Tryouts for the spring and summer 2016 season start in July and, possibly run through the winter. Anxiety levels will increase, mainly because players trying to make teams don’t know what coaches are looking for. Unfortunately, many of the coaches don’t know themselves.
That is a true statement, and not meant to be offensive in any way.
Before we go any further, let’s define what a coach is. Back in the day, and before coaches were associated with sports, a coach was defined as a means of transporting something and/or someone. Back in the day, coaches were connected to horses, i.e., people sat inside the coach and were transported to and from.
Bad coaches couldn’t transport many people or things, if any at all.
Really great hitting coaches possess at least seven essential things that they can speak to clearly and immediately upon request:
- They are governed by personal core values, morals and ethics
- They have a clear personal mission statement
- They have a vision
- They have a methodology, philosophy and processes that holds them accountable for the development of hitters
- They have at least an awareness of various learning styles
- They have an understanding of the fundamentals of hitting
- They have an understanding of cause and effect for the sake of making adjustments
Three of the seven things that great coaches should be looking for when evaluating hitters, if they are in fact a great coach, are mental. Three of the seven things are physical, and the final one is the “silver bullet” – the one that will kill multiple negative deterrents with one shot.
Desire is a strong feeling toward something. Great coaches should be looking for desire when evaluating hitters, because you can’t teach it quickly. It can in fact be taught starting with being aware that you lack it, followed by accountability when you don’t show it. I will go deeper with regards to how I teach desire in future blogs. If you don’t have desire, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to learn how to hit from a great coach. A great coach should put hitters in uncomfortable situations during the hitting evaluation to determine if they have desire.
For me, work ethic is based on six core values that include excellence, humility, integrity, loyalty, teamwork and stewardship. Excellence is fulfilling what’s expected of you. Humility is thinking of yourself less to the benefit of others. Integrity is doing the right thing, even though you can do the wrong thing. Loyalty is your proven commitment during both the good times and bad. Teamwork is your ability to depend on others in order to accomplish great things that benefit everyone. Stewardship is protecting all that is entrusted to you, especially your talents and gifts. Great coaches look for and ask specific questions with regards to work ethic to determine work ethic, while others talk about how important they are to have. Talk is cheap and everybody can afford it.
A great coach may ask you these questions before, during or after the hitting evaluation to determine your work ethic.
- Excellence – What hitting role can you fulfill on this team if we select you?
- Humility – What sacrifices are you willing to make for this team that will benefit the team?
- Integrity – When was the last time that you had to do something that you didn’t want to do but did it anyway? Explain?
- Loyalty – How do you respond when things go your way and when they don’t go your way?
- Teamwork – Teams are like connected links of a chain. What are some things that causes your link to become weak?
- Stewardship – Describe your talent as a hitter and how do you protect it?
If thinking is a mobile phone, thinking critically is an iPhone. Critical thinking allows hitters to identify when something is wrong and precisely what’s wrong followed by an ability to comprehend exactly what to do next. Words like precisely and exactly shouldn’t be understood lightly here. These are strong words that are used to indicate intentionality and focus. The ability to critically think shouldn’t be confused with luck or hopefulness. Great coaches will challenge hitters during the hitting evaluation to find out if they can critically think. A fast bat without the ability to critically think is just a fast bat. Great coaches want to see you fail so that they can evaluate your process of thinking critically.
Good coaches want strong hitters to hit the ball far. Great coaches want physically strong hitters so that they can repeat their swing fundamentals for the duration of a long season. Strength and size aren’t the same and you would be wise to understand the difference. The effort to add size to your muscles often allows you to get injured quicker, which keeps you off the field. Good old-fashioned push-ups and core exercises can develop amazing strength. Come to a great coach with physical strength, and he will be excited to give you hitting fundamentals that will yield great results at the plate.
Eye and hand coordination
There must be at least two separate things involved in order to coordinate them. You coordinate two or more things so that they can work together to do something. To become a great hitter, you must be able to coordinate the use of your eyes and hands to get lots of hits. With all things being considered equal such as age, distance of the mound to the plate for youth leagues to the Majors and the average speed of the pitch, it takes a pitch approximately 1/2 a second to leave a pitchers hand and cross the plate. That’s as fast, if not faster, than the blink of the eye. In order to become and maintain consistency as a productive hitter, you must do the following five things that also will earn an A grade in the eye and hand coordination box from a great coach.
- Get loaded on time and on tempo to identify the pitch thrown.
- Track the pitch while quickly and accurately processing the pitch type, location and speed.
- Process quickly and accurately where you believe that the pitch will end up when it crosses the plate.
- If it’s a bad pitch, take it. If it’s a strike and/or a hittable pitch, initiate a good approach to the ball with the understanding that when the ball is within 10 feet of home plate, it is impossible for you to see it.
- Make contact (see our Wall Drill Flat Bat) with good enough body alignment that will allow you to reach full extension (see Wall Drill Extension) allowing you to driving the ball.
“See the ball, hit the ball” is a myth and impossible to do, so don’t waste your time and energy. Great coaches expect hitters to come to the hitting evaluation with at least average eye and hand coordination.
Good fundamentals are must haves. But if you have strength, good eye and hand coordination, and bat speed, you’ll play for a longer time than most and, hopefully earn yourself enough time to develop the essential fundamentals of hitting.
The Essential Hitting Fundamentals
You can’t see a bat hit a moving ball but you can develop these nine skills.
I remember working with Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates MVP and All-Star) for the first time at age 13. He was very raw, but his bat speed was electric. There was a lot that he didn’t know about hitting, but that was the least of my concern, because I knew the essential fundamentals he needed to know in order for him to get on the right track to become the successful MLB hitter that you witness today. His desire, work ethic, ability to critically think, physical strength, eye and hand coordination and bat speed are six reasons why he is the hitter fans pay their hard earned money to see perform.
The Silver Bullet
Habitudes is a habitual tendency or way of behaving. My friend Dr. Tim Elmore has created a curriculm that I consider a performance enhancer called Habitudes. Click here (growingleaders.com) to learn more about it.
Do you remember which two teams played in last year’s MLB World Series game? Do you know how many Kansas City Royals players were playing in this year’s MLB All-Star game. The Kansas Royals lost to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the World Series last year. This year, the Royals sent an amazing eight players to the MLB All-Star game. The Royals weren’t even relevant three to four seasons ago.
About three to four seasons ago, Habitudes was introduced and adopted by the Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Are you willing to argue that these three organizations currently are MLB World Series contenders?
Habitudes is the “Silver Bullet” that can and will kill multiple negative deterrents with one shot. Great coaches are looking for it. If they aren’t, they aren’t great coaches. I will become a certified Habitudes trainer this fall.
Great coaches want hitters that have grit. That’s one of many habitual tendencies and ways of behaving that great coaches want that’s difficult to teach and can be developed using the Habitudes curriculum. I gave you six core values above that make up work ethic and grit is the strength of that work ethic. Grit for core values is like the engine of stealth fighter jet.
Additional Habitual Tendencies
- Discipline – doing what you must do, even if and when you don’t want to do it.
- Courage – facing fearful situations with the expectation of success now, while also recognizing that failure now can allow you to be successful later.
- Patience – understanding and accepting the process of success that includes failing forward, and not backwards over a specific and defined period of time.
The super seven things I’ve listed above that every great coach should be looking for at tryouts isn’t something that you can develop in a week or two. In fact, if you have at least four of the super seven, you accidentally may become an elite hitter on your own, without a great coach.
I won’t be in error saying that the MLB homerun king Hank Aaron, who didn’t have a hitting coach as a teenager, had most, if not all of the super seven things that I’ve listed above before he ever signed a professional contract. And look at him, he is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time).
- Which of the super seven do you currently possess that you would grade as average with a score of 3 on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest score, 3 being an average score and 5 being the highest?
- How would you order the Super Seven, starting with the most important?
- What’s the difference between a good coach and a great coach?
- How do you handle anxiety as a hitter?
- What is your specific short term (one to five years) and specific long term (six to 10 years) goal?
- Do you have to play on an elite travel team to achieve your short- and/or long-term baseball goals? If yes, why? If no, why not?
- If you’re selected on the travel team you’re trying out for, what three things must happen in order for you to feel good about playing on the team? (For example, I must play in at least 85 percent of all games.)
- If you are selected, what three things must not happen in order for you to feel good about playing on the team? (For example, the roster of the team must not change exceeding 25 percent turnover.)
- What are three guarantees that you can make to the coach if you are selected for the team that you are trying out for? (For example, I guarantee that I will hit the ball hard 50 percent of the time of my at bats.)
Remember that good hitters don’t work hard, they work smart.
C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.