A young, tentative player steps into the batter's box. She hears the following instructions:
Coach 1: “Bend your knees.”
Coach 2: “Weight back!”
Coach 1: “Elbow down.” Parent (from the bleachers): “No, elbow up.”
Coach 2: “Keep your shoulder in, and get those hands up.”
Parent: “Don't rollover or drop your hands again.”
Coach 1, Coach 2 and Parent: “RELAX!!!”
Thanks to the never-ending string of instructions, the little batter is anything but relaxed. Petrified in fear, she cannot even muster the courage to take a swing.
Recently, was invited to participate in an event that re-connected me to my childhood days of stress in the batter's box. It was a charity golf tournament.
Confident and stubborn, I agreed to play expecting mild proficiency of myself. I have often said that I would be a world class t-baller. With the golf ball similarly stationary, golf would be my new t-ball.
I was placed on a team with a golf enthusiast who was quite eager to share his knowledge. His instructions were probably very accurate, but the incessant directives were absolutely mind-blowing. I could not process all the information.
I was thinking about my feet, hips, balance, grip, front arm, wrists, head and knees all at the same time … and this was before I even made it into my backswing!
Any pride that I possessed in my skills as a pro-athlete and coach was left at the first tee box where I swung and whiffed three times before finally making pitiful contact. I immediately identified with young, fastpitch players learning to hit, overwhelmed by instructions from the dugout or stands. Frankly, I was annoyed and ready to throw my clubs in the lake.
Like golf, fastpitch hitting is sometimes complicated and frustrating. As I experienced on the golf course, additional information during competition is rarely helpful. For best hitting results during softball games, we should simplify.
Focus on specifics in practice. The batting cage can be like a softball laboratory where coaches and players think, analyze and experiment. On the field, however, players should be free to simply react.
Back on the golf course, I was determined to enjoy the day and overcome the stress of TMI (Too Much Information) Syndrome. By hole three, I decided to apply the one tipe that seemed easiest to implement. Mentally blocking out all other instruction, this one change was the only adjustment I made for the rest of the day. While thinking about my balance, I simply “let it fly”.
Surprisingly, for the remainder of the round I drove the ball hard and straight. I even produced shots better than my “teacher,” at times. I am far from going pro in the golf world, but the day was actually enjoyable and my borrowed clubs were spared from drowning!
Much like my golf experience, hitters in the game of fastpitch must learn to simplify. We cannot control how much information is thrown our way during live at bats, but we can control our thoughts and our focus.
Don Siaught, Former Major Leaguer and expert hitting instructor, says, “Our sport is too fast to have conscious thought involved in the process. . . For instance, telling a player to ‘make sure you get your pitch' or ‘just like last time', can cause your hitter's motion to come from the wrong part of the brain.”
“It is important to use words or phrases that ‘free-up' your hitters or give them confidence,” he says. Both players and coaches can intentionally use words or phrases of freedom. Whether hitters are just beginning or competing at the pro level, Don's suggested phrases below are valuable. Read them. Learn them. Use them!
Suggested phrases from Don Siaught:
“Let It Go”
“Free It Up”
“Good Take” -helps confirm to the player that they're on-time with the pitch
“Now just smooth it out” -if the swing was jerky
“Have some fun”
“Right There” -for the player who is on-time with the pitch
“Let's go, get it ready” -for the player who is late on the pitch
“Easy to + Easy Through”
“I like it”
“Do some damage”
Also note the phrases above all stay focused on the positive. Convey the goals we want to accomplish, not the mistakes we want to avoid. Our brains process information visually. If hitters are told, “Don't drop your hands.” What will their minds picture?
The mind's eye will see dropping hands. Then, the body is even more likely to repeat the mistake just visualized.
Instead, hitters should reiterate the positive. They must focus on the actions they want to make happen. Statements that will produce positive visualization for hitters dropping their hands may be, “Stay tall.” “Drive through it.”
These phrases generate images of Changing mechanics takes proper mechanics, so the hitter is dedication over long periods of more likely to accomplish the goal. Although great mechanics are valuable, the secret to consistent success at the plate is not necessarily at the plate is not necessarily a perfect swing.
The off-season is when we Although great mechanics are make these changes. In games, valuable, the secret to consistent block out the extra information and success at the plate is not simply find the freedom to react. necessarily a perfect swing.
|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|
Have A Question or Some Feedback? Click and send me a voice message.
This content is provided with a Creative Commons Share-Alike License. Feel free to use this content, so long as you give credit to Gary Leland, of Fastpitch.TV and link to www.Fastpitch.TV