By Jack Mankin
I think all coaches would agree that "setting goals" is an important tool in the development of good athletes. The goals should challenge the athlete to be the best he can be. The setting of a goal that does not place the athlete far ahead of his past achievements is an insult to his courage. My dad used to say, "Son, it is far better to shoot for the moon and reach only the peak of a mountain; than to aim for the foothills an attain it."
When setting goals for hitting the baseball, a strange inconsistency arises. By far, the number one prize of batting is that gratifying sensation a player experiences in hitting a long home run. The soothing vibes of power the bat resonates through the hitter's body is something a player will never forget. However, many batting coaches have discovered that the mechanics they are teaching will breakdown if the hitter attempts to swing with home run power. The player must be made to understand that home runs should not be sought after. They are something that just happens when the hitter least expects it.
The coach must convince the players that to be successful they must "hit the ball on the ground back up the middle." His most worrisome time is right after a player hits a home run. How can he make sure that he and other players do not strive for another one? He has spent weeks convincing the players to forget about the fence and just "hit it up the middle." If the hitter should endeavor for something more than mediocrity it could ruin his mechanics forever.
I can think of no other sport where striving to attain it's most prized goal is declared mechanically taboo. The paradox is so sad but true. With the mechanics coaches have been given to teach, the more power the hitter attempts to achieve the weaker the results. But the real sad part is, we have found it easier to lower the goals than to perfect the mechanics. When the seven-foot high-jump couldn't be attained with the mechanics being used, they didn't advise the athletes to settle for a lower mark or they might ruin their form. Records from the four minute mile to a twenty foot pole-vault would never have been achieved by teaching that adversity should lead to the lowering of expectations.
I feel there is a touch of arrogance in claiming that since a coach can't teach an average player to hit with power, those that have power must have been born with "pop" in their bat. Is it possible the top hitters may not using the mechanics they teach? It may be time to acknowledge that teaching linear mechanics will not allow a hitter to attain the bat speed required to consistently hit the ball hard.
By initiating the bat properly with torque and rotational energy, the average tension free swing of the hitter carries plenty of bat speed to clear the fence in most any direction. His main concern is timing and getting the plane of his swing in line with the ball. If he is a little high on the ball, it will be a sizzling grounder. Hit it square and you have a frozen-rope to the gaps -- a little low and bye, bye.
Jack Mankin coached Little League and Babe Ruth baseball for 15 years before he began to study hitting seriously After years of research, Jack began to reject the old Truism that you have to be a Born Hitter to have "pop" in your bat. There was something in a few players batting mechanics allowed them to swing a bat with much greater speed than other good athletes. He spent the last 30 years finding out what that "something" was. He was determined to give coaches the proven facts to teach the mechanics that generate power and bat-speed (and not simply someone's pet theory regarding it). He can be reached at www.BatSpeed.com.