By Nate Barnett
When I work with new athletes I always start by watching their lower body movements, specifically their load, stride, and weight transfer. I totally ignore the upper half (shoulders, hand positioning, extension, etc.) until I’m pleased with how the lower body is working.
Because there are so many upper body mechanical flaw origins wrapped up in the lower half. Let me talk about a couple lower-half areas you may want to check this spring.
Stance width: I don’t care how an athlete stands as long as he is comfortable, and as long as the stance it isn’t interfering with a later hitting mechanics standard. I will encourage simple semi-wide stances over a very narrow stance. How come? Because in general less movement a hitter must make over and over again will produce the most consistency time and time again. Remember, we want an easy to duplicate movement. An open stance with a massive stride is not easily duplicated each swing.
Load/Stride Pacing: I have been emphasizing the pace of movement a lot more this year than in years past. Here is a general rule I tell hitters: two-thirds of total movement of the swing action should be spent from first movement until the front foot hits the ground. One-third of the movement then is wrapped up in the trigger, rotation, and finish of the swing. More often than not, my athletes move too quickly through the first stage of the swing – the load to landing phase.
The reason for the timing emphasis is that more balance issues (weight up front, hips sliding forward, etc) occur when hitters rush through the early stages of the swing. Having kids take their time on their swing prep will greatly reduce their inconsistency at the plate. Also, when kids aren’t feeling good about their swing, they will move faster and thus increasing the likelihood of mistakes.
In summary, position your athletes in a stance preferably that reduces excessive stride length and work on slowing down the pre-trigger movement. Slower movements are more easily duplicated and promote better balance.
Nate has worked with athletes for nearly 20 years. His playing career was successful and resulted in being inducted into George Fox University Baseball Hall of Fame. Once finishing college, Nate signed a professional contract with the Seattle Mariners. You can find more instructional articles and videos at www.hittingexcellence.com