The Swing: Science or Art?

Written By Rob Crews

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The Swing- Science or Art?

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Is teaching the swing an exact science or a creative masterpiece? I guess it depends on who's asking the question -the student or the teacher. I have come to realize that for many younger coaches it seems to be more of an exact science. For it is the novice that tends to ignore the creative process -a process that consists of teacher learning from student and developing a unique system that fits that individual student. The novice has read the book and studied the video. She spends a large amount of time attempting to get players to fit into an idea of the perfect swing. But it doesn't matter how much you know if you are not effective in your communication as a teacher. Perhaps it would have been easier to listen to the mechanics of the student.

On the other hand, the Master Teacher has a deeper understanding of creativity and the diversity of swing styles -he has the humility to adapt to hitters. The Master knows there is no perfect swing. The Master Teacher knows that because at one time she was a novice who also chased the idea of a perfect swing.

This adaptable teaching methodology is important for players -especially those that have gone beyond the youth stages of development. Today's athletes -hitters who have been specializing with hitting coaches from the young age of 8 or 9 year's old. For players who may have graduated from specific schools of thought or hitting disciplines, it is much more difficult to re-teach them -especially the olderthey get. Unlearning old habits and getting comfortable with new movement can be a challenge for most. And its not that the coaches are ignorant -it's that they haven ‘t figured out how to communicate it to the player. Many coaches who have the scientific approach to teaching science, will fail at converting most older hitters -that is hitters in their late teens. Instead of having a scientific approach to teaching science, many hitters need a more creative approach to teaching science. The creative approach makes it possible to unteach old habits while re-enforcing new movement -no matter the age of the player. You can either force-feed hitters and fail, or break off small pieces for them and succeed. It usually comes down to how stubborn or arrogant a coach is.

For this reason, beyond the age of 15, hitting is learned more than it is taught. The process of failure and re-learning falls on the hitters themselves. The hitters who are able to adapt are the hitters who are able to make the mental adjustments necessary for consistency at every level . Some hitters are able to learn (in-game) on one level, and perhaps cannot (learn in-game) at a higher level . You know those hitters who are working really hard, only to maintain a level of “still not good enough.”

Now of course there are scientific truths when it comes to swinging the bat. However, the interpretation of those truths lie in the perception of the beholder. The are so many arguments for and against different swing philosophies. Hitting can be a lot like religion -so many different ways to get to the same goal. And in religion, like a lot of rivalries, you can't subscribe to more than one -or can you? Can you like the Yankees without hating the Mets? Can you like !Phone and Android or do you have to hate the one you don't like? Why can't they both be good but you just have a preference. America loves a good rivalry. America loves to argue. North and South, Republicans and Democrats. Linear vs Rotational. Why are these even arguments? Okay, one more Crest or Colgate.

The flip side of the teaching argument is the learning argument. After all, A teacher cannot even exist without students. I believe the post-modern student is evolving quickly and we must be very careful how we as teachers handle them. Once upon a time I had hitters that came in twice per week, every week, whether they were hot or not. I have less of those types of students now. I have more students that I have not seen in a month -and this is actually normal. Today's student wants to do less and get more. And that is just the way it is. As teachers, we know that isn't possible. Mainly because we know better than anyone what it takes.

Now we can't teach the part-time dream chaser mentality the same way we taught the more focused hitter's of the past. The hitter's of the past didn't have phones and 3 different social media accounts to manage. They didn't have 2000 friends. Focus was much simpler then -but now we have this distracted generation. Parents are just as distracted and the mediocrity of society make's them apprehensive to push their kids. Looking back, I wish I had the courage to push my own kids harder.

So is teaching the swing based on science? Absolutely, but in order to be effective in your teaching, you must be as creative as an artist. It is important to pinpoint a hitter's natural swing and then figure out what you will negotiate while getting as close as you can to the science of what a swing should look and feel like. A Master Teacher motivates the student to find more time to devote to honing their skill. In a culture where players have way too many games and not enough individual practice time, it can be tough. But if you really want something, you find time to do it. No, your students will not shut off the computer and cell phones -therefore they must either wake up earlier or go to bed later. Whatever they do, they must get it done.

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Rob Crews 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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