Improves bat speed by timing the amount of correct swings that can be made in 60 seconds.
One of my favorite drills to improve bat speed is the 60-second drill which was taught to me through my uncle. What you do is, get someone to time the player for 60 seconds and make them swing as many times correctly as possible. While you are timing the player make sure each swing is done correctly.
Use barriers to test for a correct swing.
Front Barrier Drill:
Have the batter stand one bat length from a barrier (I prefer a net to prevent damage to the bat, but you can use a fence). Have her take her normal swing. If she hits the barrier, she is unlocking her elbows before her shoulders and getting wide on the swing.
Rear Barrier Drill:
Place a barrier directly behind the batter and have her take her normal swing. If the bat hits the barrier, she is dropping her hands. You can use this barrier even when you are using a pitching machine or live pitching for instant feedback to the batter that she is dropping her hands.
Players hit basketballs to improve follow-through on their swing.
This is a great drill for teaching follow-through. Get a couple of old basketballs and take most of the air out of them. Place them on one of those orange cones you see at construction sites. Have the batter take her normal swing and follow-through right through the basketball. HAVE THEM WEAR HELMETS!!! Use regular sized bats for this drill.
Encourages the batter to be on the balls of the her feet and to maintain a balanced swing.
Here's a drill you may find useful. Construct a batting beam with pieces of 2" x 4"s. The main piece should be about 4' long. Two cross pieces about 18" should be nailed about 16" from each end of main piece. Have player stand on this during soft toss. The player should remain on beam throughout swing.
The beam encourages the batter to be on the balls of her feet and to maintain a balanced swing. It also helps the batter to take her timing step straight to the pitcher. The players don't like this beam at first, but it does help.
This drill is the best I have found yet to increase bat speed and decrease the time it takes to get the bat into the contact zone. Once your players get adept at hitting regulation-sized softballs, try using tennis balls or even black eyed peas and smaller diameter bats. We use this drill in warm ups before every game and have had some great results.
The drill consists of a dropper (coach or player) and a hitter. The hitter takes her normal batting stance facing a net or fence about 6-8 feet away from the net. The dropper (coach or player) stands about 1 1/2 steps to the plateside of the hitter and 1 1/2 steps in front of the hitter (toward the pitcher) so the ball will drop directly into the contact zone, which is slightly out in front of the hitter.
The dropper drops the ball into the contact zone and the hitter must see the ball (she watches the dropper drop the ball) and hit it before it hits the ground with a level swing and proper stride, pivot and hands to the ball mechanics. If the hitter gets wide too early, she will never hit the ball except on an upward swing which must be corrected immediately.
I like to start the dropping height as high as the dropper can reach and then as the hitters become more adept at hitting the ball, slowly drop the ball from lower heights until you are dropping the ball from the players' shoulder height. If you have very small players, you may want to have them stand on a milk crate to drop the ball. Try this drill with your coaches before you do it in practice to get the droppers position correct.
The players always think they are going to get hit by the bat, but I have been doing this drill for a long time and have never had anyone hit by the bat. Try this drill and I am sure it will help your hitting out greatly.
In order to be a great hitter, it is always important to focus on fundamentals. Regardless of age or skill level, a hitter must learn to keep their eyes on the ball. The Hawk Eye drill can help in training a player's eyes to follow the ball from the pitcher's hand to the contact point where the ball meets the bat.
It will serve to solidify the importance of keeping your eye on the ball at any level of play where pitchers are throwing various pitches.
Invite a number of players (who are not pitchers) out for pitching practice and have them bring their helmets. I tell them they will stand in as a live batter, so that they will be unaware of their task at hand. After the pitchers are warmed up and throwing their pitches for accuracy and movement, have a hitter step into the batter's box without a bat, BUT WITH HER HELMET ON.
Her only responsibility is to watch the rotation of the ball from the pitcher's hand to my glove. The batter then has to tell me what the rotation of the ball was, what kind of pitch it was (based on the rotation), and if it was a ball or a strike. Each batter can read five pitches, and then move back into the line.
If you have multiple pitchers and catchers, more than one batter can practice 'seeing' the ball at the same time, but a coach should be watching each set of players both for safety reasons and to ensure that the hitters are calling the pitches correctly.
Through this drill, this player has strengthened their vision's muscle memory. Reading these pitches will enable her to watch the flight of the pitch, concentrate on the ball and focus on the contact point. It can be a big help in developing the subconscious action of viewing and reacting to a quickly-pitched ball.
Hitting Specific Strengthening Drills
This week's Tip of the Week will focus on some targeted weight training using a weighted bat or your first baseman's bat (she is generally the biggest player on the team, so she should swing the heaviest bat).
- Windshield wipers: Have the hitter take a weighted bat or the heaviest one you have on the team and hold it in both her hands with the barrel pointing straight up toward the sky. Now using only the wrists, have her lower the barrel of the bat to her left to about waist high, then to her right and back to her left, etc. Do about 5-25 of these depending on the age of your players.
- Chopping wood: Take the heavy bat again and have the hitter hold it directly over her head with the barrel pointing up toward the sky. Now, in a chopping motion, have her bring the barrel of the bat first backward until it is pointing down at the ground behind her and the bat has touched her back lightly. Now bring the barrel back up to the start position and continue forward and downward down to lightly touch the ground in front of her (this motion is like chopping wood).
Have her raise the bat slowly to about waist high and have her bring it slowly to the ground again, then back up to the start position. This constitutes one rep. Have the player at this station do 5-20 reps depending on the age of your players.
- Strike zone: This drill again uses a heavy bat. Have the hitter take a normal batting stance and have her swing into the contact zone. As she reaches the far limits of the contact zone, have her use her wrists to wiggle the barrel of the bat back and forth as she counts the wiggles to 5. Then bring the bat back to the normal batting position. This is one rep. Have the hitter do 5-20 reps depending on the age of your players.
- Circles: The final drill again uses the heavy bat. Have the hitter hold the bat out in front of her with the barrel pointing straight away from her body. Her arms should be straight out with maybe just a slight break in her elbows (I mean very slight break). Now the hitter makes small circles with the barrel of the bat by moving her wrists in a kind of circle. First, have the hitters do 5-15 circles clockwise and then the same number of circles counter clockwise.
This will strengthen the wrists and make then quicker. I use these weight-training drills in practice at stations. Most of the time, you may have a couple of players waiting to get into the batting cage or go on live pitching. Since I feel "standing around time" is wasted time, I have these players do these drills instead of talking to their teammates about class yesterday (yes I do know what they are really talking about and it is not softball or class).
With all of these drills, try this out in the backyard or with your assistant coaches BEFORE going the field so you can instruct the players in the proper mechanics of the drill. This drill and many more can be found in our extensive library of drills on eteamz.com.
Teach hitting through the ball with a solid follow through.
Take an empty gallon milk jug or something similar (I used an old punching bag and it worked great) and fill it almost to the top with sand and replace the cap. Hang this jug by a rope through the handle from a branch or any protruding pole that will allow it to hang down and away from the fence or wall (I tied ours to an "On Deck Hitter"). MAKE SURE THE HITTER WEARS HER HELMET!!!!!!!
Have the hitter take a fairly slow swing and when her bat hits the milk jug, it will stop dead. Now the hitter must force her bat through the contact zone, using her wrists and arms, moving the milk jug with sand until the bat slides under the jug. This drill strengthens the muscles needed to drive through the ball and creating a powerful swing and line drives.
With all of these drills, try this out in the backyard or with your assistant coaches BEFORE going the field so that you can instruct the players in the proper mechanics of the drill. This drill and many more can be found in our extensive library of drills on eteamz.com.
Throwing Tips & Drills For Softball!