A good swing in baseball or softball doesn’t need to be a powerful swing, especially when a player is new to the game or just trying to shake off some rust. David Wilson tries to emphasize that when coaching players from the Bullpen Academy baseball club out of Lake Elsinore, Calif.
“You’ve got to walk before you can run,” Wilson said.
Wilson likes to get players started on a batting tee and immediately encourages them to focus on the mechanics of a swing and not the type of contact their making with the ball.
He’ll start with the lower half of the body and work his way up to the arms, shoulders, and even the head.
The first place Wilson prefers to focus are the hips. Getting a player to rotate his hips properly is the key to driving the ball, not the power of the swing. Wilson will have players start out in their batting stance and go through their hip rotation in slow motion — sometimes without even a bat in hand — before building up to full speed.
He’ll then move to the feet, making sure players pivot their back foot properly and in conjunction with their hips, gradually increasing the tempo with each cut. Then he’ll focus on the front foot, encouraging the player to land on the ball of his instep before dropping his heel as the hips begin to rotate through the ball.
Wilson said focusing just on the footwork of a swing can help eliminate a bad habit many young players acquire: stepping away from home plate.
“Driving your heel into ground helps keep the front foot from stepping out,” he said.
Wilson will sometimes use a stretch band — more commonly used to stretch throwing arms — to wrap around the player’s ankle, and then he’ll anchor the other end to the ground. That will limit the movement of the front foot to just a small step and prevent over-striding.
When it seems the players have the lower halves of their bodies working in synchronicity, Wilson has a drill he likes to use to get players to bring their hands through the ball. He has them envision a beam of light coming out the end of their bat, and when they swing the bat through the zone, the light moves toward contact.
“If you do that for five or 10 minutes, and then get them back into a full swing, you can see the adjustments they made,” he said. “I tell them, ‘We’re doing the work you really have to now, so you won’t have to think about it in the game.’”
Wilson doesn't work with pitchers, but says the same philosophy should be used when developing those players. Work on the form first and then increase the velocity as the player progresses.
“You don’t need to throw 90 mph the first day out,” he said.
From GameChanger and Dan Arritt.