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There is a lot more than people think when it comes to developing good hitting mechanics. One of the biggest problems we see in Fastpitch Softball hitters is they get out in front of the ball and come around it. In other words, they do not keep their swing compact and hands inside the ball. Their arms end up extending too quickly and the barrel of the bat will get to the softball before their hands do. This small detail in your hitting mechanics makes a huge impact on how hard and how far you hit the ball. Working with the Hands Inside Trainer will help you get back on the right track to hitting the ball further and harder.
Fits Most Batting Tees, Easily Adjustable
The Hands Inside Trainer or H.I.T. is a simple, yet high effective training tool used by many Fastpitch Softball and Baseball players. The H.I.T. is a batting tee attachment that promotes the proper hand path during the swing. You can turn any tee into a swing trainer that will teach you muscle memory to keep your hands inside the ball. This device is a perfect tool to use no matter who you are. Great for left and right handed hitters, the H.I.T. is fully adjustable for different size bats and age groups.
If you are like me, you grew up at ball diamonds. Some of my earliest memories are times spent at ball fields during the summer. Softball is a part of my genetics. “Ball” as it was referred to in my family, was the focus of all we did. Ball kept us occupied and engaged.
It was the early 80s and travel ball teams really didn’t exist except in some rare cases. I happened to be blessed to have been on one of those teams. We traveled around our state playing in different tournaments. We even played our national tournament (AAU/USA Jr. Olympic) at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, IN. The one thing I remember the most about travel ball was the time spent with my family and friends. This was a time that all differences was put to the side and we simply enjoyed each other.
We as a community have a way of forgetting that competition softball is a journey. We look at it as a means to an end. Our daughters play at high levels in the quest to earn a softball scholarship. They are pushed to their limits to be sitting at the table on “signing day”. Sometimes the most important aspect of this quest is lost, the journey. We forget that each of these athletes are developing on their level and that they will remember the journey more than the accomplishments. The majority of these athletes have an internal drive and passion for the game of softball. They realize when they play well and they realize when they need additional practice. Most will remember and they realize when they need additional practice. Most will remember the moments they look over and see you cheering them on.
Over and over I have heard college and adult athletes talk about the time spent with parents. I heard Jennie Finch speak about how her dad still caught her to that day. How Monica Abbott’s mom caught her for 1 hour every day. I did not hear them speak about big games won. I did not hear them speak how great it was to be on the Olympics teams. They unanimously referenced the journey. It caught my attention, as they spoke, how their families were their biggest supporters, how their parents are still Walking Beside them daily.
The journey is where the passion begins. The journey is where the memories begin. The journey is where the accomplishments are anchored. The journey becomes the motivator. The Journey is the important part of the quest. The wins and losses are not the important part of softball careers, the journey is. My youthful journey has resulted in my love of softball. It has resulted in my ability to give back to the game. It has started to make a difference in young athletes lives.
As we go forward in this crazy softball world, I ask you to remember that you and your daughters are on a journey together. Jeremy McDowell, from Midwest Sports Productions gave his daughter one of the best compliments, I have ever heard a parent give, he simply said “I enjoy watching you play ”
My question, do you ENJOY watching your child play? I encourage you to ENJOY the journey because it is gone before you know it.
The 2013 NFCA Convention was absolutely incredible! The best and brightest in the fastpitch world come together annually for this action-packed event.
This convention featured a talk by University of Florida Head Coach, Tim Walton, entitled “The Working Relationship Between Coaches and Hitters”. His words of wisdom were not focused on the fundamentals of hitting but on communication: communication between hitters and coaches and hitters’ internal conversations with themselves.
Many of his statements were simple, yet quite profound! I will share his thoughts and expand with some of my own.
“Work on strengths, not only on weaknesses.” –Tim Walton
ESPN the Magazine has analyzed high profile athletes, seeking to determine if top level competitors are, as most would claim, over-paid. Through pages and pages of statistical analysis and explanation, the experts concluded that top athletes are actually under, not over-paid.
Rationalizing that someone can be underpaid by $ millions per year to hit a baseball or catch a football sounds absurd. The answer, however, lies in the basic principles of economics: supply and demand.
You see, ESPN Magazine determined, “the more unusual the skill and the harder it is to replace, the higher its price will be.”
No one can consistently execute at the level which top-paid athletes perform. Their skills generate billions of dollars throughout the US and around the world, and no one can consistently do what they do.
The demand for professional sports is ever-increasing and the supply of top athletes is comparatively small. Therefore, top athletes earn top salaries.
Granted, the dollars paid and generated in female athletics are many times laughable compared to equally skilled male competitors, but do not miss the point chasing political rabbits!
Top performing athletes are usually very good at one skill or a set of related skills. A center in the NBA may hang its hat on rebounds and blocks, while a point guard earns his money handling the ball and a 3 guard finds his value in stellar 3-point shooting.
Sure, all of these players can perform all skills required in the game: dribbling, shooting, passing, rebounding, defense etc. NBA players can perform these skills at a comparatively high level. It is definitely valuable to be a well-rounded player and all around athlete. This concept applies to fastpitch softball, as well.
However, the best players have found their niche, their wheelhouse. They have fully developed their strengths.
The best quarterbacks in the world are not simultaneously the best kickers. Each player has his role and has developed his ability in one particular area to its fullest.
As hitters, we sometimes become too perfectionistic. We want every pitch to be our best pitch. We want to be the power hitter, the hitter for high average, a short game player and the base on balls leader… all at the same time! It is as if we want to be the quarterback and kicker all in one.
Yes, fundamentals are important, and yes there is a time and place to develop our weaknesses and improve skills in multiple areas. Ultimately, however, hitters must understand their strengths and develop them relentlessly.
In areas of natural advantage, cultivate those strengths to the point that no one can duplicate them. Even in the world of college recruiting for fastpitch players, “the more unusual the skill and the harder it is to replace, the higher its price will be.” –ESPN Magazine
Focusing on strengths more than weaknesses is counterintuitive but will allow players to increase their price. Hitters who can hit the ball 300 feet may strike out more than those who lead the team in on base percentage, and that is ok!
When hitters can do one thing better than anyone else, they create their niche. They make themselves irreplaceable. Riches are in niches (metaphorically speaking)! Most hitters cannot be the best at everything, but they can work to be better than anyone else at something. That area of strength could be a player’s ticket to great success.
Coach Walton pointed out that when using video analysis, most hitters are looking for mistakes in the video. Hitters can be so focused on their weaknesses that they forget to hone the strengths! When using video, be sure to look for the good in the swing, in addition to the bad.
Visualize and feel the good. File away the good aspects of the swing for recall and mental practice.
“It is not necessary to always work on something [negative],” Tim says. “Sometimes hitters can just get their reps and feel the timing.” This can allow players to fine-tune their strengths and really feel their swings.
Feeling the swing is absolutely necessary! I almost jumped out of my seat when Tim declared, “If they can’t feel it, they can’t fix it”! My Fi Hitting™ System was designed to help players feel it so they can fix it.
Hitting is not about looking like someone else or trying to fit some stereotypical mold. Hitting is about finding each individual player’s best swing. She must know herself, including her strengths and weaknesses. She must find her best swing and feel the thrill of truly turning it loose at the plate.
“If I tell a hitter what to do, they may not be as good. They know themselves better!” –Tim Walton
Absolutely, there is a time and place for coaches to guide, direct and coach, but all too often hitters become caught up doing what they are told. They try desperately to improve their areas of weakness, while ignoring their God-given advantages.
When playing defense at the speed of the game we talk about quick throws around the diamond and charging the ball. We coach our defensive squad to move the ball quickly from glove to glove when turning two. However, runners reaching first base in 2.6 – 2.8 seconds still have the competitive edge. In order to rely on quickness as a part of playing Game Speed Defense, we need to address the areas of the game where we can feel its momentum.
You’re on defense and you are anticipating the play. The batter swats a hard hit ground ball down the third base line and you have a split second to react. In this scenario I’ve commonly seen a fielder misplay the ball, thrusting her glove downward at the backhand play as the ball pops out, rolling into foul territory. This type of fielder does not understand an important aspect of the game that will be the difference of having soft hands versus hard hands to the ball. Since it all happens so fast, many fielders overlook the importance of fielding the ball along its directional momentum.
There are also infrequent moments when I watch a fielder who understands momentum as natural as having common sense for the game. These moments are less frequent which makes my mind recall former pro star Jackie Pasquerella, AKA “JP.”
JP graduated from Villanova University and continued to play the hot corner for the NPF New England Riptide and NY/(NJ) Juggernaut. At times she was called “Spidey”, short for Spiderman to describe how low she would get when fielding made. The best time to feel this is during practice. After our basic throwing warm-up, infielders should take a step in to work on quick and short throws. The goal of this is to keep the ball in momentum back and forth from glove to glove. Keep the ball moving for at least ten throws under a stopwatch and work for your best time as a pair. Throwing partners will soon realize that they can work to shave a couple of seconds from the drill if they hit each other in the chest each time, and also pull the ball into their chest as they receive it. Using the glove to pull the ball in keeps the momentum of the ball moving into the next throw. Some fielders don’t notice this concept and stab their glove outward towards the ball. This causes hard hands and will either increase the risk of the ball popping out of the glove, or it will add to the time that it takes to transfer from catch to throw. Instead of receiving against the momentum of the throw, fielders with finesse know how to bring the ball in and use efficient footwork to get rid of the ball quicker.
I have recently been asking my hitters the question, “What do you hit with?”
I have gotten all sorts of answers from hips, to legs, to arms, to entire body. Quite frankly, I do not believe that any of those answers are fundamentally incorrect, but there is certainly a best answer. So what is the best answer to that question? What does a hitter hit with?
I would have to say, “hands.” Let's take a look at that answer for a second. Keep in mind that I only say hands, because I want the hitters to focus more on hand path. It seems that so many young hitters are focused more on legs and spinning -which undoubtedly affects or misdirected the hand path in such a way that it creates bad spin and flight of the batted ball.
Since the bat is actually in our hands, not our legs, arms, or hips, let's take a closer look. First of all, let's look at preparation for the Prom. The most important piece to the preparation is undoubtedly the dress. Everything else, including the shoes, purse, jewelry, and even the prom date is nothing more than an accessory. Accessories which support or enhance the dress -not overshadow it.
In hitting, the hands would be the dress -the most important part of the physical swing. Everything else in the physical swing would be the accessories as they are supporting the hand path -not taking away from hand path. In other words, accessories as they are supporting the hand path – not taking away from hand path. In other words, anything that a hitter does that takes the hand path out of the strike zone or off the path of creating the appropriate angle to the ball, is no longer an accessory but a hindrance. Hence, we need to address it.
We address the accessories with drills. Drills that actually improve, enhance, and support the hand path. Here are some ideas for drills that can improve hand path:
History Of Softball Part 17 with Dr. Dot Richardson
Welcome to part 17 in my series on the History of Softball with Dr. Dot Richardson. On this episode Dot continues her tour of the Softball Museum with the legendary longstanding Fresno State head coach Margie Wright. She built her career of wins and accomplishments with the program from 1986 – 2012. She is the NCAA's second all-time winningest softball coach at this time.