Baseball and softball hitting instructors are in demand today more than ever. Many parents and players hope hitting lessons will ensure success. Of course, as a hitting coach, I believe hitting lessons can be very effective, but only if hitters are committed to diligently practicing what they learn. Thanks to the Internet, hitters also have access to thousands of pages of hitting instruction, and videos on seemingly every hitting topic. All of this information can be a blessing for hitters and their parents, but it can also be a nightmare for high school and college coaches, and even hitting coaches like me.
A high school baseball coach recently wrote to me expressing his frustration with the current trend in hitting instruction…“Paul, you have no idea how many philosophical differences we have with outside instruction. Recently, I put a study together on our current team, and found that there are a total of eleven outside instructors that I’m aware of and eight different teams that our kids play for in the off-season besides our team. It is no wonder why we look like deer in the headlights, at times. High school coaches are often easy punching bags for outside teams or instructors these days. If a kid has success, they take the credit, but if a kid fails, it is the high school’s fault. With the coaching restrictions regarding contact days, we lose that relationship in regards to a consistent hitting philosophy during the off-season, and in some part, during the season as well.” This coach wrote to me, because he liked the way I was working with his star shortstop and wanted me to consider working with other players on his team. His goal was to install a cohesive hitting philosophy that would produce consistent results.
I am often on the other side of the table with high school and travel coaches, so I understand their frustrations. Too often, I have worked hard with baseball and softball players in the off-season, only to have their school or travel coaches alter what we worked so hard on, with little or no justification for their changes. This is also frustrating for my hitters, because it puts pressure on them to compromise. This compromise often means adjusting or eliminating some of the key hitting mechanics I teach to avoid conflict with their coaches. My response to hitters and their parents when this conflict arises is always very clear and definitive…“You should only listen to one voice!”
Right or wrong, I require my hitters to either listen to my “voice” (my hitting keys and my overall philosophy) or I will refuse to continue working with them. This may seem rigid and harsh, but it is in the best interests of both my hitters and me. I have great respect for high school and travel coaches, but unfortunately very few have the time to work with their hitters as effectively as a good private hitting instructor.
Refusing to continue working with hitters because they choose to listen to other hitting voices in addition to mine, is always very difficult for me. I quickly develop personal relationships with my hitters and their parents, so it is hard to draw that line in the sand. Whenever I am forced to have this difficult conversation, I never focus on the virtues of my hitting keys compared to what their other coaches may be advocating. Instead, I always focus on the benefits of listening to only one voice when it comes to hitting instruction and the importance of committing 100% to that voice.
I never fault my hitters who decide to find a new hitting instructor. I know it would be worse for both of us if they continued working with me and another instructor at the same time. The individual hitting keys I teach come together as a cohesive sequence to form a powerful and consistent swing. Any changes by another instructor can cause the entire sequence to become awkward for hitters, which will lead to unrealized potential.
My advice is to first find a hitting voice that is easy to understand. Some hitting instructors or information on the Internet can be extremely difficult to understand, even for me. Next, the personal instruction or information should be credible. If hitting instructors are unable to articulate and quantify the benefits of their hitting keys, then players and their parents should be skeptical. Finally, select an instructor with a track record of success. If possible, speak to current and past students to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the instructor’s hitting mechanics, overall philosophy, and personal approach.
When it comes to hitting instruction, a solo is better than a chorus. Find the right voice and commit to it. If that voice turns into a duet or trio, find a different soloist!