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How a Dad Turned Around His Struggling 16-year-old Fast-Pitch Softball Daughter’s Swing in 1-Day?

Kelli M BEFORE & AFTER Swings

1-day difference between swings, yes I know one is a game swing and one is off the tee, one is a back view and the other is a chest view, but the changes are still dramatic…

I was blown away by an email I recently received from the dad of Kelli, a struggling 16-year-old fast-pitch softball hitter…

And by the way, the following email was unsolicited, much like Marty White’s testimonial in this post about his son, 14-yo Hudson White, who participated in Brian Domenico’s 2016 National Power Showcase hitting 11 consecutive dingers out of the Texas Rangers ballpark in Arlington, averaging 398-feet, at only 5-foot 7-inches, 130-pounds.

I feel the following story of Kelli’s struggle holds true for quite a few baseball and softball hitters out there, and I wanted to share it.  It breaks my heart to hear the BEFORE stories.  But without the bitter baby, the sweet ain’t so sweet!

Please pay special attention to how Mike introduces new hitting content to his daughter.  Sometimes this can be a slippery slope with parents and their daughters and/or sons.

DISCLAIMER: results aren’t typical. Hitters getting “it” or “not” depends on a few things: 1) Player engages in consistent deep practice, 2) Coach successfully connects player to message (the WHY), 3) Material presented in a way to set player up for success not overwhelm, and 4) Coach taps into player’s primary learning style to name a few of the biggies.  

Enter Mike’s email…

“Joey:  I saw your book “Catapult Loading System” on Kindle and figured I’d take a chance on it because I have always liked to read different philosophies on hitting.  I’ve been coaching my daughter and her teams in fast-pitch softball for over 8 years starting with Rec through Club ball here in AZ.

Lately, to my disappointment my daughter has taken a break from club ball for the last 6 months but has just started playing again on her High School  JV team.  She is a power hitter but has been struggling with weak grounders and pop ups.

After I read your book I asked her to work with me for 10 minutes a night hitting into the net off a T. Catapult Loading System(She’s 16 and this was all could get out of her, so I took what I could get.)

I noticed when I took some videos of her during games that she was stepping into the bucket on her stride and was leading her hands with the back elbow, which I know is a no, no and creates bat drag.

Those two things combined were causing her to dip the bat off plane and not hit the ball solid, causing the pop ups and grounders.   She was basically trying to “lead with the hips and start her swing from the ground up” like I had been teaching her for years.

After reading your book, I didn’t want to overwhelm her or totally change her swing so I just focused on the bottom three fingers of the top hand tightening in the swing and showing the numbers by loading the shoulders as you explain in the book.

I also told her to shorten her stance a bit so she would focus on loading the shoulders (showing the numbers and hide the hands) rather than taking a big stride and stepping into the bucket.

I wish I could send you the videos of the before and after of her swing after one 10 minute session.  I’m not kidding when I say that it was almost an “instant”  change for the better. 

What I noticed by having her tighten her bottom three fingers on the top hand, is it forced her to keep her back elbow in the slot and her hands to stay in front of the back elbow.  This immediately corrected her bat head to stay on plane in the zone longer with no casting or weak bat angle.

I also noticed that by having her load with the shoulders rather than relying on her hips with a big stride, she didn’t step into the bucket or fly open with her hips.

These simple little tweaks helped to correct the things I’ve been working with her for years but to no effect.  I couldn’t believe the difference from such a small simple adjustment.

I’ve told some of my softball friends and fellow coaches about it and they just look at me and chuckle like I’m making up some kind of tall tale.  I’ve even shown them the before and after video and they still seem skeptical.

But here’s the bottom line…

The day after I worked with my daughter for all of 10 to 15 minutes, literally hitting about 35 or 40 balls off the T, against one of the best teams in our division, she got up with two runners on, with two strikes and launched a bomb for a three run HR.  She went 2 for 2 that day. 

That night we spent another 10 minutes working the same drills and the next day, she did the same thing on her first at bat hitting another bomb.  She went 3 for 3 that game. 

Now look, I’m not a scientist nor am I into hockus pockus but I  have to admit I’m a true believer and just had to tell you about our instant success by using some of the small tweaks you talk about.  I plan to keep using these ideas and I’m going to re-read your book again to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Thanks for the info and know you have another success story here in Arizona.” – Mike Monaghan

After I asked for Mike and Kelli’s permission to publish her story and for the BEFORE and AFTER videos to do analysis on, I received this follow up from dad…

“I apologize that these two videos are from a back vs front view but the differences can still be seen.  The before video is a game swing with her uniform on and are only a day apart.  If you can run them in slow motion, you’ll notice a couple things that made the world of difference.
In the before:
  • Wider stance (in my opinion, too wide)
  • More lateral movement because she doesn’t load at the shoulders (show her numbers)
  • Steps in the bucket as her hips fly open
  • Back elbow is leading the hands
  • Bat angle is well below the ball plane as she starts her swing
  • Result….pop up to pitcher
After video:
  • All we worked on was tight bottom three fingers on top hand, loading at the shoulders (showing the numbers) and a slightly narrower stance.  Results:
  • Back elbow is behind the hands and she has a much more solid impact on the ball
  • Bat head stays on plane with ball longer allowing a line drive impact on ball (not too much bottom half or top half on the ball)
  • She doesn’t fly open with her hips and her body stays in alignment longer (notice where her foot lands on the second video…..right on the line in the cement on the floor.)  I think the shoulder load (and I know she could probably show even more of the numbers if we keep working on it) prevents her or at least minimizes her from flying open.  You probably have a video link to some sport’s scientist that can explain how the shoulders and spine work together and keep the hips in check….Lol!
Bottom line results….2 HR’s in two games….much more solid impact on other hits.
Stepping in the bucket has been a huge issue we have tried to correct for years with little to no success and although I know we need to keep working a couple minutes a night to turn these tweaks into habit, I still can’t believe how quickly she made a change.  It might also explain why I get so many skeptical looks and opinions when I talk about your book to other coaches and show them the results after a one day difference.  If I hadn’t witnessed this with my own eyes, I’d probably be skeptical too.
Her instant success has also done a few things I never thought possible. She actually likes working with me in the garage hitting into the net at night because it is no more than a 10 minute session and she can still enjoy being a teenager.  She actually will listen to my instruction and corrections and wants me to video her so she can see that she’s doing it correctly.  When she was little, we use to go to the park and hit 100 balls off a machine or soft toss but those days of daddy/daughter time are limited so a 10 minute session is something she is OK with. Its a win/win for both of us.”

Thank YOU Mike I appreciate your support.  Great approach in getting that young lady of yours “hooked” again.  It sounded like a tall order, but you pulled it off nicely Coach.  I’m proud of both of you!

Also Mike, here are my next step swing suggestions:

  1. CLICK HERE for a video on how to fix stepping in the bucket using resistance bands,
  2. Finish up with the rest of the concepts in the Catapult Loading System book, then…
  3. CLICK HERE for the Float Variance Drill, and
  4. CLICK HERE for a definitive guide to forward momentum.

For those of you who may have missed Coach Mike’s effective approach with his teenage daughter, here are a couple key points:

  • Mike set his daughter up for success by telling her to only commit 10-mins per day to this new information (I tell my hitters to spend 5-mins/day, at least 4-days/week in deep practice),
  • He had the humility to admit (to his daughter I assume) that his teachings may have been misplaced in the past (this is part of a Growth Mindset by the way),
  • Didn’t want to overwhelm her, so Mike started with one thing first, “Finger Pressure”, then when she got that, he moved onto “Showing Numbers”, and lastly
  • Mike has a “results don’t lie” story to tell the naysayers, whether they heed his advice only time will tell…but the truth is undeniable.

This works for softball players folks…not just baseball.  If you aren’t growing as a coach, then you’re dying.  Dead things get thrown in the trash.  Cultivate a Growth Mindset coaches or else you’ll be short changing your players, and your significance as an effective coach.

The times are a changin’…

 

UPDATE on Kelli…

Joey:  You had asked me to keep you up to date on how Kelli had progressed after I worked the Catapult Loading System with her.  I’m proud to give you her final stats after 17 games.  You can note that we worked the system after game 7, so her results were really proven in the last 10 games.  Up until we worked the system, she had only one HR and most of her hits were weak ground balls in the gaps and bloopers over the infield.  Although she had decent numbers before working the system as I had told you in previous emails, her hitting really came alive and her hits were much more powerful.  She had very few if any extra base hits in the first 7 games and the triples and doubles really took off in the last 10 games.  Although she was playing JV, we are in the 6A division playing some of the largest and most competitive schools in the state of AZ and she lead the team in almost every category or was in the top three out of 19 girls on the team.

  • Games played: 17
  • Batting Average: .652
  • Plate Appearances: 48
  • At Bats: 46
  • Runs scored: 22
  • Hits: 30
  • RBI: 26
  • Doubles: 9
  • Triples: 2
  • HR: 4
  • BB: 2
  • K: 1
  • OBP: .667
  • SLG: 1.195
  • OPS: 1.863

To People That Want To Fix Baseball Swing Mechanics Slow Motion But Can’t Get Started

 

Baseball Swing Mechanics Slow Motion: Thomas P. 4 month Case Study

About 4 months between these synced frames. Notice: better weight shift forward, knee action, better barrel launch angle, NO more racing back elbow bat drag…Thomas is in ATTACK MODE on the right!

With permission from Dad, I wanted to share 9-year-old Thomas P.’s hitting journey after 12 baseball swing mechanics slow motion online video feedback sessions with me at The Feedback Lab.

We started session #1 January 18th, 2016, and finished session #12 June 2nd, 2016.  The video above is an actual Feedback Session I routinely do for my online hitting students.

I’m so proud of Thomas persevering through the struggle and frustration that comes with honing effective mechanics.

AND, the same can be said for Scot, his Dad, who’s persevered right alongside his son.  Not to mention how much Scot learned in the process…

  • How to train Thomas in these mechanics at home,
  • How to offer just the right amount of feedback, and
  • Finding out when too much is too much when it comes to learning a new skill.

In this video post, I wanted to share:

  • How far Thomas’s swing has come,
  • What he’s working on next, and
  • Some of the ‘Ah-Ha Moments’ for Thomas along the way…

The main objective of this post is to show parents what baseball swing mechanics slow motion online video feedback sessions look like at The Feedback Lab.  Not only do we accept baseball, but softball hitters as well!

PLEASE NOTE: Thomas is still on the journey, his swing isn’t perfectly clean yet.  This is only a 5-month snapshot of how far his swing has come.  Don’t judge his swing at this point in time, celebrate it!  Also, as you’ll find out, just because he moved away from a high leg kick, doesn’t mean I HATE high leg kicks.  It just wasn’t working for Thomas’s swing, timing-wise.

CLICK HERE to view and/or download Thomas’s custom “Marching Orders” PDF that I build for each of my hitters after each baseball swing mechanics slow motion feedback session.

How Far Thomas’s Swing has Come (in his 12 baseball swing mechanics slow motion feedback sessions)

I always like to use the ‘Pat & Pop Method’ when giving feedback to my hitters…’Pat’ is the pat on the back, and the ‘Pop’ is the pop in the mouth.

When I first started with Thomas, he had some good elements already working for him:

On the ‘Pop’ side of things, these were the mission critical things we had to begin tweaking:

  • Build stability in stance and setup,
  • Being better at swinging within the strike zone (plate discipline),
  • Calibrating solid rhythm and stride timing, and
  • Maximizing tension/compression forces within his small frame (racing back elbow bat drag).

I am confident to say that, over these past 5 months of baseball swing mechanics slow motion online video feedback sessions, Thomas has:

  • Built a more stable stance setup,
  • Developed a better sense of his strike zone (swinging at better pitches),
  • Gone away from his inconsistent leg kick timing to more of a slide step (he’s barreling the ball more often), and
  • Banished his racing back elbow bat drag (he’s been smashing the ball according to his Zepp sensor).

Here’s a quote from Dad talking about his jump in Bat Speed at Impact using the Zepp app…

“He started in mid 30’s, I would say his average is 46-47 now. He hits a very occasional speed of 50 when he puts it all together, which is seldom.”

 

What’s he’s Working on Next

Here are the polish points I included in Thomas’s current baseball swing mechanics slow motion video feedback session marching orders (CLICK HERE to download the PDF):

  1. Plate discipline,
  2. Being more balanced on his finish,
  3. Finger Pressure, and
  4. Letting the ‘barrel chase the ball’ post-impact.

#1 is a journey, and NEVER a destination.

With #2, it’s amazing how being ‘silent’ helps hitters be more efficient (CLICK HERE for this Breaking Muscle article on the ‘silent’ concept).

#3 because he’s still wanting to do top hand release way too early.  We’re working on keeping both hands on the bat into his finish now.  He’ll add another 2 to 4-mph of Ball Exit Speed by not letting go too early.

#4, he’s not letting his barrel naturally finish and extend on the pitch plane, which will cause him to be susceptible to missing off-speed and breaking balls.

 

Some of the ‘Ah-Ha Moments’ for Thomas Along the Way

Here are a few coaching moments I felt were turning points for Thomas (and Dad) as we moved through the baseball swing mechanics slow motion Feedback Lab online video lesson program:

  • At first, Scot (Thomas’s dad) was sending me video once per week, which I found – after about 6-weeks – wasn’t allowing Thomas enough time to practice the changes.  Once we moved to a video once every two weeks, Thomas’s swing started changing by leaps and bounds (and frequency here depends on the age, amount of practice, and level of the hitter).
  • Thomas is having a challenge to repeat his mechanics in games, so I shared this post with Scot, basically to only take 3-5 swing rounds, of which are high intensity swings, during practice sessions.
  • Shifting from having an swing outcome focus (what ball is doing off bat) versus a movement execution focus.  In the beginning, I tell my hitters I don’t care what the ball is doing off the bat…I care MORE about if they’re repeating the movements I want them to repeat.  In other words, if they swing and miss, but keep both hands on the bat through finish, with top hand finger pressure (in the case of Thomas), then that’s an “A” swing.
  • There were multiple times when both Thomas and Dad were frustrated with Thomas’s progress.  And it’s during this time when words of encouragement such as embracing the struggle, taking a day or two off from hitting, getting back to the hitting objectives in the Marching Orders, etc. are crucial.  The process gets overwhelming when we’re attempting to eat the elephant ALL AT ONCE.

I have quite a few other hitters online and off that are doing real well, and I let them know I’m VERY proud of them too, but I wanted to highlight Thomas’s story because most baseball swing mechanics slow motion video lesson cases on the bell curve look like his.  The story of ineptitude and woe…

But it DOES get better…IF the hitter puts in the work, and in the right direction.

It DOES NOT matter whether we’re talking girls v. boys, a 9yo v. a 21yo, a big hitter v. a smaller hitter.  The system works predictably.

Swing Smarter by Moving Better 😉