“To every thing there is a reason, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.”
Wise King Solomon of the Bible penned this beautiful passage. The excerpt provides a glimpse of the wisdom he shares throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. Many of the situations mentioned apply to the game of Fastpitch as well as to life in general. If Solomon had been a hitter, however, I think he may have included one more verse:
A time for progress and a time for performance;
A time for change and a time for consistency.
Fastpitch, like most sports, is structured around seasons. As hitters, tackling off-season training is very different than the balance of in-season tweaking. “For every thing there is a season.” The off-season is the time for progress and change. Because wins and losses are not at stake, we strive toward hitting perfection by working on major elements of our swing. In-season is when we simply seek excellent results. Consistent performance is more valuable than change.
Our in-season approach to hitting must be simple. Many hitters suffer from thinking too much while in the box. Let's call it over-thinking syndrome. The symptoms may include: frustration, anger and a decline in batting average.
We zoom in to analyze the detailed fundamentals of hitting during the off-season, but once games begin, we must zoom out. This big picture approach includes two keys. Hitters must:
1.Be On Time
2. Hit the Middle of the Ball
Some of the ugliest swings in the game can achieve success, if they are on time and strike the middle of the ball consistently. Likewise, bad timing and inconsistent contact will leave those with fundamentally sound swings looking great and yet feeling very frustrated.
Below are simple tips for accomplishing the 2 In-Season keys:
Be determined to start the swing from the back side. Drive from the back side and through the front leg, instead of jumping to the front foot. This allows hitters to stay in control and even reset, in the case of an off-speed pitch or misread in timing.
Use the front foot (stride) to adjust timing. Once the front heel hits the ground, the swing begins. To catch up against a quick pitcher, simply stride sooner and keep the remainder of the swing consistent. To adjust for slow pitching, stride later (when the timing feels too late), but keep the rest of the swing strong and aggressive.
MIDDLE OF THE BALL
From a strong load, think about exploding forward ONLY.
The drive of the back hip should be directed forward through center field. If the back hip is angled up toward the sky, we lose power and will tend to lean back, making pop ups and fly balls more likely. Picture a vertical pole through the body, from the tip of the head down to the ground.
The hands should travel straight forward (almost on the chalk line of the batter's box). They move like an airplane coming in for a landing and touching down on the runway. Forward movement leaves no time for dropping hands or looping swings.
Find the level of the ball (airplane runway) and stay through it as long as possible. This increases our power and consistency at the same time! Try to stay “palm up/palm down” from contact all the way through extension. This reduces the likelihood of rolling over and hitting ground balls.
Focus the finish through center field (not toward the dugout). Many times, hitters finish the swing really hard toward foul territory. Be determined to stay through the ball. Expend all the energy through the round, yellow thing, and let the follow through happen naturally. Pulling hard on the follow-through can cause pop ups, ground balls and some serous whiffing action.
A very simple drill to practice the concepts above is aptly named Pop to Contact. While working in the batting cage, use a front-tosser, BP pitcher or pitching machine. Hitters should pop to contact, focusing on one of the areas above (whichever applies to them best at the time). The goal, of course, is to be on time and hit the middle of the ball. When executed correctly, hitters should make hard contact without even finishing the swing. They will very clearly see and feel when they are late, early, dropping, jumping, or pulling away.
After becoming comfortable with the drill, begin mixing contact swings and full swings. If timing is off after several swings, pop to contact until back on track.
Finally, the key to staying on time and hitting the middle of the ball begins and ends with confidence. In-season, we must act confident, even if we do not feel confident.
Our bodies speak louder than our words. Effective body language is essential for consistent success. Step in the box as though you are the greatest hitter who ever lived. Have a hitter's swag!
I used to think that swagger was an intimidation tactic, a way to get in my opponents' heads. Truthfully, we never want to show are weakness, and a confident demeanor does have its place in sending a powerful message to the other team.
However, confident body language is more important for our own confidence than for instilling fear in others. When we act confident, we actually turn on switches in our brains that help us feel more confident. We can do more than fake it till we make it; we can fake it until we become it. .. fake it until we become confident!
Step in the box to succeed and not to avoid failure. Step in the box knowing that you will connect on time and hit the middle of the ball.
Act confident, and keep it simple!
|Charity Butler is respected nationally & internationally as a pro athlete, writer, speaker, collegiate coach, hitting instructor and Certified Intrinsic Life Coach®.Currently, as a Pro Speaker for Sports World, Inc, Charity travels the country speaking to more than 40,000 people annually. As a recognized expert in confidence training, she also presents at various conferences, colleges & universities.Charity is the founder of Exceed Sports, LLC, and of the I Heart Fastpitch Campaign Join Charity On: Twitter, and on Instagram|
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