I was recently working with a college hitter in the batting cage to “smooth out” her swing. Her mechanics are solid, but she has a tendency to force the bat into the ball with her arms and wrists, instead of letting it happen naturally with the powerful rotation of her body. When she does this, her swing is noticeable disjointed. Asking her to smooth out her swing was not working, so I pulled out one of the many “Inner Game” mental techniques I have adapted to baseball from W. Timothy Gallwey—-Humming!
In Gallwey’s book, “The Inner Game of Golf”, he wrote how humming alerted him to the flaws in his golf swing:
“I hadn’t considered my swing particularly tight, but my humming told me differently. I could actually hear the tightness of my swing in the sound. While I was going back the sound would be nice and smooth, but during the change of direction my voice would become strained, and at contact my throat would constrict and the humming would increase in volume, in pitch, and most noticeably, in tightness. Sometimes, when I really went after the ball, the hum would stop after contact and I would notice that I had also cut off my follow-through. Using a tape recorder, I later recorded the sound of my practice swing and compared it with a recording of a swing at the ball. The increase in tension was painfully obvious.”
I’m not sure why I don’t ask more of my hitters to hum, because it is easy to do and one of the most effective mental techniques for hitters at all levels. Every time I have used “The Humming Technique” with hitters, the results have been positive and immediate.
After explaining the benefits of humming during the swing to my hitter, she agreed to try it. We were doing a front toss session, so I was close enough to hear her humming after I released the ball. She quickly was able to observe the inconsistencies in her swing. As she was swinging, she could hear and feel the volatility in her hum during the sequence of her swing.
It took only a few pitches for this hitter to smooth out her hum, which also smoothed out her swing. The ball began rocketing off her bat effortlessly. I can always tell by the smile on a hitter’s face when a hitting adjustment works. This hitter not only had a smoother and more repeatable swing, but she was also more relaxed.
In the next double-header, this hitter ripped three doubles over the outfielder’s head. Before the last double, I encouraged her to make sure the catcher could hear her humming. She just smiled. Not only was her swing smooth and powerful, it was evident that the humming made her more focused and confident.
I came home after the game and told my wife Tammy how humming had helped this hitter. As a trained vocal music professional, she was not surprised. She commented that “Consistent humming engages our core, specifically the diaphragm muscle”. This resonated with me because I understand the importance of using the core in almost all athletic activities, especially hitting a baseball.
To review, here are some of the benefits of humming as a hitter:
- An easy way to diagnose what part of the swing sequence is being forced by the hitter
- A relaxation technique. Humming reduces stress in the batter’s box.
- A way to achieve better focus. A hitter who is humming is less distracted, without negative thoughts in the batter’s box
- A smooth hitting sequence will result in more power and consistency. A golf instructor once told me to “Smooth out your swing and allow for more distance”.
- It will freak out the catcher!
So, if the Seven Dwarfs were baseball players, I bet they would be humming while they hit.