<img src="//bat.bing.com/action/0?ti=5037995&amp;Ver=2" height="0" width="0" style="display:none; visibility: hidden;">

Breaking Bad Habits at the Plate

OKLAHOMA CITY – It was an easy question for Steve Schwarz to answer. The longtime Westmoore High School coach has had to develop many players during his tenure, and freely admits that “deprogramming” kids of some really bad techniques is the toughest part for him.
“Breaking bad habits is the toughest thing for a coach to do,” Schwarz said. “Especially when they have been taught something their whole life. You keep showing them a thousand times, but the best way for them to do it is repetition, repetition, repetition. If you can’t get them to cut it out and keep repeating it the right way, they’re never going to figure it out.”

While Schwarz has seen it all, there is one particular bad habit that just grates on his nerves and is also the toughest to make disappear.

“The old school habit of putting their elbow up in the air while batting,” Schwarz said. “Because it’s got to come down. That’s 1930s stuff that we still see all the time. Dads teach them stuff they were taught as kids. That would be my most annoying one by far.”

According to Schwarz, it’s a technique that has been handed down from parents to their kids for decades. Before the rise of batting coaches who actually studied the game, coaches and parents would just mimic what they saw when they watched pro baseball players.

Add Your Team on GameChanger

“People that didn’t receive advance coaching and stuff, or just played when they were little,” Schwarz said, “that’s usually one of the skills that are taught.”

As coaches became more knowledgeable about softball, they realized that batting really is a sweet science. And that if that elbow is high in the air, it’s just a waste of motion to then have to bring it down before taking a swing.

“We have a freshman right now. She can hit it over the fence farther then you can ever see,” Schwarz said. “But the other nine out of 10 at-bats, she’s not making contact. She is not making contact, because she can’t keep her body in form. So we have to work on that timing and get everything working together.”

This is a predicament Schwarz says he has to deal with every season. Whether it’s from incoming freshman that have never had high level coaching, or from older girls who play on summer travel teams and come back having forgotten how to hit, it’s always an issue.

For Schwarz and most coaches, there is only one way to reprogram the players to regain the right form and keep their elbow down.

“To break them of it, you just make them bring it down and then you just make them practice their swing in the cage over and over,” Schwarz said. “Everything they do they have to swing right. Soft toss, tee work, off the machine, and live or you will keep making bad mistakes.”

It may take weeks, months or even entire seasons, but when the player finally gets it, their world can change.

“It’s just that they have done it their whole life,” Schwarz said. “If you’ve done something 20,000 times in your life or more, it can be hard to break it. You can tell them 100 times to keep their elbow down, but their body just won’t do it. The young kids are stubborn. They don’t know. You just have to keep telling them. Then once they see, “Hey, I can actually hit the ball hard every time if I do like coach Schwarz said,’ they says it’s awesome.

“They finally get it,” Schwarz continued. “They finally get their head, hands, and feet all working together, and start killing the ball.” 

From GameChanger and Michael Kinney.

Softball, Softball Player Development