On the Offense

I’m about to let you in on a little secret from my past player life: I pretty much despised hitting until I was 16 years old. I dreaded the pressure of it, I found the thought of failing at the plate to be crippling, and I welcomed any time a coach wanted to either have me bunt, or to bring in a DH.

Please, I thought, let me off the hook.

Most of my time and energy was spent on pitching in my early career, and I had an exceptionally hard time separating the two, especially if I was struggling in one or both areas during a game. More times than not, hitting took a backseat to my attention and efforts, especially when it came to practicing.

When I was 16, a coach made a change to my stance, which ended up helping me not only see the ball better, but it also helped me with my timing. More importantly, he had, and gave me the confidence that I so desperately needed; to believe in my own heart that I could be a good hitter.

A light had been switched on, and from that point forward, everything changed. Hitting was fun. Hitting was a way for me to answer to the prices paid on the field, hitting became a way for me to prove that I wasn’t just a one trick pony, and I could be an asset to the team offensively.

Today, I teach hitting with the core belief that a good hitter is the result of key fundamentals meeting timing. Timing is the residual effect of swinging with confidence.

If your daughter isn’t hitting as well as you both would like, here are some key aspects to keep in mind that may help her get over that slump, and keep her average higher, longer.

Hitting is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, aspects of the game.

Unlike defense, where you can make up for errors by turning two, by getting the next batter, by leaning on a teammate to make the next play or the next out, hitting falls solely on your shoulders at that specific moment in the game. You are the Lone Ranger in that box, and you’re the individual in control of pulling the tigger. That trigger is the only way to make things happen.

With hitting there are a limited amount of chances to prove all the work you’ve put into hitting prior to game time. One pitch can change your entire game plan when you’ve just been wailed in the shin. One phrase can be yelled from the stands that make you second guess your confidence, “watch for the change!” Or maybe you begin to think about the repercussions if you don’t end up getting that hit with two outs, runners in scoring position, with an 0-2 count.

While it’s important to get the most out of every at bat, it’s also important to remain calm and collected, to stay within yourself no matter the situation, no matter the count, no matter what happened in past at bats, and despite the numbers reflected on the scoreboard. That is hard. Really hard.

Women are over-thinkers, over-analyizers, over-achievers, over-processors.

We are all.of.the.above. plus some.Women think and process pretty much everything in life differently than how men do, hitting is no different. We take things personally, we are sensitive, our hearts overcome our heads, and before we know it, the ball is hitting the glove, and we’re panicking because we barely saw it and have no idea how we’re expected to hit the next pitch with this moving stick, and what if it hits us, what if I swing and miss, what if, what if, what if??

So women, we need as much help as we can get in our fundamentals to be quicker, and have a more direct path to the ball. Unlike baseball, we have to eliminate the extra movements in our swing, and use our lower half to gain the momentum for our power. Our torque to get into a swing has to be gathered by loading our legs and coiling straight back with our hands, instead of rotating the upper half or wrapping our bat behind our head. Repercussions of bad bat wrapping, and/or over rotating the front shoulder reveal themselves by girls not being able to get their hands and barrel through the zone fast enough, and having trouble with accuracy (think dribblers, cue-balling, groundouts, popups).

We need more self-assurance than you and often ourselves even think we do

Women not only need to have encouragement and positive reinforcement, we thrive off of it. It is what motivates us, what makes us believe we can do something, and it often subdues our constant over thinking and over processing. Some of us need more of it, some need less, and some women need it to be shown or spoken to them in different ways. The ones that may need a little less of it, make up for it by needing to be pushed, challenged, or even sometimes set up to fail. Failure puts them in a position where they need to be helped back up, and encouraged to give it another try, coming back stronger and better than before.

Some girls need a little more hand holding and to be sheltered a little longer from failure. It all depends and can vary by the girl.

It’s our job as coaches to introduce different ways for players to handle situations and to get to know them well enough where we know what needs to be said, and what gets them to be more aggressive, assertive, and confident.

Add several tools to your hitting tool belt, but don’t be afraid to pull out multiple tools during a project to find the one that works best for you

I like to ask girls what they are thinking when the step into a batters box. Most of the time I hear them say, “I think, hit the ball.”

Great. That is exactly what you need to do. What everyone else is expecting of you, and what you are putting the pressure on yourself to do. But you swing and miss, now what are you thinking? You can literally feel the pressure building, the weight on your shoulders feels heavier, and the thought, “must hit the ball” just isn’t going to work for you anymore. Mentalities can shift, and it’s nice to have different tools in your belt to pull out when your original plan fails.

Bring it. I dare you. I dare you to throw it somewhere that I am able to unleash my wrath. Self assure yourself. Talk yourself up, and by golly, own it. Put your stamp on the box with a motion or quirk, if you will, that feels comfortable to you, but also lets your team, your coaches, your fans, and all of the other team know that you know what the heck you’re doing in there. Show them that you are confident, and you’re about to make something happen.

True failure comes when you expect to see different results by never making a change. Together, we practice different tools, mentalities, forms prior to games so you’re aware of what’s in your belt, and when to use them.

To wrap it up:

The offensive aspect of softball is continuing to evolve even today, with better bats, better equipment, and new tools that not only work the swing, but work some incredible body strength movements developing big time power and bat speed. My thoughts and processes about hitting have changed and evolved even since my playing days.

Some coaches are completely re-evaluating approaches to hitting by bypassing the approach of teaching basic fundamentals first, and just teaching the concept of timing. Interesting concept because let’s face it, no matter how ugly it may look, if you get that clutch RBI or have the highest OBP game after game, does it really matter what fundamentals you have or don’t have?

However, if a girl is way late in her swing, consistently popping up, or grounding out, there are some adjustments to fundamentals that can be made to help her out. Adjustments that would in turn help her with her timing and confidence.

Know that no player is perfect, and regardless of what a player does, how often she practices, every player will go through slumps, bumps and mental roadblocks along the way. Everyone does, even the pros.

It’s the player that is able to make the adjustment sooner, that will get over their slump sooner, and reap the benefits of being a better, stronger hitter.


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