As a hitting coach, I have been busy the past few weeks working with baseball and softball players who are preparing for a new season. In the days leading up to the season, I like to gradually transition my teaching approach 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. All the components of the swing I teach connect kinetically from the first move of the body through the strong finish.
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. In my book, Hitting With Torque: For Baseball and Softball Hitters, I describe 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 a favorite song that has a constant rhythm. I get frustrated when I observe hitters take practice swings in the on-deck circle that look awkward and disjointed. These hitters are making the mistake of 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 also 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. That’s a great combination on and off the field.