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#AnythingButSoft: Q&A: NPF Slugger Lauren Chamberlain Talks Hitting

Lauren Chamberlain is a beast at the plate, and she has the record to prove it. The former Oklahoma Sooners standout set the NCAA career home run record with 95 in 2015, and has since taken her game to National Pro Fastpitch with the USSSA Pride. Chamberlain, the first overall pick in last years draft, sat down with The Season prior to this year’s NPF draft in Nashville, Tennessee, and shared some advice for young hitters.

Let’s talk about your path to setting a new record. What was hitting like for you when you were younger?

It’s funny. When I was a kid, my parents used to have to pay me to swing the bat. When I first started out, I was terrified and then they would say they would give me however much money if I would just swing the bat, and that’s how I started swinging. I didn’t really know if I was going to be a home run hitter because I was more gap-to-gap growing up. It wasn’t until high school when it started to take off and I hit a few home runs. Then when you throw the weights in, in college, it takes over.

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I think when I was on a good travel ball team, the Firecrackers with Tony Rico, it was easy to get the mindset down. To move from that to mechanics and getting a different swing when I was in college helped out with certain pitches. I had a long swing, and it was hard to catch up to the pitching. I gained so much information and valuable knowledge from different mentors that really helped me out.

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What kind of drills did you do to help you out with your swing?

There was a drill where I would go up against the wall and I couldn’t hit the wall. If I hit the wall then I was long, but if I pulled everything down and kept it compact that was a shorter swing. (Note: You can also use this drill with a fence.)

Another one was getting my foot off the ground to have that positive energy moving forward off of the tee.

Powerhandz is another tool I use. They are training gloves that are weighted throughout the hand. It helps increase bat speed, hand speed and strengthens muscles in the arms. I’ve been using it in the off-season, and it’s working great.

There’s no one set way for me to tell people how to hit because I try to use as many drills as I can in a short amount of time. I just do what feels good to me.

What about timing drills?

With timing drills, a lot of it just comes off of seeing live (pitching) as long as you can. Seeing as much as you can live helps with your timing.

What do you look for when you give lessons?

I think the biggest thing I look for is strength. I feel like everybody, college coaches, they just want athletes. When I am giving lessons, I am looking at their bodies, and it’s also to see if they’re aware if they are using their body or not. So many girls come and have so much power in their legs, but they’re barely using their lower half and it’s like what are you doing dude, come on!

When girls aren’t using their lower half, what are you having them to do?

There’s a drill called the separator drill. You turn your lower body first, fully, with your hands back, and then swing so when you put it all together you are totally aware of your lower half moving.

How did you develop your mental game?

Honestly, by looking at different athletes like Derek Jeter or Kobe Bryant. They were so dominant for so long. How are they doing that? Mentality. They’re absolutely blessed with physical talent no doubt, but there are plenty of people who were bigger, faster, and stronger than them. They just handled it different because of the killer instinct mindset. So that’s what I tried to develop, a take no prisoners mentality, like I feel bad for you that you’re on my field today.

What kind of advice do you have for the younger girls who hope to break your record?

My advice would be to develop your mental game before you try to go anywhere with your physical attributes. I’ve seen the greatest swings and the greatest mechanics, but they won’t perform in pressure situations. I really do think if you stress the importance of your mind and how to control you emotions — especially in the game of softball because it’s a game of failure — if you master that, then you can move on to other things.

From GameChanger and Maren Angus. 

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