No Bad Baseball Drills Exist, If…
A frequent question I get is whether such and such a baseball drill is any good. My reply is, “Sure if it gets your point across.” Baseball drills may or may not work to alter muscle memory, but there are no bad baseball drills, as long as players learn something from the drill. The best coaches explain the why for drills in simple terms. They also repeat that explanation often because automatic comprehension is rare with youth.
Helping players understand the intricate fundamentals of baseball is the baseball coach’s goal. Often, the best way to do that is with baseball drills. Baseball drills break things down to the basics. Once understood, players have a greater chance of changing muscle memory.
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The initial intent of baseball practice is to give players a better understanding of the skills and game strategy. Many of the proposed drills are not going to change their movements right away, but, they make explanation much easier than just words. Coaches can then feel good that they have done the job of explaining the idea and showing them what works to help their development. Over time, players begin to process their awareness of what they are doing with the drills intent. Bingo, the concept and exercise works.
No Perfect Baseball Drills Either
To say that no perfect ones exist may be incorrect. The drills may be perfect because they force the correct actions, but to suggest any drill automatically changes player’s actions after performing it would be naive thinking.
It is easy for coaches to say that this or that drill does not work, but how do they know? If they expect a players habits to change immediately or soon after a performed drill, then they are right. With that expectation, one could rightfully say, “No baseball drills work,” or at least for long. Baseball drills are not miracle cures.
But, as long as players learn the baseball concept one is trying to get across, it worked and is worthwhile. Most drills work to an extent, but changing actions do not result just by using them once in a while. Muscle memory change only comes with a ton of repetition. If perfect methods existed, learning baseball skills would be a snap.
I could make thousands of examples of this with the many hitting drills I have players perform. For example, many coaches say one arm swings for hitting improvement are worthless. When a batter lunges at the ball, take away their lead arm for a period, have them choke up and swing with their top arm only. In this way, players more often than not, stay back over their rear leg, rotate the hips and get the bat out front in an efficient manner. Players get the staying back feel. The drills did what it was intended to do, explain something The hitting drill is so much better than yelling at them for a half hour to wait back. They may go back to their old and incorrect way immediately after, but the learning process has begun.
Choosing the Right Ones
Of course, the challenge is choosing the right drills. It takes an astute coach to pull the right strings by using the best drills at the appropriate time. Thinking that every technique helps every player is incorrect, and some practice methods may hurt more than help. Also, many baseball drills are age specific. Using a complicated drill with inexperienced players may cause confusion that sets them back for a spell. Coaches must select the training techniques necessary for each individual player’s improvement because players have different needs and understanding of the skills.
Good drills done correct never hurt players when they know the reason for the drills and do them right. Coaching oversight of the implementation of the training techniques is necessary so they are done correct. Finally, practice of the drills players find most difficult should be encouraged most.