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Monday, June 21, 2010
Simple Little League Baseball Drills to Help Teach Swing Mechanics
Little League Baseball Drills
By Guest Author: Joseph Harrison Jr
Hitting a baseball is perhaps the most difficult aspect of any sport. This can be an especially daunting task for the inexperienced little leaguer. Like all things in life, hitting a baseball requires dedication and a lot of practice. Additionally, successful batting requires sound mechanics and body control. That being said let's discuss some of the mechanics of hitting and a few little league baseball drills that will have your child well on their way to becoming a more consistent hitter.
The first and most important thing for your child to remember when attempting to bat a ball is to keep their eye on the ball. I know this sound like common sense but you would be amazed how many kids spin completely around when swinging. If your child can not see the ball, they most assuredly will not hit it.
There is a simple drill used in little league baseball designed to help keep your child's eye on the ball. Have your child stand in the batter's box with their chin on their front shoulder (the shoulder facing the pitcher). Have them practice keeping their head down as they swing through the ball. As their swing reaches completion their chin should end up on their back shoulder (or the shoulder facing the catcher). A batting tee is quite helpful when performing this drill. If you do not have a batting tee, soft toss drills are also quite effective in teaching this skill. This is also a good habit to get into as it teaches the child to keep their head still as well, further increasing chances of contact with a pitch.
Balance is the second piece to hitting successfully, once again, common sense right? Revisit the spinning child mentioned above. Your child must be balanced to successfully hit a baseball. A good rule of thumb to follow to achieve optimum balance is to keep the feet about shoulder width apart. This is not a must, there are a lot of successful ball players out there with unorthodox stances; it all boils down to what feels comfortable to the individual. Try to encourage an orthodox batting stance in your little leaguer, they will benefit in the long run.
In addition to eye-hand coordination and balance, the upper body muscles play an important role in achieving a successful swing. There seems to be a bit of a misconception concerning the importance of the upper body, namely the wrists, when swinging. It is true that a lot of power is generated from the lower body, but bat speed also plays a pivotal role in hitting for power, and bat speed is primarily attributed to, you guessed it, the wrists. There is a delicate balance in the wrists that needs to be achieved to be a consistent hitter. As a hitter the trick is to not necessarily swing hard, but quick. The trick is to shorten the swing, just a bit, and roll the wrists over as the bat strikes the ball.
The other component of the upper body in batting is the hands. Most batters keep their hands somewhere in the mid chest level with the bat held slightly out in front. There are, however, plenty of players that implement unorthodox batting stances and styles that have yielded great results. The most important thing is that your child feels comfortable in the batter's box.
Another important aspect of batting is to remember to never drop the hands prior to a swing. A lot of young players like to drop their hands, meaning they ever so slightly dip the hands from the chest area to the stomach area. Consider that when you have tenths of a second to see the ball, decide if you will swing, and then execute your swing, dropping the hands can speed a pitch up for a batter, meaning the time the batter spent dropping his hands should have been spent moving the hands forward in preparation of striking the ball. Just a tenth of a second shaved off a swing can be the difference between the game winning line drive and foul ball down the first baseline. Often batters that swing late do so because they drop their hands. Soft toss is an excellent little league baseball drill for developing quick wrists and strong hands. Other simple but effective little league baseball drills are squeezing a tennis ball which builds strength in the hands.
The lower body is the last component of hitting. As previously mentioned, first and foremost, good balance is needed to achieve a proper swing. The biggest mistake that young hitters commit that affects their balance when batting is over striding, resulting in an off balance swing. Instead of taking a giant step, the batter should simply lift the front foot, or the foot nearest the pitcher, off of the ground, this is a mechanism used to time ones swing. Instead of taking a giant clumsy step have your little leaguer practice lifting their foot and simply placing it back on the ground almost where they got it from. This helps them to keep their weight back, a crucial element to hitting well.
The other key ingredient involving the lower body is to twist the hips, ideally as the bat contacts the ball, and simultaneously rolling the wrists over. Commonly used little league baseball drills such as a method called "squashing the bug" is fine tools to teach this hip twisting. In this particular drill the batter holds out their left hand (for a right handed batter) and strikes the left hand with the right simulating a baseball swing. The emphasis of the drill should be placed on the feet and hips as the batter should focus on sharply turning the right, or back, ankle as if to squash a bug with the toes.
Well there you have it, a few simple little league baseball drills that work to improve the key components of hitting, eye on the ball, balance, and a delicate timing of the upper and lower body muscle groups. Hitting is no easy task; even for the guys you get paid the big bucks. The only way to get better is to practice good habits and abandon bad ones as soon as they arise, and they will. Hitting is an exercise in muscle memory, the key is consistency.
I am Joseph Harrison, a baseball coach since 20 years ago. I love baseball since I am young, especially the feeling when you know you will absolutely crush the ball. Training your kid to gain interest in baseball will benefit him from both mentally and physically. In with he will gain team spirit, learn how to cope with teammates, and at the same time train up his physical, and concentration (to have good eye and hand coordination and the ability to use both at once). Go through my article and you will know all the benefits of baseball.
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