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

11 Little League Baseball TBall Drills & Tips, So You Can Be Confident You’re Preparing Players For The Next LevelTBall Drills Little League Baseball: How To Coach Tee Ball Without Going Insane

In researching this coaching tball drills little league baseball post, I did a Google search for “coach tee ball”, and one of the Google pre-populated search terms that came up was coach tee ball without going insane.  Apparently, there’s a book being sold on Amazon with the same title by a Robert Doss…who knew. 

I had to laugh because the dad of one of my online hitters, Lawrence Sutton Jr. (link is to his Perfect Game profile), shared over the phone he was pulling his hair out trying to coach his two twin 7yo daughters how to hit.  Let me give you a little context about [son] Lawrence…

You may remember [son] Lawrence in this post titled, How 175-LB 15yo Is Consistently Hitting The Ball 400-FT With…BBCOR & Wood.  Well now Lawrence is hitting those ugly yellow dimple balls out during batting practice.  He’s hitting baseballs over 360-feet…off a tee!  He’s registering over 94 to 96-mph off a regular tee using a PocketRadar.  He’s also hit balls in games over 425-feet. By the way, he’s about 6-foot, 1-inch, 180-pounds…and gets mistaken for a college Freshmen during unofficial visits, but he’s a Sophomore in High School!!

Let me repeat…so now [dad] Lawrence is trying to coach his TWO TWIN 7YO DAUGHTERS…yes, A LOT of patience needed.

Look, I can’t say my situation is exactly like [dad] Lawrence, but I do work with a lot of hitters from 6yo to pro guys and D1 college gals.  Half the hitters I work with are 12yo and younger, and the other half are 13yo and older.  In addition, my son Noah turned 5yo this past December…and this is his first year of tee ball…AND wait for it…I’m now helping coach his tee ball team.  BAM!  A lot of my parents said this day was coming.  Those who can’t see me right now, I’m tipping my cap 😛

In this little league baseball post, I wanted to share with you advice I offered [dad] Lawrence over the phone about “how to coach tee ball without going insane”.  I know some of you coaches out there can offer some advice as well, so please share below in the comments.

Here are my 11 little league baseball tball drills and tips (in no particular order):

  1. Patience through guided meditation apps
  2. Don’t have high expectations
  3. Have a long wick to frustration
  4. Failure is going to happen…A LOT
  5. Build fun into practices and games (joke with the players)
  6. Positive reinforcement training
  7. Minimal to NO mechanical teaching
  8. More emphasis on external cues
  9. Extreme adjustments
  10. Focus on throwing and catching
  11. Getting them ready for the next level

 

#1: TBall Drills Patience through guided meditation apps

First of all, if you’re not going to have the patience for coaching tball drills, then you’re not going to enjoy coaching.  Period.  There are two great guided meditation apps out there:

  • Headspace, and
  • Calm.

I prefer Headspace, which I’ve been using over the past couple years.  Minimal investment of money, and between 2 to 20-mins investment of your time each day.  Helps me focus better, think clearer, expose my creativity, and especially for coaching tee ball – become more aware when you’re losing it, so you can relax in a shorter period of time.  It’s totally transformed my interaction with my wife, kids, and hitters.

 

#2: Don’t have high expectations

David Epstein, in his book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, talks about “learn-ability”.  It’s the ability of an athlete to adapt and learn something new over time.  To help put coaching tball drills into perspective, the bell curve of young athletes looks like this:

  • Left hand side long tail = below average “learn-ability” athletes, take longer to learn something new (these are few),
  • Majority middle bell curve = average “learn-ability” athletes, take a reasonable amount of time to learn something new, and
  • Right hand side long tail = above average “learn-ability” athletes, take a very short time to learn something new (these are few).

Most of your little league baseball tball drills and expectations should be setup for the majority middle bell curve.  You’ll then want to have a regression-progression plan for your below and above average learners, which we’ll discuss later in this post.  The point is, set reasonable expectations, and understand what you’re up against.

 

#3: Have a long wick to frustration

If you haven’t noticed, kids pick up on frustration pretty quickly.  And oftentimes you can’t fool them.  Believe it or not, kids just want their adult counter-parts to be happy.  Studies show that when hot tempered anger or animated frustration enters the mix, learning stops.  The focus falls onto survival.

They’re modeling you when learning how to react to “speed bumps”.  And if coach (or mom/dad), is extremely animated when frustrated or angry, then they’ll learn that’s how you deal with it.  Guided meditation helps hide the mental meltdown button.  Here’s another powerful word I use often with my kids…and hitters…

The following YouTube video is Dr. Carol Dweck doing a speech on the power of “yet”…

 

 

I highly recommend her book Growth Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success.  The power of “yet” will help mold your little league baseball tball drills to be growth mindset oriented.

 

#4: TBall Drills Failure is going to happen…A LOT

Think back to when your kids were learning to walk.  Did you teach them a thing or two on how to do it?  What cues did you use?  Internal ones? External?  “Walk as hard as you can, as far as you can” cues?  NO!  Figure It Out (or FIO) and Gravity were their best teachers.  The best tball drills are designed with failure in mind.  A LOT of it.  Swing and miss.  Swing and miss.  Swing and miss.  And multiple that by 100 at this age!

I’m here to tell you, it’s okay.  They’re 4, 5, or 6 years old.  Even one of the best hitters to ever play the game said hitting a ball is one of the hardest things to do in any sport – Ted William.  You can’t get 7 wrong on a school test and climb the education ladder.  Hall of Famers get it right 3 out of 10 times in baseball.  Keep on a poker face (hold the judgement), give positive reinforcement during tball drills when they get a productive outcome, and encourage the heck out of them.

 

#5: Build fun into practices and games (joke with the players)

Play games at the end of practice like Total Bases, Last Man (or Woman) Standing, Russian Baseball (kind of like cricket), or any other fun game.  Use it as a reward if they get their work done.  Speaking of which, tball drills MUST not go any longer than 60-mins (preferably 45-mins).  Adults forget 4-6 year olds have the equivalent attention span of a gnat.  Keep little league baseball practices short and sweet.

I like to “flirt” with my players and hitters…not in a romantic way, you weirdo!  In a playful way.  I tease my Middle School and High School hitters about the video game Fortnight, and how all the pretty girls are looking to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to ban the video game because it’s robbing them of their “guy time”.

When we’re talking about running to different bases with the tee ballers, they learn about 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, and FOURTH base…wait minute, is that right?!  I ask them if they have the key to the batter’s box.  Or if they could fetch me the box of curve-balls.  I tease the heck out of them on down times.  Keep them loose and on their toes.

 

#6: Positive reinforcement training

The best little league baseball resource for this is the book by Karen Pryor titled, Don’t Shoot The Dog:  The New Art Of Teaching And TrainingKaren has trained dolphins, horses, dogs, and humans.  This form of training has taught chickens to turn the page of a book.  True story!  And trained two pigeons to play ping-pong.  Another true story!  Studies show we’re driven more by positive than negative reinforcement.  That’s not to say negative reinforcement training isn’t effective, because it is…give one chimpanzee an apple, then take it away, and they’re peeved!  Give another chimpanzee two apples, then take only one away, and they’re just as peeved!  However, if you want to build lasting habits, positive reinforcement training is the way to go.

Let me give you some examples of this:

  • My 5yo boy Noah gets any $1-2 candy at 7-Eleven immediately after school.  He also gets an ice cream scoop immediately after going to his gymnastics training.  He earns stickers for doing productive things, and after earning 10 stickers, he gets a toy of his choice within financial reason.
  • For the boring redundant parts of my business I play my favorite music in the background (right now it’s Eric Church, songs: “Talladega”, “Springsteen” & “Record Year”), and most times have a sweet green tea within reach.
  • Karen Pryor told a story in her book Don’t Shoot The Dog, of when her daughter took a night class for working professionals.  The Professor would always start the class off with the “Who finished last night’s homework?” question.  Only 25% of the class would raise their hands.  She’d then lectured the class on the importance of doing their homework.  After one of the classes in private, Karen’s daughter talked the Professor into praising those who did do their homework instead of belittling those who didn’t.  After about of week of using positive reinforcement training, 75% of the class were raising their hands after the “who turned in their homework” question.

You MUST read Karen Pryor’s book.  Your little league baseball coaching will never be the same.

 

#7: Minimal to NO mechanical teaching

(Get more information on the Backspin Tee, or the RopeBat at TheStartingLineupStore.com)

Above is my 5yo boy Noah hitting a Smushball laser in a Backspin Tee with a Ropebat.  Look at him ‘show those numbers’!

Remember, they’re 4, 5, and 6 years old.  I have local and online lesson requests from parents with kids in this age range I turn down.  And by the way, it’s possible to teach a 2yo how to hit a moving ball.  I did with my son Noah.  Not forced.  He loved the movie Sandlot at the time and got a little tee ball set for his birthday.  CLICK HERE for a little league baseball post on how I progressed him to hitting an under-hand thrown baseball sized whiffle ball using a long slim yellow whiffle ball bat.

I give the following advice to parents seeking swing help for their 4-6 year old hitters

  • Being athletic in their stance.  Bend at waist, chest over toes.  Bend in the knees.  Start that way and maintain that position to stride landing.  It’s easier to teach if they’re playing other sports like soccer, basketball, gymnastics, dance, and/or martial arts.
  • Grip on the bat.  Handle of the bat lines up in the middle of the hand – base of the finger tips, top meat of the hand.  I’m not even concerned if their hands are together at this stage.
  • Balance when swinging.  They should not be falling toward or away from the plate.  However, we may use these cues to correct one side of the extreme.  In other words, if they’re falling away from the plate, then I would tell them to fall towards the plate, to get them to balance.
  • Fungo toss is great as a progression.  Hitter tosses ball up to him or herself and tries to hit it before it hits the ground.

That’s just about how technical I get with tball drills for hitting.

 

#8: More emphasis on external cues and variance

We do a lot of external cuing.  Hit the ball over there.  Hit the ball up or down there.  Hit the top half of the ball.  Hit the bottom half of the ball.  Hit the ball in on your hands.  Hit the ball off the end of the bat.  Hit the ball in the middle (sweet spot).  Try hitting this ball with this heavy bat.  Try hitting the ball with this Easton Pro Stix whiffle ball bat.  We hit from different distances providing we’re progressing to LIVE toss.  Reverse strike zone drill where they’re swinging at “balls” and taking “strikes”…they like it when I bounce it and they have to hit it!

What’s important is for them to try different ways.

 

#9: Extreme Adjustments

This works like magic.  Check out for following video that’s great for tball drills…

 

#10: Focus on throwing and catching

CLICK HERE for an audio interview I did with NCAA Division-1 Hall of Fame college baseball Coach Bob Bennett.  One of the questions I asked him was if my team was getting ready to win the Little League World Series, but only had 4-weeks to train, what would you work on.  And do you know how he responded?  Playing catch and pitchers throwing strikes (obviously, the latter is irrelevant to coaching tball drills)Fielding ground-balls and playing catch are VERY important because 95% of coaches at the lower levels are teaching their hitters to hit ground-balls.  Why?  Because they know kids can’t play catch at that age!  If you want to win a lot of games, then obsessively teach your players to play catch.  Take advantage, this is low hanging fruit coaches 😉

 

And FINALLY #11: TBall Drills How To Get them ready for the next level

Coaches MUST maintain a Growth Mindset at all time, and should never just coach for the current level.  Like Wayne Gretzky said:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Coaches MUST be looking forward when developing players…always.  My son’s Pre-K teachers are doing everything they can to prepare him and his classmates for Kindergarten this next year.  So why can’t Little League coaches prepare their troops for the big field?  So in the context of coaching tball drills, start using the progression I used with Noah in the aforementioned linked article on how to teach a 2yo how to hit a moving ball…

  • Hitting off tee is essential at first, but slowly shrink the diameter of the bat, moving the tee up or down after every swing, and use different size and colored balls.  Variance if your coaching tball drills friend.
  • Once they’re consistent hitting the ball off the tee, grab the fat plastic bat and beach balls!  Start underhand tossing, and as they start hitting the ball more often, then slowly shrink the ball down to baseball sized whiffles.  Once they’re hitting those whiffles with the fat barrel plastic bat, then start slowly shrinking the barrel diameter down.

This is a progressive winning strategy that worked for my son.  It may or may not take longer, but that’s the art of learning.  Embrace it.  Have A LOT of patience.  And coaches, go forth and make awesomeness…

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

If You Can Train Two Pigeons To Play Ping-Pong, Then YES You Can Train “Normal” Young Athletes To Step Sideways & Hit A Moving Ball

This is a follow up to the post I recently published titled,  “WHY ‘Squishing The Bug’ Is So Dumb”.

I had a couple coaches reach out over email and social media,

Saying although they agreed with not teaching older hitters to ‘squish the bug’, they disagreed that it’s okay to teach younger hitters.

Let me be clear, I don’t typically get into weight transfer with hitters less than 7-years-old.  HOWEVER, it can be done, and that’s what this post is all about.

So, is it the young hitter that’s incapable of learning how to do what the best do?

OR…

2 Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

Two pigeons were taught to play ping-pong using primary and secondary reinforcers. Photo courtesy: LiveLeak.com

Is the instructor incapable of teaching what the best do?

The answer will become clear in following.

We’ll discuss:

  • What science of learning says, and
  • Regression to progression models for teaching.

 

What Science of Learning Says…

One Facebook reader shared that he has 12-years in the child development field, in addition to having 8-years of coaching at different levels.

He agreed with the aforementioned ‘squishing bugs is dumb’ post, but said what he’s seen in child development research is that the majority of 6-year-olds are incapable of shifting their weight and hitting a pitched ball.  He added that only the top 1% of kids can.

He also referenced a kid with what he called “no athletic” ability as an example.

This is an interesting comment coming from someone with his professional background.  And I asked myself, okay, what am I missing because my experience has been much different.

First of all, to reference the bottom 1% of kids in “train-ability” throws up a yellow flag for me (“train-ability” was referenced in the book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science Of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein in the Heritage Study).

Since this gentleman is convinced “normal” 6yos can’t be taught to weight shift and hit a ball (exclude mutants and bottom 1% from the equation), then…

I asked if he’d read The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Made.  It’s Grown.  Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle.  And what his thoughts were on Daniel Coyle’s findings of the following athletic “hotbeds”:

  • 3yo females learning gymnastics in China?
  • 3yo females learning tennis in Russia?
  • Young females learning golf in Korea?
  • Young boys learning baseball in Curacao?
  • Young boys learning soccer in Brazil?

He responded with, well it’s different in Russia because they’re more disciplined.

Wa??!

I said oh, so if the kids practice, then it’s possible for “normal” athletes?

No response from him on that.

I then went on to talk about how the International Youth & Conditioning Association, which I am a certified member of, shared their own child development research that children between the ages of two to five years old should developmentally be able to run, hop, jump, forward skip, and sideways skip.

Weight shifting, like in a stride, is very similar to side skipping.  Think about throwing a Frisbee as far as you can.  And, Pitchers do this all the time, in addition to first baseman when stretching to receive a throw from an infielder (okay, this is more of a front step, but you get the idea).

This gentleman said although this may be true, normal kids cannot side step AND hit a moving pitch.

We’ll get into the progression I used with my own boy when he was 2-years-old, at the end of this post.  But hey, maybe he’s part of the top 1%…I dunno 😛 lol  You be the judge.

Back to the child development expert, I mentioned the following book to him Don’t Shoot The Dog: The New Art Of Teaching And Training, by Karen Pryor, which is about using positive and negative reinforcers in behavioral conditioning.  Basically, it’s a dog training book (worst title ever by the way!!), but the info is just as applicable to humans, horses, dolphins, and any other thing that has flippers, 2-4 legs, and breathes air.  Also, this is what was used to train the two ping-pong pigeons in the video above.

PIGEONS!  I’ve also read somewhere, might have been in the Don’t Shoot The Dog book, that a scientist once taught a chicken to turn the pages of a book…a CHICKEN!!!

Let that sink in for a moment…

Here’s what I took away from the conversation with Mr. Child Development Expert…

The brain and eyes have a contract with each other…the eyes are only suppose to look for what the brain wants to see.  You can read about that in the book Stumbling Upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

And this child development expert was biased towards information confirming his belief that “normal” 6yos cannot side step and hit a moving ball.

BREAKING NEWS!!

I’m biased too!  But on the opposite side of the spectrum.  I operate from the perspective that if the young athlete isn’t getting what I want him or her to do, then I’m NOT doing something right.  Not the other way around.  I find a way, and look for information validated by science to support my claim.

So which coach would you rather work with?

Let me repeat,

Teaching hitters to ‘squish the bug’ has NOTHING to do with what the best do.  And an instructor that defaults to this when teaching young hitters is like a grade school teacher teaching his 1st Grade students that 2 +2 = 5, because they’re incapable of learning that the real answer is 4.

Look, some of you may be thinking that ‘squishing the bug’ is about “getting the hips through”.  My good friends Matt Nokes AND Homer Bush dispelled this myth in the following posts:

I was told this is a BOLD statement…to say teaching ‘bug squishing’ is WRONG.

It is wrong.

You may feel I’m judging you, but I’m not.  I have an issue with what you’re teaching and WHY.  NOT with you.

I think you’re better than that.  It’s not personal. 

But be honest with yourself.  It’s not what the best do, but I do understand you’re frustrated working with these younger hitters.

…And may have a solution…

 

Regression to Progression Models for Teaching

I’m not going to get into how to teach side stepping in this post.  If your kid can side skip, or side step, then they’re fully capable of a weight shift.

The question is how to get them to hit a moving ball.

And before I get there, I wanted to share a quick story I read in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, that highlights the learning process.

Remember this scene in the movie Terminator 2…? (video should start there, but watch at about the 5:00 min. mark)…

In the book, Arnold discussed how he learned to load a shotgun with one hand, while riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and at the same time shooting the padlock off a chain-link fence.

According to him, this was his process:

  • NOTE: He spent time in the Austrian Army as a tank driver in his younger days, so he knew how to shoot a weapon beforehand.
  • He spent many repetitions loading this particular shot gun with one hand, seated on the Harley.
  • He spent many repetitions loading the shotgun, seated on the Harley, shooting a small target.
  • He spent many repetitions loading the shotgun while riding the motorcycle.
  • He spent many repetitions loading the shotgun, riding the Harley, and shooting the target.

His whole thing was “reps, reps, reps”, until the action he practiced became second nature.

This is also what Josh Waitzkin calls “making small circles”, in his book The Art Of Learning: A Journey in Pursuit of Excellence. Josh was a young chess prodigy, and his life was the basis for the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”.

How did I teach my 2-year-old son how to hit a moving ball?  Here’s the process:

  • Starting at about 1.5 years old, we practiced hitting different sized balls off a little tee with a big plastic blue bat,
  • A few months before he turned two years old, I started throwing a big beach ball at him while he hit it with his big plastic bat,
  • We then started slowly shrinking the ball down until after a few months past his second birthday, he was hitting baseball sized whiffle balls with his big plastic bat, and then
  • We shrunk the bat down to a conventional yellow whiffle ball bat, so at about 2.5-3 years old, he was able to hit a baseball sized whiffle ball with the slim yellow bat.

Truth be told at 3yo, he wasn’t hitting every pitch I threw at him, but he was hitting the ball harder more often, other than just ‘tipping it’ or totally swinging and missing like most his age or older, who didn’t have the prior progressions.

 

The Bottom Line…

Coaches,

If 3 year old girls are learning tennis in Russia, golf in Korea, and gymnastics in China, then your hitters can learn how to step sideways and hit a moving ball.  If discipline is an issue, use the Minimum Effective Dosage Rule, practice only 4-5 days per week, for only 5-mins each day.  It’s not about length of time, but frequency of reviewing the material.

If you can teach a chicken to turn the pages of a book, and train two pigeons to play ping-pong, then YES you can train “normal” kids to step sideways and hit a moving ball.

If you cannot, then the fault most likely falls – I know this may be hard to swallow for some – with the instructor, not the child.  Set the ego aside.  Every day, ask yourself the question:

“What don’t I know?”

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

“I am just curious to see what are the steps the coaches are using to teach this system?  There is a ton of great information but what have you done to break it down.  I cant throw all this info and steps at a player and expect them to retain the info.  So, what have you focused on from start to finish?  IE. Grip, Break it apart drill, Tuck front shoulder, Fight Position, Finish?  Thank you”

– Coach Sullivan

The legendary UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden. Photo courtesy: FunctionalTrainingPathBlog.com

I received this on my Coaches Forum recently, which is included as part of any online video course of mine one would invest in.

It’s a great question, and one I don’t feel the coaching community has done a good job of answering (me included…until now).

Sure, an online hitting guru may get favorable results with their hitters, but how do they actually teach and progress the swing mechanics to get those results?

I’m attempting to shed some light on that in this post.

Look, let me be up front…

There’s no perfect place to start with a player’s swing.  Every coach will have a differing opinion on this based on a myriad of factors, so please use the following as a guideline or suggestion, and deviate when necessary.

What I do know is this,

You can’t go wrong with scratching the immediate hitter’s itch.

In this post, we’ll attack Coach Sullivan’s question from above in the following ways:

  • Mechanical steps to focus on first – scratch the itch,
  • Breaking down drill progressions,
  • Mindset when working on something new,
  • Transitioning practice into game swings, and
  • Player’s homework for home.

Let’s get started…

 

Mechanical Steps to Focus on First – Scratch the Itch

I ask the parent of my hitters (or the hitters themselves), what part of their swing needs the most help.  Here are the questions I typically ask:

  • Looking back on the season (or past season), where did you hit the ball more…on the ground, line drive, or fly balls?  Can you attach a percentage to each?
  • Looking back on the season (or past season), where did you hit the ball more…to left field, center, or right? Can you give me a percentage of each?
  • Do you feel like there’s more lack of power or solid contact?

To test their answers to these questions,

I can also put the hitter on a tee, setup where they should hit the ball to center-field, and have them take 10 swings, while capturing their Ball Exit Speed with a radar gun.  Generally speaking, this will tell me where they’re hitting the ball direction-wise, and with what kind of impact quality.  And it’s not how high the radar gun goes, but how consistent and stable their numbers are.

Armed with this data, I can now formulate a semi-solid swing plan.  The next step is confirming my assumptions through video analysis, in which I use the HudlTech or CoachesEye app on my phone.  I use Powerchalk.com for my online hitters.

The first session is the same with all my hitters (from 7-years-old to 24-years-old), we address how to consistently get into the box, the gorilla grip, and Finger Pressure.

After these are covered, and I can now hold the hitter accountable for them, then I dive into a swing solution that scratches the immediate itch…

Before jumping into mechanics I make sure my hitters are moving better, so they can perform better by following this simple plan for better mobility and stability.

If a player is struggling with contact, then I start with Footwork, Knee Action, and Barrel Path as described in The Pitch-Plane Domination and Reaction Time Mastery online video courses.

Or,

If a player is struggling with consistent power (radar readings are below average and unstable from swing to swing), then I start with ‘Showing Numbers’, ‘Side Bending’, ‘Hiding Hands’, and Hunched Position as described in my book and The Catapult Loading System online video course.

 

Breaking Down Drill Progressions

How do we teach a brand new motor skill to a budding young athlete?

Please keep in mind, the speed of drill progression will depend on the player’s age, “trainability” as talked about in David Epstein’s book The Sports Gene, and the player’s early movement development.

This is how to teach the teaching of the mechanics, if you will.

So think about drill progressions as what you do in the weight room.

What happens if you do a back squat with the same weight, 2-3 days per week, 3-sets and 12-repetitions every workout, 52-weeks per year?  Right!  You’ll plateau early on and make zero gains the rest of the year.  You’ll be wasting your time and money in the weight room.

In the case of squatting, how do you get a body and/or strength change in the squatter above?

By adjusting the intensity (total weight lifted), accomplished sets, amount of repetitions, type of squat (front v. back), and rest time.  Change MUST be a constant if you want the body to adapt accordingly.  These are drill variables that can drive skill adaptation in hitters as well.

When teaching a brand new hitting technique, I move through the following swing progressions (from easy to more difficult):

  • Dry swings,
  • Tee swings,
  • Soft Toss, then
  • LIVE or front toss.

If the hitter can produce the new swing technique eight out of ten dry swings, then I move them to tee swings, and so on and so forth.  Think of these progressions as weight-lifting for the mind.

I will also slow things down movement-wise for the hitter by breaking the swing apart into three steps at first with the Break-it-Apart Drill (not really a Drill per se, but more of a way to drill the Drills):

  1. Getting to the landing position (Fight),
  2. Pause for a second or two, and then
  3. Swinging.

This allows the player to slow the swing process down to focus on the fix.  So putting these drill progressions together would look something like this:

  • Break apart dry swings (after 8/10 successful reps, move onto the next),
  • Put swing together dry swings (after 8/10 successful reps, move onto the next),
  • Break apart tee swings (after 8/10 successful reps, move onto the next),
  • Put swing together tee swings (after 8/10 successful reps, move onto the next),
  • Break apart soft toss swings (after 8/10 successful reps, move onto the next),
  • Put swing together soft toss swings (after 8/10 successful reps, move onto the next), and lastly
  • Put swing together LIVE or front toss swings (after 8/10 successful reps, move onto the next).

 

Mindset Working on Something New

What if I timed you 10-times writing your name using all letters and took the average, then timed you 10-times writing your name in half the letters?  So for me, Joey Myers, I would write J-E-M-E-S.

Well, the first few times writing your name in half the letters would be slower, but as your brain learned to do it after the first 2-3 times, you’d actually write your name in half the letters 1/3 the time it takes to write your full name!

Who cares?  Your players do.

I tell my hitters that you’ll take a step back before you take two forward when learning to do something new.

Mindset is EVERYTHING when your players are learning a brand new movement.

Your players MUST know that you’re grading them on the process, NOT the outcomes…at first.

In other words, I tell my hitters that if they swing and miss, but do what I want them to do mechanically…they get an ‘A’ for that swing.  If they hit a fiery hole through the back netting of the cage, while not doing what I wanted them to do mechanically…then they get an ‘F’ for that swing.

You following me here?

They need to go into observe mode on outcomes, not analytical mode, in the beginning.  This is crucial especially with my online lessons because I’m not there to physically work with the hitter.  So when a mom or dad says our hitter is doing what I want them to do off the tee, but not during LIVE batting practice.  Most likely this is a mindset issue.  The hitter is more focused on OUTCOMES hitting LIVE, not solely on the process like they should be.

A lot of times, I throw out plate discipline and timing completely in the beginning (in other words, I’m not grading them on those).

 

Transitioning Effective Practice Swings into Games

I did a comprehensive post on this already, so CLICK HERE for that.  Please read that first, then continue on in this post.

 

Player’s Homework for Home

Look parents, you can’t expect your kids to go to practice three or four times a week and expect them to get better.  Can I get an Amen from the coaches here?!

Most times, the kids don’t even hit at practice.  And if they do, it may be once per week with the team.  And if they do hit every practice, who says the player is even focusing on their specific “new hitting process”?

You see, for the most part, head coaches are generalists.  It’s not until High School that programs get a specified hitting coach.  And many programs at that level, don’t even have that!

Here’s my point…

Don’t count on organized practices to get “new hitting process” work in.

There comes a time when a hitter MUST be accountable for their own success.  And to set the player up for success at home, here’s what I ask of my hitters:

  • Give me at least 4 or 5 days per week (team practice days don’t count), and
  • At least 5-minutes each day.

That’s it!  Most kids play at least 30-60 mins of videos games per day…wanting 5-minutes per day for hitting homework isn’t asking that much.  Just set an alarm, and when it goes off, then the player is done for the day.  Simple.

The hitter can put in more time, but I don’t recommend early on, especially if they’re at a lower motivational level.  Once they start experiencing success at the plate in games, they’ll be inspired to put in more time, trust me.

I prescribe at least four or five days per week for their hitting homework because it’s based on what I’ve seen with my players.  I ask them at the start of a lesson, how many days per week they got their hitting homework in at home?  And typically, the ones sharing three days or less, we’re having to revisit what we worked on last lesson.  For most reporting four or more days, we’re moving forward with their swing.

One last thing that fires up inspiration (good or bad) for my players is to compare  their current swing to the the last one using video analysis.  I tell them it’s our version of a quiz on how they did for the week.

Remember in this post, we went over:

  • Mechanical steps to focus on first – scratch the itch,
  • Breaking down drill progressions,
  • Mindset when working on something new,
  • Transitioning practice into game swings, and
  • Player’s homework for home.

Coaches, please share anything else I may have missed that has worked extremely well for your hitters.  THANKS in advance…

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

How To Turn Your Fixed Mindset Into A Growth Mindset (and WHY your Hitters will THANK YOU later)…

 

Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset

Fixed versus Growth Mindset illustration photo courtesy: KaylaCelliott.com

Nothing is more frustrating – and disappointing – than running into a Fixed Mindset coach…

All you get are excuses…excuses…EXCUSES!!

Think about the Fixed and Growth Mindsets, from Dr. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, like the operating system for your computer or mobile device.  Each Mindset (or operating system) will take you down a different path to problem solving.

Some may say, well, the examples you give are reveal “closed minded coaches”, not a Fixed Mindset.  I disagree.

Look, I’m sure at times there are some closed minded Growth Mindset coaches, but I’m willing to bet my first born on that there are exponentially more closed minded Fixed Mindset coaches.  You see, closed mindedness is a subset of a Fixed Mindset coach, NOT a Growth Mindset one.

Before I get into taking you through the story, I wanted to let you know what I have for you:

  • An 8-min, 25-sec video from Trevor Ragan outlining the difference between a Fixed v. Growth Mindset (video above)
  • Address 7 DEVASTATING Fixed Mindset coaching EXCUSES that are killing the progress of smaller power hitters, and
  • The Fixed versus Growth Mindset Introduction from my new book.

Back to the story…

I ran into a couple of them on social media this past week about the promise I make in my Catapult Loading System book: How To Teach 100-Pound Hitters To Consistently Drive The Ball 300-Feet.

Particularly, they were commenting that Hudson White, the hitter I covered in this blog post, weighing 130-pounds hitting the ball 398-feet – and that includes wood – was an over-exaggeration.

To their credit, they did concede it’s possible.  But then oh man, here came ALL the excuses, taking credit away from the hitter’s dedication to his craft…

  1. “The bat was hot”,
  2. “Isn’t the norm, or has athletic ability – I wouldn’t take credit for that”,
  3. “Average kids don’t use there body’s efficiently as someone with above average athleticism can regardless of training”,
  4. “Only in batting practice and not in games”,
  5. “130-pound hitter wouldn’t make our Varsity team”,
  6. “Working with the exception, not the rule”, and the kicker comment about hitting ground-balls…

“I’ve never played or coached this game from a text book or a state sheet and never will. I do just what I’m doing here, I talk shop with knowledgeable people. Scouts, college coaches, minor league players and coaches and once in a blue moon with hitting instructors. I have very rarely come across any one of them that is as passionate about getting the ball in the air so much. Most of them try to keep things as simple as possible, which means barrel the ball, hit it hard. Period. No emphasis on air v ground, just barrel it.”

Addressing Excuse #1

Hudson White has hit balls over 398-feet with a Hickory wood.  My over half a dozen hitters tripling their body-weight in batted ball distance (i.e. 100-pounder hitting ball 300-feet), are not using hot bats, and neither did Hudson at the National Power Showcase Home-Run Derby Competition put on my Brian Domenico at the Texas Rangers ballpark in Arlington in 2016.

Addressing Excuses #2 &3

What does athleticism mean exactly? What are your rules that say one kid is athletic and another is not? I’d hallucinate yours are different than mine.  However, the question is, can we make a seemingly nonathletic kid average or even above average athletically?  Not all, but I think we can make EVERY kid move better.  And next week’s post interview with the founder of the Bosu Ball, David Weck, will shine more light on how to do this.

I brought up examples of Michael Jordan, Tim Tebow, and one of the best cricket players in the world weren’t able to or currently are not doing well enough to make it to the Big League level. It can be argued these are non-baseball athletic examples, but you’re saying above average athletic ability is one of the main causes for young hitters tripling their body-weight in batted ball distance.  It’s speculation.

I’d argue “train-ability”, as referenced in the Heritage Study from David Epstein’s book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, as a more crucial element than above average athleticism in explaining why my hitters (and other coaches’) can triple their body-weight in batted ball distance.  Learning is learning, but they still have to learn the most effective mechanics.

Take for instance my 67-pound hitter blasting a 180-foot dinger – in a game – after working with me for 6-months.  When we first started he couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag.  So in 6-months did he auto-magically go from below average to above average athletically?

Addressing Excuse #4

I have game footage film of two of my hitters tripling their body-weight in batted ball distance:

By the way, Temo now is around 135-lbs and is consistently driving the ball 370+ feet.  Also, Hudson White is driving the ball 400-feet in games as well.

Addressing Excuse #5

Are you KIDDING ME!?  To write a player off based on the “eye test” is ignorant. It makes me sad how many of these “under-weighted” young hitters are not being given a chance because some coach DOESN’T HAVE A CLUE how to get educated in all things effective.

Coach, if this is you, then you’re going to love the Introduction to my book that follows, on Growth v. Fixed Mindsets…

But first,

Addressing Excuse #6

This one made me laugh.  I responded back with something like, man I must be running into all these exceptions then!  Myself and the hundreds of coaches – who’re getting the same, if not better, results than I am by the way – teaching the same system, must be exception magnets!!! lol

Addressing Bonus Excuse #7

Look I agree, line drives and barreling the ball AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE should be every coaches objective for their hitters.  However, the question is raised, if you were to have your hitters miss, would you rather have them miss hit the ball in the air or on the ground?  I’m not going dive deep into this here, because I did that already in the Ground-Ball Rant, but I do want to say High School coaches (on down) are getting a false sense of achievement with the ground-ball because fielders aren’t what they are at the D1 and Pro levels.

Now, listen closely…

If you’re not teaching your hitters to consistently drive the ball (in the air), then YOU WILL HAMSTRING them at the higher levels, if they make it that far.  And by then, it’s too late.

I was just on the Coaching Minds Podcast by host Justin Lewis (Please follow him on Twitter @The_Coach_Mind), our interview I’ll be posting in 3 weeks or so, shared that he works almost exclusively with High School and College level fast-pitch hitters.

The horror stories he revealed the new hitters he’d get in college, reported they were only taught to slap the ball their whole life because of how “tiny” they were.  What happens to these girls at the college level?  When a hitting situation would come up to drive in runs, you know what the college coach does to these “tiny” slap hitting specialist?  

They pinch hit them.

If ground-balls were so great, then why not let this slapping specialist slap?!  Ground-balls are her specialty!!  Let me give you a clue, ground-balls work less at the college level…and EVEN LESS at the Pro level.  Don’t let this happen to your hitters.

And after hearing ALL these excuses, it was refreshing to get this email message from a coach after watching my webinar (I can’t say he uses my system though, but the message speaks for itself):

“The 135-lb pound kid…that is good but not that impressive…not too many kids at the age of 12 and 13 that weigh 135 pounds…he should be hitting the ball that far…now the 67 pound kid…that is impressive (one of my players at 75 pounds can hit the ball 225)” – ulley13usparks (username)

Now, he was talking about my two 13u  hitters Eddie S. and Temo C. both weighing 135-lbs and driving the ball 370+ feet, and my 67-lb hitter I spoke of earlier in this post.  “…should be hitting the ball that far…”, man, how refreshing to hear.

This leads me to the MAIN ISSUE…the above excuses are from Fixed Mindset coaches.  The video above is fantastic education on the Fixed versus Growth Mindset debate in under 10-minutes.  Rest assured you’ll be a more effective coach after watching the video.  And if you like the video, then you’ll love Dr. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset.

And to drive the nail home, below I’m including the Introduction to my new book The Catapult Loading System: How To Train 100-Pound Hitters To Consistently Drive The Ball 300-Feet, that people are loving by the way…just read the Amazon book reviews so far.

Without further adieu, here’s the Fixed v. Growth Mindset Intro…

—–

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

– Eric Hoffe

Fixed Versus Growth Mindset CoachingGrowth Mindset: The Catapult Loading System Book

When it comes building consistently powerful hitters, this book will provide you with the pathway to get there.

However, I think the most important aspect to bridging the gap between what the coach teaches and what the player absorbs has to do with Mindset…

Coaches can be split up into two groups.

  1. Fixed Mindset
  2. Growth Mindset.

According to Dr. Carol Dweck, in her bestselling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”

Here are some things you hear FIXED Mindset coaches saying,

  • You can’t teach a Little Leaguer to hit like a Major Leaguer because they aren’t strong enough.
  • Hand speed can’t be coached.
  • Natural hitters are just born.
  • Hitting is subjective and is different for everybody.
  • The greatest hitters just have great hand-eye coordination.
  • That 12u 100-pound hitter can consistently hit the ball 300-feet because they’re hitting with a HOT bat.
  • He/She can hit the ball hard and far because of their body mass.

All of those are to the contrary of Dr. Dweck’s definition of a Growth Mindset coach:

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

These coaches find a way. They ask the right questions. They ask, “Why not?”  They don’t rest on elite-level playing experience or decades of coaching experience.

The objective of a Growth Mindset coach is to learn principles first, or “rules”. Then, design methods to stay within those lines, not the other way around. You’ll learn more about this in CHAPTER 1.

I’ll let Billy Murray give Growth Mindset coaches a word of caution in dealing with Fixed Mindset coaches on social media:

“It’s hard to win an argument with a smart person, but it’s damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person.”

Why?

From Henry Ford:

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, then you’re right.”

One puts the forest before the trees (versus missing the forest for the trees), and the other is swatting a piñata with one eye blindfolded!

I get it, we all want to be heard and validated as being knowledgeable in a subject, but high credibility in the wrong place is highly misleading.

Some go to extreme lengths to IMMEDIATELY make their presence known. Here are some Fixed Mindset saying tip-offs:

  • “I’ve played [X-number] years professionally and I should know.”
  • “I’ve been coaching for 30+ years, and this is why you should listen to me.”
  • “I’ve studied millions of hours of video analysis of only the best hitters. I know what I’m talking about”
  • “I’ve put a lot of work into the cages, and that’s how I know what I’m talking about”

Don’t get me wrong, the last two points above have their place and CAN be effective in learning and seeing success patterns, BUT massive effort going in the wrong direction can be gross negligence.

Besides, it takes A LOT of effort in the cages and hours of video analysis to stumble onto the right answers.  But, I have a more elegant solution that will dramatically cut your learning time in half!

You’ll know what to look for, so you can SUPERCHARGE your time in the cages and also for when you’re doing video analysis.  You’ll read about this in CHAPTER 2.

Willful ignorance.

I heard this term on Facebook and love it!  People online defend their hitting philosophy and theories to the death, even if human-movement principles validated by science, reveal the opposite.

I mentally play the “What if…Strip” game with Fixed Mindset coaches…

WHAT IF this person NEVER…

  • Played in the Big Leagues…
  • Coached for 30+ years…
  • Studied millions of hours of video…
  • Put a lot of work into the cages…

…IF we stripped them of their primary credibility indicator, THEN I ask:

  • What do they actually know?
  • Who or what have they studied? (Physics, Bio-Mechanical, Psychology, Exercise Science sources? Not baseball or softball)
  • What kind of consistent or inconsistent results do they get with their hitters?

We’ll get deeper into the Credibility Fallacy in CHAPTER 3.

Fixed Mindset coaches are stuck. They regurgitate the same information they’ve been taught in the past without question. They may even say their hitting philosophy is a science, but it’s not.  It’s a pseudo-science.  Their copy and duct-taped together hitting philosophy reeks of uncertainty. We’ll get more into that in CHAPTER 4.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes by Dan Farnsworth:

“Doing a thing and understanding a thing do not automatically qualify you to teach a thing.”

And it’s so true!

I can tell with 100% confidence that I have not:

  • Played Professional baseball,
  • Coached for over 30 years,
  • Studied millions of hours of only the best hitters on video, or
  • Put in as much work in the cages as others say they do…

So, why listen to me?

Because of:

  • What I actually know,
  • Who and what I’ve studied, and
  • The results my hitters are getting.

We’ll drill deeper into these points in the following CHAPTERS, but what I think is VERY IMPORTANT for those who never played ball past Little League or 12u softball,

…That you too, can be a hitting expert.

All you need is a passionate curiosity to learn and apply the human-movement principles that are validated by science, to hitting a softball or baseball.  I’m going to teach you how to conduct fool-proof swing experiments, so that you can use your findings to show people who won’t take you seriously.

You’ll learn my swing-experiment-blueprint in CHAPTER 4.

And I’m going to break it down for you, so don’t worry if you didn’t do well in science class back in school.

CHAPTER 5 will take you through the science of springy fascia and spinal-engine-mechanics. This is the WHY behind the methods we discuss in the later chapters. You can skip this one, but please return to it later, so you have ammunition for Fixed Mindset coaches who won’t believe the results your hitters are getting.

CHAPTERS 6 through 11 will take you through the practical methods and drills my hitters are using to consistently triple, or at least double, their body-weight in batted ball distance.

Lastly, CHAPTER 12 will walk you through, how to train these newly-learned hitting techniques. I believe the training is as important, if not more critical, than the mechanics you’ll be learning in this book.

I had a third-year pro-hitter drive up from San Diego (about a 7-hour drive for me, one-way), comment that he thought the training by itself was worth the trip! And he spent a fortune in time and money to work through a whole weekend with me.

What You’ll Learn

Here’s what you’re going to learn in the upcoming pages:

  • Why hitting philosophy fails and principles that are validated by science succeed.
  • Why you shouldn’t make video analysis FIRST-priority, when modeling elite hitters.
  • What 30+ year coaching experience and pro players won’t tell you, and how the information source you focus on can dramatically cut down your learning curve.
  • How to become a hitting expert when you’ve never played higher than Little League.
  • There’s a BIG advantage to learning how the body actually loads (and it’s not what you’re thinking).
  • A simple method that helped Babe Ruth to consistently crush the ball with some of the heaviest bats ever used.
  • Elite-hitters revealing ways to hit balls with High-Exit-Speeds, swing after swing, using three elements even a 4-year-old can understand.
  • At last, the secret to transitioning grooved batting practice swings into game at-bats is revealed.

WHY is this Important to you now?

There are four reasons…

Most “hitting stuff” we’ve learned is DEAD WRONG. It’s based off philosophy and theory, and with the technology available today, we can test the value of those hitting philosophies.

Nowadays, everyone is a hitting “expert”. How do we differentiate between an effective versus an ineffective approach? This is important because it’s not how PRO someone is, how many years of coaching they’ve accumulated, how many man-hours of video analysis they’ve done, or even how many hours of lessons they do in a given day. You can’t argue with science and powerfully consistent results.

“Confusion” between mechanical causation equaling correlation. Can you put backspin on a ball by swinging down on it (i.e. negative barrel Attack Angle)? Yes, you can. But, will the hitter consistently get the ball in the air that way? No. In this case, swinging down does not consistently put the ball in the air with authority, and IS NOT what the best are REALLY doing on slow motion video.

Big difference between what’s “real” and what’s “feel”. When Mike Trout says he works at ‘getting on top of the ball’, that doesn’t mean Johnny’s coach should go out and share with his team this method. In fact, Mike Trout says this to himself to protect his swing from HIS naturally tendency to upper cut too much, like he says to ‘chicken wing’. The cues that MLB and professional hitters use are often lost in translation with the younger-end user.

Is the Information in this Book for you?

First, we WILL NOT be talking about:

  • ‘Squishing bugs’,
  • ‘Swinging down on the ball’, OR
  • ‘Loading & exploding the hips’.

Second, this is specifically about how to apply human movement ‘rules’ to hitting a moving ball, and not about hitting ‘philosophies’ or ‘theories’ that DO NOT predictably work in LIVE case studies.

Third, the information in this book is based on the success my personal hitters have had both online and locally, plus the hundreds of coaches, who’ve duplicated the results, if not bettered them by using this system.

The House Rules

Here’s what I’m not promising…

  1. No “get powerful hits, quick”.
  2. No “do nothing, and crush the ball”.
  3. My results aren’t remotely typical.
  4. Most people who buy ANY “consistent-power-swing” training, will not have success with getting consistent power in their hitters.

Addressing point numbers one and two above…

Some of my 12-years-old and under hitters, weighing around 100-pounds, don’t start consistently driving the ball 300-feet right away. Some take 2.5 years to get to consistency, whereas before they do it “every once in awhile”. Other hitters, although rare, achieve this in less than 6-months. This seems to be the range for the hitters I work with.

It depends on work ethic and what David Epstein calls ‘learn-ability’, in his book, The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance.

Addressing point numbers three and four above…

I encourage my hitters to work hard on the things we go over, and to keep on trying even after hitting major obstacles.

Most young hitters don’t do that. They just show up for a lesson or gather information and “get ready” to work…or they throw in the towel and quit at the first bump in the road.

It took a lot of hard work for my hitters to start seeing favorable hitting outcomes.

Interestingly, it was the work with my hitters that gave me the inspiration to write this book.

The bottom line is, I have no idea what your results may or may not be.

And it’s not my place to try to predict that. Your success is up to you, as always.

Onward…

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CLICK HERE to order your copy of The Catapult Loading System on Amazon today…