If your team is having a problem hitting the ball, chances are, they are having a problem in a couple of different areas:
- Seeing the ball
- Recognizing the pitch
- Making consistent contact
- Following through and hitting "through the ball"
The following drills can help this. To help your team "see" the ball better and recognize the pitches before they hit the plate, here are a couple of tips/drills to boost your young hitter's abilities:
The Night Shift
The first thing is to have some of your players come out on pitching practice evenings. If your team has additional practices for pitchers, ask some of the position players to attend these practices.
After the pitchers get loose and start to work on their pitches and locations, have one of the position players put on a helmet and stand in the batter's box just watching pitches. Have them tell you how the ball is rotating. If they cannot see this at first, tell them to keep concentrating on the ball and they soon will be able to tell you how the ball is rotating.
Have the pitching coach explain the rotations of different pitches so that they will be able to see the rotations and be able to identify the drops, riseballs, curves, etc. This will help your team see the ball better and be able to know where it is going. It will also teach them to follow the ball all the way to contact with the bat.
The Power of Soft-Toss
To help your team make more consistent contact on the ball try the following drill. Get a bat, a few tennis balls, a few practice whiffle golf balls and a bag of black eyed peas. (If you can, get a "ThunderStick" or make one out of a smaller diameter piece of round wood with grips and a little weight in the end to make the bat weight about 22-24 ounces.)
The main thing here is that you want the "bat" to be a smaller diameter and length than a regulation bat. Start out with the regulation bat. Soft-toss regulation balls at the hitters (have them hit into a net). Then start going smaller with the balls.
Soft-toss some of the tennis balls and when they can hit those, soft-toss the whiffle balls. When they can hit the whiffle balls, start soft-tossing the black eyed peas. When your team can hit those, the regulation sized-softballs will look like beach balls.
If you can get a ThunderStick or something similar, try the same drill with the smaller diameter bat. This will fine tune the hand-eye coordination of your hitters and make them deadly hitters.
Art of the Perfect Soft-Toss
I need to say something about the toss of soft-toss. The toss is not some big old high arcing, ugly, slow pitch thing. It is a crisp toss to the stride thigh of the hitter.
You want them to hit the ball out in front so adjust your toss accordingly. I do not like my players to soft-toss to other players because the tosses usually get really ugly and you lose all benefits of this drill, but that is just my opinion.
Finally, on follow-through: there are two drills that can help. The first one involves having a sandbag or old punching bag (you can get one from a used sporting goods store).
Place some sand in the bag until it is full and tie it to a pole, allowing enough room for a hitter to be able to hit the bag. When the hitter hits the bag (very slow swing) have them follow all the way through until the bat passes under the punching bag. Make sure the rope holding the bag is adjustable for the height of all of your players.
Be Like Mike
Another drill you can do is the basketball drill. Take an old basketball that will not hold air and place it on a cone (old construction cones work great and if you ask the foreman of a construction crew, they will probably give you an old one). You may have to cut off the top part of the cone to allow the ball to sit atop the cone without falling.
Now have one player place the ball on the cone and one hit the ball off the cone. BOTH PLAYERS MUST WEAR HELMETS. MAKE SURE THAT 90 PERCENT OF THE AIR IS OUT OF THE BALL.
The reason for the helmets is that the bat may bounce off the ball if not hit hard enough. Have the hitter drive through the ball after the initial contact has been made. Both of these drills teach follow through.
Try these drills and your team will be better at "seeing" ball and making consistent contact with it.Find a Softball camp to take your game to the next level.