Thursday, May 10, 2007
A Recent Baseball Clinic: A Linear Hitting Reminder
Jerry Kreber, Assistant Coach, Council Bluffs (IA) Abraham Lincoln HS
To produce a quality linear swing that helps players use their maximum body weight to generate force during the swing.
Keys to the Linear Swing
I. Straight Line Stride II. Weight Transfer (Back to Front)
III. Lead Arm Extension IV. Lead Leg Extension
V. Kick Stand and Follow Through
Drills to Produce a Linear Swing:
Rear Toss (Key I, Key II):
The hitter is standing on both feet, which should be shoulder width apart. The coach, positioned behind the hitter, will flip soft toss to the hitter from back to front. The hitter will try and continue the ball on its straight-line path. The hitter should forcefully push of the back foot to try and catch up will the flip from the rear. This seems to be the most challenging drill of the series for the hitters.
Lead Arm Tee Work (Key III):
The hitter stands, in proper batting stance facing his target, with bottom hand solely gripping the bat and top hand holding the ball. As the hitter rests the bat on their back shoulder, their center of gravity is in a vertical line with chin and belly button. After a comfortable stance position has been created the hitter should take a 5-7 stride with the front foot, picking it up and moving it forward toward the pitcher. The weight shift forward, should cause the hitter’s lead arm to become extended because their hands stay back. This extension was caused by forward body weight bracing on the hitter’s front flexed leg. The hitter should glance down at his bottom arm to make sure it has become extended before swinging.
Back Foot Float (Key II, Key IV, Key V):
The hitter is standing on both feet, which should be shoulder width apart. The coach will say,” Float!” and the hitter will stride forward transferring their weight from the back foot to the front foot. While the hitter’s weight strides forward, their hands stay back, creating lead arm extension. Once this position is established, the coach, stationed in proper soft toss position, will flip the ball to the batter. During the flip, the coach will say,” Fire!” and the hitter’s torso and shoulders should rotate snapping the hands through. Only the back toe should be in contact with the ground when finished and the hitter should practice a top hand release.
Two Knee Hitting (Key III, Key V):
The hitter is down on both knees taking soft toss from a diagonal angle so the ball can be delivered out in front. The hitters partner should say,” Reach” and the hitter should reach by as far as possible with the lead arm. Then, the hitter’s partner should say,” Release” as the ball is toss for the batter to strike.
Cement Drill (Key III, Key V):
The hitter is standing on both feet, which should be shoulder width apart. During the drill, the hitter should take no stride. Instead, the batter should reach back with the lead arm. The hitter will be taking soft toss from a diagonal angle so the ball can be delivered out in front of the hitter. The hitter will swing, but not turnover the back foot. The hitter’s heels should never leave the ground; only the torso and shoulders should rotate snapping the hands through. The hitter should finish by practicing a top hand release.
Kick Stand Finish (Key I-Key V):
The hitter is standing on both feet, which should be shoulder width apart. During the drill, the hitter should take a stride and transfer their weight through the ball. The hitter will be taking soft toss from a diagonal angle so the ball can be delivered out in front of the hitter. The hitter will swing and turnover the back foot. The hitter’s torso and shoulders should rotate snapping the hands through and only the back toe should be in contact with the ground. Also, the hitter should finish by practicing a top hand release.
Down Hill Hitting (Key II, Key IV, Key V):
The hitter is standing on both feet, which should be shoulder width apart. Next, the batter will take their lead leg back and cross their rear foot. Once positioned, the coach will command the hitter to “fall”. The hitter will uncross their feet and fall forward. As the hitter falls forward, the coach, stationed in proper soft toss position, will flip the ball out front of the hitter and say “Fire!” The hitter will swing and turnover the back foot. Sometimes, the hitter’s back foot will come completely off the ground. The hitter’s torso and shoulders should rotate snapping the hands through and only the back toe should be in contact with the ground. Also, the hitter should finish by practicing a top hand release.
Jerry Kreber, Assistant Coach, Council Bluffs (IA) Abraham Lincoln HS
The player/coach relationship has changed dramatically over the years. With existing societal problems, players enter athletic programs with new attitudes that did not exist previously. These feelings have challenged coaches to create inventive ideas on how to reach players and form lasting relationships.
When analyzing how these relationships form between the player and coach, many different methods can be used to create stable connections. Over the years, I have identified four areas coaches can apply to help improve relationships with players. In my experience, these methods have been instrumental in helping players accept feedback, value team concepts, and form lasting relationships with teammates and coaches.
Like it or not, today’s players often question the validity of specific movements in practice and games. This attitude was not present in past athletic climates, but is an existing hurdle coaches must jump to be an effective teacher. This skepticism is not only present in sports, but throughout our educational landscape.
To combat this dilemma, coaches must be up to date on the latest research. By researching ways to improve, coaches can inform players on why their methods are important to apply in competitive contests. Even though this questioning attitude has led to confrontations between players and coaches, it can serve as a great learning tool for the entire program.
Parents play an important role in the player/coach relationship. With unlimited access, parents shape the coach's image in their child’s eyes. If parents use a lot of negative comments, the player may perceive their coach as inadequate. These types of interactions do not help create healthy relationships.
Communication is key to building these relationships. There are several ways coaches can communicate with parents, while keeping a professional distance. Coaches can mail written quarterly player evaluations to parents. These reports allow parents to view areas, which their child needs to improve to gain playing time. Also, behavior concerns about a player can be noted. By informing parents, coaches are including them in the player development process.
4. Peer Relationships
Players crave the acceptance of their teammates. That is why young people are guided heavily by peer pressure. If players do not find acceptance, they will never feel comfortable or supported. Experiencing feelings of rejection will enhance the chances of players quitting the team.
Coaches must immerse players in a supportive environment. By creating an atmosphere of support, coaches challenge players to do the right thing all of the time. That way, positive actions are valued and not looked at as "kissing up" to the coach. With constructive relationships players not only succeed in athletics, but in the classroom as well.
5. Outside Influences
Today, players face difficult choices that could sway their futures. Gang violence, drug use, and alcohol assumption are a few harmful activities players can get involved in. In fact, according to a 2004 study by the University of Michigan found that 70% of all high school seniors polled used alcohol in the last year. Also, 34% of the seniors polled used marijuana in the last 12 months. These statistics offer proof that today's players must engage in activities that promote good health and encouraging outcomes.
Finally, coaches have unique chances of influencing the lives of young athletes. This influence can only be transferred if a connection is made between the player and coach. The positive lessons players learn through athletic competition and training can help develop other practical problem solving techniques, which players can apply during their entire life.