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Softball Hitting Techniques - The Foundation of Hitting

By Ralph Weekly
Head Coach - University of Tennessee

A lot of hitting coaches don’t coach, they just get out there and say do this….maybe they do it one time --- they show them one thing --- they don’t stay with it. Hitting is a year long thing.

My team hits circuits everyday. Everybody hits 300 balls a day, everyday, and the circuits are designed to work on certain parts of the body.

Softball hitting techniques - you need the right foundation to be succesful at the plate.The USOC (United States Olympic Committee) released a study that women have 65 percent less upper body strength than men. That’s why our game is different. This is a published fact. You have to develop the lower half of the body, but you don’t want your players walking around with a gigantic lower half. You need to remember, though, that the hips lead the hands. That’s were it happens with women. They do not have the strength of a Jay Buhner; they cannot stand a the plate spread way out and drive the ball 300 feet.

One of the things that I have noticed about women is that they are easier to teach than men. I believe women play smarter. I coached football for 10 years, but I really enjoy coaching women, because they want to learn, want to get better, and they are good, very good. Women are every bit the great athlete the males are.


There’s a saying that many coaches subscribe to, “ If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” but there are only a few special players who are “not broke.”

Don’t let somebody come to you and say look at Jessica Mendoza, look at Crystl Bustos, because they are different. They have that God given talent that every player doesn’t have. I think when you are teaching hitting, you have to teach fundamentals. I believe there are three major problem areas in hitting -- balance, stride and hands to the ball. If there’s one thing I have, it is the greatest collection of films on hitters in the world. I decided long ago that if I was going to try to become a good hitting coach, I needed to do research. I have on video over 1,000 great hitters.

I can watch Michele Smith hit one time, and I can tell what’s wrong with her. That doesn’t mean I am smart, because I’ll tell you right up front, it doesn’t take a lot of gray matter to coach hitting. There’s only about seven or eight things that can go wrong.

But so many coaches don’t look for these major areas or really don’t know what to look for. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. These kids need to see what’s going on and what’s not going on. With most hitters, if they are doing something wrong, it is only one or two main things that can be picked up with feedback from the coaches watching her hit.

What I do with my college players is videotape each player on my team. I video them at the start of the season, and then they carry their tape with them so we can videotape them once a week. I give each of them positive feedback. It’s not something I do maybe once or twice; I video them every week. I have a feedback session every week. You would be amazed, at the end of the season, the difference in their hitting on that very tape. They can go back and see what they have done right or wrong.

Remember that hitting is something that you have to work on. Repetition, discipline and confidence are three keys to hitting. Michele Smith and Lisa Fernandez don’t worry when they strikeout; they know they are great hitters. The mental aspect of hitting is so important, and you must have a strong mental game to be a great hitter. Another idea is to have a 50-page notebook starting with John Wooden’s pyramid and work through all of the great handouts. I don’t just merely give them those handouts. They take the handouts and discuss it, we read it and I ask what it means to them. It’s so very important to tie the mental game to hitting.

Basics of Hitting

A lot of our hitters use bats that simply too big for them. We need to use the right bat size. It is my contention that hardly anybody in the country can use a bat bigger than a 25 ounce bat. We’re looking for bat speed. You don’t get bat speed with a big old heavy bat that you have to drag through the zone. For every 10 miles you pick up in bat speed, you pick up 40 feet in distance. Make sure they have a bat they can handle.

You need t have the door knocking knuckles lined up on your bat. I see a lot of kids wrap their hands, and you do not want to do that. You have to be able, when you lead with the lower hand, to turn over with the top hand.


This is an individual choice, and a lot of coaches have had success in different ways. I contend that you have to have a balanced stance with weight on the balls of the feet. I don’t think your feet can be much more than shoulder width. If you look at the top 50 hitters in the country, you will not find one whose stance is real wide. You need to generate hip action, and for the hips to leave the hands, you need the feet to be just a little more than shoulder width. If you get them shoulder width, they may be too close. It’s really key that they have a balanced stance.

When we talk about flexion, it is simply unlocking the knees. How many of you have tried to teach a young hitter and you say bend at the waist? Unlock the knees and bend at the waist.


Don Sarno told me something that made sense -- match movement with the pitcher. From 43 feet at 58 miles per hour, a hitter has .3 of a second to make a decision. If she is triggering after the release, she’s dead. If she is triggering and hitching, she’s dead. If your batter goes against a Jennie Finch, you better preload with her. You need to have the weight back. My contention is that you need to get the weight back before it can go forward. The key with the trigger is that it’s like a rubber band. If I pull it back a little bit, it will go a decent speed. If you pull it way back, the ball will go much further. It’s a key in that it has to go back before it goes forward. Some people may not agree with that. But I know that every time Lisa Fernandez goes into a slump, she doesn’t trigger.

There are two types of triggers -- one is the slight inward turn and the other is slightly picking up the front foot. Both of them are okay as long as you maintain balance and match movement with the pitcher.


With the stride, we have the terrible “too’s” They either stride too early, too open or too far. When I talk about “too early”, I mean they transfer the weight too early. Stepping open can be a major problem, and you need to really look at that when you look at your kids. You have to step with the front shoulder closed. You cannot step with that front shoulder closed if you’re pulling out the front foot. A term we use is “soft front shoulder.” Almost every hitter has one, or maybe two problems. A lot of coaches will just say, “Keep your head in there.” Don’t do that; analyze them, know what to look for and give them that positive feedback so they can correct it.


Before we get t the hands, know that the hips lead the hands. The hands must be high. We’re facing the rise ball pitcher, you see a lot of well-meaning coaches who played baseball who will disagree because there is no rise ball in baseball. You can adjust down and in, but you need to keep your hands high and look away. The real key to the hands is where they are. If you’re going to face a good pitcher in college, you’re not going to get much if your hands are not high. We say put the bat on the shoulder, take it off, get it in the ready zone -- nub of the bat equal with the armpit.

Draw a line across the chest. Casting is a big problem with hitters, and it’s a major problem with a lot of teams. The way you combat that is knowing what they are doing wrong, and correcting it. You lead with the elbow. You have three joints involved - the shoulder, the elbow and the wrist. The shoulder unlocks, you lead with the elbow and one hand pulls the ball, and the top hand takes over on the front hip. If you are not getting your hands directly to the ball, you are not going to have problems.
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