A favorite book of mine is The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The book strongly encourages readers to focus on only one important thing in their professional and personal lives to improve productivity or happiness. The premise of the book is simple. If we concentrate on one big thing at a time, we will be less distracted from achieving our most important priorities, resulting in greater success. As we move into another high school and college offseason, I encourage my hitters to work on the one thing during the summer and fall that will have the most positive impact on their power and consistency.
One of my college softball hitters is back home from a long playoff run with her team that finished second at the 2018 Division III Women’s College World Series. She finished the season as one of the top hitters on her team and was recognized as an all-conference performer. Her three clutch home runs in the postseason played a significant role in the ultimate success of her team. When we met for our first workout of the summer, I identified the one thing she needs to work on before fall workouts begin with her college team.
Thanks to the NCAA and ESPN, I was able to watch all of her postseason games on my computer. It was clear to me why she had such a successful season at the plate. Her stance in the back of the batter’s box was solid, her hands at set-up were back toward the catcher and perfectly still, her load (leg lift) was slow and powerful, she achieved full extension at the moment of impact with the ball, and she finished her swing on a powerful path that ended high and away from her body. She was doing everything the way we practiced before the season, except for the one thing.
As this hitter begins to prepare for her final college softball season next year, the one thing we will work on this offseason is adding explosiveness to her swing. During the Women’s College World Series, I noticed that she was a little too upright as her body rotated during the swing sequence, which made it appear that she was swinging with just her arms and upper body. When this happens, bat speed decreases and its more difficult to drive the ball into the gaps with authority. A few pitches she should have hit off or over the outfield wall, ended up being weak fly balls to the opposite field. I didn’t see the angular violent rotation of her lower body, followed by the explosion of her upper body and bat into the ball.
Before we started our workout, this hitter told me she had hit a few buckets of balls off the tee with her father the previous day. She was lamenting that only a few balls made it over the fence. She attributed her lack of power to the rust from not hitting for a few weeks after a long season. I was pretty confident that with one adjustment, she would be quickly hitting home runs in bunches again.
To better explain the one thing to this hitter, I demonstrated how I wanted her to maintain a highly leveraged body angle position as she violently rotated her body during the swing sequence. In one of the chapters in my book, Hitting With Torque: For Baseball And Softball Hitters, I describe the importance of leverage in the baseball and softball swings. Like cavemen who used a lever to move large objects, hitters need to use leverage to hit the ball harder and farther. When hitters explode into the ball in an angled position, bat speed increases dramatically. Good leverage also makes it easier to achieve full extension at impact with the ball, while keeping the bat on the best path to drive the ball in the air.
As I mentioned, this hitter already has great hitting mechanics that are smooth and repeatable. All she needs at this point is to focus on her one thing to boost her bat speed and power. As soon as this hitter began exploding into the ball in a more leveraged body position, the scoreboard beyond the centerfield fence was now easily in her range. The ball was coming off her bat faster and at the right trajectory, because the angular rotation of her body at impact allowed her to naturally produce doubles in the gaps and long home runs. For the rest of our workout, 1 out of every 3 balls she hit off the batting tee sailed over the outfield fence.
The one thing this hitter needed to work on will be the key to her continued success next season. So, what’s the one thing you need to work on this offseason to improve your bat speed and consistency. Identify it, focus on it, and work on it tirelessly.
The hitter in this article is Julie Josten, who just finished a successful Junior year at Illinois Wesleyan University.