[A guest post from Kyle Wagner.]
When you're involved with baseball you invariably run across all types of coaches. Some you seem to like right away and others you'd just rather not have dinner with.
I'm always skeptical of the coach that seems to have ALL the answers- especially those involving the hitters. The one that doesn't hesitate to offer any little bit of advice that he feels is necessary at that moment. At times like that I always remember the old adage by Abraham Lincoln, "better to stay quiet and let people think you're a fool, then open your mouth and remove all doubt."
It isn't that they don't have good intentions - they do. It's that they believe, at least that's what I can only assume, that by being loud and quite confident in their opinion they are a vastly superior coach.
Let me explain why I believe this coach is victim to the "confidence" illusion.
Hitting a baseball requires many skills for sure. But, gameday is not the time for major wholesale swing changes. Gameday is the time to make sure the player is ready to compete against the pitcher. It's not about the stride or the hands too high or the head pulling off the ball. It's about competing in the batters box. Yet, coach after coach seems to offer technical advice to these young kids and if it wasn't so darn devastating it would be comical. Paralysis by Analysis.
Hitting a baseball is a timed event. You need to apply your skill in a given amount of time. It is not golf where you can swing on your own terms. You have a ball moving at you in unpredictable locations. If you want to help your player in the moment you must give him something that will help his quickness to the ball. For the most part, on gameday, these pieces of advice sound like this...
"Turn it loose"
"Free and easy"
"Get a good pitch to hit and hit it hard"
"Don't give up your strength" (In other words - "look fastball!")
These pieces of coaching advice are vague by nature. They are supportive, subtle suggestions to make a hitter more focused and less pre-occupied with unnecessary swing thoughts.
When the ball comes out of the pitcher's hand a hitter needs to react to what he sees. It's this reaction time that separates the great hitters from the good hitters, the good hitters from the average hitters.
The easiest thing a coach can do to improve a players reaction time is to improve a players anticipation strategies. In other words, give him better things to think about if you want to make his swing faster and quicker to the ball. As the ball moves towards home plate the three primary elements that effect how quickly your barrel moves in the direction of the ball are 1) anticipation (Green Light Hitting strategies) 2) swing quickness (mechanical efficiencies) and 3) bat speed. Are you really going to change variables 2 and 3 in 10 minutes? Very, very doubtful. It takes time. A lot of time.
So, the only thing left to impact as a coach is a players anticipation strategies. Give your player's a thought process that makes them quicker to the ball- not cues of doubt that WILL absolutely slow them down. Here are some doubt producing cues for sure.
"Make it be there"
"It's gotta be perfect."
"Don't swing at the high pitch"
"Don't chase 'em out of the zone"
"Watch out for the curveball."
The "competent" coach knows not only what to say but when to say it. And, when to roll their eyes at the "confident" coach.
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