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 more on development.
Development starts with finding out where your hitters current strengths and areas of improvement are. If you have a large budget, this might include using HitTrax, Rapsodo, or other ball tracking technology to generate hitting reports for each hitter. However, on a small budget we can still assess our hitters current bat speed, exit velocity, and swing path. We can dive deeper into assessments with physical strength and mobility screens as well.
Bat speed and swing path information can be collected using a Blast Motion or Diamond Kinetics sensor. Exit velocity can be recorded using a pocket radar or similar device. When using a radar gun to track exit velocity we should only count line drives hit towards the middle because this is the line of sight for the radar. It is also important to measure from some type of moving ball, such as front toss. Tee exit velocity readings are fairly useless because they do not simulate a game environment with the timing of a moving ball.
Once you've collected bat speed, exit velocity, and swing path information you can share it with your players. Establishing baseline measurements allows coaches and players to know where they are within their skill development and set goals for improvement related to their level of play. Once baselines have been established and training has started it is important to retest at consistent intervals. Are players growing, staying the same, or getting worse? Adjust accordingly.
Why measure? The better question is why not? Objective feedback provides true information that goes beyond "that looks good." Players want to get better and they want to know they are getting better. Seeing gains in bat speed or improvements in swing path through objective measurements validates their hard work and their training. Successful progress is motivational!
Not only does tracking progress motivate athletes to work hard, it also holds them and the coach accountable. I recommend sharing and posting public leaderboards within your team or facility. Players don't want to be at the bottom of the leaderboard. If it matters, measure it, post it, and track it. Players who are slacking off with their diet, nutrition, and weight room habits will be exposed when strength testing is re-evaluated. Hitters should get better over time - if someone is not getting better, or even getting worse, everyone knows. Maybe the training plan needs readjusting or maybe the athlete hasn't been putting in the work.
Using Google sheets is a simple way to measure and track all of your athletes performance goals. You can also create folders for each hitter on Google Drive and share it with them. Inside you can place their assessment results, swing video, and individualized training plans.
Hope this helps,
See you on the diamond.