Today we have a guest post from Larry Cicchiello, who is the successful author of “Excellent Baseball Coaching: 30 Seconds Away.”
(Craig, the Mental Toughness Trainer added some mental training tips on this topic below Larry’s article)
Very simply, a baseball hitting slump occurs because of something that you are now doing that is mechanically incorrect when swinging the bat or it can be something that you were doing correctly and now you are not doing it. In other words, either you have developed a bad habit or have gotten away from a good habit.
One of the reasons we have hitting coaches is because even the great hitters, some who are professionals, occasionally get off track. No matter how good a hitter you are, it can be a very common problem to fall into the much dreaded drought of hits. That’s one of the reasons a very good hitting coach is extremely valuable.
Rather than focus on the entire swing, focus on specific areas to narrow it down as to where the problem is. It’s very helpful to divide a player into two sections, his lower half of the body and his upper half. Use a clip board and block your view of the player’s upper body and focus solely on the lower part, to make sure the hitter’s “foundation” is okay. If all seems okay with the lower half, block the lower half with the clip board and focuses on the upper half. Sometimes changing the angle that you are watching the batter will help also. When advising the hitter, always remember that visual is better than verbal.
Hard work, practice and several repetitions are the best remedies for curing a mechanical problem. Some hitters try different methods to end their problem as quickly as possible. Some try to hit the ball the opposite way. The theory is that they will have to wait on the ball and let it come to them, instead of being too anxious and not “staying back” on the pitch. Some try to hit the ball right up the middle of the field. The theory here is that usually, if you hit the ball up the middle, a lot of things have to be done properly, such as your timing.
Common Causes For Poor Hitting:
1. Check your swing from Point “A” to Point “B.” Point “A” is where you load up, cocking the wrists and the hips. Point “B” is where you make contact with the ball. Make sure that you are going A to B in a straight line. You must swing directly to the baseball! The slightest loop in your swing causes you to lose a fraction of a second. A fraction of a second is an eternity when it comes to hitting a baseball. The very start of the baseball swing is a downward movement and is not level at all. The back of your bottom hand faces the pitcher at the start of the swing and only at contact should you have one palm up and the other palm facing down.
2. Make sure that your front hip is staying closed and not opening up too early.
3. Make sure that your front shoulder stays closed until the pivot foot and hips open the front shoulder.
4. Make sure that your back shoulder is not collapsing and going lower than your front shoulder.
5. Make sure you are getting good pitches to hit. When in a slump, it is a very common problem to swing at bad pitches. The very natural tendency is to get a hit and have your slump be a thing of the past. Looking for that all important hit can easily cause you to be too anxious and chase bad pitches.
When you have figured out what the mechanical problem is, you can make good use of the “soft toss drill” so you can repeat the rediscovered proper way many, many times. You can get many repetitions without even being at the ball park and making good use of the “soft toss” will speed up the time it takes to get back on the right track. You can hit a hundred balls in no time at all.
One of the better baseball coaching tips to remember is that all players deal with this issue, even the best in the world. Hang in there, get to work and you will get back on the right track.
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Craig, the Mental Toughness Trainer:
A whole host of mental problems arise out of a prolonged period of not getting hits. My first piece of advice is to not use the word “slump” to yourself or to anyone else. That word alone has a lot of negative meaning behind it that probably has nothing to do with the hitter’s problem, but we take on all of that meaning when we start using negative self talk.
Getting back to hitting well starts with the idea that you are the same person no matter what’s going on with your game. Aren’t you always working on improving your hitting? Don’t you always want to learn more about the pitchers in your league? You should be giving yourself pep talks about your hitting whether the hits are falling or not. Emotional mastery is the key to getting out of those down times. Without it, you’re likely to re-create the conditions that got your swing off track in the first place.
Secondly, your goal should not be to get hits, to get on base, or to get out of your problem. Your goal should be simply to hit the ball solid and hard. You want to get back to fundamentals – your swing and your mental game.
1. Make sure you are following your planned pre-batting routine at the plate.
2. Pre-live how you will think when you are in the batter’s box and following your game plan for this pitcher.
3. Adopt the attitude that you are a machine up there. Focused on the ball leaving the pitchers hand. Period.
4. Get your reps in at practice using the tools above and commit to using them in the game. You can’t think one way during practice and another way in the game and expect the results to be the same.
And that’s just the beginning of learning of mental toughness and self talk. If you want that competitive advantage for your young athlete, our cutting edge training is available now. The Baseball/Softball Mental Toughness program has been helping athletes to turbo-charge confidence, build resiliency, and learn life skills through participation in sports.
Welcome to the Winner’s Circle!
Craig, the Mental Toughness Trainer
I’ve got a few more tips on the mental side of the game, check out these videos and articles: