As the hitting coach for the Wheaton College (IL) softball team, I have been busy the past eight weeks working with our players, which is why I haven’t posted anything on this site recently. At this point in the season, I am also reluctant to offer any specific hitting advice. Now is the time for hitters to trust their swings and just hit the ball hard!
In the days leading up to the season, I like to gradually transition from making technical adjustments to the swings of my hitters, to a more holistic approach. Instead of focusing on the individual components of their swings, I work with them to achieve a smooth, but still powerful, rhythm. Baseball and softball swings are comprised of a sequence of several athletic movements. This sequence should flow naturally without any intervention on the part of hitters.
I am always amazed at what athletes can do when they get into a good rhythm. When basketball players get on a hot shooting streak, they typically describe it as finding their rhythm. When quarterbacks in football throw long pass completions, they often credit their rhythm after taking the snap for the success of the pass play. All great athletes perform with rhythm, which makes their success look effortless.
How To Get The Rhythm
I have found several ways to help hitters find their “swing rhythm”. One of my favorite techniques comes from Tim Gallwey and his “Inner Game” theory that I have written about extensively in previous posts—“Hum while you swing”.
In a previous post, Hummmmmm While You Hit https://wordpress.com/post/torque-hitting.com/2200 , I described how humming during practice swings will help identify when and how hitters are trying too hard or are being too technical. When hitters hum throughout the swing, any movement that interrupts the smooth constancy of the hum, indicates the hitter is breaking the rhythm of the swing.
The other technique I often use with my hitters is to ask them to swing like they are listening to their favorite song. I get frustrated when I observe hitters take practice swings in the on-deck circle that look awkward and disjointed. These hitters are trying to focus on individual components of the swing. Unfortunately, the time to work on hitting mechanics is not moments before facing a pitcher in a game.
I encourage hitters to make each practice swing as smooth and rhythmic as possible, without any concern for the position of the hands, arms, body, or the bat. This will ensure hitters are as loose as possible, and it will also help calm the mind before entering the batter’s box.
When hitters are “in season”, I believe it is more important to work on smoothing out the swing than continuing to focus on the various mechanics of the swing. By practicing a rhythmic swing, hitters are less likely to lose their hitting form during a live at-bat, especially in pressure situations.
Great dancers don’t focus on every step during a performance. They listen to the music, find their rhythm, and let their bodies do the rest automatically. Great distance runners or swimmers don’t think about every step or stroke—they find a winning rhythm and trust their bodies to perform as trained.
Great baseball and softball hitters find a rhythm that allows their bodies to hit with both power and grace. At the Christian college where I am the hitting coach, this is a great combination.