Launch Angle and why we should NOT teach it to Young Players.

Here comes yet ANOTHER launch angle discussion!!!  AGAIN!!!???!!!  And again.  And again.  And again.  (Is anybody out there sick of hearing about this?)  Probably yes … and probably no.  I’m sure MOST of us are saying … “Yes, I am tired of HEARING about it.  However … no,  I am not (quite) tired of TALKING about it.”

launch angle

Joey Votto discusses “launch angle”

https://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/mlb/reds/2018/02/23/votto-talks-approach-feedback-mlb-network/367181002/

Youth coaches/dads/volunteers; all of you really great people wanting to help your youngsters … please listen to Joey Votto’s take on this.  He’s not only more famous but probably smarter than the rest of us.  After all he’s “living this launch angle stuff” as we speak; right here and now!!!

For me personally I believe that this launch angle stuff is wrong; contrary to everything I know about hitting.   Certainly there are  some players who are having success with it, etc., etc., etc.  BUUUUUUTTTT …

… CAN THE KIDS DO IT?  Can your kids … or the kids you coach do it?  Very relevant question since NONE of us, to the best of my knowledge, is working with big leaguers at the park.

My own experience as an instructor for over twenty plus years and my personal observation of young players tells me EMPHATICALLY “no”.

No creo.  (That’s Spanish for “I don’t think so.”)

There will be and, in fact, ALREADY ARE hitters who can hit BOTH; line drives and home runs!!!

I believe (note the choice of word here: i.e. “believe” meaning that I don’t KNOW for sure but I DO “believe” …) that there will be major league hitters (there are a few already) who are capable of and WILL execute BOTH “line drive” and “launch angle” swings. Like Votto says … Albert Pujols was/is that guy.  Minimum movements with fewer things to execute and perhaps most importantly  fewer things to make “mistakes” with.  Hard contact on the inside half of the ball with back spin.  Line drives AND home runs.  Ooooooh baby!!!

The approach for executing both is a lot like golf.

As Mr. Votto points out this mind set and approach is a LOT like golf; wherein you have a specific club for a specific job and in baseball, for some players; a specific “swing” or  “swing path” for a specific job.

“I liken it to a golfer,” Votto comments. “You’ve got a bag of clubs.  You can hit a low 2 iron.  You can hit the high pitching wedge.  You can do anything you want at any time.”

Pujols comes to mind.  Manny Ramirez.  David Ortiz.  Great hitters.  Perhaps more important in respect to MENTAL hitting skills … they were absolute MENTAL MONSTERS as hitters.

MONSTERS!!!  As “mental practitioners of the art of hitting” …  think Godzilla.  All of them.

However, these players are outliers; freaks even … and not at the 12U level but at the big league level; geniuses at what they do; physically and mentally.

The main point is that as instructors and dads and volunteer coaches who are working with youngsters who are at various stages of physical development; size, speed, and ESPECIALLY coordination and MENTAL SKILLS (like confidence in their ability to execute skills) … our major objective should be to (a – get them STARTED and (b – “keep them PLAYING the game” and DEVELOPING  by teaching them skills that THEY can do … not just information that YOU know.

There’s a difference.  Big time.

And more importantly a CONSEQUENCE.  Big time.

If you are having trouble teaching the game to kids you can call me and see if I can help.  In coaches’ clinics I often draw parallels between baseball and golf.  Everybody acknowledges how difficult golf is; not only to master as a skill but (even harder) mentally as well.  I joke that those are the reasons that golf is played a LOT by middle aged men who are mature enough to realize how difficult it is and can approach it correctly.  NOT KIDS!!!  (They don’t “get it” … yet). In baseball you have young athletes at the earliest stages of their development trying to master the most difficult physical and mental game on the planet.  It is little wonder that many coaches with bringing their knowledge DOWN to the appropriate age and skill level of the players they are working with.

I have not only been teaching baseball (seemingly) forever but have certifications in youth (and senior) fitness as well as my mental toughness training skills.  Give me a shout.  I can offer a program that will keep you (and your players) on track.

CLICK HERE FOR A 20 MINUTE FREE CONSUTATION  (203) 252-0395

I recall teaching in an academy; working in a cage next to an instructor who was still playing and in fact coming off a Triple A minor league season.  He had a nine year old in front of him and was reeling off a list of pitches to look for in counts.

After the youngster left I reminded him that the student was nine.  The first item on the teaching list was to just “hit strikes.”  That would be a great start.

It’s great if YOU know all the statistics and scientific jargon on this and can talk about it with your buddies at the bar and the office but that is an altogether different subject from the question … can your eight year old do it?

Probably not and … here’s the kicker … if he/she can’t do it … instead of your projected dream of sitting in his/her personal box at Yankee Stadium or the Olympics while he/she hits third for the Yankees or the Olympic team and acknowledges and thanks you for your input in his MVP acceptance speech (not to mention the nice fat check he/she sends you by way of continuing to say “thank you” for all you have done for him) you get …

… he/she quits baseball and takes up lacrosse or field hockey.  Now …  nothing against lacrosse or field hockey here (at all) but …

… OUCH!!!

Does launch angle work?  Don’t know.  I guess begrudgingly that it might work.  Does it work all the time.  Uh, let’s see … power numbers are way up but whoops … what’s this? … strikeouts are up too.

Guess the answer is “no”.  It doesn’t work all the time.  Even at the major league level.

Does it work for every hitter?

People forget how INCREDIBLY difficult hitting is and, in general, this “launch angle”stuff is, to some degree, the shiny new toy in the box at the moment and a lot of people are picking it up to the EXCLUSION of all else; especially the fact that most of us are NOT big league hitting coaches but youth coaches and dads and volunteers who work with children; children who may do well in math but aren’t doing college calculus … yet.  Children who can make contact with a baseball but are not necessarily capable of hitting in the big leagues … yet.

Teach to the level of the individual player.  Here’s a tip.  He/she’s NOT a 28 year old multimillionaire who plays and studies and practices the game 12 hours a day.   He/she’s’s a child at a CONSTANTLY CHANGING LEVEL of physical and athletic and mental development.

Asking a youngster to execute a skill that they not only can’t do but may not even understand produces failure and worse … frustration, anger, disappointment, even anxiety when asked to perform.

We’re trying to build two things: (a – simple rudimentary fundamental mechanical and physical skill which can be refined and detailed and (b – confidence; ESPECIALLY in the face of failure.

Perhaps even more important in fact than the difficulty in execution is his/her mental game; the confidence; the ability to adjust to “mistakes” rather than interpreting them as being representative of a player’s personal identity (I am a failure)

Wrong!!! There is no failure … let alone a player as a failure.

I posted both of these already once before but take a listen once again to Chipper Jones and Francisco Lindor.  Sorry about the Chipper Jones interview.  I think you’re going to have to copy and paste.  Great interview on MLB network.  Well worth seeing.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=chipper+jones+interview+mlb+network%2cchipper+jones+interview+mlb+network&view=detail&mid=AA6BE5609301DF48B2A4AA6BE5609301DF48B2A4&FORM=VIRE

Staying inside the ball with Francisco Lindor

Cleveland Indians star Francisco Lindor goes in the cage to show you how he stays inside the ball from both sides of the dish!

Posted by Diamond Demos on Monday, February 26, 2018

https://www.facebook.com/DiamondDemos/videos/155411725177437/

Right now I work with a phenomenally talented and passionate and (most importantly) the most INTELLIGENT player I’ve ever worked with … who is playing in the minor leagues.  While still in college, he adjusted his swing into more of a “line drive” approach in order to correct his problems hitting on the outside third of the plate.  (His college coach wanted home runs)  Now … in his second year of minor league ball (he led his low A ball team in batting average last year) he is probably ready to REACQUIRE his power stroke; when it is applicable in a SPECIFIC SITUATION; i.e. “Here comes a changeup in the middle of the plate”.  He has a chance … if given an opportunity … to be that rare entity; a COMPLETE hitter; “hit” and  … “hit for power.”

He STARTED with “hit for contact.”

Not a bad approach.

Finally VOTTO mentions how sending a message that “every fly ball is a good fly ball” is not true or good … and that the players who are successful at the launch angle (he’s one of them) are SPECIAL.  His quote is “they could do everything” … at EVERY LEVEL.

I played a long time (maybe too long.  I would probably STILL be playing but the league won’t let me use a bicycle or motorcycle to get to first base) and in all that long time I played with only two or three players that were like that; i.e. “special” and I considered them to be freaks; outliers.  My best friend and baseball partner is Dominican.  We played together for years.  He NEVER works at hitting.  NEVER.  He just shows up and goes 3 for 4.  I swear to you that he will stand up out of his wheel chair when he’s 106 years old and get a double or a jack.  He’s that good.  Among professional players some people refer to it as “the hitting gene”.  Ken Griffey Jr. had it, for example.

Don’t compare your son or daughter to that kind of player.  Certainly don’t START them with that advanced skill set in mind.

It’s why there are a LOT of guitar players.  One Jimi Hendrix.  One Andres Segovia.   Lots of singers.  One Mariah Carey with a five octave range.  One Sarah Brightman.

Lots of hitters.  Even at the big league level.  One Joey Votto.  One Josh Donaldson.  One Mike Trout.  One Albert Pujols.

CLICK HERE FOR A 20 MINUTE FREE CONSUTATION  (203) 252-0395

My sincere wish is for you to have a son or daughter who not only is that kind of player but who has the passion to utilize their gift.  Are other players; especially other YOUNGSTERS that good?  No.  Can they still be successful.  Of course.

Teach to the level of your youngsters.  Keep it simple.  Begin at the beginning and (here’s really GREAT launch angle) … take take their individual skills UP and OUT of the park from there.

They are not as smart as you are … yet.

Let them have fun.  Most importantly let them learn how much fun it is to be good at something … how much fun it is to work and get better at something … especially something as HARD as hitting.

It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it.  The “hard” is what makes it great.”                                        Jimmy Dugan; A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, 1992

Launch angle, si?  Absolutamente!!!  Por ninos?  Ninos y Ninas.  Quiza no.

The process works when you work the process.

CALL NOW!

 

 

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