First I must start with a disclaimer. I do not advocate everyone swing like Josh Donaldson. I don't advocate you swing like anyone but you. You have to develop a timing and rhythm to your swing that works specifically for you. No one can tell you how you should develop a rhythm; that is specific to the individual player. I let players find their own rhythm, and then we go from there.
I understand that some of you coach very basic beginning hitters and you are trying to teach them basic points that you can either build upon later or let someone else build upon later. So where do you start with young kids and beginners? I go back to this question, What's the purpose? To hit the ball hard consistently. I need you to understand that you cannot coach contact. That comes from practice, reps, and time. But what you can coach is intent. Go back 100+ years to the first time Babe Ruth picked up a bat, what was he trying to do? Probably hit the ball as hard and as far as he could. Fast forward to Mickey Mantle, probably the same. A few weeks ago I talked to Mike Bryant, Kris's dad. He told stories of when Kris was young he used to take him to the field with a bucket of balls and see how many he could hit over the fence. In talking with players daily on Snapchat they say, "but my coach will get mad if I try to do that." And there lies the issue. Years ago players used to play in their yard without coaches. Neighborhood wiffleball games and home run derbies dominated the summer landscape. Where players, on their own, developed intent. This doesn't happen anymore. Everything players do is monitored by coaches and adults. They don't play in the yard anymore and therefore never develop the intent to hit the ball hard on their own. Without a foundation of intent, players will be limited to what they can build and achieve on top of it.
What are the Teaching Points?
This one is pretty easy. On the most basic beginner level I teach kids to hip hinge properly and turn through their swings making sure to get full shoulder/hip rotation and release of the back foot. That's it. No complicated swing thoughts, no squash the bug, hands to the ball, or any other fancy coach speak from your local hitting guru. Just hinge and turn with intent. The more you practice that, the more you will find solid contact. See Vlad hip hinge below, who is one of the most natural untaught players in the last 25 years.
How Do I Measure Intent?
I measure intent 2 ways. The first is with the Diamond Kinetics barrel speed number. I challenge them to constantly beat their number on every single swing, plus you can identify when they are taking swings off or getting tired (at which point we stop). The other is ball exit speed. A cheaper solution to measuring exit speed is just getting a Pocket Radar which is sufficient for measurement. I understand kids consistently of solid contact isn't the best but its just another intent challenge for them to beat the top exit speed. If it's worth doing, it's worth measuring and this only adds another element of competition and challenge to your hitters.
Many times in doing lessons and instruction parents are paying for a magic formula. A solution so that their kid just doesn't suck. There are certainly hacks to achieve this that many instructors use and charge people money for, and people willingly pay it. Those coaches and instructors often cover their shortcomings by saying "well Johnny probably isn't going to play in the Major Leagues, so this way is better for him." I am in neither business of squashing dreams at an early age or limiting the capabilities of young players. I give them the 2/3 parts we discussed above and we spend all of our time trying to hit balls hard. The more they practice this the better they become and the better chance we will have to build the elite patterns on top of it later. If you have questions you don't feel comfortable posting below, please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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