Welcome to SWAG 101, where the discussion is the 21st Century Hitting Model. Over the next few weeks we will be breaking down the cognitive process in hitting. In last week's issue, we took a quick look at how the eyes, brain and body work together to form a unique and complex system of recognition, timing, and decision-response. Understanding or executing this system is what separates good hitters from bad hitters. In this issue, we are looking at the idea of Immaculate Perception. Now the question is, “Is it even possible for perception to be immaculate?” Let's take a look, keeping in mind that visual acuity is both a mental and physical process.
We know that everyone's reality differs slightly. For example, what you think is red, I may think is maroon or burgundy. Therefore in pitch recognition, we have the IMAGE and the OBJECT. The image is what we think we see and the object is what is really happening. We can close the gap between the two when proper visual mechanics are applied.
Let’s take a look at the visual setup of most hitters -just in terms of establishing balance. Believe it or not, balance is the most basic fundamental of great vision. For without balance, coordination, control, and stability are virtually impossible. Balance contributes to stabilizing the head and eyes. A hitter's imbalances contribute to the lack of visual focus and inability to track the moving ball in HD. As a matter of fact, there are so many hitters who appear to be balanced in their setup but never maintain it throughout the flight of the pitch and the swing. Think about all the hitters who wobble when the ball is in-flight, especially on the change up. Getting hitters balanced pre-pitch is easier than maintaining balance in-flight. Therefore, hitting the change up is a strength issue to be improved through balance training in your living room not necessarily the weight-room.
SEPARATION: WHAT IS IT REALLY?
Creating separation helps hitters to realize true balance and aids in the recognition process. But separation is not something you heard at a hitting clinic or saw on a hitting video. It is so much more real than that. Separation is not a theory -it is a feeling. In fact, proper separation is the reason why some hitter's are able to establish and maintain balance. And it is that balance which makes way for a more stabilized head and eyes. And a more stable head brings us closer to immaculate perception. Here is a different perspective of separation:
WHEN PROPER SEPARATION OCCURS,
WE ARE SEPARATING TWO THINGS:
When we separate the stride or step or load from the swing, we are separating our recognition system from our timing system. The two cannot happen simultaneously due to our human inability to multi-task those two brain functions. Hitters who put the stride (load, step or trigger) and the swing too close together are neglecting one. They are either on-time with poor recognition or recognizing it with poor timing. In order to be good consistently, we need both -and they must occur separately.
We are also separating the upper body from the lower body in terms of when the rotational phase occurs. I am not going to go into rotational vs. linear here. That is an argument rooted in ignorance. They both have to happen so pick one that you believe in and go with it. But the real question is when do they happen? I believe the sequence is specific to the hitter and a good hitting coach adjusts it accordingly. However, if this separation does not happen, then body drifts forward, hips fly and pull shoulders, head and eyes out of the visual process. That is an example of poor visual mechanics.
When most people think about vision training, they usually think of eye exercises and numbers on tennis balls. I have been teaching and promoting vision since 1999, when no one was doing it. And I am not sure those tactics are effective. I will say if you can prove that they are working for you, you should continue to use them. There are so many elements of visual mechanics and the implementation into your hitting model. I could talk about it for hours. But if I could give everybody just one visual tip it would be this:
Understanding heel-plant is imperative. A lot of coaches talk about toe-touch and that is very important, but remember that heel-plant of the front foot must happen in order to maintain balance throughout the swing. Some hitters never get to heel-plant early enough to establish real balance. Then there are some that lift their front heel so high off the ground they never get it back down in time. This is how we improve stability of the head and eyes.
Check out my posts over the next few weeks, as we take a look at the Kinematic Sequence. It is during this phase of the swing that anticipation, prediction, time to collision, and pitch interpretation occur. This is the fun part -well sometimes.
| Rob Crews is based in Southern New York, and is one of the most sought after hitting coaches in the country. He is the Author of the book, Complete Game: The Emotional Dynamics of In-Game Focus.Rob provides consultant services for hitting coaches and develops hitting models for professional, olympic, and amateur softball and baseball programs. He served as the hitting coach for USSSA Pride (NPF) in their 2010 championship season, along with Tim Walton (UF), and Beth Torina (LSU).
As a consultant to companies like SKLZ, AXIS Bats, Bratt Sports, and MicroGate USA, Rob is continually developing comprehensive accelerated training systems that involve modern sports psych, neuromechanics, and visual strategies for efficiency in recognition and tracking.
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