R.I.P. Weighted Bat

Well, the weighted bat thing goes way back. Way back to the ankle weights and wrist weights days. The shorty shorts, the knee-high white tube socks and wide terry cloth head and wristbands days of old. Just as these signs of poor fashion judgment have gone by the wayside, it’s time for the weighted bat as a way of supercharging your bat speed to go away also.

To be more specific, it’s the weighted bat swing training in the cage or in batting practice that needs to go away and not necessarily the heavy bats themselves. A baseball or softball swing is not an equivalent movement to say a squat or a deadlift. The baseball swing is a much more complicated movement, an intricate sequential firing of small and large muscle groups from the trunk to the torso that generates force across a linear and rotational plane. This force culminates at the point where the barrel of the bat makes contact with the baseball and, if all goes right, the ball flies off the bat.

Swinging a heavy bat in bp or in the cage only throws off the balance of muscle coordination a hitter works so hard to develop. Somewhat of a surprise is training with a lighter bat also does significantly increase bat speed. This is a surprise since research supports this methodology in speed training and other similar specific sports skill development. Swinging a bat is a just too much of an intricate physical process.

It takes thousands of correct reps and drills to develop a nice swing. Timing and speed are much more important factors to develop in your swing rather than pure strength. Strength training for a baseball athlete starts with the lower body where explosive strength and flexibility are the keys and moves to the core muscles of the torso. A strong core is essential for any athlete because it acts as a chain to transfer the force generated in the lower body to the upper body. Without a strong core, the energy generated in the load and step portion of the swing is left in the lower body and doesn’t transfer to the bat.

(On a side note, a throwing athlete like a quarterback, a pitcher, or any other baseball position player, should avoid straight military presses or any shoulder weight training which promotes an unbalanced muscle support of the joint. The shoulder joint necessary for overhead throwing motion is susceptible to injury if there is not a balanced training of the muscles surrounding this complex anatomical joint. This subject is a pet peeve of mine in the high school weight rooms where the specific needs of the throwing athlete are often ignored. But THAT is another rant for another day.)

All that negative stuff said, I still like the weighted bat in the on-deck circle for a couple of reasons.

  1. Use the weighted bat or “donut” ring it to get loose with a routine of several windmills front and back using both left and right hands, followed by a side to side rotational stretch.
  2. Mental edge. In the research that showed the use of weighted bats to gain bat speed was false, it was also shown the batter perceived his swing was faster. After swinging a heavy bat, the hitter “felt” his swing was faster. Handling a weighted bat in the on-deck circle can trick your brain into thinking your actual bat is as light as a feather and your swing is lightning fast. I don’t know about you, but give me a shot of confidence in the on-deck circle any day.

Hopefully, as with the Bug Squish, we can put the myth of using the weighted or heavy bat to develop bat speed out to pasture. But unlike the Bug Squish, I think there is value to using a weighted bat or a “donut” weight in the on-deck circle.

And to repeat…

One of the best pieces of coaching advice I can offer is this: Do not simply teach sports skills or coach simply because that is the way you were coached. Times change. Do the work. Research and field testing are constantly making improvements to the what we understand about sports science. Technology gives us access to this information like never before.  Ask questions, search the web, watch coaching video, or attend clinics. Do whatever it takes to give your kids the tools they need to succeed. When the players find success, they enjoy the sport. When they enjoy the sport, you can get more out of them.

Everybody wins!

Next R.I.P topic? Swing repetitions! How many swings at a time is effective? How many is too many? The answers may surprise you.

By Ernest Lawrence Thayer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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GM For A Day: Free Agent Edition

Here’s my rapid free agency analysis of what I’d do as the Kansas City Royals GM For A Day. They missed a great opportunity to trade these players for some future value because they wanted to squeeze a few more marketing dollars from the fan base. Not trading at least the Big Three (Hosmer, Cain, Moustakas) throws the rebuild from a potential 4-5 cycle to probably a 7-10 years cycle. It won’t be another 25-30 year cycle, I promise…

The Royals under Dayton Moore built the modern model of competing in the post-steroid (???) age. Draft well. Trade smart. Put together a core group. Let them lose 90-100 game and slowly get better over next two seasons. Make a run at a championship by bringing in free agent pieces to the big puzzle picture. Don’t get attached, use veterans to get draft picks, retool, and repeat.

The Royals management played the plan to a “T” until it came time to let guys walk out the door. The Gordon signing sent the plan reeling. An organization that should have had at least two World Series championships and four playoffs appearances fell short without even showing their face in the playoffs the past two seasons.

Free agency 2017-2018 needs to be focused on getting back to the plan. Cycle back to first base and start again.

What would old Coach Hays do?

(Royals Free Agent List as obtained from MLB.com)

Eric Hosmer

  • Let him walk and go cry in the closet for a week. I love the way the kid plays, but he’d bankrupt the organization. Signing him at even 75% of his market value will handcuff the organization for years. They could have possibly pulled this off if they’d shown some discipline and let Alex Gordon walk.

Alcides Escobar 

  • Keep. Escobar can be signed for a reasonable amount. He is a proven defender. His offense fits into a 7-9 in the order batter. He’s a known swimming in a swamp of unknowns. Also will allow the club to try and sell the potential of Raul Mondesi for a couple young arms.

Mike Moustakas 

  • Sayonara, Moose! What does Moose’s production mean in terms of “W”s? Not much. Let me put it in simpler terms. He had a club record 38 homers in 2017 and didn’t even crack 90 RBI’s (85). Solo HRs don’t win baseball games.

Lorenzo Cain

  • Walk. He is 31. At this age, he is already physically breaking down. Money spent on Cain might be money spent remodeling the training room.

Jason Vargas 

  • Walk. He doesn’t have the arm stamina anymore and may not get it back. He should have been dealt at the deadline before his arm withered and he floundered the second half.

Melky Cabrera 

  • Walk. He was in the way of younger outfielders. Bringing him in for the second half of 2017 hindered development of Bonifacio, Orlando, and Soler. The future was now for these young guys. Melky was a waste of time.

Peter Moylan 

  • Keep. He showed promise in the bullpen. Ned just wore him to shreds by mid-August.

Trevor Cahill 

  • Keep him & hope to hell he finds himself. (That’s the subject of my next Royals GM for a Day post…Hope to Hell These Guys Find Themselves.)

Mike Minor

  • Keep. At his price point, it would be a waste to not find out what he can do for the next 2-3 years.

So there’s my Royals GM for a Day, Free Agent Edition. What would you do? Please leave your ideas in the comments section. I’d like to read your ideas! And stay tuned for the next Royals GM for a Day, where we’ll look at the returning roster and dream.

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R.I.P. Bug Squish

Squishing the bug.

Man, we used to teach this back in the day. Why? Lord knows!

Let’s squash the bug squish, once and for all. In 2017 terms and technology, it’s embarrassing to admit I fell under the spell of the bug squish back in the early 2000’s. The Load/Step/Swing philosophy of hitting I teach today used to be Load/Squish/Swing of yesterday. It’s crazy the way these things spread.

I don’t know how it happened, but the bug squish got out there in the world and people kept passing it along as the secret to good hitting. Looking back through the lens of speculation, it was probably a remnant of early video analysis or maybe just observation.

When you watch a good swing in real time, it looks like the back foot “squishes the bug”. It can be misinterpreted as this back foot, combined with the old school maxim of “pushing” off the back foot, made the outward twist of the batter’s heel look like the initiator of a good swing. It doesn’t though. The back foot twists after the swing starts and the movement of the force from the front foot strike to the hip rotation result in the back foot movement.

  • The Bug Squish screws up a proper and smooth weight transfer from the load to the step. It leaves too much weight on the back foot and results in a loss of force. And lost force = lost bat speed = not driving the ball on a line = not getting on base = making a lot of outs = not getting on base = not scoring runs = not winning games = NO FUN.
  • The Bug Squish screws up your balance. A good swing is built on the foundation of balance. Bad balance and you cannot build an effective or consistent swing.
  • The Bug Squish screws with a hitter’s mind. The hitter becomes so focused on what that back foot is doing, they don’t put all their focus on the ball.

No matter what the stance or the style, the best swings in the game all share the common factor of a good and consistent hitting position. Hitting position is the key. A simple lower body movement to get to hitting position only becomes a complex movement with the introduction of gimmick BS like the bug squish.

It’s 2017. It’s time to bury the bug squish for good. It’s time to look past these old sports coaching myths. It’s time to simplify hitting a baseball.

One of the best pieces of coaching advice I can offer is this: Do not simply teach sports skills or coach simply because that is the way you were coached. Times change. Do the work. Research and field testing and forward-thinking coaches are constantly making improvements to the what we understand about sports science. Technology gives us access to this information like never before.  

Ask questions, search the web, watch coaching video, or attend clinics. Do whatever it takes to give your kids the tools they need to succeed.

When the players find success, they enjoy the sport. When they enjoy the sport, you can get more out of them.

Everybody wins! Right, Crime Dog?

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Halloween 2017 Read: I Am Stretched On Your Grave

“I Am Stretched On Your Grave” is an English translation of an anonymous 17th Century Irish poem called, “Táim sínte ar do thuama” This version of the translation is by Irish author Frank O’Connor. The music version was published in 1979 by Irish musician Phillip King and recorded by his band, Scullion.

This poem drips in sadness and grief. It paints an eerie picture as good as any classic gothic horror classic. It is the perfect poem for a windy, cold, and cloudy Halloween day in Kansas. Many Irish bands besides Scullion have recorded versions of this song. My favorite is the Sinead O’Connor version from her 1990 album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

Happy Halloween! Be safe and try to keep warm. And seriously, doesn’t “Táim sínte ar do thuama” just sound frighteningly awesome?

I Am Stretched On Your Grave

I am stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

When my family thinks
That I’m safe in my bed
From night until morning
I am stretched at your head

Calling out to the air
With tears hot and wild
My grief for the girl
That I loved as a child

Do you remember
The night we were lost
In the shade of the blackthorn
And the chill of the frost

Thanks be to Jesus
We did what was right
And your maiden head still
Is your pillar of light

The priests and the friars
Approach me in dread
Because I still love you
My love and you’re dead

I still would be your shelter
Through rain and through storm
And with you in your cold grave
I cannot sleep warm

So I’m stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

Written by F. O’Connor, P. King • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

 

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Post #400! The Alien Dog Attack Saga

Unbelievable! This is the 400th post on The Coach Hays Blog. Who knew so much stupidity could reside in one place? Certainly not me when I start this little shindig back in 2010. One of the first bits of stupidity was this serialized story called Alien Dog Attack. It all started with a picture and kept going driven by a single goal…to make my mother laugh. It worked.

For the 400th post, here’s Alien Dog Attack and links to the Parts 2-9. I just realized today I did not finish the story. There is no Part 10. I’ll work on it.

I’m also sharing this story in the celebration of the dog who inspired the story, our chocolate lab, Sophie. She passed away at a few weeks ago. She sat right next to me for the writing of most of these 400 posts. She gave the best writing advice, was a great sounding board, and she’ll be missed as old Coach Hays pushes forward to the next 400 posts.  As will the real Big Bad Bud, who was the baddest ass cat I’ve ever been around.

Alien Dog Attack #1

It’s here! Run and hide! The Hays house was invaded this afternoon. The mom was able to click a quick photo of the invader before we were forced to take deeper cover. We are currently fighting off the alien attacker from the dining room. We have lost the living room and the office already in the fight. Trying to battle the laser beam ocular weapon of the canine from outer space has proven most difficult. We just don’t have the weapons to hold out much longer…

 

Alien Dog Attack #2

Alien Dog Attack #3

Alien Dog Attack #4

Alien Dog Attack #5

Alien Dog Attack #6

Alien Dog Attack #7

Alien Dog Attack #8

Alien Dog Attack #9

 

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Repetition

You want to be good at something?

Okay, okay. I know. That answer is easy. Everybody wants to be good at something.

But what does it take to get good at something?

You have to do whatever that something is over and over and over and over and over and over. Get the picture?

If you want to be good at something, you have to practice that something well. You have to repeat it.

Repetition is the key. Repetition with purpose.

If I want to be a good hitter, I need to repeat my swing over and over again. I need to repeat my over and over again while attempting to get a little closer to a perfect swing with each subsequent repeat.

If I want to be a good writer, I have to write. Over and over and over again. I need to work at crafting the words better with each idea and each sentence. Repetition.

Very few, if any, kids walk into first grade, kick up their feet, and tell the teacher they’re ready to read War and Peace. The first graders have to learn the sounds the letters make, learn the combinations and then the meanings. Thousands of repetitions are required before your average first grader is going to where the wild things are or even seeing Spot run. Thousands of repetitions, hundreds of mistakes and failures. Being good at something is all about the Fail Cycle.

  1. Try
  2. Fail
  3. Regroup
  4. Learn
  5. Try again
  6. Succeed
  7. Level up
  8. Back to #1

Practice with a purpose. Repeat with the purpose in mind. Get better.

  • Hit the ball harder.
  • Write better stories.
  • Teach kids to read.
  • Construct a house.
  • Repair a car.
  • Operate a farm and/or a ranch.
  • Design a bridge.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Anything worth doing is worth doing the best you can.

Over and over and over and over and over again…

Why all this nonsense on repetition with purpose?

Because I think we are in a place where we want the “Easy Button”. If it ain’t easy, I ain’t doing it. Failure means “quit trying”. Failure means packing up the tent and crawling home. We want to be good, we want to pound our chest about how awesome we want to be, but we forget the “anything worth doing” bit.

We forget the satisfaction is in the journey and the trials and the tribulations. We forget that if we do the work and do the practice and do the repetition, good things usually happen. The “Oh yeah, that thing is really hard, but I just kicked its ass” feeling is a feeling like no other.

Speaking of repetition. This is post #399 on The Coach Hays Blog. Who would have ever guessed when I started this thing back in 2009 as an energy outlet after my football coaching career went belly up it would still be in existence?

I guess the better question is, how can one guy be so damn stupid?

Thanks for hanging around and putting up with my rants and raves and idiocy.

Who knows what the next 100 posts will bring?

More repetition on the theme of STUPIDITY without a doubt!

 

 

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Two-Way Street

The coaching life is funny. It’s a two-way street. A coach has much to offer the players and, if the coach pays attention and nurtures relationships, so much more to gain from the players.

I know the bottom line is wins and losses but that’s really a rather narrow definition. There is much more to it than just that. Granted, if you do the deeper aspects of the profession well, that is, the planning, the implementation, the performance, you usually end up with more tally marks in the W column than in the L column.

There is a simple beauty to the coaching life that often gets neglected by the parent and fan base and increasingly seen neglected in the coaching profession itself. The simple beauty of a two-way street. A simple thing that gets overlooked in the emotion of competition.

Coaching is teaching.

Every good coach I know is a good teacher. All the information and details and strategies and plans are nothing without the ability to successfully pass the information to the players.

Coaching is relationships.

Relationships are the foundation of the two-way streets. If a coach expects the players to follow, the kids need to know the coach has their best interest in mind and they’re not just pawns in the coach’s game. There is also an added bonus to developing open and honest relationships with kids—it gives back a lifetime of joy.

Coaching is passing down knowledge.

Just because I know something does not mean the kids know it too. I may be the Einstein of high school football but that knowledge is nothing if it stays locked inside my head.

Coaching is passing down a love of a game.

Why coach if you are not passionate about the game? Why accept this huge responsibility without having the drive to do the work to make kids better people and players at little or no extrinsic value?

Coaching is bringing together individuals to make one team.

One of the absolute joys of coaching is taking individuals from different backgrounds, with different personalities, and displaying different skill levels and provide the environment in which they can unite under one common goal. That’s when the magic happens.

Coaching is a verb, not just a noun.

A lot of people have the title of coach. A lot of people wear this title proudly. Sometimes with too much pride. Coaching is action, not a title. Do the work.

Coaching, like life, is about give and take. Take the time to give to each player who walks through the door.

Build a solid two-way coaching street.

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