I continue to observe the seemingly endless debate on social media about the appropriate level of influence hitting coaches should have on the swings of their players. Here is an update to one of the chapters in my book, Hitting With Torque: For Baseball and Softball Hitters. I hope it provides some guidance for players and parents.
Some coaches believe hitters should be allowed to use mechanics that are comfortable for them with little or no intervention. Others take the opposite approach. They limit the autonomy hitters have to deviate from their own personal philosophy. I fall somewhere in the middle.
Hitters should be allowed to develop a hitting style that is comfortable for them. However, I feel strongly that in order to maximize power, certain hitting keys should be mandatory for all hitters. The swing sequence I teach quickly produces measurable improvements in power and consistency. Through bat speed measuring devices, I can objectively prove that when hitters are forced to deviate from any of my five primary hitting keys, performance suffers.
Softball and baseball 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. Instructors also need to be held accountable for what they teach.
Thanks to the Internet, hitters have access to thousands of pages of hitting instruction and videos on every hitting topic. This information can be a blessing for hitters and their parents, but it can also be a nightmare for coaches.
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 hitting instruction. Recently, I put a study together for 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. It’s no wonder why we often look like deer in the headlights at the plate. 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’s my 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 have been on the other side of the table with school and travel coaches, so I understand their frustrations. Too often, I have worked hard with my softball and baseball hitters in the off-season, only to have their coaches alter what we worked so hard on, with little or no justification for their changes.
This frustrates 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 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’s hard to draw a line in the sand.
Whenever I’m 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.
Finding The Right Hitting Instructor
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 (using bat speed measurement devices) 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!
About Paul Petricca
In addition to writing this hitting blog, Paul is a hitting coach and the author of the books Hitting With Torque: For Baseball And Softball Hitters and his new children’s book Going Going Gone!. He is also a public speaker and provides unique customer engagement training through his company Torque Consulting. Paul teaches a Customer Relationship Management class to undergraduates at Wheaton College (IL) and MBA candidates at Loyola University Chicago, and DePaul University.