Coaching youth and high school baseball batters requires a watchful eye and close attention to detail. Baseball coaches must identify and correct any flaw in batting hitting mechanics. Players should not be allowed to practice their swing over and over without correcting their mistakes. Good baseball coaches are always on the constant lookout for any bad habits that a young player may develop. Here I discuss three of the most common hitting mechanical flaws and my approach to correcting each. Here are three common mistakes I often see at my baseball camps and when I observe youth games and youth practices.
1) BARRING THE FRONT ARM - The batter locks or stiffens the front arm as the swing begins. Many young batters will have assumed the correct stance and launch positions but have a tendency to tighten up as the swing begins. The barring of the front arm causes the swing to loop and to be too long. The batter has great difficulty taking the bat to the ball and making contact unless the ball is thrown exactly on the swing plane. The proper swing has a "short stroke" or path to the ball. The best way to correct barring of the front arm is to make sure that the batter keeps the front arm elbow bent or at an "L" position prior and during the swing.
2) STEPPING OUT OR PULLING OFF PITCHES - I often see this with young kids in our summer camp program. They always step out or their front side often flies open before the ball arrives. This batter has great difficulty making contact. Until this flaw is corrected, the batter will only become frustrated and embarrassed. To keep the front shoulder in the proper "closed" position, teach the batter to keep the front shoulder closed and directed at the second baseman for right-handed batters and toward the shortstop for left-handed batters. The stepping out is a more difficult flaw to fix. Having the batter pick the front heel off the ground and stepping just slightly toward the plate may help. I frown on putting obstructions behind the front foot to keep it from moving backward, although many coaches do this to stop this bad habit. I often use the "step in and hit: drill with a hit trainer, Bat Action Machine or batting tee. The batter assumes a position back away from the ball target that requires the batter to step toward the ball in order to make contact. If the batter does not step toward or into the ball, the batter will not be able to hit the ball.
3) UPPER CUT SWING - The upper cut swing may be caused by two things that are quickly identified Dropping the hands and back leg collapse can both cause the batter to swing upward. Make sure that the batter keeps the hands at the top of the strike zone and does not drop the hands or dip the back side shoulder during the swing. The back leg should be keep "tall or straight" to prevent back side dipping which can also cause an upper-cut swing. Two great drills that we use to stop this is the "Zone Circle" tee or soft-toss drill. We make a circle the side of our batting cage by inter-weaving a white or yellow rope in the net. The batter must hit or drive the ball off the tee or from a soft-toss into the circle. The batter must have a level swing and keep the front side in to be able to hit the zone.
COACHING POINT: Make sure that the batter is not over striding. This too can cause a batter to pop up. The batter must concentrate visually on the top half or middle of the ball to make good contact.
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Nick Dixon is the President and founder of Nedco Sports, the "Hit2win Company". Dixon is a high school baseball coach and is widely recognized as an expert in the area of baseball training, practice and skill development. Dixon is the inventor of several of baseball and softball's most popular training products including the BatAction Hitting Machine, Hurricane Hitting Machine, Hitting Stick, Hit2win Trainer, SKLZ Target Trainer, and ZipnHit.
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