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06
23
2018

Questions from Hitting Coaches

I get a lot of messages from players and coaches asking various questions, so I figured I’d answer some of the more frequent ones in the form of a short blog. Thanks for reading! 

-Jason Ochart

I want to start implementing Bat Speed Training/overload and underload training. Where should I start?

-A great place to start is to read these two blogs:

Training Hitters with Overload and Underload Bats

Implementing Driveline Hitting into Team Practice

Both blogs outline some theory and application of weighted bat training.

-If you purchase the Axe Bat Speed System, you get a hitting program written by me. You get a hard copy and a PDF, and I talk about the why and the how of weighted bat training.

 

-If you’re an athlete, you can sign up for Online Training, and you get daily programming so you can do our bat speed program. You’ll also get our strength and position player throwing program.

-A great way to start is to see it in action. You can visit our facility and observe/ask questions on any day we’re open. (Mon-Sat) This is free to all coaches and players and we’d love to have you in.

Should we do overload/underload training in-season?

I think weighted bat training in-season is extremely valuable. Other than gaining bat speed, the weighted bats have training benefits that are extremely useful to an in-season hitter.

-Mechanical patterning: movement deficiencies can be cleaned up by swinging overload bats. Hitters, for a variety of reasons, can make bad swing changes throughout the year. Continued weighted bat training helps make sure you’re moving efficiently.

-Bat Speed Maintenance: Bat speed is one of the biggest contributors to a hitter’s success. Many lose bat speed throughout the season because they abandon all the training they did all off-season, have poor sleep/diet habits(especially on the road), and/or deal with general fatigue associated with being in-season. Using weighted bats, in particular the underload, can keep the hitter from losing bat speed, and even help them gain bat speed throughout the year with a diligent management of workload. Our in-season program has less swings and is more focused on quickness and adjustability than the off-season program, but it still includes a few high intent underload swings/day to keep the body moving fast.

I’m looking to hire a new hitting coach. What would you look for in a candidate?

Communication Skills

Being a coach requires the ability to communicate and connect with athletes. The best coaches I know are extremely effective communicators, and have the ability to express their ideas clearly and concisely. Furthermore, they are able to pick up when the recipient of their communication doesn’t understand something. Typically, the best can say a lot in few words, and the worse say nothing with many. I’d look to hire someone who was particular about what they say and what they don’t say. Sometimes, nothing at all is the right thing to say. Whether the intentions are good or not, far too many coaches drown their athletes in noise, and it waters down everything they say.

An often under-looked aspect of being a good communicator is being a good listener. Bad coaches say their 2 cents, then wait for their hitters to stop talking until they can talk some more. Hitting is very difficult, and it can really mess with the confidence and psychological state of an athlete. Being a hitting coach is part movement coach, part mental skills coach. The hitters need to know that they have a coach who will intently listen to what they have to say. Nothing is worse than talking to someone who blankly stares at you, waiting for you finish talking, while mindless saying “uh-huh,” “yeah,” “or my personal pet peeve,. “I know.” Communication is a 2-way street. If you’re only good at one, then you really aren’t good at all.

I’d look to hire someone who knows how to efficiently express their ideas, and can listen and process incoming communication.

High Care Level

It seems cliche, but the best hitting coaches I know care a lot about the people they work with. Many players feel like their relationship with their coach is a “what can you do for me?” type relationship. This is due to athletic performance dictating how the athlete is treated (or perceived to be treated). A player-coach relationship in which the perception of one another is dependent on in-game performance is a) unhealthy and b) likely to hinder performance as the arousal level increases. You can tell when a team is playing because they are scared of their coach and afraid of losing, or because they are excited to win because they love their coach and their teammates. The latter is less likely to turn into anxiety as the pressure rises.

In my opinion, a toxic trend in baseball coaching is sitting around and complaining/talking crap about your players. I was fortunate enough to work for an incredible leader, Jake Mckinley while coaching at Menlo College, and he had a policy that we were not allowed to make fun of our players. If we had an issue with their performance in the classroom, on the field, or elsewhere, we were to confront the athlete and talk to them about it, like adults. Few things tear a team apart like slander and gossip, and it should never start from the top.

I’d look to hire a coach who cares about people, and is passionate about the development of life skills that will long outlast their playing careers. By no coincidence, the bestskill coaches I know are also exceptional in this regard. Athletes, especially young ones, have keen instincts and they know if you care.

Humility

I’m impressed by what someone knows, and I’m more impressed by what they know they don’t know. I would never hire someone who thinks they have it figured out. When I interviewed Max Gordon, he didn’t have the technical knowledge required when it came to swing mechanics. But when I asked him, he was very honest about what he knew, and about what he didn’t know, and he expressed excitement to learn. It takes confidence to tell someone “I don’t know,” and I’m sure most people would have tried to BS their way through that interview.

The worst coaches I know think they have found the Holy Grail of coaching hitters. You didn’t. The first Olympics were in 776 BC. Its 2,794 years later, and experts in Olympic sports training are still learning how to be better coaches, and athletes are breaking records every year. Baseball has been around for less than 150 years, and the idea that one has it all figured out is laughable and rich.

I’d look to hire someone hungry to learn, and aware of what they don’t know. I’d be sure to find someone confident enough in themselves to be wrong occasionally, and whose desire to be accurate was stronger than their desire to be right.

Awareness/Feel

Social awareness and feel is arguably one of the most important parts of being a leader. Being able to assess the situation and act accordingly is a rare trait, yet one required to be an excellent coach. I know a lot of incredible coaches who have poor technical knowledge of their skill, but are exceptional in this area and their teams always do well. It’s key to being a leader.

Positivity

Hitting is hard, and there will be a lot of failure. I think a hitting coach should be a positive person, generally speaking. There’s nothing worse than having a bad at bat and going back to the Grinch in the dugout. The hitter knows that he shouldn’t have popped up. He doesn’t need a reminder from a coach, or bad body language from his leader. I tweeted my thoughts on an ideal coach dynamic earlier this year.

 

I’m a young coach, and I want to get better. What do you recommend?

I could write a whole blog about this, and most of it would be about things I’ve learned thus far in my short coaching career, often through failure.

-Seek the wisdom and mentor-ship of an older coach

There is nothing quite like experience. When I meet coaches who have been doing it longer than I have, I always ask the same question: “what do you know now that you wish you knew when you were my age?” The answers vary, but they are typically either:

“I didn’t yet know what I didn’t know”

“I cared too much about winning games and not enough about creating winners” or

“I cared so much about where I wanted to go that I forgot to enjoy who I was going with”

-Coach, a lot

The coach-player dynamic is something that took me time to learn. I began coaching college baseball at 22, and what was really helpful for me was that I was also working at a facility, coaching group classes, doing 10-12 private lessons a week and working as a personal trainer. Furthermore, I had a great group of hitters and Menlo and I’d be in the cages working with hitters all morning, 7 days a week.

The point is, I coached for countless hours, day-in and day-out, and there was continuous trial and error. I can assure you I was not very good when I first started, and I certainly still have room to keep getting better. But there are few things in the world that you can become excellent at without time and effort. And the best hitting coaches I know basically live in the cages. You can read all the blogs and listen to all the podcasts in the world, but there is nothing quite like getting your hands dirty and being where the rubber meets the road and getting true hands-on coaching experience.

So, my advice to a young/first year coach is to go coach, and coach as much as possible. Give lessons, teach group classes, find hitters that want to work with you and coach them. You’ll eventually learn and establish your individual coaching style.

-Be Yourself

I had a tough time as a young coach establishing my coaching personality. I am typically introverted and pretty quiet and reserved, but I had this idea that I needed to be a loud hoo-raw type guy because that is how I was coached. It was not genuine, and having to put on a mask every day at the field did not make it fun. Eventually I confronted Jake, my mentor, about it and I’ll never forget what he said, “just be yourself. I hired you, not who you think you should be, and you’re good at being you. Just be that guy.” So my advice to a young coach is to be real and genuine, and don’t worry about trying to fit the typical coaching mold. Your players will probably like you more and so will you.

Those are my answers to some of the most common questions I get. Some were technical/training questions and other more philosophical or theoretical, if you will. None the less, I certainly don’t have all the answers but I figured I’d share my thoughts anyway. As always, I really appreciate you reading.

-Jason

Comment
2
Mike O’Sullivan

Thanks for the comment about being yourself as a coach! I’m 24, coaching an 18yo team. Been on a couple college staffs these past 2 years. First time as a head coach. Started off 1-7. Tough! Been a down weekend for me and feeling exposed as a coach and lacking confidence. Needed the reminder to just be myself and give all I have for these guys.

Thanks bro. Great stuff right here.

Mike O.

Jason Ochart

Thanks for reading and for the comment, Mike. Good luck to you guys this year and to you for your career as a head coach!

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