Quit?! Really? Anyone can step in the white chalk box and become a batter. Batters must simply enter the box and take pitches to earn official At Bats.
However, only select, top-tier players earn the title “Hitter”. The goal of “Quit Batting… Start Hitting” is to provide practical tips, tricks and advice that will help batters become real hitters.
As players, we often feel overwhelmed when making adjustments to our swings. Hitting can become frustratingly complicated! Together, however, we will discover simple approaches to hitting that make an enormous difference in performance. Hitting will never be easy, but it can be simple.
For starters, we must understand the swing from the ground up. Think about it like this: If I build a house and construct the roof before the foundation, what happens? You are thinking, “that makes no sense,” right? Exactly. We must establish a solid base and build up from the foundation.
The same principle holds true in hitting. We must focus on the foundation, the lower half of the hitter’s body, before perfecting other areas.
When building a house, the foundation is established by first assembling “footing”. Footing is the concrete perimeter around the foundation. More concrete is poured inside the footing to create a solid concrete slab. Ultimately, the footing is the foundation for the concrete slab foundation, the foundation of the foundation.
The same idea holds true for us as hitters. Our footing is the foundation of our lower half, the foundation of the foundation. Learning to use our feet is essential to maximizing our balance, center of gravity and resulting strength/consistency. Does anyone out there want to hit the ball harder and more consistently?
Try this simple experiment. Find a teammate willing to volunteer.
Stand facing the volunteer, one to two feet from her. Allow the teammate to push you backwards. Give her three attempts and follow the steps below:
1. The first time, shift wight to the heels, Over exaggerate, so the toes lift from the ground. Now, allow the volunteer to push.
2. For round two, the weight should be focused on the tip toes. Again, over exaggerate the foot position, so everyone can see clearly where the weight is distributed. Encourage the teammate to push again.
3. Finally, dig into the dirt, grass or floor with the balls of the feet (The ball of the foot is the padding part below the toes). Feet may appear flat. Have the volunteer push one last time.
Now, flees and yes, “Brick wall, baby!” Ok, the telling part is optional, but feeling the strength and balance created by simply learning to use our feet is exciting enough to inspire confidence and celebration!
If the experiment was demonstrated correctly, the third push should be the most challenging for the volunteer.
I tell hitting students that the ball of the foot is the “padding part” where the toes attach. Right now, take a look at the palm of your hand. The area just below your fingers (opposite the knuckles) is the “padding”. Apply the same idea to the feet. Feel the “padding” of the feet dig into the floor.
Now for the real fun and “ah-ha” moments: Apply the foundation and footing concepts in practice. Coaches, have all players with bats in hand, form a line and spread out. (Caution slinging or swinging of bats until everyone is in place.) Ask each player to assume her normal hitting stance. All players should face the same direction.
While in their stances, ask each player to put her weight on her heels. Walk down the line and push each player backwards. Then ask them to resume their hitting stance but shift their weight to their tip toes. Walk the line and push each of them back- wards. Smiles and laughter are a common result! Have each girl find her hitting stance one final time. Ask them all to put their weight on the balls of their feet. Help them feel this shift by squeezing each player’s feet at the widest point. Then gently press the top of their foot just above the ball. Encourage them to, “dig in!”
Now again, try pushing each player. Watch their faces as they feel the incredible strength and balance developed in simply a matter of seconds. One tiny shift can produce massive results. The key: “Feel It… So You Can Fix It!”
Remember, hitting is not easy, but it can be simple. During practice, work to keep body weight on the balls of the feet throughout the entire swing. The feet will definitely move throughout the swing, but as we move, it is important to stay balanced.
Additionally, we must be willing to take risks. Players should not fear making adjustments or making mistakes. Practice is our laboratory! We have the opportunity to learn and experiment.
Players may fall off balance while working to stay on the balls of the feet. As long as they fall toward home plate this is perfectly acceptable. If we fall away from the plate, our weight is on the heels, and we will lose power and consistency.
Finally, we must feel our adjustments as hitters. Hitting off the tee or hitting tossed wiffle balls in bare feet can actually help us feel the balls of our feet. Hitting in bare feet off a machine, pitcher or front tosser can put players in jeopardy of injury, so always remember, safety first.
Now, simply dig in and drive. The proof is in the footing!
|Charity Butler is a pro-fastpitch player, internationally renowned hitting instructor and Intrinsic Coach Professional®. She is the founder of Exceed Sports, LLC, the developer of the Fi™ Hitting System, the author of Prep Steps™ 31 day guide to success for female Student-Athletes, the Florida Commissioner for VTD Softball and the Softball Brand Manager for Nfinity Athletic Corporation. Some of her many achievements include: Two Time ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American honors & winning a Swedish National Championship while posting .610 BA and .987 SLG.Vist her website at Exceed-Sports.com|
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