Baseball Hitting Coaches need to Know Different Coaching Methods
Ultimately, hitting mechanics are hitting mechanics, and they do not change for any level, but coaching different levels of players does change.
Many baseball hitting coaches adorn the internet with their knowledge. They have a very good understanding of hitting mechanics, even though they may use differing terminology to describe the same things. The problem is that coaching various levels of baseball requires many different approaches. Youth baseball hitting coaches, me included, must do a better job of identifying our audience, as a “one- coaching-method-works-for-all” theory is not good.
These days, I mostly coach for the 95% of youth ball players, who are anywhere from below average to slightly above average players, and not for the 5% elite ones. That is not to say that many of the things I coach and write about cannot help players of all levels, but there is a huge difference with coaching and writing for the few elite players and those who are not the best players. To make blanket statements, as many baseball hitting coaches do, is not helpful and often leads to disagreements because of the unidentified audience.
These are general statements I often read from baseball hitting coaches, “That is not what we see from the major league players,” or “That drill is counter to what a real swing is.” I also hear or see these a lot, “That is the same old garbage, so old school,” or “How can you teach kids to swing like that, Albert Pujols doesn’t hit like that,” and on and on.
I understand those statements, but my question to follow up is, “You may be right, but have you actually worked with players, who are not advanced hitters?” For those that have and do work with young hitters, they realize coaching hitting to inexperienced players is a whole, different ballgame – pun intended – from working with advanced hitters.
There was a time when I worked almost exclusively with elite ballplayers. They were elite of course because they could hit and had very good mechanics to begin with. Keeping them sharp, along with helping them adjust to situations and pitchers were my coaching goals. Besides that, I realized it was best to stay out of their way and let them do what made them elite in the first place. Many coaches screw up the best players by over coaching them instead of letting them come to them, when they feel they need advice.
Baseball Hitting Coaches Approach for Inexperienced Hitters
Many differences exist with working with different skill levels, and coaches should explain what level player they coach. Following are some coaching tips that help the inexperienced players, different from working with advanced ballplayers.
- Keep it simple – many coaches speak in ideas and terminology that I cannot even understand. Believing young players, and anybody but the highest level coaches, know what you are talking about is naive, nor helpful.
- No reason to impress them, just help them – along the same lines as above, many baseball hitting coaches try to tell players what they know by going on and on, when it is not about what the coach knows, it is about helping players understand and improve. The best coaches know this: it is not what they know that matters it is what they see.
- Hitting drills may not be necessary for advanced players, but they are mandatory for inexperienced ones. Even if the hitting drills do not change habits immediately or even make players mechanical for a spell, hitting drills make a point about a particular aspect of hitting that players learn and remember.
- The strike zone at the highest levels of baseball, and the strike zone at the youth levels are different, so coaches have to teach hitting accordingly. Pitches even up to shoulder level may be strikes with youth, whereas pitches above the waist are not strikes in major league baseball – huge difference.
- Assume nothing with young players – coaches can ask experienced players to try something, as hit the ball to the opposite field, and they have a good idea how to do that. With inexperienced hitters, that knowledge is foreign to them, and a great deal of help is necessary for that to happen.
All baseball hitting coaches should use demonstration and filming of players, as they are great means of helping all players’ hitting fundamentals. Finally, I enjoy helping the non-elite players much more. Sure, occasionally a coach can screw them up, but for the most part, there is only one way to go with non-elite players, and that is up. Great coaching satisfaction arrives from seeing below average or average players turn into accomplished hitters.