Friday, April 30, 2010

Youth Baseball: Overcoming a Slump (Part 2)

Game 28

My "work hard and hustle your way through slumps" speech to my son seems to be working (See Youth Baseball: Overcoming a Slump - Part 1). My son, Nic, has been struggling at the plate for the first time in his life. He feels the pressure of high expectations, expectations established by a long history of success. Last night he hit a long drive over the centerfielder's head for a stand up triple. He came in to the dugout with a huge smile on his face. He said, "Dad, it is so cool when you see the outfielder instantly turn their back and run."

I have been videotaping his recent at bats and put together a montage to reviewed with his hitting coach, Coach K. We noticed that my son was taking one small step to set his base and load his hands into a perfect position. From here he should swing down through the ball, however, he was taking an additional long step as the pitch was coming. During the second step he turned his toe toward the pitcher. This caused three problems:
1) the second elongated step moved his plane of vision down so he was hitting the bottom of the ball
2) because the toe was turned open, his hips were flying open too soon. When his hands came through he was hitting with all arms and pulling off the ball.
3) This threw off his timing.

This is a recipe for a slump.

The hitting coach, widened his stance and instructed my son to lift his foot up and place it right back down. Nic did as instructed and had one very bad session trying break his bad habit. After the session, Nic was discouraged. He asked if we could have another session with Coach K the next night. I arranged it.

The following day, everything started to click. He was mashing the ball in the practice and was excited to tryout his new approach in a game. I told Nic that this was not a new approach at all. We looked at old pictures and videos and he was basically using the same mechanics he had been using with success for years.

Nic hit a long triple in his next game. On the ride home from the game Nic said, "I am proud."
I said, "Proud about the triple?"
He said, "Yeah, but I am proud that I am working through this slump. And the coach said in the post game speech that he can always count on me to hustle no matter what. That is what I am proud of."

So maybe dad speeches do work sometimes.

The Main Point

If your son or daughter is in a slump, video tape their at bats and watch the swing in slow motion. Review the video with your head coach or your personal hitting coach. If your coach is not really knowledgeable about hitting and you do not have a personal hitting coach then learn the proper mechanics yourself by watching videos. There are a lot of great videos on the market that teach the proper mechanics of a baseball swing. One of my favorites is Tom Emanski's Mechanics of a Major League Swing.

Also, remind your kids that are many ways to contribute to a game besides getting hits, scoring goals, making points. Praise hustle over hits. Praise guts over goals. Praise practice and preparation over points scored.

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