Coaching Little League Baseball: Hitting
Coach your youth little league and softball players and teach them the proper way to hit. They will be more succesfull if they learn the proper fundamentals.
It is very important for kids to learn the proper fundamentals when playing baseball. Often when they first begin to play baseball they will pick up some bad habits. The longer that they continue to hit with poor fundamentals the harder it will be to correct.
There are 3 basic fundamentals to look for in a good swing.
(1) Watch the ball all of the way to the bat.
(2) A proper stride with good balance during the swing.
(3) Start the swing with the hands at the top of the strike zone.
This holds true for boys or girls whether playing little league baseball or youth softball.
The first one that I will discuss and one of the most common faults is to pull their head which will not allow them see the ball all the way to the bat. To hit a baseball consistently they must see it. Often little leaguers will watch the ball as it is pitched but as they swing they will pull their head causing them to lose eye contact with the baseball and not actually see the bat make contact with the baseball. When in their stance at the plate they will look over their front shoulder or the one closest to the pitcher. As the baseball nears the plate, they will start to swing and often their head and chin will stay with the front shoulder as if it is glued to the shoulder. As the front shoulder opens the head will turn away from the baseball and the eyes will no longer have contact with the baseball. The proper technique and easiest way for them to understand how to watch the baseball longer is to teach them to start with their head and chin on their front shoulder and as they swing their chin should end up on their back shoulder. When contact is made they should be looking down towards the position where the baseball bat and baseball will make contact and this will ensure that they watch the baseball for a longer period of time.
Now that they are seeing the baseball longer we need to ensure that they have the proper stride. There is not a certain length that their stride should be. Some players will take a small stride while others take a longer stride. There is also not a certain position that the feet should be in before they stride. The most important thing is that they have good balance throughout their swing. One common fault that many little leaguers have is that they tend to overstride. Overstriding can cause several bad things to happen. First if they tend to overstride they often will not step in the proper direction. They should stride towards the pitcher but often when they overstride they will stride away from home plate causing them to have trouble hitting the pitch on the outer half of the plate. Another problem overstriding can cause is swinging late. The swing takes place after the stride. The longer the stride then the longer before the hands can begin the swing. A shorter stride can allow the swing to begin sooner. Also a longer stride will cause the head to move farther. Now you have the baseball moving in one direction and the head moving in the opposite direction and somewhere in between contact must be made. A shorter stride will allow the head to be stable which should aid the batter to see the baseball better.
The third fundamental is keeping the hands up above the pitch. Often little leaguers will tend to drop their hands before they swing or start their swing from too low of a position. This will often cause them to swing up at the baseball or have trouble hitting baseballs pitched at the top of the strike zone. Generally they can hit the pitch above their hands if it is not pitched with a lot of velocity. So, if they tend to drop their hands as they begin playing baseball they may be able to hit it at first. But, as they get older and the pitching becomes faster they will find that they can no longer catch up to the baseball above their hands. If they hold their hands down in the middle of the strike zone then all of the strikes thrown in the top half of the strike zone with be hard for them to hit. However, if they will learn to hold their hands at the top of the strike zone, they will have a better chance of catching up to any baseball that is thrown in the strike zone. The longer that they hold their hands too low the harder it will be for them to adjust as they get older and play in more competitive leagues.
One thing that often contributes to youth league players to drop their hands is using a bat that is too heavy. Kids are very impressionable and often will do things for odd reasons. Every little league team tends to have a kid that is an early developer. He is much larger then the other kids and therefor can use a heavier baseball bat then the other kids. Because of his size he hits the ball further then everyone else. The other kids see him hit the baseball to the fence or over it and they want to hit like that too. Often, they don't realize that he hits the ball further because he is bigger, not because of the bat. So, now they try to use his bat which is too heavy for them due to their smaller size. As they begin to take batting practice with the heavy bat they may hold it up in the proper position at first but as they take more and more swings it becomes heavier and heavier and before long their hands will drop to a position that is too low. If they continue to use a bat that is too heavy it will lead to poor fundamentals in their swing.
Now you understand 3 of the basic fundamentals in hitting a baseball. It is never too early to teach you kids the proper fundamentals when hitting. If they pick up bad habits when they first begin they will have trouble changing when they are older. Remember to teach them to watch the baseball all the way to bat by starting with the head and chin resting on the front should and end with it on the back shoulder. To take a comfortable stride and always maintain good balance while starting their swing with the hands above the ball.