Lessons

Your daughter is getting hitting lessons from a coach/instructor.  You watch her performance and judge whether she’s getting better or not.  If you are satisfied, great!  If not, your options are:  1)Talk to the instructor & ask questions, 2)Stop lessons & seek out another instructor, 3)Accept the fact that your daughter’s abilities may be limited or 4)Whine and complain constantly about the lousy instructor to everybody you know.

Which action you decide to take can be dependent upon her age and experience.  Hopefully you can refrain from option #4. It makes a significant difference whether she’s 12 years old and just getting started or a high school senior or has taken lessons from several different instructors/coaches over the years.  Since there are many high school age girls who've never received any legitimate instruction, it can be difficult for the parent to watch as they try new things.  "She's never had her hands that way before or had such a wide stance," you may think.  Sometimes they can catch up and other times they cannot.

My daughter Hayley had 4 different instructors in as many years (ages 12-15).  By her senior year in high school she was doing her own thing: A composite of all she had learned and based on what was working for her and what she was comfortable with.  It turned out to be her best spring/summer by far with phenomenal stats.

Hayley was 15 in this video - Mike Candrea Elite Camp at the University of Arizona

Results

I touched on this subject in a prior article, Mixed Messages from Coaches, where I stated that the only thing that mattered was, “What is Working for Your Daughter.”  The article suggested options 1 or 2 where you confront the instructor or find another one.

How she hit at age 10 versus now at age 12 is comparing apples to oranges as is comparing your daughter to other girls.

If your daughter is still quite young (under 12) you probably do not have much to compare concerning the results of her instruction.  Comparing her performance can be difficult year by year since the level of competition increases sharply.  Hitting against pitchers who throw every pitch the same speed with no movement down the middle of the plate can make below average hitters look like superstars.  How she hit at age 10 versus now at age 12 is comparing apples to oranges as is comparing your daughter to other girls.  What works for one girl may not work for the other.

In these younger years I would encourage you to seek out other instructors and give them a try.  That is unless you’re happy with the current coach.  Hayley’s hitting technique while she was 11, 12 and 13 years old was entirely different from hers at ages 14 and up.  In the older years the changes in her techniques were small compared to the seemingly drastic changes in the years prior. 

My older daughter Brooke (left) kept the same technique from middle school through varsity ball.  She was a contact hitter.  They had completely different swings, but both were successful hitters.  My definition of success is where each girl is the best they could be.  It has nothing to do with their performance compared to others or the accolades they receive.

If your daughter is a senior in high school you have much more information to compare.  If she’s only had a one or two instructors and you’re not satisfied with the current one, you may decide to take her elsewhere.  If she’s had many instructors and you’re still not satisfied, see the next section please.

A good instructor will try to make a player the best that she can be.

Reality

Hitting lessons are expensive ranging from $30 to $65 per ½ hour.  If you’re fortunate, her school coaches may conduct training for free.  However, many parents still pay for lessons elsewhere.  Parents should remember that paying for lessons does not guarantee anything.  She may or may not improve.

A good instructor will try to make a player the best that she can be.  This often means teaching different players different styles.  The instructor should perform an initial assessment of the hitter to determine her current state and skill level.  Based on this, her age and experience he will come up with a plan for the player.

Also you should remember this: You are taking the lesson too.

Time is absolutely a factor.  A senior requires faster results, while a 12 year old has time to learn and grow.  The instructor has less time to get better results from the senior.  She doesn’t have a next year.  It’s now or never.  He has to know when to give up on certain things and when to try something new (see next section). Also you should remember this: You are taking the lesson too.  Pay attention and ask questions if you do not understand the instruction, so you can help your daughter when she's practicing at home.

For those of you who’ve taken your older daughters to numerous instructors over the years, but are still not satisfied with the results, it may be time to check the Parent Goggles.  The reality is one of two things:  1)You have had an incredible string of bad luck in finding good instructors or 2)You see your daughter at a higher level than everybody else sees her.  I’ve seen enough of this to last a lifetime, which typically involves blaming the instructor for their daughter’s inability to hit the ball.  

In My Coaching Experience

As a coach I teach 2 different styles of hitting: Contact & Hybrid.  These are my names for them, so Googling them will be a waste of time.  Which style is dependent upon the factors mentioned earlier.  The contact style is a shorter more compact swing intended to give the batter a better chance of putting the ball in play.  The hybrid style is sort of a combination of linear and rotational hitting, which involves loading the hands and body and rotating the hips through the swing for more power, while keeping the barrel long through the zone without sacrificing batting average. 

Teaching hitting is not an exact science.  Nor is it easy

Variations of this hybrid swing are dominant in high level travel and college play. If you google linear and rotational hitting you'll find that many people are split as to which technique is best.  There are certainly no shortage of opinions on the subject.  You should also understand that my definition of hybrid is flexible. There are slight differences for each hitter depending upon their skill level and if they're showing any bad tendencies like dipping.

I like to begin with the hybrid style for girls 13 and older.  If after time and numerous tweaks I feel the player is not able to perform the hybrid swing, I switch her to a contact swing.  Example: For the girls who constantly dip with an upper cut swing regardless of the height of the pitch, I have to decide whether to try to fix it or to change to the contact swing.  For the freshman, I may stick with it a little longer.  For the senior I need to make the switch now.

Teaching hitting is not an exact science.  Nor is it easy.  I have to come up with tweaks unique for each hitter to correct their specific issues like dipping, casting, rolling wrists, dancing feet, etc.  Of the 24 girls I am currently working with about half are able to use the hybrid swing as of now.  I believe a few more of them will get it eventually and are young enough to stick with it.  Each may have some subtle differences, but it’s the same swing.  The others vary tremendously, which is mostly dependent upon the issue(s) they cannot correct with the hybrid swing.  The bottom line for me is to find what works best for each individual hitter.

It drives me nuts to see a coach trying to correct a hitter’s mechanics while she’s in the batter’s box in a game.

Pet Peeves

In either case, after enough time it is my hope that the girls can learn to make adjustments and correct themselves.  Ideally my hope is they can adjust from pitch to pitch, rather than at-bat by at-bat or worse yet game by game.  Most players play their games without their instructors present.  It's a big disadvantage, but demonstrates the importance for players to be able to correct themselves.  However, it drives me nuts to see a coach trying to correct a hitter’s mechanics while she’s in the batter’s box in a game.  That is not the time for them to be thinking about their mechanics.

Another pet peeve of mine is when one instructor throws another instructor under the bus without ever talking to him about his efforts to help a hitter or their general philosophy on hitting.  I have found more times than not that the issue was the player and/or parent and not the instructor.  There are certain things that you cannot control or teach such as size, body coordination, hand-eye coordination and general athleticism.  Just because I've coached several college softball players from NAIA to D1 does not mean every girl I coach will become one.  A coach may work with one of the players I've worked with and question part of the swing without knowing the fact that it was exagerated to correct a problem she was having.  He should not assume I teach all of the girls to do that.

Mental Side

All of this doesn’t even include the mental side of hitting that I teach.  The girls I work with are taught what they should be doing in the dugout and the mental routines for pre-game warm-ups, when they are on the bench, on double-deck, on-deck and in the batter’s box.  I instruct them when and what to be looking for, when to work on mechanics, how and when to get their timing, how and when to take signs, how to relax and block out the noise, to know the count and game situation every single pitch and plate discipline.  None of these involves the physical swing.

Questions

Based on what I just stated concerning the girls I am currently working with, how is it that only half of the girls were able to improve their hitting using the hybrid swing?  How is it that some girls can perform the swing on a tee, but not in a game?  Does it matter that the hybrid swing I am teaching is essentially the same swing seen across the country at Division 1 colleges?  Which is more important to you:  The way your daughter looks when hitting or how successful she is?  Have you noticed if your daughter is focused on the game while she’s in the dugout, on the bench, on double-deck, on-deck or in the batter’s box?  Does she get enough sleep?  Does she eat right?  Is she hydrated properly?  Do you yell at her during the games when she’s coming up to bat?  Do you lecture her in the car or at home about her performance?

But, you’ll likely need the help now and again from an instructor to identify and fix those bad habits that develop or creep back into her swing.

It All Matters

Sometimes you have to seek out a new coach.  Sometimes you have to be patient.  Sometimes you have to talk with the coach.  Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.  The odds of you finding the perfect instructor who makes your daughter the best she can be, one she is comfortable with and is able to coach her from little league to high school are not real good.  Chances are you’ll have several instructors over the years.  Hopefully your daughter will find her way and be able to make adjustments and correct herself as needed.  But, you’ll likely need the help now and again from an instructor to identify and fix those bad habits that develop or creep back into her swing.  That is especially true as they go through high school and are no longer the most receptive to your instruction or coaching.  As they say, "Whatever!"

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