Updated: Nov 1, 2021
Developing hitters starts with the culture you want to create. I talk a lot about swinging angry and being in damage mode, but that is not just related to the physical act of hitting. Swing Angry - Damage Mode is a culture that encompasses a hitting environment that is development focused, competitive, and challenging. This article will focus on creating a competitive and challenging environment.
The quote above by David Goggins describes the typical environment we put hitters in. Front toss flips down the middle and standard overhand BP with grooved fastballs. While there is a time and place for this training, it cannot be the norm. It puts hitters in a false sense of security without any significant level of difficulty - contrary to the game when someone is trying to get them out. This results in hitters who perform well in BP and stink in a game. It also creates hitters who cannot handle the failure that is associated with hitting.
Nobody likes to fail in front of a crowd - so we need to practice constructive failure. The game of baseball and softball will humble hitters quickly. It is much harder to be mentally tough and handle the failure that will occur over the course of a season when we never fail in practice. Challenging practices can reveal the level of maturity and competitive nature of each athlete. Some athletes run from anything out of their comfort zone and they avoid challenging themselves because they tie their ability directly to an outcome. I hit the ball well - I am good or I hit the ball poorly - I stink. This athlete will have a short career unless that mindset changes. Other athletes seek failure because they see it as opportunity for growth. They want to be challenged so they are better prepared to succeed on game day.
If we can create a competitive culture - hitters will push each other to be challenged and they will embrace the competition and failure required to perform their best.
Practice Environment - Competitive Balance & Failure
Training can be too easy, too hard, low pressure, high pressure, or any combination of these.
In the off-season hitters need to focus on GROWTH > PERFORMANCE. They need to work on their weaknesses and accept that there is going to be a period of uncomfortable training to improve their swing movements. Hitters are not expected to to perform well - or they wouldn't be working on the particular skill anyway. Drills will be uncomfortable, movements will feel awkward, and batting practice sessions will be messy. Great hitters embrace it while average hitters run from it.
As we get closer to the season we close the gap between GROWTH = PRESSURE PERFORMANCE. Can we translate that messy work to execution? Relatively easy tasks attached to a performance goal such as line drive consistency vs front toss or line drive consistency from the tee. Executing quality hits in standard BP or hard barrel contact vs 10 machine fastballs or 10 breaking balls. Another example is a 3-1 count and the hitter gets one swing to hit the ball hard - on a pitch in the heart of the zone.
During the season there will be a balance of high performance, low difficulty, and growth. In the middle of the season hitters will get feel good reps such as front toss and standard BP. This helps hitters stay confident and loose. They should also get low difficulty pressure situations tied to executing outcomes. Hitters still need to be challenged through mixed over hand BP, and mixed machine BP - stay game ready!
When your hitters start asking to push their boundaries more and get bored living in their "comfort zone" of easy flips, you know you've created a competitive atmosphere where difficulty is embraced and failure is never final!
I hope this helps,
See you on the diamond.
For more insights on team hitting check out > https://www.drivelinebaseball.com/2017/08/implementing-driveline-hitting-into-team-practice/