Michele Smith Article
Volume 6, No. 1 - January 2011
Mechanics of Hitting Drills for Softball Players
Tee Drill – No Uppercut
- Purpose – To practice proper batting mechanics, and to correct common “hitch” and uppercut swing problems.
- Equipment – batting tee, bat, supply of balls (softballs or whiffle balls).'Jugs Instant Net' to hit into if performing this drill alone.
- Number of repetitions – 10 reps
- Parent-friendly drill - Can be practiced indoors (without ball) or outdoors with parent. Use common sense indoors.
- A batter wearing a batting helmet sets up in her batting position next to a batting tee (around waist-high) facing the backstop or screen (it’s best to execute tee drills into some kind of screen or the backstop; hitting into the field takes way too long). A coach places a ball on the tee and steps a safe distance away.
- The batter checks her position relative to the plate by taking a slow practice swing and making sure the “sweet spot” of the bat touches the ball on top of the tee. More advanced players need to position the ball so it resembles an inside or outside strike on the corner of the plate.
- On the coach’s cue, the batter strides with proper “backside rotation,” executes a proper swing, and hits the ball off the tee into the screen or backstop.
- The batter keeps her chin down, focused on the contact point, until follow through.
Coaches should try the following for their advanced players:
- Tee Adjustment - Adjust the level of the tee to simulate pitches low and high in the strike zone. On low pitches the batter should concentrate on hitting the bottom of the ball. This will reverse the spin on the ball at contact and should help result in a line drive. On a high pitch, the batter should concentrate on hitting the top of the ball; this will help her hit line drives and not pop ups.
- Change Up Tee Drill – have the batter “stride” and “swing” on your separate commands. This will reinforce the separate stride and swing components. Make sure she swings promptly on the swing cue; this will minimize the opportunity to hitch or sweep. Try to delay the “swing” command to simulate the response to a change-up. On this simulation, the front foot is down before the hands move, keep the hands back. Remember, if the hands move forward while the feet are still moving, the batter will lose the ability to hit the pitch with power if her timing is off.
This is a mechanics (not power) drill. Consider using whiffle balls to reduce hit distance. To make this drill game-like, add your defense in the field, use real softballs, and have the defense play each hit ball as a live game situation.
Correct the tendency of some players to drop (hitch) their hands to around waist level or to drop their rear shoulder during the swing. Either can result in an uppercut swing. Tee Ball players instinctively use the uppercut to get impressive distance off the tee. But an uppercut in coach-pitch or player-pitch will more likely yield a swing and a miss, or an easily-handled pop fly. Make sure your players swing with their hands “inside of the ball,” rather than fully extend and sweep their arms. Sweeping or casting result in slow bat speed and if she manages to make contact with the ball, a discernable lack of power.
Make sure your players are using bats that are not too heavy. The barrel of a heavy bat that is too heavy will sag below the ball’s flight path and force the batter to uppercut to compensate. Heavy bats also diminish bat speed. If a lighter bat is not available, it sometimes helps if the batter chokes up on the handle.
Another diagnostic tool is to tape around the bat’s “sweet spot.” This will give you a point of reference in observing the mechanics, and help novice players gauge where to stand.
Finally, a word about making a “level swing.” The most successful hitters have a flat and level bat in the strike zone for the longest time possible. By keeping the bat in the zone for as long as possible, the batter will increase her chances of making solid contact and getting a base hit.
For more information on base running, sliding skills and drills check out my website at www.MicheleSmith.com and visit the sections on “A Coaches Guide to Game Winning Drills Book”, the Dynamic Training DVD’s and a Year Long Training Guide for help to build speed and agility techniques.