Young hitters and loading up for safety
When coaching young newbies in the game, safety becomes a large part of your focus. In the eyes of these coaches, if everyone goes home without blood on their uniform, it was a good day. Coaching older players is a bit different. Safety is not as much of a concern so you can afford to spend more time on the technical and procedural parts of the game.
A mistake, however, is to think that there is no connection between the way we coach newbies and the way we coach older players. Often what we teach young players in terms of safety can help prepare them for future technical aspects of the game. Here is an example.
Newbie coaches fear batters getting hit by pitches. This is because young hitters often do not react in such a way that will protect them from the damage a ball can do. Young hitters frequently open their shoulder up and literally face the ball with the front part of their body. Often they will instinctively bring their hands up towards their face as well. The problem with this is that most of the fragile areas of the body are in the front – face, chest, hands, fingers, wrists, eyes and so forth. Opening up on the pitch makes it more likely a serious injury will occur.
Fixing this typical reaction not only will create a safer result but as you will see, also sets them up for something that will benefit them later.
Young kids should be trained to turn the front shoulder in and back towards the catcher if a pitch is coming at them. This exposes the big, tougher areas/muscles of the shoulder, back, and hind legs. A ball that hits these areas will hurt but the prospect of severe injury drops dramatically. This training technique also will help them become better hitters as well.
As players get older there is a greater need to hit the ball with authority, bat speed, and power. A hitter can only accomplish these things by loading up more of his energy before the swing. You do that by turning your frontside in and down a little before the stride. You load up.
My point of this is to stress that the safety technique of teaching newbie hitters how to get hit by a pitch also will prepare them for the proper mechanics of a good swing when they are older.
So, if you coach at the younger levels, spend some time on training your kids how to get hit. Their parents will thank you now and their future coaches will thank you later.
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