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softball hitting tips

Softball Performance – Tips & Tricks for Softball Hitters

Softball hitters are the engine of a softball game. Hitters do make the game lively and enjoyable. As such, I am pretty sure enough training on drills and emphasis has already been made to bring up perfect hitters.  But drills alone aren’t all that one needs to win. A few tricks will supplement a winner. When all teams are equally prepared, the winning team will only need utilize just one simple trick to gain an upper hand in the competition and outperform. Thus, in this edition, I wish to take my hitter readers through a simple “recipe” to outplay and outperform in the field.

#1. Be consistent in training: train, train and train always

To be a perfect hitter in softball is a daily full-time job. I mean it. Any sincerely good hitter will confess that hitting doesn’t come easy as it looks when other people do it. To be a good hitter, you have to invest loads of time in training. One important tip is that you should be consistent and learn to throw repeatedly with only one single style constantly. Of course you can add some showoff and pomp but only when after you are absolutely sure of winning.

 #2. Be confident: …if you think you can do it, you will surely do it.

It’s not just an issue of telling yourself you can. It means knowing you can. Obviously, such confidence in anything can only come from adequate training/learning. So, tip #1 will be a key to tip #2.  When you are confident, you will be sure of the perfect swings and perfect releases regardless of how a pitch is hurled at you.

#3. Learn the pitching discipline

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Softball Tips – Upping Your Focus Level Pays Off

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball-hitting-tips-mental-gameTonight I was working with one of my top hitting students, a girl named Amy who always draws oohs and ahhs when people watch her swing the bat. She’s a very good hitter, better than she herself realizes, I think, and really turned some heads as a varsity starter last year when she was a freshman.

Her normal swing is a good one, but tonight while we were doing some front toss I noticed something. At one point you could just see that something had changed with her — and changed for the better.

I had to stop and ask — did your concentration level just go up? Yes, she answered. She told me that the last swing, where the ball just jumped off her bat in what looked like it would’ve been a 300 foot home run if we were at a field instead of in a cage, she just totally blocked out all other thoughts and just focused on the ball.

What a concept, eh? We often tell hitters to “see ball, hit ball,” but how often do they actually accomplish it? There’s always some nagging thought getting in the way, whether it’s an instruction, a consequence (such as I need to get a hit so we can score the runners on base), a fight with a parent or teammate, a fielding error from last inning or something else.

Yet what you really need as a hitter is that pure concentration. When you are totally focused, the ball looks bigger and gets slower. You’re right there in the moment, just you and the ball, only you have a big ol’ bat in your hands.

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Softball Tips – Practice Makes Permanent

By  Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softballtips-practicepermanentMany of you have probably heard the expression “Practice doesn’t make perfect — it makes permanent.” Yet how often have you really thought about that in the context of your own work?

I know I see that in action all the time. Walking through a facility or along a field I will see teams diligently running drills or working on techniques that essentially have them practicing to lose. Even though they may have best of intentions.

I see it with hitting a lot. I like hitting stations as much as the next coach, but they can do as much harm as good if they’re not set up or supervised properly.

Now, if you have older players whom you’ve worked with for awhile you can probably have them work the stations without someone being with them every minute. But for younger players it often doesn’t work as well.

I will see young players putting no effort into hitting off a tee because they think it’s for babies. So they just sort of knock the ball off instead of working on elements of their swings.

Soft toss is another one that can be problematic. Players will toss arcing balls to one another, which creates all sorts of problems in the swing that will have to corrected later.

But it’s not just hitting. You can see it in throwing, when players just push or lob the ball to one another while chattering away. You see it in the way they catch or field, just going through the motions instead of working on technique. They figure as long as they get the ball, or get it to wherever it needs to go next, they’ve done their jobs. But then, when they really need the better skills, those skills aren’t there — because they haven’t developed them.

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Lucky You Don’t Have to Give Softball Success Back!

softball hitting tips

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

I’m sure you know people who still believe in “hands to the ball” hitting cue. I, for one, think that’s a terrible cue that will cause more problems than it cures, especially because I don’t think it will cure anything.

Regardless of the specifics, however, this issue does get me thinking because at one time I DID use that very same cue, and put my hitters through some of the drills that encouraged it (such as soft tossing balls and hitting them with the knob, which I picked up at a coaching clinic).

What I was thinking, though, was thank goodness none of the hitters I worked with, either on my team or on the side, have to give back any of their hits now that I have better information.

That’s the funny thing about a forum like ours. We can expend lots of time, passion and electrons arguing various positions on how to execute differen skills. At times it can sound like one of the taboo topics (politics, religion), especially when True Believers clash or those with a particular agenda try to bring everyone else around to their point of view.

Yet in the end, what counts is whether we’ve helped players get better. Even if we sort of backed into it.

I am a huge believer in confidence when executing athletic skills. Goodness knows I’ve given plenty of instruction, especially early in my career, that makes me cringe now. Fortunately, though, the players I worked with, male and female, were able to overcome any deficiencies at least in part because they were so filled with confidence that their bodies naturally figured out what to do.

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Softball Hitting Q&A with Crystl Bustos

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By Stacie Mahoe

After having Crystl Bustos in Hawaii and getting to see her work with young softball players, I thought she’d be a good person to ask about softball hitting and hitting instruction. Crystl graciously took some time to answer 10 softball hitting instruction questions for us!

1. What’s your favorite thing about working with young hitters?
My favorite thing about working with young hitters is to watch them grow and get better

2. What are some of the common myths or misconceptions hitters come to you with? (things they’ve been told by other coaches that isn’t really helpful)
Squish the bug. That this is softball not baseball so the swing is way different. That they can’t hit homeruns.

3. What is the hardest part of teaching hitters to improve their swing?
Getting them to practice at home!

4. When a hitter comes to you and has multiple areas of her swing to work on, how do you know where to start?
I start from the ground up and age sometimes plays a role.

5. What are some of the most common problems you see in hitters that come to you for help?
They don’t know why they should do what we are telling them to do.

6. What are some of the things you feel you do differently from other hitting coaches?
I get them to understand why we do what we do and how to fix it themselves.

7. When a parent is looking for a hitting instructor to send their daughter to, what should they look for? What kinds of questions should they ask?
Why do you do that? Why is that wrong? Why is that way right? A good hitting coach should know “why” and it when they tell you “why” it should make sense.

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Softball Performance Tips – Take a Little Time to Retool

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Without a doubt this is a busy part of the fastpitch softball summer season. Tournaments every weekend, for some teams league or scrimmage doubleheaders during the week, and maybe a practice squeezed in here or there.

What that means is very little time to work on individual skills. Some may be able to handle that, but they’re in the minority. For most, all this play time means skills are actually deteriorating.

It makes sense. In a practice setting, a hitter might take 100 to 200 swings in a session. In a game, she’s lucky if she gets 12. That’s a pretty big delta.

Same with fielders. Whereas in a good practice session you may field 50-100 balls or more, you may go a game or two without any significant fielding chances — especially if your team has dominant pitching. Sure, you get some practice during warm-ups, but your focus is different then. It’s on getting ready for this game coming up, not on necessarily improving your skills.

Even pitchers can have it tough. Sure, you’re still throwing a lot of pitches. But the focus will be on the ones that are working. The pressure is on to throw strikes and keep baserunners off the bases, so if you curve is working and your rise is not, the rise isn’t going to get much of a workout.

That’s why it’s important to make time for that sort of deep practice that will keep skills sharp and you playing the way you want to play. Which probably means you’ll have to get out on your own to do it.

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Club 10 of Softball and How You Can Get In

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By Stacie Mahoe

It’s not the trendiest new dance club in New York City. Nor will you find it as you walk the Las Vegas strip. But “Club 10” is every bit as exclusive. In fact you can’t pay for admission you have to earn it.

Normally I write about “heady” things that make players, coaches, and parents stop and think. I write things that allow you, in the cyber world, to use your own application to what I’ve written. Not this time.

This article and “Club 10” are the exact opposite of all that. You see “Club 10” was simply what I wrote on my blackboard when I recently made a shift from subjective evaluation of my batting students to a more objective approach.

I simply wanted a way to see if they could actually reproduce their swing 10 times in a row. 10 straight line drives off of the batting tee in their favorite position. No thinking at all. No subjective hypothesis of how good their load, stride, elbow, eye contact was.

Simply a statistical measure of whether or not they could take the same swing 10 times in a row. If they hit the tee, hit a popup, or hit a ground ball, they had to start back at 0.

I was pretty amazed at how long it took most of players to be able to achieve that number. The ball was on a tee, in their favorite position.

Yet the pressure of actually being measured seemed to weigh on them. Instead of just swinging after 5-6 they started thinking too hard. Good thing for them that in games there is no pressure. There is nobody standing there watching them and measuring if they get on or don’t get on. Oh wait! That’s exactly what happens in games.

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Softball Hitting Mechanics Aren’t Enough

By Stacie Mahoe

Every week (if not almost every day), we receive mail from customers, visitors, and newsletter subscribers. Today I want to take a moment to share one of these inquiries with you.

This question (a good one) came from a softball dad.

From the Softball Performance Mail Bag…

softballvision

Coach, it seems to me that a lot of emphasis is put on batting mechanics, which I think is good. It is important, but I do not hear or see anyone talking about eye hand coordination. The way I see it, a player can have the best mechanics, but if she can’t put the bat where the ball is consistently, I think a lot of time and money is not being spent wisely. I would like know what you think about this. Is there something I’m missing? I can speak from personal experience that using the little soft rubber 1 inch balls used with a thin bat like a “lightning Rod” seems to work pretty good for my daughter. Thanks

Actually, you’re not missing anything. You’re right. A softball hitter can have the best swing mechanics in the world, but if she can’t make contact with the ball, it doesn’t mean much.

I’m sure you’ve seen those hitters with less than perfect hitting mechanics make things happen simply because they are great at putting the bat on the ball time and time again.

That said, it’s important to work BOTH swing mechanics and softball VISION if you want to reach your peak softball hitting performance level. This softball dad shared a great idea on how to do that with soft 1″ rubber balls. 

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Softball Performance Tips – Success at the Plate

softballhittingtipsBy Stacie Mahoe

One of the quickest ways to earn playing time is to be successful as a hitter.  Being a successful hitter does not only entail getting “hits.”  After all, even “good” hitters will “fail” 6 or 7 times out of 10 at bats.

So what can you do to 1) get more hits and 2) be “successful” even if you don’t get a hit?

Here are 5 tips to help you become a more successful softball hitter:

Know the Situation

Getting a hit is great, but since 6 or 7 out of 10 times you’re not going to get a hit, how can you help your team even if the defense makes a great play and gets you out?

Well, knowing the situation is key.  You have to know what your team needs right now.

  • Does your team need 1 run or 5 runs?
  • Does your team need you to get on base safely?
  • Or is it more important for you to advance an existing runner?
  • How many outs are there?
  • Does your team need you to score the runner from 3rd even if it means that you get out?
  • Or do you need to try to score the run while keeping the inning alive?

What is it that will MOST help your team this at bat? Make sure you know what that is so that even if you get out, it’s a productive out that  helps your team.

Scan the Defense

This is something I always did before stepping into the box.  Scan the defense and take a look at where and how they are positioned.  Not only does this give you cues as to where to expect the pitch, it also gives you a heads up on where gaps were in case the pitcher missed their spot.

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Softball Hitting Tips – Learning to Start with the Hips

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
softballhittingThese days you’ll get little debate regarding the importance of starting the swing with the hips (or core muscles) rather than the upper body. It’s at least one thing that is fairly universal among hitting instructors and those who are students of hitting.

Yet getting a player to swing hips-first – especially if she’s spent a few years swinging hands-first – can be more difficult than saying “Here, do this” or “Watch this video of how you should be swinging.”

It’s not that the student doesn’t get it. But after several years of working through one sequence it can be darned difficult to implement a new one.

I have that issue with a student right now. A high school girl, she came to me because she was hitting a lot of weak ground balls and pop-ups despite being a pretty good athlete and being fairly strong. It didn’t take long (even with the naked eye) to see she was working her swing in reverse, starting with the hands, then the shoulders, and finally moving the hips more as a follow-through.

We’ve been working on changing it, but she struggled at first. We have worked through a couple of drills, however, that seem to be helping her. If you have a hitter in a similar situation, especially an older one, here are some things to try.

  • Hip turn, no swing off the tee. You might also call it half a swing. Start from the normal stance, and go through the usual load/pre-motion. The hitter lands on her toe, then drops the heel and starts turning the hips. But instead of swinging she just freezes in position.
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