Coaching Hitting Starts With Coaching Balance
One of the teaching pillars in our hitting training is balance. One of the most common issues with young hitters is that they don't swing from beginning to end, with dynamic balance. There are many issues within the swing that coaches rightly identify, however often times they overlook the underlying reason why the hitter is having trouble.
A hitter that is out of balance will almost always have several other common faults, which makes balance at the plate the best place to start when coaching a hitter. Here are some benefits to having great balance at the plate:
- Batter is able to swing harder
- More weight shift into the pitch
- Able to adjust to more pitch locations
- Leave some margin for error on timing
- Keeps eyes quiet
- Allows for better "take off" to first base out of the box
There are probably more benefits but you get the idea. There are two fronts to attack when establishing balance; first is strength, and second is technique.
Getting A Balanced and Athletic Hitting Stance Allows Hitters To Attack
I put strength first because it's got to be there for balance to be sufficient.
Some kids just can't stabilize their body in motion because they lack the body awareness and/or muscle strength to do it. If you encounter kids like this, the best thing you can start doing with them is some strengthening exercises for their legs and core.
This doesn't mean you have to start them on a long term, highly complicated weight training program. It just means that they need to have a few dynamic balance and strengthening exercises added to their routine. Do both legs and core, as both play a crucial role in body control during the swing.
Please check out Eric Cressey's High Performance Handbook if you want an incredibly thorough strength and conditioning system which can be individualized for almost every situation.
Being Balanced and Strong At The Plate Means Being Athletic
Second, we've got to teach them how to swing with balance. Start at the beginning. If their setup at the plate is not balanced, then the swing itself will not be either. Some things to look at include:
- Are the feet wide enough in the stance?
- Is weight leaning back away from plate?
- Are the knees bent?
- Is the hitter loading too far back?
- What is happening at the end of the swing?
The way I like to introduce balance is to have the kid get into a position where he feels like he could defend a basketball player. Then I stick the bat in his hands.
A lot of times, this is an exaggeration, but the happy medium they end up with is much more balanced and athletic than when they start. Again, and most importantly for me; this is not balance like a Flamingo, this is balance like a boxer. Athletic balance, not static balance.
In fact, one of the biggest benefits of establishing this balance and aggressive posture is that the hitter will feel (and look) much more confident. Our article about how to coach youth hitting goes into much greater detail on this subject, but it's easy to see the difference in hitters who are, and aren't, confident.
A lot of young hitters get into the box and stand perfectly still. They are very reactionary and unprepared in the box. Confident and athletic hitters get into the box with rhythm and aggressiveness. These hitters are ready to hit, ready to attack, and ready to take the advantage away from the pitcher and give it to his team.
We always need to be athletic and in motion, never statues. Begin with balance in your hitting coaching, and a lot of the other stuff will fix itself.
Here's another article about using balance boards for hitting that you may like.
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