What hitters need to know heading into Spring 2K18
As we turn the corner on January and our professional baseball athletes head to their Spring Training destinations, colleges begin pre-season and high school winter sports winding down, we turn our attention to the transition into spring. With the season fast approaching, here are a few key things hitters need to be aware of heading into 2018!
1) Attack your weaknesses. Build upon your strengths.
Working to develop a hitter is about achieving balance. I believe hitters come in to the off-season with a mindset of "fixing" what went wrong or could have been better the year prior. While I do embrace that mindset and applied it for most of my career, I find it even more important to discuss and continue to develop what the hitters strengths are! In the athlete development world, we are constantly seeking to "improve" our athletes through new and innovative approaches. This is our job. But, we do a disservice to our athletes by not first acknowledging that the hitter has a track-record and has had success to some degree in the past. Reinforcement of skill is just as important as developing new ones. To the athlete, "No one has taken more repetitions in your body than you..." Seems simple, but as coaches this is a fundamental truth and as players there needs to be an understanding of what you can do just as much of an analysis on what you cant!
2) Work to develop "self-discovery".
As a coach and former player this is something that I am constantly aware of. Is the athlete looking to figure it out or are they relying on external cues and direction from their coach? Are they practicing on their own, making mistakes, fixing them? As athletes, we need direction...BUT... we can't become dependent on information being given to us all of the time. When you get into the box, you must become your own best coach. We can't rely on our private coach, head coach, mom, dad, etc. to give us direction all of the time. This is our responsibility as athletes!
3) Stress your swing.
Often times I use the phrase, "build your swing...use your swing" as a reference point to remember the skill of swinging is different than the task of hitting. Yes, we need time to build our swing, but I have seen some tremendous swings that don't translate into game settings as there is no variables when they practice. Put another way, "we don't stress our swings" enough. We don't learn to use our swings under different conditions. Tee work and flips are vital to patterning a quality swing, but can the hitter handle variability in pitch type, speed, locations? Is the hitter implementing cues to hit against a LHP or RHP? Can we read and recognize spin? Do we have an approach to situational hitting?
4) Funnel your repetitions.
This is most common in our high level hitters as the traditional work-rate would seem to spike just before the season begins. My opinion is that hitters need to be prepared and practice for the circumstances they will have ahead of them. If you are a High School hitter, you know you will be limited to 2-3 rounds of 8 swings max once you get indoors. For our pro hitters, it's no different. We train in detail through December and mid-January to pattern but come late January and early February, we back off the longer hitting sessions and opt for 1 or 2 short sessions per day to reinforce their cues and make time to compete. Minor League guys know that when they get to Spring training with 150+ guys their time in the cage and on field BP is limited. We can't rely on 30-45 min of work to get us "ready", we need to get our minds prepared for the 15-20 minutes of active reps we will be getting.
5) You are the sum of the work you put in.
This is the simplest and most accurate depiction of what good hitters (or good athletes in general) comprehend. You are the sum of the work you put in. Not the volume of work you do, not the amount of hours you spend hacking away, but the QUALITY of work you put in.
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