With my college and pro players gone, high school kids starting practice this week and my younger players gearing up for the home stretch of the off-season, I think about what traits the kids who have success possess. Yes, there are players who are physically more gifted than others, but regardless of the level a player starts at, there are a handful of traits that every one of my players has the ability to possess that can make them into an exponentially better player. Here they are:
1. ABility to understand Key Concepts and interest in learning
The biggest thing that I try to do with my hitters is educate them. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of swings that each and every one of my players takes will not be with me watching them. The ability to understand and grasp the concepts that we are working on and the desire to learn, are paramount to success.
I love when players are constantly asking questions. I would say that most of the hitters who succeed here at Elite Diamond Performance are the ones who ask the most questions. I wrote an article about a year ago speaking to the most important word my hitters can use is “why.”
The baseball world is still filled with a ton of misinformation and fallacies when it comes to hitting. Just about every week I have at least one player come in and say “my coach tell me that what you are teaching me is wrong.” The players who don’t grasp the key concepts will jump ship and immediately throw everything we have worked on out the window. The players who truly understand what is being taught here and the ones who have a true grasp on the key concepts of successful hitting are the ones who are able to drown out that noise.
2. Ability to fail
If there is one constant over the last 150 years in baseball it is that hitters fail. Not only do they fail the vast majority of the time, they fail at a rate unseen in just about any other sport. I get a kick out of emails from players and parents asking me why they or their child had a bad round of batting practice or an O-for game. I wish that every hitter would go out and hit .500 with a HR every game. However, that is not the reality. Successful hitters have the ability to understand that they are going to fail and not get down on themselves.
This goes back to Trait # 1. Those hitters who have a true grasp on what we are working on usually have the understanding that change doesn’t happen overnight. When we understand why we are trying to do certain things, we understand that struggling will be part of trying to figure it out.
Change take time. It is why working with a new player right before the season or in the middle of a season in extremely challenging. I often think about one of my pro hitters and how the first 10 sessions that we did together were exclusively tee and front toss work. This is a professional player who needed 10 sessions to learn certain concepts and movements before I ever threw a ball overhand. However, he was patient and understood why we needed to do that. The successful hitters I have worked with understand that mechanical changes take a lot of time. Even if a swing may not produce the best outcome, these patient hitters are able to trust that the results will come.
I often talk about muscle memory, which is, in a nutshell, the body’s ability to reproduce a movement without conscious thought. It is incredible how many reps it can take to rewire the bodies muscle memory.
Lastly, I have seen an interesting trend in many hitters when it comes to the data collected using the Hit Trax. Many hitters will see an initial spike in their numbers. This often comes from big changes such as moving the bat up through the zone instead of down, or using the lower body more effectively. However, after this initial spike many hitters will fall off slightly. I believe this is due to the body trying to rework much of the incorrect muscle memory that has been ingrained over the years. This stage can last from 1-2 sessions to a handful. However, many hitters will put everything together after this stage and the new muscle memory takes hold. It is getting through that rough patch in the middle that successful hitters are able to do.
4. Work Ethic
There are a lot of hitters who come through the door at Elite Diamond Performance. Aside from my pro and college players (who are home for such a short time that they are in just about everyday), the most frequently I see most of my hitters is twice a week. I tell every player that coming in 1-2 times a week on its own will not get most hitters to where they desire to be. The players who succeed the most, are the ones who take the information being taught in their session and work on it on their own. One of my favorite quotes is “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” I am a true believer in that. I have yet to see a player who makes it to the higher levels of this sport who does not put in the work.