The following are the ways of becoming a professional hitting coach
OK, I hope you did not come here to find a job as a professional hitting coach. Sorry, if you did. Do not despair though. I am giving you the most valuable things I’ve learned making a living as a professional hitting coach in the sense that I’ve been paid for the instruction I’ve provided.
One of the greatest things about being a professional hitting coach is the close relationships they develop with players as well as with their parents.
For those who follow these suggestions, they are well on their way to being a valued professional hitting coach.
- Knowledge of Hitting
There is obviously no substitute for understanding the fundamentals of hitting. Watching video of MLB hitters is the best way to learn the ins and outs of hitting. Talking to other hitting coaches, asking questions, and discussing hitting with others are all good ways to learn.
What separates one coach from another is what coaches see. Many coaches can talk a good game, but they can’t see a good game. To be able to pick up the little techniques in the swing and the root cause of the problem takes time. It’s critical to observe hitters as much as possible and from as many angles as possible. Look for the fundamentals or lack of them at each angle. The straight on angle as when you are pitching to them, directly behind the hitter, and the side view are all good for observing the hitter for video analysis. Once again, many of the problems on the swing have a root cause in the very start of the hitting sequence. For example, a lack of swing extension usually results from issues from the setup or at the start of the swing.
Also, just because you tell the hitter what they are doing wrong, that doesn’t mean they will just be able to go up to the plate and correct it. You must give them ways (drills) to fix the problem areas.
2. Trust Development
A major goal of the professional hitting coach is attaining the hitter’s trust. This is not always an easy task and is even tougher when the player is your child.
Some keys to develop the necessary trust:
- Give the hitter some time to get their timing and to feel comfortable in the batter’s box before critiquing their actions.
- Allow the player to fail a little, as that will give you a better chance of them listening to suggestions.
- When you see a good hit or even a good swing, mention it with an enthusiastic voice. This will be the start of a good relationship.
- Remember, the first few minutes together are the key.
- Once you feel like you have a grasp of what the hitter needs to work on then start with some positive words like “That wasn’t bad, now let’s try this“ or “good job, I like the way you did such and such, now let’s try this” or even “that was much better than last time, now let’s move on to this” or I can see you’ve been working on what we talked about last time , now let’s try this“. As often as possible, start with a positive before suggesting they try something.
- Immediately after a game is not the time to start telling a player or your child what he was doing wrong. Try to wait for a later time when the disappointment has worn off or it is a less emotional time. Remember, by waiting to discuss their hitting, you will begin to gain the players trust and enjoy each other’s time together much more.
- Use a matter of fact voice when giving advice and an enthusiastic one on good hits and any noticeable improvement.
- Do your best to describe the action and not the player. Things like “your swing was not there today” or your “timing was off a little” or “it was just one of those days” is much better than saying “you are never going to hit like that” or” you better practice more.”
- Give the Why for What You Ask the Hitter to Do. It is also important to give the reason why you want the player to try something new or why you want him to work on a certain drill. The hitter may not fully comprehend the why but when they see some better results after trying it, they will understand more. Keep the “why” simple.
- Always talk as if a Team. I try to always say, “We will get it,” which shows ownership of their hitting as well. That’s important for kids to hear that you are a team and it is not just on him or her. Expecting young hitters to be able to figure out their mistakes and make changes on their own is an overwhelming feeling for the young player.
You must realize that it is very difficult to excel at hitting, the most difficult of all sports skills. Also know that just because something was easy for them or for some, doesn’t mean that it will be easy for everyone, especially youth players. Just remember, that any player who really cares to improve can do so with practice and your help.
A good coach further realizes that it is not usually enough to tell a player what they are doing wrong and then assume that the player can just go out and correct the problem. A demonstration of the drill by you, an online video or another player is critical because most kids are visual learners.
Studies show the hitter will need to perform the correct habit often, up to a thousand times or so, to create a new habit and overcome the problem. Understand that their muscle memory will not change overnight.
A professional hitting coach should always set long range goals for the hitter. Instead of saying by next game or even next week, tell them that “we” can have it solved in a month (a minor problem) or by the end of the season (a more ingrained habit) or even by the time the player reaches high school (a major overhaul).
It is best to begin new muscle memory with drills on a tee or short flips, as opposed to first trying to solve a bad habit with a pitched ball. Remember batting practice is generally for timing and not necessarily for breaking bad habits.
Find the specific drill that most helps the hitter overcome the problem and have him focus on that for a long period of time.
Coaches who show patience with their players develop patient hitters who won’t mind working on their skills, realizing that they will improve in time.
Give your hitter something to think about when they leave practice.
5. Measure and Challenge
Keep a record of what was worked on previously and their results for each session. Remind players of what they were successful with the past practice and what needed more work.
Have a plan for each practice and challenge them to try to beat their previous best swings. When they fail to show improvement from the previous session which will often be the case, try a few drills that may best accomplish improvement.
Remeasure results after drills to figure out the drill(s) that seemed to make the most impact. Write down that drill for future practice and for times when problems occur in games.
As mentioned above about giving players the why for what you ask them to do, also explain why a drill works. You want them to understand problem areas as well as solutions so eventually they can make self-corrections and in game adjustments.
- Always Talk Long Term
Along with having patience and keeping expectations reasonable, always say things in ways that tell players you “Know” they will get it if they stay committed to the work. Always tell them, “You believe in them,”” This is hard stuff,” but ultimately “You will get this.” Take the can’t out of their vocabulary with your positive attitude and belief in them.