What happens when a basketball league signs up teams, has them reserve gym time, collects their registration fees, then goes under? Hopefully there will be an equitable resolution to this story.
From the ultra-competitive Western Region, congrats to the following Little Leagues who won their District Championships and are CoachDeck clients: Prescott (AZ), Kaneohe, Honolulu, Washoe, Rocklin, San Lorenzo, Manhattan Beach and Sherman Oaks. Way to go, players, coaches, parents and league administrators. Great season!
By Brian Gotta
It was one of the first examples of “after” coaching I’d seen. And since then I’ve witnessed many more instances in baseball, softball, soccer and other sports. A “before” coach is what I’ve always hoped I was and tried to be. Experience certainly helps, but even a novice can work on coaching before, instead of after.
The situation I’m referring to was in a Little League machine-pitch game. Keep in mind these kids are about eight years-old and may be in only their second or third season of baseball. There was a runner on third, nobody else on base. The ball was hit to the player on the pitcher’s mound and the runner took off for home. The pitcher saw him and threw the ball to the plate. It was an easy out. Then it happened: The third base coach said, with a distressed expression and tone, for everyone to hear, “You didn’t have to run!”
I’m thinking, “Nice of you to tell him now.” How about when he started to run home, yell, “Come back!”? Or let’s rewind a little more. Why not before the pitch, when the runner was on the base, say to him, “If it is hit to the pitcher, don’t run.”? Or even better, what if you worked on just this scenario in practice? Make sure that it is ingrained in every player’s mind what to do in every situation.
In my experience, coaches who give instruction after a play has occurred tend to be more admonishing. It’s as if they are embarrassed that their player was unprepared so they, in turn, out of anger, embarrass the player. “Before” coaches on the other hand, might occasionally be caught unprepared but will more often admit and accept fault instead of passing it down.
How do you become a “before” coach? Again, experience comes in handy. In the case above I’m guessing the fellow coaching third was very novice. He maybe hadn’t ever been in this exact situation with a runner on third, less than two outs, and a ball hit back directly to the pitcher. So perhaps he and his player were experiencing it for the first time. Even if that’s true, I wish he’d chosen to take the player aside, privately, and say, “Hey, that’s my fault. I should have told you not to run because you didn’t have to. We’ll work on this at the next practice.”
Then do work on it at practice. Replay that exact situation with every player. Show them what to do next time it happens. Even broader, work on all situations at practice. Whether it is soccer or baseball/softball, there is a time for individual drills to improve skills but there is also a time for team/live game training. One of the most valuable activities is putting players in different scenarios, then going live, and then stopping to instruct. Kind of like using the DVR remote. Play. Pause and teach. Play again. Stop. Rewind. Teach again. Play. And so on. This is how not only the players, but coaches, gain valuable experience.
Inexperience can be mitigated with preparation. Sure, on a baseball diamond or soccer field there are dozens if not hundreds of scenarios that can occur at any moment and to anticipate each one is challenging. But that is your job as a coach, to be thinking, constantly asking yourself during the game, “If this happens, what should we do?” And then instruct your players accordingly. Before, not after the play is over.
Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at email@example.com
By Mike Epstein
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. But, I have the toughest time trying to understand how a hitter can be taught to stay “inside” the ball—and to also “throw his hands at the ball”—both at the same time.
What am I missing here? What are we all missing here?
Staying inside the ball
Staying “inside” the ball has become a hot topic over the past 25 years. The problem started with the introduction of the ultra—light, ultra-resilient aluminum bats and linear mechanics in the 1970s—because these two variables absolutely thwart its proper execution.
Until the emergence of linear mechanics, most every hitter was rotational. The introduction of rotational hitting mechanics by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in the early 1900s radically changed the dimension of hitting for years to come. “Babe” Ruth emulated Jackson’s technique, and his unparalleled success single—handedly ushered in baseball’s “Golden Era” of offensive excellence. This lasted for fifty years, until linear mechanics came on the scene in direct response to the ultra-light, ultra-resilient aluminum bats and artificial playing surfaces in the mid 1970s. Since 1995, we have gone back to rotational mechanics for common-sense reasons: today’s ballpark playing dimensions are significantly smaller, hitters have much smaller strike zones to work with, virtually every field today incorporates a natural grass playing surface and, finally, the introduction of minus3 aluminum bats have helped dictate this changeover.
It should be a “non-teach”
If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t ever remember anyone saying “stay inside the ball” when I was an active player. Today, my experience as an instructor tells me the reason. It is what I call a “non-teach.” Rotational hitting automatically—AND NATURALLY—puts the hitter into a “hands inside the ball” approach position. Therein lies the reason why very few players before the advent of the aluminum bat manifested this problem.
The reason “staying inside the ball” happens naturally makes more sense when it is correctly defined. As many of you are aware, my definition of “staying inside the ball” is the hands follow the hitter’s rotating body around his axis.
The ballistic movement of linear hitters, by definition, is a straight line—from back-to-front. Most are taught to hit with a totally-closed front side and front foot. When hitters are taught to stay closed like this, their bodies never rotate; their movement continues forward in a predefined straight line. So, if the definition of “staying inside the ball” implies that the hands follow the rotating body around the axis, then it becomes clear that the linear hitter is not capable of executing this important physical movement.
As a result, the linear hitter’s hands cannot stay inside the ball! However, we continually implore our hitters to do this, but do not give them the proper “blueprint” for their bodies to carry out the instruction. Why is this? Do we not understand what staying “inside” the ball really means? Do we not know what to look for? Do we teach what we really see?
For a hitter to stay “inside” the ball, his hands MUST be able to work IN FRONT of his body.It is also very easy to see when looking at a photo of a player in the “Power V” position. The rotational hitter’s Power V has him looking straight out his arms and out the end of his bat—directly at the pitcher. The hitter’s arms should extend THROUGH the ball out in front of his body on pitches three-quarters of the plate in. Contacting pitches on the outside one-quarter of the plate will place a hitter’s Power V further back in his contact zone.
Because the linear hitter doesn’t rotate, he is incapable of working his arms around his body. As a result, extension comes much earlier, robbing him of most of his swing’s momentum and resulting power. Linear hitters like the ball out over the plate and up in the zone. I’m sure most of you know by this time that to hit the outside pitch, the hitter must let the ball get deep. Consequently, the linear hitter would be forced to contact the ball, i.e., extend to the ball, further back in his swing than the rotational hitter. This is a primary reason why linear hitting has been the choice of singles/contact hitters over the years, while the runs and power producers have been rotational. Their length of stroke is too “short” (from launch to contact) to generate sufficient power and momentum in the swing. (Next issue: Work the Hands in Front!)
Prior to Mike’s teaching years, he was an All-American baseball player and still holds the highest lifetime batting average of .384 at the University of California (Berkeley). He was a member of the first United States Olympic Baseball Team, leading the team in many offensive hitting categories (Japan, 1964). He was named the Sporting News and Topps Minor League Player-of-the-Year in 1966.His website is http://www.mikeepsteinhitting.com/