Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Spring Loaded & The Slowpitch Drill

May 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Vol #3, Publications

Trivia

Name the one player in history with two four-hit games in one world series?

Paul Molitor, Barry Bonds, Robin Yount, Reggie Jackson, Danny Bautista or Yogi Berra

If you are familiar with my fence theory, you will have learned just how important any one element in the swing process can be. And, like any quality coach, identifying these elements and having an eye for the breakdown is vital to the success and continued growth for your players. But what do you do once you have identified the potential problem? Well, lets just see! 

The topic I have chosen for this issue is the value of loading and getting your players to “feel” the spring-loaded core and how truly important this simple movement really is to the success of a hitter. 

When you are watching good hitters at the plate, you will recognize a common characteristic in their initial movements; the load is nice and calm, they have a nice soft stride to toe touch, their front foot hits the ground and they sink into the front heel and they explode with their hips. I refer to this sequence as “slow” to “fast”.

In order for a player to maximize hitting production at the plate the concept of “slow” to “fast” needs to become engrained into a players mechanics, so much so that it becomes a natural element of their swing mechanics. The swing needs to be calm, not rushed, it should be “smooth” not “jerky” and when they move into heel plant…Kaboom! Rip the hips and run forest run!

The greatest attribute that the load provides is that it sets a players torque and allows a player to get “spring-loaded.” Far too often when I watch players hit it looks like they are in a blender and body parts are flying all over the place. Remember, it is slooooooow to fast, not fast-fast! This concept is a “feeling” and players need to experience this movement in order to internalize the concept and make it part of their swing. 

When a player loads to quickly and rushes their load it is very difficult to establish any sort of significant torque in their core. It would be like golfer trying to drive the ball off the tee box with a with a three inch backswing or a pitcher that wasn’t allowed to wind up when they were pitching. Improper load equals poor core torque. When a player has very little core torque they will lack power, become disconnected in their swing and have loose steering and bat control. All of this from one simple little movement. 

As I stated, a key element of teaching a player proper loading has to do with feel. In order for a player to even begin to work on something like torque and the spring-loaded core they have to physically experience and “feel” the concept of torque and it has to have meaning to them. If you expect to throw out a few fancy words like torque and spring-loaded core to a player without a conceptual model for them to internalize your training session will be mediocre at best. 

So, what do I do you ask? Great question!

An excellent drill that I use to teach players what it feels is like to be spring-loaded is the slowpitch drill. yes, slowpitch. Regardless if you are working with boys or girls this drill is money! 

Have you ever watched a slowpitch player swing the bat? Ever notice how nice a smooth the load process is? Well, give it a try! I know, I know, you are baseball coaches and fastpitch coaches not slow pitch coaches, I get that, but this drill will teach your players how to load and get their core spring-loaded and they won’t even realize they are doing it, not to mention they will have fun and it provides instant feedback to them which they will naturally start o adjust.

It is this very notion of “slow” to “fast” that the slowpitch drill will isolate. It is almost like a natural reflex that the body has and is the exact feeling you want your players to master at the plate. Also, a great drill for timing and working the outside half of the plate, but that is another topic which I will save for later. 

Take your player out to an open field and begin to pitch to them with a medium to flat arch. You want to avoid the big looper. Let them take a few cuts, 8-10, without saying a word or giving them any instruction. 

If you are coaching boys it is a lob, the kind you use when you are playing homerun derby, if you are coaching girls than it is good ole fashion slowpitch.

As you are pitching to them take notice as what they are doing in their load process, my bet is that they will have a nice natural load and soft stride to the ball. But, regardless of what they are doing you will clearly have a springboard to work off. Ask them what they are feeling? What do they notice? Are they calm, relaxed, smooth and composed? and so on. At this point, a few words from the coach would be good about what it is that they are doing and what you are trying to accomplish out there playing slowpitch. 

If you familiar with my “contact drill” have them take several cuts at “contact only” and then mix between “contact only” and full cuts. This will help them make adjustments to their timing and place a huge emphasis on when they load. (If by chance you have absolutely no clue what I am talking about and are unfamiliar with my drills, this may be a perfect time to get onboard and join the faithful and learn How I Teach It.)

The objective here is to simply get your player to “feel” the load process and the spring-loaded trunk. You want them to take the very same calm approach that they master in a “slowpitch drill” to match full game speed. In order to make the jump from slow pitch to fastpitch all you have to do is start the loading process earlier, remind them it is cool, calm and explosive, slow to fast. This will go along ways in the conceptualizing process for them and may be just what the doctor ordered.

Below is a clip of Kristen Rivera from UW and is a perfect example of a “Spring-Loaded” hitter. Nothing rushed, nice and smooth! 

  

Putting all of the pieces together is an art form and how you go about it is vital to the players success. Players need to “feel” what they are doing in the swing in order to completely understand what you are trying to convey as an instructor. Slow things down and go play a little slow pitch. 

Hope this was helpful and I am always interested in your feedback. 

Trivia

Name the one player in history with two four-hit games in one world series?

Paul Molitor, Barry Bonds, Robin Yount, Reggie Jackson, Danny Bautista or Yogi Berra

 

Robin Yount

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