By Dan Gazaway
If you are a looking to become a good baseball player, there is no secret that it will take some hard work at some point. And while hitting drills are immensely valuable, there has always been some discussion about how many swings one needs to take daily or how much time one needs to spend to become good. I remember growing up having my coach tell me that I needed 200 swings a day if I wanted to make it anywhere as a ball player. This thinking is flawed. Hitting drills are important ONLY if the hitter has the capacity to focus on the drills at hand. Let me explain.
Baseball is a game of focus. Every motion you make as a baseball player gets stored in your mental memory bank that your body uses to form habits and movements. If you mess around playing catch before a game, your muscles wont react consistently during the game. If you dink around during hitting drills and swing your bat wildly at the ball on the tee, or forget to pay attention to your form, your muscles will be programmed to swing out of control or inconsistently in a game. Therefore, if you want consistent performances, you have to have consistent movements in practice.
Having worked with all ages of youth baseball I have seen 10 year olds focus better than 15 year olds and everything in between. Some players naturally mature at different rates and at different ages. You must take this into account as a coach when you are working with your athletes on hitting drills, especially those that are stationary and without a lot of action. Pay close attention to your hitters and how much focus they are applying to the drill itself. Once you begin to see a focus breakdown, interrupt the drill, help refocus the athlete and let him start again. Simple breaks in the routine will help many athletes become more productive during hitting drills and will ultimately help their muscle memory become more consistent.