Atkinson, he’s with the Texas Rangers as a coach now. We started doing it as players and it was just our best way to emulate game pitching. It was just doing mixed BP, we always call it dirty from 30, about 30-35 feet away, we’re not trying to throw as hard as we can, it’s just a crispy BP fastball. We’re just mixing and breaking balls and really just kind of playing games against each other, you go play nine inning game and you get three outs and you will be judging jury and it brought about some good competition between us.

Curtis Nelson  08:34

Ultimately, it taught us how to have an approach, how to be on time than the fastball, how to adjust off the fastball, on some breaking ball stuff. I think it really shows the holes in the swing, it shows where the weaknesses can become and some guys that it might even just be the mentality change, that might be the difference.

Curtis Nelson  08:51

You can see a lot from just doing just kind of a mixed BP, can I cover the fastball away and still cover the breaking ball? Can I cover the fastball in and still take the curve-ball down in a way and it shows this a lot. I’m a huge proponent of it.

Curtis Nelson  09:06

We do our machines, we do our challenge stuff, because I can’t throw the ball 90 miles an hour, but at the end of the day, we do need to see it, that live arm and that kind of mixed it in having to make a decision rather than to seeing a fish down the middle every time on a machine.

Joey Myers  09:21

Very smart and there was a baseball hitting trainer study that was done, I can’t remember the guy’s name offhand on YouTube, but it was a video, not sure. I think it was maybe in one of the books that I’d read but it was a Cal Poly study. It was Cal Poly baseball guys, and it took half the hitters out in the field hitters, they worked with what they call mass practice.

Joey Myers  09:42

They did 15, they took BP where they took 15 fastballs, they hit 15 fastballs, hit 15 curve-balls, hit 15 change-ups and they had the other half of the hitters, fielders, did what you’re talking about a mix of BP and even though the second group that got the mix BP early on wasn’t very good, they’re showing a BP wasn’t very good.

 

Baseball Hitting Trainer: How to transition grooved cage swings into the game

Joey Myers  10:03

What ended up happening is they got better as the season progressed, and their numbers were better, which you’re talking about transitioning into the games, which I hear I’m sure you do, too, from parents and even players, how do we transition these mechanics into the game? Because we’re seeing a great swing in the cage, but then in the game, they’re not really performing and that baseball hitting trainer study what you’re talking about mix BP, I think it’s one of the most important things and that’s a study that shows right there. That was just one season but I bet if you took it over three, four or five seasons, you get the same result, it would just obviously look a little bit different.

Curtis Nelson  10:40

It comes down to kind of open skill and close skill environments, right. In golf, the balls not moving, it’s a very close type skill. We kind of know our outcome before it happens and it actually leads in this to one of my pet peeves, and I grew up hitting like this. You see the outside pitch, and you immediately are trying to go off with it and manipulate that result, where the only thing that dictates where that ball goes is my timing.

Curtis Nelson  11:08

One of the first things I tell hitters, when they walk in the cage with me is, I’m never going to tell you the pull of the inside pitch, I’m never going to tell you to hit the outside pitch the other way, your timing will tell you, your job is to hit through it, and just kind of see what happens and then you can make adjustments off of that.

Curtis Nelson  11:22

That open skill environment of having to basically variable change, you have to have the ability to be on the fastball and then adapt and adjust. I think so much of hitting is about that adjust-ability because how often are we right on time? How often are we perfect, guys in the big leagues, there might be perfect 30, 40, 50 times in a year, and getting paid a lot of money for it, but we’re not getting five 600 at bats, so we have to be a little bit more adjustable, to a certain degree at a younger age level.

Curtis Nelson  11:52

He’s breathing that into them and a younger age level, to have that ability to naturally translate over to the game. A lot of hitters that I see that struggle on that transition from cage to game, they’re doing a lot of machine where it’s in the same place every time, they’re doing a ton of Tee work, a ton of flips, we don’t typically use these in here very often, very, very rare.

Curtis Nelson  12:15

With younger guys, I will, but a lot of times with my college and my professional groups that are coming in, we’re really not using Tees at all, because we want to see the ball moving, sometimes we’ll use a tee for a feel and kind of maybe a specific drill. As a whole, we want to see that thing moving and having to make a decision soon. Just hard, soft flips, or fastball, curve-ball, mix BP or full on, dirty from 30.

Curtis Nelson  12:41

Anytime you get an opportunity to do that, you’re going to be playing the game of baseball in that environment much more like outside, right? It’s going to translate over better. When it doesn’t translate over, now you can start looking at some of those pieces within the swing that might play a role with why it’s not translating over or in the head, you know what I mean in terms of mentality.

Joey Myers  13:01

Do you guys do any kind of baseball hitting trainer approach? You were mentioning, if the ball is away, you don’t have to spray it away, you can pull that ball and my last year in college at Fresno State, we got the new coach, Coach Batesole. Now my last year is 2003, I wasn’t a part of the 2008 College World Series team, but he was a coach at that time.

Joey Myers  13:22

My last year was his first year and one of the things he told us, and the first time I had learned this, was to have two thirds away or two thirds in approach. Two thirds of the plate away or two thirds in, now we just go half, we go half away or half in. That’s how we do it now with my hitters.

Joey Myers  13:38

That was the first time I had heard that to split the plate into two thirds and he said if you’re looking two thirds away, as a righty, he said you can work left center-field all the way to right field. Anywhere in there, you can hit the ball, you don’t have to hit it straight to right and the opposite is true. If you’re looking two thirds in, then you can work right center all the way to left and that was the first time I heard that because most of my coaches would say if it’s away, boom, hit it over there. Hit it where it’s been, you guys do any kind of approach like that?

 

Do you teach your hitters any kind of plate or pitch approach?

Curtis Nelson  14:08

Through the years of doing this now, you’ve seen them all right, there’s so many different approaches. I think that as long as whatever we’re thinking is working, then great, do it but at the same time I think that thinking in general, we talked about open skill, close skill environment, hitting is one of the most purely reactionary sports there is, in terms of hitting a baseball, it’s moving, that can change direction and speed and everything.

Curtis Nelson  14:33

Sometimes approaches, it’s almost too much thinking for some hitters. We’ve done the whole look away reacting, we’ve done the even counts, you’re looking middle away, the positive counts, you’re looking middle in. In the past, I’ve talked about going to your strength is you got a positive count, if your strength is middle out, then look there, then drive into the big part of the field. If you like pulling the ball in your better middle, middle in, in that count looking at those places that you have success.

Curtis Nelson  15:03

I think the best hitters in the world in terms of the best swings and approaches, they can game plan their approaches off the pitcher. If you don’t have any holes in your swing, now you can go off of what the pitcher’s weakness is. Generically, people tend to look at what the pitchers out pitches or how he’s trying to beat you. We try and counteract that instead of going well, how is he going to get ahead of me to get to that point?

Curtis Nelson  15:27

If I’m looking middle in because he’s going to beat me there, but he actually gets hit up in a way then maybe I’m looking up in a way, and I’m going to own that zone based on the guy I’m facing. Now, when you start getting into game planning based off pitchers, you got to have spin rates, you got to have a scouting report of how he is, as a pitcher in general.

Curtis Nelson  15:46

If we don’t have that information, we got to keep it pretty simple. With driveline and what they’re doing with the pitchers nowadays, in terms of tunneling pitches, and making pitches look the same for a longer amount of time, the game is not getting any easier. We want to know where to look.

Curtis Nelson  16:05

We talk a lot about arming pitchers way off to the side more three-quarter arm slot, you should be looking up and out for that guy, you facing Bumgarner, and he’s throwing the ball from second base, we want to be looking up and out, because the ball is coming from that direction, and I think a lot of people make the mistake. It works at a younger age level when the ball is not moving as fast but a lot of people make the mistake of looking at the plate, because not always where it starts is not always where it’s going to finish based on what kind of movement they have.

Curtis Nelson  16:34

Oftentimes, you’re looking middle in and out a hand it looks middle in, and then it’s going to hit you in the hands, or you’re looking middle away, the next thing you know, you get a slider into the batter’s box that you chase. We try and kind of counteract what we’re facing, by how and where we’re looking, to a certain degree, obviously, that depends on the level you’re at.

Curtis Nelson  16:53

With some of my younger teams, we’re trying to keep it as simple as possible. A few years back with one of my teams, we had some pretty darn good hitters and some good swings, we ended up just kind of taking the approach of doesn’t matter what count it is, if it’s a strike, let’s smash it, and just kind of the old see-ball, hit-ball approach, and just make sure we’re on time and adjustable from that point. We had a lot of success with that.

Curtis Nelson  17:16

We basically said, we’re going to flat out own the zone, and we’re going to take balls, and the guys were mature enough to go do that, some hitters need to be a little bit more specific about how they think. I always go full circle with things and making them more individually based for the hitter, right? If I got a hitter that flat out pulls the ball, like there’s no tomorrow, and is a really good pole hitter, then that’s probably where we’re going to look because probably something that you can pull to a certain degree, especially early in counts but that also limits him on his ability to adapt and adjust to what he’s facing to a certain degree.

Curtis Nelson  17:50

To kind of get that complete hitter, the swings got to be able to kind of withstand different zones, different timings and different angles of pitch, to be able to game plan fully, I think the better the swing, the easier it is the game plan off the pitcher and that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do.

Joey Myers  18:06

With your young hitters, and I know you when you say that, if you got a hitter, that’s just dead pole and if that’s a strength, you’re probably talking about the older guys, whether it’s high school, college, on up. What about the younger guys? Do you have more of being able to use all field approach, and if so, if you have them set up like what we do, we do small private groups. We have between two and four hitters in a group, with the whole COVID thing, we used to do six, but I try and keep it to four at the max and we’re pretty spread out outside and stuff.

Joey Myers  18:38

What we do is we set up the tee at the beginning, we take our baseball hitting trainer ball exit speeds, but what I’m also looking for is not only the number, but I’m looking for we set that tee up, it’s center center. They should be hitting it right up the middle, right? What I’m looking for and I’m observing is if they’re pulling all five swings that they’re going to get or they’re going the other way, all five swings, where it’s center center, do you do anything like that and eval and try and get them to make an adjustment?

How do you evaluate hitters and teach them to make an adjustment?

Curtis Nelson  19:05

Not so much of the tee. We film everything, I’ll film a rear-view angle, so I can kind of see ball flight, I can see timing, posture, hand path and we’ll do a side view. I’ve always gone to the film, you look at contact points, you look at when the barrel is coming out, you look at timing, and then you look at what’s coming off, right? You’re taking middle pitches, and you’re just hooking them every time into the net, the film is going to show you that you’re around and outside that ball pretty early.

Curtis Nelson  19:34

Ultimately, we want a hitter that can cover the line. I want somebody that can drive a ball, dead straight off, and the ball flies straight with backspin, and then all of a sudden that pitches inside or they’re a little bit early and they can pull it with true fly. Especially in Washington state, we get a lot of hitters that only hit when they’re inside until the game because there’s just not a lot of fields out there that you can hop on and just a lot of hitters are just doing indoor lessons and practicing inside. They just don’t see the ball flight as well.

Curtis Nelson  20:04

That’s where the wraps around the hit tracks can be nice in terms of being able to really truly see where that ball is going. Also, with how cages are built, right, we have these tunnels in cages where we get this tunnel vision going, where a lot of hitters will come in and just pepper their back-net pepper right center, and not pull a single ball into the net.

Curtis Nelson  20:13

We had a lot of hitters in Washington that just pushed the ball in the right field. Learning how to pull the ball correctly, or learning how to drive the ball opposite field correctly. It’s different for everybody, but ultimately, I rely on the film, in the flips. I’m not doing a lot of the tee stuff but if you find value in something, by all means, do it.

Joey Myers  20:45

Now, if you were going to teach a guy, if he was pulling everything into the left side of the net, or even going off way too much, how do you get an Oppo person to learn how to pull the ball? How do you get a pull person to learn? What’s your go to drill for that?

 

How do you get a pull happy hitter go oppo, and how do you get an oppo happy hitter pulling the ball?

Curtis Nelson  21:00

It depends on what the reason is, whether it’s just a mentality thing. That’s where I tapping into each hitter, in learning your hitter and understanding what their thoughts are, what they’re trying to do. You can compare that to the film, we have something called a deep dive, where you kind of dive into the analytics a little bit in terms of professionals. You go look at all the analytics, then you compare it to game film, then you compare it to the indoor cage routine stuff.

Curtis Nelson  21:28

If you have all that information, it starts to paint the picture a little bit of why they might not pull the ball in the air as well, or why they might be pushing the ball off. Ultimately, I think that I’m going to look at the film, I’m going to look at how they’re moving. Obviously, like what you were talking about is putting them on that tee and getting a feel for.

Curtis Nelson  21:49

This was D Rob’s argument to me about the tee stuff because he loves the tee stuff. That’s where I told him, at the end of the day, if that is a routine that has built you, you’re finding comfort in a certain position, that maybe you’re not feeling when the ball is moving, by all means getting on a tee and feeling that contact point out or hitting the ball deeper in the ball more out in front, based on what you’re trying to create, you can gain a feel in that atmosphere.

Curtis Nelson  22:14

I’m not saying that I’m against tees by any means but I’d much rather see the ball moving and how they respond to it moving with some film on it, so we can kind of see that overall picture. I think it’s going to be different for every hitter based on what they’re thinking, based on what their mechanics are and then obviously comparing that to the results or any kind of data that we do have, but that’s a good question, I like that.

Joey Myers  22:38

One of the baseball hitting trainer things I hear a lot of what you’re talking about is timing. There’s a lot of people out there, believe it or not, that say that timing cannot be taught. What would you say to that coach, instructor, parent, that hears that, comes to you and says, “Curtis, so and so said that timing cannot be taught?” What do you think about that?

 

“Curtis, so and so said that timing cannot be taught?” What do you think about that?

Curtis Nelson  22:58

I teach timing every day, every single day. Some hitters are going to grasp some concepts better than others, and some hitters have that ability to be on time more consistently, whether that’s because of their swing, or because of their athleticism, their hand eye coordination, whatever it is, they have a gift to show up on time more than others.

Curtis Nelson  23:23

I would say 95% of the hitters that come through my cage, getting them aware of their move, whether it’s improving the move first, and then making them aware of their move in relationship to time and space, is one of the most important things that I do. I truly believe there are hitters out there that just time naturally, and it’s very natural for them to do so.

Curtis Nelson  23:46

They don’t need to understand their timing, they just show up on time more often than others. For every one of those guys, there’s 150 to 1000 of the other guys that need to understand their timing. We do a lot of timing stuff in here, just really a lot of rear-view films to kind of show hitters, when are you picking up in relationship to where the pitcher is.

Curtis Nelson  24:06

When I was growing up, it was all about getting your foot down early, get your foot down early, get your foot down, and that’s all we ever heard when we were late, that can breed a lot of issues. If you got a swing like Rendon, or Nelson Cruz or Paul Goldschmidt, that is a different type of stride.

Curtis Nelson  24:22

You still see them have a good feel of time, they get that foot down and then the body shifts back to center to a certain degree to hit, everyone’s a little bit different on that aspect. Ultimately, I think rhythm and flow, that we talked a lot about flowing, a lot about dancing with the pitcher. Those are some pretty simple terms that can apply to timing but if you can arrive on time to a good fastball and then you can still have adjust-ability on breaking balls, we got a great opportunity to hit in the game and having markers in the swing or the pitcher.

Curtis Nelson  24:53

Whether it’s some guys like to go on handbrake or some guys like to make their move on arm up or other guys like to just game plan off of “Hey, I’m ready to pull the fastball, even though I’m not trying to.” There’s different ways around that to get somebody on time but making hitters more aware of their timing when they’re on and when they’re off or when they’re late or they’re early, is a really, really crucial piece to what we do here.

Joey Myers  25:18

Before we get to where people can find a little bit more about you, we’re kind of closing in here, I want to ask you just one more question on that. If you got some young hitters that come in, think about the team that you’re talking about that have the young guys where they’re just basically swinging strikes, take balls, if they’re facing a really slow pitcher, which tends to happen quite a bit where the pitcher can break a pane of glass, what are some of the baseball hitting trainer adjustments that you have them make or go through?

 

Baseball hitting trainer: what are some of the adjustments you have hitters make to slow pitchers?

Curtis Nelson  25:42

It’s such a good question. I love answering this question. I think that when I was younger, the generic and you still hear it with hitters, you still hear with coaches, whatever ones taught against that soft lefty. I remember showing up to the field, and we’re facing a PAC 12 recruit throw in 93-94. I’m like, we’re going to score 10 runs today, because we hit this guy like there’s no tomorrow, we prepared for this. You show up, and you face that soft lefty throwing 75 and I’m like, I don’t know, if we’re going to have a hit today, it’s a bad feeling.

Curtis Nelson  26:11

When I was growing up, you saw the slow guy warming up and you’re like licking your chops. Well, I’m about to be free for a couple doubles and a home run and that guy usually didn’t make it out the first ending. I think it goes into kind of training nowadays is a lot of machine, a lot of velocity, a lot of that stuff. We’re better against firm, but I do think that the approaches, and the way we’re taught against those guys can really play a role.

Curtis Nelson  26:12

Growing up, we were all taught to hit that guy off and push that ball into right, hit it off, let it travel, see it, the start your rhythm later, make a forward move later in the process, however you want to say it. That actually is what the lefty pitcher wants you to do, I want you to be defensive, he wants you to push them all off. He wants you to weight back on him.

Curtis Nelson  27:00

The best approach against the soft guy is to shrink the zone, make the zone smaller. He doesn’t have the ability to strike you out unless you chase his pitches, and you’re going to see his pitches better because the ball is moving slower, we see the ball better when it’s moving slower, you can’t argue that.

Curtis Nelson  27:16

At the end of the day, if you shrink your zone and go, “Hey, I’m going to be here, this is my goal zone against this guy. I’m not chasing those pitches out there”. Even if they look hit-able moving slower, I think we’re going to have a lot more success doing that, we’re not necessarily trying to go off, but we’re not trying to go up there and roll over to third first pitch either, I think it’s really just commanding your zone and kind of going back to the simplicity of just trying to hit through the ball and see where it goes.

Curtis Nelson  27:41

I think we tend to manipulate the swing because of what we’re facing, that slow guy is like, “I’m hitting a home run against this guy”. We’re spinning off that slow when away, but we tend to beat ourselves more than maybe they beat us. We try and stay away from the generic hit the ball up against the slow guy kind of mentality. The end just kind of stick to say, “Hey, this guy only beats me if I chase, so we’ve got a good pitch to him.”

Joey Myers  28:07

That’s funny you say that because that’s the same with the same lefties that we’re seeing, that can’t break a pane of glass, you see the guy throwing 93-94. 93-94, it’s Friday night, and then Saturday night, you see the guy can break pane of glass and the way I’m going to just pepper it to the opposite field, but one thing he is slow anyway, so you can have to wait longer and then now you’re saying that you want to hit it the opposite field, and now you got to wait even longer. You got to see it even deeper, it’s almost like it’s two double negatives there. I get that. You’re chasing your tail, basically.

Joey Myers  28:42

Curtis, I appreciate your baseball hitting trainer time. Where can people find you? I know you’re on Twitter, because that’s where I’ve seen you. If you guys have a website, where you guys are in Washington, if anybody wants to come out and check you guys out, where can more people find you.

 

Where can people who want more information find you?

Curtis Nelson  28:58

Our cage out here it’s called Atkinson Baseball Academy. It’s out in Kirkland, Washington. I know there’s a website for the cage. I am separate from that in terms of my hitting instruction. I am on Twitter, it’s @Nelson_Hitting, used to be cheat hack nation. That was kind of a joke that we threw together when I first developed because of all the swings we’re seeing that were a little bit aggressively big. I don’t have my own personal website, I probably should by now, but I spend majority of my time in the cage with hitters, so the internet and social media side of things, I’m still relatively beginner at that. I would say Twitter is the best way to reach out if you have anything, just shoot me a DM and I’ll get back to you as soon as I possibly can.

Joey Myers  29:49

Maybe not 100% probability but you can take a baseball hitting trainer like yourself who’s always in the cage doing stuff. You can take where somebody like you, you think he’s got 20,000 or 100,000 followers because it’s great stuff, if you read your stuff, you watch the videos that you put up and think it’s awesome stuff and you should have like the 50,000 100,000 but the reason you don’t is because you’re not on Twitter all the time, you’re in the cage, working with hitters, so that’s always not always a sign of a good hitting coach but I would say more likely than not, guys like Matt Piers and Jeremy Johnson, they don’t really have big followings but they got great gyms that they put out there and can really help hitters. I really appreciate what you guys are doing out there in Washington, keep up the great baseball hitting trainer work.  If you see D Rob before me, say hi to him. I think he’s up in Seattle, he still lives in Seattle?

Curtis Nelson  30:45

Yeah, he’s over in West Seattle. They got a bridge out so that is a pain in the butt to get out of West Seattle right now, but he’s over there. He pops in the cage, he comes, he hangs out. His experiences and his knowledge is just bar none. He’s been doing it for so long. It’s a lot of fun getting that guy in the cage and kind of just talking.

Joey Myers  31:05

He’s a baseball hitting trainer Yoda for sure. I know he wants to be a GM and I can see that he’s got the chops on the field, he understands intellectually the game and like you said, it’s fun to talk with him. So, tell him hi for me if you see him before me. How far is Kirkland from Seattle? How far are you guys away?

Curtis Nelson  31:27

Very close, if you take away traffic. Right now, with COVID and everything, the freeways aren’t as crazy out here right now. You take away traffic, I can get over to West Seattle, it’s kind of over by the airport, you can get over that direction in 20 minutes, 15 to 20 minutes, but you throw in the traffic of the normal out here, you’re looking at probably more like an hour and a half.

Joey Myers  31:50

Got you. Cool. All right, Curtis, well, I’ll let you go, man. Thanks again for your time and Merry Christmas to you and the fam.

Curtis Nelson  31:58

Merry Christmas, you guys take care. My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

Joey Myers  32:01

You got it.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Christian Yelich Video Says Baseball Swing Trainer Barry Bonds Taught Him A Drill That Changed His Career…

 

 

Typical baseball swing trainer BEWARE!

I agree with ‘swing down’…

Baseball Wwing Trainer: 'Swinging Down' in the 'Launch Angle' Era?

Christian Yelich and Barry Bonds swing comparison. Photo courtesy: Jomboy Media YouTube channel

Let that sink in for a bit.

Some are pissed I just said that.  But those who’ve followed me for some time are nodding their head in confirmation because they know better.

Because guess what?  It depends.

‘Swing down’ shouldn’t be used as a baseball swing trainer blanket teach.  I have two things for you…

  1. Jomboy Media VIDEO: “Christian Yelich says Barry Bonds taught him a drill that changed his career” (watching it will reveal its relevance to this post), and
  2. Below is Chapter-2 of the new book I’m working on.  It’s a longer post, but I think you’ll like it.  Goes well with the Yelich-Bonds video above, like grass fed red meat and a fine red wine.

Thank you Grandpa Mike for sharing the baseball swing trainer video.  You know who you are.  Enjoy!

———-

WHAT AN OLD SCHOOL SWING FEELS LIKE & THE PROS AND CONS?

In Chapter-2, we’ll look at what an old school swing feels like and the pros and cons.  We’ll be discussing:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics,
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics, and
  • So, how do we interweave brainless data and confusing real v. feel hitting cues?

How Can Someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they Say about Hitting is Wrong?

Now, some of you out there have seen the video of Alex Rodriguez demonstrating how he swung down. Maybe you saw the preseason interview of Mike Trout discussing how he gets on top of the ball.

Or how about Albert Pujols on the MLB Network revealed he swings knob down to the ball?

‘Swing down’.  ‘Getting on top of the ball’.  ‘Knob to the ball’.  ‘Keep barrel above hands’ is another one.  Nowadays, these are some of THE most despised baseball swing trainer hitting coaching cues on the market.  I was one of them.  “Was”.  About 2-3 years ago.  Now I have a different perspective and approach.  These cues DO work.  But it depends on the case.  And if reading or hearing those words made your blood boil…you can change too, believe me.  Here’s how…

First, let’s clear up and define “swinging down”. Well yeah, the hands do go down to the ball. And depending on how high or low the ball is, the hands will go down more or less. This is true.  But coaches HATE these cues for a different reason.  Here’s the thing… if you watch players like A-Rod, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols physically demonstrate what swinging down means to them, you see them using a chopping motion. Yes. The barrel and hands travel down to the ball. But not ‘hands drop’.  That’s different, and is a swing flaw we MUST fix.  In the high level swing, we see the barrel go down before coming up.

Here’s my beef with ‘swinging down’…

When swinging down is translated by the baseball swing trainer into a NEGATIVE attack angle.  Meaning the barrel is going down towards the impact point.  Is not coming up.  And this is what hitting greats like Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols are demonstrating in interviews.  And where the confusion starts.  If you watch their actual swing on film, slow motion swing, what you’re going to see is a POSITIVE attack angle.  Meaning, barrel elevating up to incoming ball descending down. Yes, even in Fastpitch Softball (more about this in Chapter-7).  Barrel coming up to impact, positive. Barrel going down to impact, negative.  We clear?

So if what these great hitters are saying and demonstrating isn’t what they’re actually doing, then what’s REALLY going on?

Well, here’s the thing … it’s the mysterious case of real versus feel What’s really happening on video doesn’t square with what the high level hitter feels they’re doing.  Two completely opposite things.  Take Mike Trout.  Let’s look at his real (9-year career average batted ball numbers before start of 2020 season):

  • Ground-ball rate: 36.8% (League average is 43%)
  • Fly-ball rate: 40.8% (League average is 37%)
  • Line drive rate: 22.4% (League average is 20%), and
  • Homerun to fly-ball ratio: 21.4% (League average is 9.5%).

Significantly below average ground-ball rate.  Check.  Slightly above average fly-ball rate.  Check.  Slightly above average line drive rate.  Check.  And well above average home-run to fly-ball ration.  Checkmate!  This proves his performance – the real – doesn’t jive with his feel of ‘getting on top of the ball’.  I want you to go to YouTube, search “Mike Trout slow motion swing”, and watch…

His barrels goes down, then comes up to the ball.  Up.  Positive barrel attack angle.  Not down.  Not on top.  Not a negative attack angle.

Before the baseball swing trainer gets upset I’m telling Mike Trout, “You know ‘nothin’!”  Here’s the beautiful crazy of this whole thing.   Coaches, understand this … the body is always one or two steps behind the brain. Thinking happens fast. There’s zero friction with thoughts.  Nothing. It just goes, goes, goes, goes, goes.  No heavy bones, muscle, organs, and fascia required to move before a thought can fire off!

The secret to unlocking the real v. feel mystery can be revealed through a psychology term called paradoxical intention…

Pros to Old School Feel Mechanics

We have to understand what Mike Trout is REALLY saying.  Bring context to the numbers.  Remember Chapter-1?  Trout will say, “I’ll take 10 swings off the tee or during batting practice to feel like I’m getting on top of the ball”. You see, his natural tendency is to uppercut. An extreme uppercut because he uses a significant shoulder tilt to effectively feast on balls down in the zone.  And this works well with pitchers targeting down in the zone, and away.

Although, this is different than the slight uppercut Ted Williams talked about in his book The Science Of Hitting.  Williams talked about barrel meeting the plane of the pitch.  Trout’s natural tendency runs counter to this.  And what he tells himself, remember the body is one or two steps behind the brain, is to do the exact opposite of what his natural tendency is.  He tells himself to get on top of the ball. And what’s the result?  The barrel ends up somewhere in the middle of extreme uppercut and negative attack angle downswing.  That’s what he’s trying to get for his real… to get to the middle.

The true old school baseball swing trainer hitting tragedy…

Some say hitters like Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Pujols, and Trout are – or were – fantastic at doing, but not very good at translating what they did into teaching. Take Barry Bonds. Who was the Florida Marlins hitting coach in 2016.  Then they let him go.  Former Marlins President David Samson said this,

“Bonds was worst hitting coach of my career.”  

So why wasn’t Barry Bonds able to translate the way he hit to his prized pupils like Giancarlo Stanton?  Bonds is the career Major League home run leader after all. Some say he can do, but he doesn’t know how he does what he did.  I disagree these hitters aren’t good at teaching.  Again it’s a translation issue.

Dr. Victor Frankl, Psychologist and survivor of four Nazi death camps, in his book Man’s Search For Meaning, calls this “paradoxical intention”.  Hitters like Trout and Bonds use extreme physical cues to establish a consistent slight upward swing plane.  This strategy is a “trick” played on the body, which is a step or two behind.   Paradoxical intention.  Take any hitter with an extreme uppercut, tell them to chop down (negative Attack Angle “feel” cue), and their barrel path ends up in a slight uppercut.  Just like Ted Williams said – like magic!  Feel cues are fantastic for making simple swing adjustments.

If you’re coaching youth hitters, let’s get into that world for a moment…

A lot, and I mean A LOT of youth players ages 7 to 12 years old uppercut.  Extreme uppercuts. Casting.  Loooong swings.  They don’t need to be taught this!  This is typical, before they’ve built enough strength in their bodies.  In their core.  In the dynamic nature of the spinal engine.  They tend to cast the barrel out.  Meaning, the barrel casts away from the body, leaving the back shoulder too early. This causes a long swing.  Thanks to gravitational forces, centripetal and centrifugal forces*.  As they swing, they end up underneath the ball.  On inside pitches, they end up getting jammed a lot.  And swing under a lot of pitches up in the zone.  A LOT.

(*Centripetal Force is a center “seeking” force. Like twirling a rock on a string. The rock exerts force back to the two fingers holding the string. Centrifugal Force is a center “fleeing” force. Letting go of the twirling rock on a swing, causes the rock to shoot off in a tangent direction away from the original circle.)

There are other factors causing an extreme uppercut, like hands drop or constant deep barrel dumping.  But with youth hitters, the rules of Physics are bigger offenders. Here’s the good news … swing an overloaded bat.  Overloaded bats help young hitters build strength to do that.  Regardless of mechanics.  More on that protocol later in the book.

Those are the pros of an old school feel mechanics. Now, let’s look at the cons…

Cons to Old School Feel Mechanics

These are what the baseball swing trainer “metrics people” will typically bring up. You’re so out of touch.  No numbers to support your gut feelings?  What does that mean?  How can I trust your “gut”?  Because you played or coached 20 years in the Big Leagues?  That’s not good enough!!  What’s measurable is manageable.  If you can’t use numbers to support your gut, then I’m not listening.  This is a common conversation you’ve probably seen, heard, or participated in.

The old school coaching cues we just discussed in the pros to old school swing section can also be included in that gut conversation.  It’s bad if the old school cues are used as a default. In a one size fits all way. For example, Johnny’s coach sees Pujols demonstrate a chopping down swing on MLB Network’s Diamond Demos. That coach goes to Johnny’s 10 year old team practice on Monday evening, and tells every one of his hitters to swing like Pujols does. Chop, chop, chop. And he tells them with the conviction, vigor, and energy of a Sunday Pastor, that they can hit like Pujols.  How can you argue with Senor Alberto?  From his lips to coach’s ears out of coaches mouth to kids’ ears.  If Albert Pujols said it and it worked for him, then we MUST take the message literally!  He is Prince Albert for jimminies sake!

Here’s the problem with that. Remember when I mentioned the translation issue?  By feeding the ‘swing down’ or ‘chop down’ mantras as a default hitting strategy to every 10 year old on your team, I’m sorry to say it, but you will lose. Let me illustrate with a thought experiment…

Apply the “one-third rule” to your team. In this example, assume a third of your hitters pop the ball up a majority of the time. Another third of hitters hit line drives a majority of the time.  And the remaining third are majority ground-ball hitters.  So, what if you tell the whole team to swing down or get on top of the ball?  A blanket statement to all.  Default old school baseball swing trainer hitting cue.  What do you think is going to happen?

Based on what was discussed with Dr. Victor Frankl’s paradoxical intention – remember extreme uppercut, tell them to ‘get on top’, and they end up in the middle?  Slight uppercut.  Inline with incoming pitch.  Here’s what will happen to our team if we tell all to chop down … a third of the team that used to pop the ball up a majority of the time, will hit more line drives. Those middle third hitting line drives a majority of the time, are going to hit more ground-balls. And the ground-ball a majority of the time group, are going to hit even more worm burner ground-balls.  So how did the thought experiment turn out with a blanket statement old school hitting cue?

The only group on the team that benefits are the beginning fly ball hitters. The ones hitting fly-balls a majority of the time.  Those are the only ones you’ll see a significant difference, for the better.  Look ground-balls are great.  Especially hard ones when the defense can’t play catch.  But what happens when they can play catch?  When would your team come across a team that can play catch?  That’s right!  In all-stars.  In playoff and championship games.  Not good if you just converted line drive hitters into ground-ball hitters.  And ground-ballers into hitting more worm burners.  Read our infamous Ground-ball Rant post.

Now, let’s cook up a different scenario.  A more simple yet elegant solution.  Instead of giving a blanket statement, a blanket swing down, chop down to the whole team. But instead, I let the line drive hitters do their thing. Just keep doing what you’re doing. I took the fly ball hitter and told them to swing down, chop down.  And I instructed the ground-ballers to hit the ball in the air.  Like pop the ball up instruction.  How do you think that baseball swing trainer thought experiment would go?

If I did that…now my pop-fliers AND ground-ballers are both hitting more line drives.  Remember Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning paradoxical intention?  Overall, my whole team is hitting more line drives. Now my line drivers aren’t lonely.  They have more competition to deal with.  Competition makes everyone better.  Hungrier.  Especially when they’re experiencing success.  Does that make sense?

The cons of an old school swing are when we apply a blanket statement shared by one of the best hitters on the planet.  Don’t do that.  Bad coach.  You DO NOT pass go, and you DO NOT collect $200.

One swing fits all cues are a bad. And you wouldn’t know this without data to measure and optimize. Gut feelings and hunches are like throwing darts in the dark.  It’s like shooting an arrow and calling whatever you hit – after the fact.  It’s guessing.  If you aren’t collecting numbers using a PocketRadar, Rhapsodo, HitTrax, BlastMotion, or SwingTracker, then you’re flying blind. You aren’t going to know. And those hunches will just be hunches.

Same goes for blindly following what a Hall of Famer or future Hall of Famer says or said about hitting.  Become a scientist.  Test, test, test.  Blindly following a leader without question, will make you nothing more than a sheep.  Question, question, question.  Even question me and EVERYTHING in this book.

So far in Chapter-2, we talked about:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics, and
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics…

We talked about how what’s real and what’s feel are two totally different things. The scenery can be very confusing. The waters choppy.  How does a coach cut through the clutter and calm the waters?  The simple truth to make hitting easier – it’s not easy, but we can make it easier – is called paradoxical intention.  Doing the exact opposite of what just happened to get the middle.  Extreme swing up?  Tell them to swing down – hit a chopper.  Extreme swing down?  Tell them to swing up – hit a pop-fly.  There’s more to it of course, and we’ll get into it more later.  Let’s move on to…

How do we Interweave Brainless Data and Confusing Hitting Cues?

This DOES NOT cause that, and that DOES NOT cause this.  Question: Coincidentally, if I wear a green shirt and it rains, then is it reasonable to think I can make it rain by wearing a green shirt?   This is the exact dilemma many instructors find themselves in with what they teach.

Some teach ONLY using data.  Some teach ONLY using old school hitting cues.  Some claim to base their teachings on millions of hours watching ONLY the best hitters.  Some validate Science with their hitting theories (proudly saying their system can’t be found in Science!!).  And others validate their hitting philosophy with Science, which is what we do.  Who’s right?  Who’s wrong?  Can we use a mix?  And if so, how do we know if we’re on the right track?

Are you throwing dynamite in the air and expecting rain?

I want to share a true story from the book Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. The story will illuminate how to filter the hitting information available today. Interestingly…

Right before the Great Depression hit the Oklahoma panhandle, rain was plentiful.  This caused Doctors and Lawyers to quit their practices and join the ranks of farmers to buy land and plant crops that were being subsidized by the US government.  In other words, the gold-in-them-hills was harvesting and selling wheat and other bumper crops of the era.

Millions of acres of 6-foot high beautiful Buffalo blue grass were plowed under to make room for crops.  Fast forward to the beginning of the Great Depression, the rain dried up, and so did the crops.  Unbeknownst to the “new” farmers who moved to the area, typically rain was sparse in the location, and by coincidence, they had just experienced a rare wet 5-10 year period.

Now there’s NO rain.  And you know the 6-foot high beautiful Buffalo blue grass they cut down?  Well, it used to hold the soil down despite seasonal 60 to 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts.  So NO rain coming.  NO crops growing.  Super high winds are eroding dry barren soil and tossing it up in the air.  Grazing cattle have nothing to eat but tumbleweeds brought over by Russians (people often sprinkled salt to eat them as well).  The livestock soon get sick and die.  The drought is fatal for the majority who stay, others move west.  This is where we get John Steinbeck’s book “Dust Bowl”.

Stick with me, because here comes the lesson…

The farmers who stayed behind were so desperate for rain, they hired self proclaimed rain experts to “create” rain, literally out of thin air.  The belief at the time was that an explosion in the air could bring clouds, and with clouds, rain would fall from the sky.  In plenty.  So what did these self proclaimed rain experts do?  What any self proclaimed rain expert would do!!  They sold the idea that if they lit a stick of dynamite, timed the throw just right, they could get a perfectly timed explosion that would bring rain-a-plenty.

…And as luck would find it, the “racket” seemed to work a couple times.  This only fed the foolishness we all see now – hindsight is 20/20.  Yes, this wasn’t a proud time in American history.  You have to understand, people back then were DESPERATE.  Their hope blinded them to the MANY times throwing dynamite in the air didn’t work.  People lost limbs, fingers, etc. from timing the throw wrong.  Head scratcher  I know.

When it comes to baseball swing trainer, we have to be careful of the causation-correlation relationship.  Is studying video and teaching only what the “best” hitters are doing enough?  I would argue it is not.  How do you know what you’re looking at, if you don’t know what you’re looking for?  We see Pujols demonstrating a negative attack angle swing on MLB Network.  But then we see him NOT do that in real-time.  We bring that same Pujols gold nugget to Johnny’s team, blanket teach it, and the end result looks nothing like what we see Pujols do during competition.  This DOES NOT cause that, and that DOES NOT cause this.

I’m going to reveal a secret about why coaches are terrible at the causation-correlation relationship.  Like shooting a random arrow and calling whatever is hit.  Here’s a quote summing it up from Scott Adams, in his book Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America:

“There are three important things to know about human beings in order to understand why we do the things we do. [1] Humans use pattern recognition to understand their world. [2] Humans are very bad at pattern recognition. [3] And they don’t know it.”

So how do we escape this seemingly inescapable prison of baseball swing trainer misdiagnosis?  After reading thus far, you know it.  Be less subjective and more objective.  KeyDifferences.com says this about subjective versus objective:

“Subjective means something which does not show the clear picture or it is just a person’s outlook or expression of opinion. A subjective statement relies on assumptions, beliefs, opinions and influenced by emotions and personal feelings.  An objective statement is based on facts and observations.”

Use the Scientific Method.  Develop a hitting Question…make a predictive Hypothesis…do the Research…collect the Data…form a Conclusion.  Swing experimentation.  We apply human movement principles validated by REAL Science to hitting a ball.  Scientific principles pulled from:

  • Physics,
  • Engineering,
  • Biomechanics, and
  • Body work.

How do we figure out if this DOES cause that?  Or if that DOES cause this?  Not by wearing a green shirt!   To know what you’re looking at, you have to know what you’re looking for.  DO NOT validate Science through your hitting philosophy.  DO validate your hitting philosophy through Science.  Set a higher standard for your hitters.  It’s okay – watch your millions of hours of video…employ those expensive measuring gadgets…and flaunt those old school hitting cues.

But above ALL of that … understand what the rules to human movements are FIRST.  Once you know that, all other domino’s fall where they’re supposed to.  In conclusion of Chapter-2, we looked at what an old school swing feels like and the pros and cons.  We discussed:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics,
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics, and
  • So, how do we interweave brainless data and confusing real v. feel hitting cues?

In Chapter-3, we’ll answer the question of what leads to hitting more predictable line drives and less strikeouts.  Where we’ll dive into:

  • What does “predictable” mean and why does probability matter?  And,
  • Difference between ‘Launch Angle’ and ‘Attack Angle’…

Onward…

———-

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: 5 Little Known Ways To Improve Hitters

 

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: 11yo Jackson Handler

This is one of my online lessons out in Pennsylvania (I’m in Cali), 11yo Jackson. 2.5 months between BEFORE/AFTER’s.

A great softball hitting tips for beginners question came in recently, from a reader (relates well to baseball too)…

“What percentage of hitters that you have coached got no improvement or no benefit from your program? How many swings per day would you recommend for a 10yr old hitter (what’s too much and not enough?”

Here’s what we’ll cover in this softball hitting tips for beginners post:

  • Improvement depends on these 5 things…, AND
  • How many swings are too much & not enough?

 

Improvement Depends on these 5 Things…

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: Mia Buffano 15yo

This is one of my online fastpitch hitters 15yo Mia out in Florida.

I’d be lying to you if I said that ALL my online and local hitters are continually improving or benefiting from my system.

Sadly, this holds true for anyone’s system…effective or ineffective.

Unless…

The instructor is HIGHLY selective on who they accept as a client.

Although, it must be said those hitters being taught ineffective mechanics will get cut much sooner than ones learning how to hit employing human movement principles that are validated by science.

We coaches and instructors can control only so much.

We’re like a flashlight guiding the way in the dark.  We can illuminate where we want the hitter to go and how to get there, but ultimately it’s up to the hitter to do their homework.

Here are FIVE critical factors for seeing constant improvement with hitters…

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners #1: Motivation/Inspiration

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins photo courtesy: attitudes4innovation.com

Like Tony Robbins says, “Motivation is like a warm bath”.  Motivation wears off in the short term.  But inspiration can last up to months, if not years, from its inception.

There’s a time and place for each.

Think of motivation as PUSHING the player, whereas inspiration allows them to be PULLED by their own self-motivation.

The latter is obviously ideal, but the challenge is that every player is inspired and motivated by different things.

There’s nothing more frustrating for a hitting coach or the parents, than an unmotivated and/or uninspired player…

Which we may have to face the conclusion that this player is probably not in the right sport or activity.

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners #2: Effective mechanics

Is the hitter applying human movement principles – that are validated by science – to hitting a ball?

You see, effectiveness is doing the right things, while efficiency is doing those things right.

In other words, I can get real good at ‘squashing the bug’, ‘chopping down on the ball’, and ‘sitting back’ but my playing career will be dwarfed in comparison to executing more effective body movements.

One of the biggest competitive advantages I would recommend to any coach, would be to invest and read Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains.  Here’s a short video from Thomas Myers explaining “What is Tensegrity”:

ftball Hitting Tips for Beginners #3: Effective coaching cues

As most of you coaches know, player learning styles are different.  Do you know how many learning styles there are?

Here’s a clue…

Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, says there are 3 main ones (acronym – VAK):

  1. Visual (sight/pictures),
  2. Auditory (sound), and
  3. Kinesthetic (feel).

Furthermore, vague coaching cues like ‘get on top of the ball’ or ‘be short to the ball’, which can be used effectively as adjustment cues, are too general and broad in scope to teach as a default swing strategy.

Without extended explanation, these cues aren’t very intuitive, and are ultimately ineffective on a broad scale.

On the other hand, ‘show your numbers to the pitcher’ or ‘land shorter’, will require minimal explanation to get the hitter executing exactly what you want them to do.

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners #4: Feedback systems

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: Zepp Sensor

This is the Zepp sensor connecting to phone app

I think it was Peter Drucker that said what gets measured, gets managed.

If you’re a hitting coach that DOES NOT use slow motion analysis, then you’re not being effective.

With free slow motion video phone apps like CoachesEye and HudlTech, and inexpensive PC/MAC software like Powerchalk, there’s ZERO excuse to not do slow motion analysis with your hitters.

Also, swing apps like Zepp, SwingTracker, and the more expensive HitTrax cage system are great for getting more in depth in measuring a hitter’s outcomes.

You can also use Pocket Radar or a Bushnell radar gun to measure Ball Exit Speeds.

There are also intuitive hitting aids out there that help to cut down the learning curve when teaching a hitter specific swing movements.  One inexpensive one giving audible feedback of when the barrel is accelerating is the Swing Blaster.

The point is, there are great forms of technology and a few hitting aids out there to aid in your feedback systems.  These modalities give hitters INSTANT feedback on where to improve.

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners #5: Doing the work

This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.  Even if you’ve checked the previous FOUR factors off your list, if the hitter isn’t putting the work in, then they’ll get better…but can take years to see consistent improvement.

The overarching theme of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography, in his tell all book Total Recall, was:

  • Goals,
  • Steps, and then
  • Reps.

You see, if the hitter is inspired/motivated, employing effective mechanics and coaching cues, using feedback systems to manage what’s measureable, then it’s all about putting the work in.

Do the right things, then get outstanding at doing those things right.

 

How Many Swings are too Much & not Enough?

Positive Coaching Alliance

Positive Coaching Alliance website is PositiveCoach.org

Fine Line Between Motivation & Inspiration

Remember motivation is like a warm bath, good in the moment, but will soon cool.  Inspiration is the PULL of self-motivation we want to cultivate in our athletes.

Most young athletes ARE NOT inspired to go to practice.  Most go because they want to have fun and connect with friends and teammates.  It’s the 1/3 Rule:

  • 1/3 of your team wants to be there AND get better,
  • 1/3 of your team wants to be there, and the last
  • 1/3 of the team DOES NOT want to be there & could care less about getting better.

And unfortunately, coaches have to spend most of their time on strengthening the weakest links.  This at least holds true for school ball, whereas the parents to have to pay to play.

I find leaning on an organization like the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) to help equip coaches, players, umpires, and parents on how to build, motivate, and inspire better athletes, resulting in better people later in life.

Over-Practicing

The International Youth Conditioning Association, whom I’m certified with, talks about how long is too long to have young athletes train or practice.

If we’re coaching 12u, practices SHOULD NOT be more than 45-60 mins, 3 times per week.  More than that is too much.  30-mins or less for 8u.  Middle School should be around 1 hour 30-mins, High School 2 hours 30 mins, college 3-5 hours (depending on weight training days).

And if you feel that’s not enough time to get things done, then you’re not being effective and/or efficient with your practices.

CLICK HERE for an insightful interview with NCAA college Hall of Fame baseball Coach Bob Bennett (my coach for 3 years at Fresno State).  He outlines what MUST be the highest priority for practices.

Do you know how to tell if an athlete is overtraining?

CLICK HERE to read this BreakingMuscle.com article to see how to by just monitoring an athlete’s resting heart rate.

At-Home Sweet Spot

I recommend to all my hitters, to start with 5-15 minutes/day of purposeful quality swing reps at home.  4-5 days per week.  This range will depend on self-motivation of course.  Players can put in more time, but only if they’re feeling it on that day.  The point is to get them REVISITING the material everyday.

By the way, this is outside of normal team practice time.  This is time on their own without coach around.

And they need to know, less frequency will translate to a larger learning curve.  In other words, it’ll take LONGER to improve.

And lastly,

Look for the Signs

When practicing or training, look for signs of frustration/anger, boredom, or shutdown.

You’ve seen these before, for example…

When a player is getting frustrated, you may see tears welling up in their eyes…OR anger may be taking unfocused swings as hard as they can.

When a player is bored, you may see them yawn, or being distracted.  The latter could be ADD/ADHD.  The point is they’re not into what you’re teaching them, so you have to make an adjustment.  Make practice a game, and more fun.  That will grab their attention…and keep it.

When a player looks shutdown, it’s time to shut down their session.  Go back to the drawing board and start anew tomorrow.

An outstanding coach is an observant one.  Don’t try to fit a round peg in a square hole.

Above all, PLEASE use common sense.