Hitting Coaches of All Levels Have the Same Problems
‘I want hitters, when they are struggling, not when they are having baseball and softball hitting success,” is the lament of all hitting coaches. I see many baseball and softball players, from the young players I work with, to the major league hitters I see on TV, whose hitting mechanics I do not feel will work “at the end of the day.
Baseball and softball hitting coaches have the same dilemma, even at the major league and professional softball level. Besides getting players to do what they are asking them to do, no easy thing, the dilemma-question hitting coaches must ask themselves is, “What to do with the successful hitter, whose mechanics go against the hitting principles you (hitting coaches) believe are necessary for long term success?”
I know major league hitting coaches see rookie major league hitters, whose mechanics they do not believe will work at that level. However, they must remain quiet and see how those players perform, before making any changes. If they want to keep their jobs, professional hitting coaches must wait until players fail before risking changing players hitting mechanics, as the player’s way has gotten them to the major leagues, a huge accomplishment. The risk of immediately changing them is too great at that level.
The same dilemma exists for hitting coaches, as me, who work with young hitters. My biggest fear when working with a player is noticing mechanical deficiencies in hitters, who are tearing the cover off the ball. I dread hearing that a player, whose parent wants them to get hitting instruction, is hitting .650. I am thinking, why exactly are you here for hitting instruction with that kind of batting average? Of course, I admire the parents, as many of them realize the reality of the situation.
Hitting Coaches Plan of Action
What to do – change their mechanics and risk a drop in their production and confidence, very likely if they are already hitting .650, or make the changes, believing they benefit in the end? There is no simple answer, but as a hitting coach, I believe in doing things the right way, as well as believing the long term is the best way to think about things.
Here is how I approach it. Get the parent and young hitter together and explain the situation, which goes something like this – “Your son’s natural athletic talent has overcome some incorrect hitting mechanics, giving them success so far. In the long term, their hitting mechanics will catch up to them and success will be difficult. However, if you make changes now, you may not experience the same success you have now, so the decision is yours – make changes I believe help you forever, but risk short term failure, or keep going your way knowing success is probable for now. Before letting them make the call, I proceed to show them exactly the hitting mechanics I believe in and compare those to what their child is doing.
Of course, on the spot, most people decide to move on with making changes, but I do not blame the ones who decide this is not the time to change. Waiting is a better scenario than saying they want to change but they do not really buy into the changes I propose. I greatly admire the young softball and baseball players that buy into the change, knowing that their short-term success may wane, but knowing they will be much better prepared for success down the road.
One might say that moving to the correct hitting mechanics will bring immediate improvement to players’ results, but that is not so, as change involves adjustments that take time, as well as a “thinking through” phase that may affect players mechanics and confidence. With all this said, major changes to hitting mechanics are best in the offseason when better concentration is possible without the risk of lower results affecting players’ confidence. Finally, the player, who is not willing to change, presents another common and serious coaching dilemma, which is a story for another day.