Dear BioForce Faithful,
Yesterday I was working with one of our more dedicated athletes. I’ve been working with Willie on his pitching and hitting for a couple of years now. He’s got an absolute beautiful left-handed stroke. During our hitting session yesterday, we had a great conversation about hitting and pitching mechanics. Or the conversation went more towards the absence of mechanics.
Over the years, I’ve made the typical coaching mistake by over-coaching mechanics. Let me explain….
Willie had an amazing spring and summer season for hitting. I believe he hit over 600. Yes, 600. And this wasn’t in a slouch league either. He absolutely crushed the ball against every pitcher. Fast pitchers, slow pitchers, junk-ballers…. All of them.
This fall Willie decided to play fall ball. Surprisingly, he flat-out struggled with his hitting. What was different? He stepped up from 8th grade ball to a high school fall league. The league used only wood bats. His struggles were popping up more often, ground out way too much, and striking out much more often then he ever had. Willie handled the frustration and disappointment well and is working harder than ever but was searching for answers. We hadn’t been together much during the fall, so I hadn’t had a chance to watch him.
Towards the end of his fall season, Willie met his new high school coach started working with him and other players from time-to-time. And what’s the first thing this coach and assistant started to do with his swing? Of course they went to do a wholesale change of his hitting mechanics. To say the least, this fall has been frustrating for Willie between the changes in the league, and the changes the coach was trying to make.
I had a day or so to think about our training session before meeting with my student. How as I going to approach his frustration? What should we work on?
My first thought was to try and get away from talking mechanics and get back to hitting.
So, my strategy on our session was to review what he accomplished last season then listen, ask questions, and let him come to some conclusions. I first asked him about his success this past spring and summer. Of course Willie’s eyes lighted up, and was very proud of his accomplishments. I then asked what changed during the fall. After some thought and a few stabs at it, he came up with a great answer, that the pitching was consistently faster, and the bat was different, and the coach wanted him to make some big changes in his mechanics.
And what did he and the high school coach do when he struggled? They attempted to put band-aids on the problem by shortening his stride, landing on the toe, staying back…. A ton of the old-school teaches. And it just cluttered his brain.
So what did we do?
We talked about the definition of pitching or hitting mechanics. Simply put, your body needs to work in a certain order, or sequence, the hit or throw the ball with consistency, power, and accuracy. That is mechanics. When your sequencing gets out of order, then you struggle.
The underlying factor to this out of order sequencing is rhythm, tempo, and timing. We spent most of the session working on his timing and not talking about mechanics. I believe timing is different than mechanics. Especially if you are an accomplished athlete, your mechanics are probably just fine. Sometimes we get out of whack. Stay focused on your timing mechanism, not necessarily the mechanics of the swing.
So that’s what we did. And you know what? Willie stroked the ball all session….with a wood bat no less. We got rid of the clutter in his head, and focused on being on time. And what that means for hitting I’ll leave for another day.
So, what is your timing mechanism? Spend some time on that, and you will reap the benefits.
Train like a champion today!
Coach Bill Mooney