Getting Better: Extended Arms Baseball Swing

I’m not actively coaching a team but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning as a coach. An athlete and a coach should never stop striving to be better. Getting better every day has been a foundation of my sports philosophy from the time I first learned what a philosophy was. In other words, a long time.

One of the positive side effects of a “Get Better Every Day” philosophy is it often bleeds over into other aspects of life. Family, work, hobbies, etc. all fall under this way of approaching life.

If you’re not getting better, what are you getting?

If you’re not moving forward, you are sliding backward.

Even though I’m not actively coaching, I still try to learn as much as I can about the two things in sports I truly love. Hitting a baseball and blocking in football.

I subscribe to more email coaching newsletters that I’m willing to publicly admit. One of those, though, is a newsletter from Baseball Rebellion. I like their website. I like their approach. I like the scientific slant they use to teach baseball. It’s not overly technical. They use it to explain not overwhelm. Honestly, it’s kind of a baseball nerd’s dream.

This week’s newsletter featured their Ball in Back Arm Drill. The video is below.

We taught, and continue to teach, the importance of a short, powerful swing. Arm extension prior to the bat head driving into the contact zone results in loss of swing power. I have a trusted toolbox of drills to teach a tight front arm angle, fence swings, knee tee, front hand swings, bat throw, a consistent focus on pulling the bat through the zone instead of pushing the bat through the zone, etc. What I don’t have are solid developmental drills to help cure another common technical error in young hitters, the straight extension of the back arm.

Signs of swinging with an extended back arm are:

  1. Slow, wide swing arc.
  2. Swinging “over” the ball.
  3. Majority of contact results in weak ground balls to the opposite field.
  4. Rolling over (where the top hand moves over the bottom hand prior to contact).

These symptoms of extended arms on a swing are probably things you see a lot if you’re coaching or parenting the transition from coach/machine pitch to kid pitch. If so, do the work, find solutions, and put your kids through the drills to break this habit before it affects their ability to hit a baseball as they grow and mature. (And remember that one of the top reasons kids quit playing baseball is the game becomes no longer fun because they can’t hit a baseball.)

I’m going to do some work on the Ball in Back Arm Drill. I’ll do some more reading. I’ll get the trusty old George Brett Lousiville Slugger out of the closet, grab a ball, and see how it works. If it looks promising, I’ll work it into some hitting sessions with several of our older kids who struggle with the extended back arm and then to some youth hitters. I’ll report back my findings at some point.

If you try this drill or have tried this drill, share your experience in the comments or send me a message. And please go check our Baseball Rebellion and Baseball Excellence. Two exceptional resources.

Life (and sport) is an experiment. Get out there and discover!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Training

MLB Unofficial Commissioner 2018

I’ve been lax in my role as MLB Unofficial Commissioner so far in the 2018 season. My Royals are a dumpster fire so I’ve spent too much brain power figuring out their problems. Royals 2018 = Historically bad. The Royals and the Baltimore Orioles did something that’s never been done in the entire history of Major League Baseball. It’s the first time two teams have been below .300 at the Fourth of July point of the season. 

But I still listen to almost every game. They’re my team…for better or worse. 

There are a couple of issues which have been causing a lot of fuss over the past two seasons. The time it takes to play an MLB game and the defensive shift.  There’s been so much fuss, I’ve decided it’s time to step into my Unofficial Comish role and suggest a few changes. 

First, I have to rant against the anti-shifting crowd. Hitters have to adjust. Pitchers have to adjust. Managers, GMs, owners, scouts, and umpires have to adjust. It’s part of the game. Always has been, always will be. Hitters and coaches quit whining and start adjusting.  Common sports sense states if the defense is giving you an open third of the field, take advantage of it. Burn their strategy. Do what it takes to succeed. Be a competitor instead of a whiner. 

Okay, I feel better. Now on to my solution to those two current problems. 

  1. Put in a pitch clock similar to the shot clock in basketball. 30 seconds might be a good place to start and adjustments made until a comfortable length of time is determined.
  2. Each defender must start with both feet in their traditional defensive zone. The defenders can then shift when the windup starts. 

There you go. Simple solutions to complex problems. 

On a side note, with the limits on mound visits this year, why do managers still burn a mound visit to make run-of-the-mill pitching changes? Just stand up at the top of the dugout steps, call time, and point to the bullpen. Save the mound visits for strategy and technical visits. 

Enjoy the rest of the 2018 season! It’s shaping up to be a wild run to a World Series title.

Feel free to discuss or propose your own solution(s). My unofficial office door is always open to ideas.

Take care and “PLAY BALL!”

Unofficial MLB Commissioner is signing off.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Rants, Uncategorized

The World Book

One of the questions directed to the 2018 nErDcamp Kansas author panel was to name our favorite book. This is a tough question for me. To some, though, it’s an easy question and many of the authors listed book titles without hesitation. I’ve always been a little envious of the people who express such resolution and love for a book or books, especially when it comes time to name the books from one’s childhood.

href=”https://coachhays.com/2018/07/04/the-world-book/img_1587/” rel=”attachment wp-att-4377″> The nErDcamp KS 2018 Crew[/

I had a tough time learning to read. It was a struggle. I’d look at the page of text and see an overwhelming mishmash of words and letters. I’m sure that now I would have been diagnosed early and prescribed a program for my reading disorder, but those things were rare in early 1970’s education. Especially in a lower middle class Catholic school and even more so for an early elementary school kid who seemed to keep his head above water in class. I was lucky, though. I had parents and a few teachers who noticed my problem and put me on the road to reading. My most vivid, non-recess, non-field trip, non-playday memories of first and second grade are when my teacher or a volunteer aide would pull me aside to another room and work with me on the Controlled Reader projector.

In the dark, quiet classroom, I learned to focus on the left word of a sentence and move slowly to the right. I practiced and practice from one filmstrip to the next on moving my eyes from right to left. I practiced this without moving my head. Things got better!

Reading was possible.

(There’s a really cool Wired story by writer Lisa Wood Shapiro on how she works to overcome her dyslexia and how technology is helping people become readers.) 

We didn’t have a boatload of books around the house when I was growing up but we had some. I learned to be a better reader through the assistance of my teachers and parent but I still struggled through the middle grades to actually BE a reader. I loved the JUNGLE BOOK. The Disney movie captivated me from a very early age. We had a series of illustrated classics with about twenty pages of text per illustration. TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS, TREASURE ISLAND, a few other titles I can’t remember, and the JUNGLE BOOK.

I loved that book.

But I never read that book.

I picked the book off the shelf a thousand times. I looked at the pictures a thousand times. Each time I tried to read that book but I reverted back to seeing each page as an intimidating blob of letters and words. Frustration would set in and I’d snap the book shut and return it to the shelf.

I know I should have said something to my parents or teachers. I should have sought out help. But I was a big, shy kid and didn’t want to trouble anyone with this embarrassing problem.

Then something wonderful happened. A salesman came around the house and convinced my parents to buy a set of the World Book encyclopedia. My parents made a difficult decision to spend money we really didn’t have on this set of books. They even splurged for the annual yearbook!

I found my reading life in those encyclopedias. School work forced me to open them but the magic of information given in short bursts of text and pictures contained within was pure magic. Something clicked in my reader-brain. I figured it out.

I slowly became a better reader and a smarter kid. The set of World Book encyclopedias led to the Guinness Book of World Records which led to comics which led to the Hardy Boys which led to…my eventually reading the JUNGLE BOOK as an adult. And you know what? It was as fantastic as the story I held in my head all those years.  

So next time I’m asked at an author event what my favorite book was, I have an answer.

The World Book.

Hands down.

After my Dad died in 2015 and my Mom was preparing to move out of their house, she called and asked me what I wanted of their stuff. I know her “stuff” meant furniture, dishes, etc. but I, without hesitation said I would like to have the World Book encyclopedias and yearbooks they used for the past twenty years as a decoration on top of the cabinets in their kitchen.

My Mom laughed and thought I was joking. She still thinks that. She’ll probably never know how important those books were to me and how huge of a role they played in making me who I am today. I probably never really knew how much of a sacrifice it was for my parents to make the investment to buy this set of encyclopedias and the annual yearbook every year. These books are history. Part of our history.

Reading is reading is reading is reading.

Let kids read what works for them.

Reading is indeed a superpower.

1 Comment

Filed under Rants, Reads, Writes

Joy in Mudville?

It was going to be a solid Memorial Day. I really only had one thing on the must-do list. And that was to clean the garage since, you know, it’s May and the weather will fall perfectly in the low 80’s, right?

First thing that happened, my glasses broke so I had to wear my old, scratched lenses pair.

Second thing, I was supposed to have a phone meeting this morning about a writerly project. It was a pretty nice morning so I thought (about 10 minutes before the scheduled start), “Hey, why not move the computer, notebooks, beverages, writing instruments, etc. outside to enjoy the outdoors?

So I scramble around and get set up. I powered up the laptop and logged in. Guess what? The low battery warning started flashing! I didn’t have it plugged into the charger properly. I rush into the house, get the charger, get the extension cord, and solve that issue with a few minutes to spare.

Five minutes into the meeting, a friendly bird deposited its friendly digestive waste material smack onto my laptop screen. Friendly bird is probably a slight misnomer as judging from the size of the poo spread across the screen, that bird may have been a condor. Fortunately, Mrs. Hays just made some handcrafted table coverings for the patio table and this particular one is very similar in color and design to the friendly bird poo.

With the monitor clean and clear, the meeting goes well and we’re cruising right along the road of creative accomplishment. The sun rises over the garage and is shining full intensity on the patio table. It’s hot and needless to say, the corner of the tablecloth dries rapidly. Mid-sentence, my phone beeps, and the line goes dead. My attention is drawn to the high-temperature warning on the phone and the small print advises me to cool the phone down before it will function.

Meeting over…

Third thing, the garage. Okay, for the record, there really isn’t a good weather situation to clean a garage. But instead of the hopeful low 80’s, slight breeze, beautiful May day I had in my dreams, it’s 98. And humid. And there’s barely a breeze blowing except for the one which continually slams the door shut. A miserable job made even more miserable.

Well, the garage is clean. The garage gym is in order and has shed its layer of winter dust and junk being stacked on, in, and around the exercise areas. Since I was already sweaty and dirty and grumpy, I went ahead and did the first FamFit workout of the year. There was also a bonus because I was able to catch a few episodes of our local radio station’s annual playback of their archived Memorial Day interviews with local veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars.

So, all in all, it was a successful Memorial Day 2018. I’ll get my glasses fixed this week. The writerly meeting went well. The garage is clean. My legs are sore as hell. I talked to my mother, had dinner with my family and am now watching my favorite team, the KC Royals. Pretty solid, right?

Oh yeah, the most important thing?

I’m thankful for the sacrifice of our veterans and their families who made my day, including all its trivial ups and the downs, possible.

Leave a comment

Filed under Rants, Reads, Writes

A Beautiful Day of Baseball

May 15, 2018.

Clay Center Community High School hosted a 4A baseball regional in Clay Center for the first time since 2002. That was a long time to wait.

But when I was sitting out there watching the four teams, it was like a slice of baseball heaven.  The crowds were great and supportive. The teams played their hearts out. Watching the three games on the renovated Campbell Field put a smile on this old coach’s face.

Thank you, Clay County for the donations of time, skill, funds, materials, prayers, and the new scoreboard to help make this renovation project possible. It truly is a field of dreams to us old baseball people and something we hope the young baseball people will be able to enjoy for years.

The power of a “for the community by the community” project.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Reads, Uncategorized, Writes

Graduation Speech 2018

Thank you, Clay Center Community High School Class of 2018 for the opportunity to be the guest speaker at your graduation ceremony. Here is the transcript of the speech if you or your people are interested. Hopefully, you can look back on it years from now and ask your classmates, “Do you remember that fool who gave our graduation speech? I wonder what he’s doing nowadays.”

I dedicate this speech to all the athletes I’ve had the honor of coaching, especially the ones who’ve struggled to find their place in the world.

Graduation Speech 2018
Otto Unruh Stadium
5-13-18
Mike Hays

Congratulations, Class of 2018! Thank you for this honor to speak today.
Congratulations to the parents and families! Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Today is special. This all around us is special.
This is a special place. It‘s a community where people have supported you through your games, performances, academics, and employment opportunities.

This place is part of who you are. It is part of what you will become.
No matter how far you travel or where your dreams take you, you will take a piece of Clay County with you.
And wherever you go after leaving these seats as graduates, Clay County will always be here for you.

Graduation Advice

Be yourself.
Be the best you that you can be.

Toy Story 2 illustrates a great example of staying true to who you are. Woody has been taken to Big Al’s and is waiting to be sold to a collector. He looks at the faded name of “ANDY” written on the bottom of his boot.
ANDY.
The name that represents belonging to and being a part of.
ANDY.
The name that gives Woody purpose.
What happens to Woody when the Cleaner shows up and wipes those four letters off his boot?
He loses himself. He gives up trying to get back to Andy and the others. Gives up and floats away from all that is important to him. He’s tempted by the TV star life after discovering Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete.
When the name disappears, so does the very core of who he is.
In the end, it takes a monumental effort by Buzz and all Woody’s friends to bring him back to himself.

What name is written on your foot?
Who or what do you choose to belong to?
What name gives you purpose?
Is it a name that’s written in permanent ink or in pencil?
Is it a name that provides solid footing or is it one that causes you to slip and slide away from who you really are?

Find out who you are and stand behind it.
Let your faith be your compass.
Let your conscience be your map.
Never forget the name you’ve written on your foot.

Graduation Challenge

My challenge to you is something you probably won’t find on any of your graduation cards.
Go out and fail.
Dream big, take calculated risks and fail.
Regroup, and get better. Then try again & again & again until you succeed.

I wish you a lifetime of successes forged in the fire of failures.
I want you to dream big and go make it happen.

As we dive headfirst into the digital age, I challenge you to do great things. And great things take effort.
Do not fail by lack of effort or by not daring to dream.
Believe in yourself.
Believe in your power.

I want you to discover new ways of farming and ranching.
I want you to discover new ways to teach kids.
I want you to bring new products to our everyday lives and new ways of creating art and stories.
I want you to teach us old folks how to use technology without allowing technology to use us.
We need you and we need your talents.

Every Graduation Needs a Mascot

My proposal for your graduation mascot is Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
Do you remember what Tigger is known for?
Bouncing.
As you turn the tassels today, take a lesson from Tigger and be bouncy!

You were bounced on someone’s knee as a baby.
You bounced off almost everything when you learned to walk and run.
You bounced around on the playground during recess.
You’ve been bounced on your rear end by schoolwork, sports, jobs, relationships, and personal trials.
But, you kept bouncing back and here you sit. Graduates.

Your bouncing days are not over. They’re just beginning.
Life will knock you for a loop over and over again.
Every time you get knocked down, bounce back up.
Sometimes our biggest victories in life are simply getting back up after a fall.
Keep bouncing!
Just like Tigger.

A Graduate Game Plan

Hard work is the magic.
It’s a simple truth.
Everything worth having is worth working for.
Family, career, hobbies—even that truck you can’t peel your eyes away from on the dealership lot—are all worth working for.
Put your signature on your every action.
Show up each and every day ready to do the work.
Attack life with purpose, pride, passion, and persistence.
Hard work is the magic.

Congratulations, Class of 2018!
Take advantage of “today” every day.
Live life to its fullest.
It’s the only one you’re given.

While bouncing along the Hundred Acre Wood, Tigger’s been known to sing,
“The wonderful thing about tiggers is tiggers are wonderful things.”
I say,
“The wonderful thing about Clay Center Tigers is Clay Center Tigers are wonderful things.”

Remember who you are.
Remember where you come from.
Remember where you’re going.
Never forget,
The most wonderful thing about YOU is that YOU are a wonderful thing.

Thank you and good luck!

Bonus! Every good story has a good story. This is what happened (well mostly what happened) the night I told my family at dinner about the invitation to be CCCHS’ graduation speaker.

Me: Mr. Young called today and said the senior class invited me to be their graduation speaker.
(Long dramatic pause while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 1: What would you wear?
Me: What?
Kid 2: You know you can’t yell, right?
Me: I don’t yell. I get excited.
(Long dramatic pause #2 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 3: You can’t cuss, either.
Me: @#$%! I know that.
Wife: Are you going to do it?
Me: (Long dramatic pause while I roll on the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter.)
Whole Family: You mean to tell us you can look in those seniors’ eyes and tell them “no”.
Me: But there will be SO MANY people there. And it will be hot. And… And… And…
Wife: Well, are you going to do it?
Me: I told Mr. Young I’d think about it.
(Long dramatic pause #3 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Reads, Uncategorized, Writes

Courage to Create

There are so many things one wants to tell young people. The well of advice from us older folks overflows and sometimes floods uncontrollably through and past the minds of our advice-targeted youth. I believe in the power of youth. I believe we can help them achieve great things if we have the discipline to allow them to grow into their potential.

I ran across this quote from Teddy Roosevelt this week in the Brain Pickings post, Theodore Roosevelt on the Cowardice of Cynicism and the Courage to Create Rather Than Criticize. 

The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat…

The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.

This piece from President Roosevelt’s 1910 speech is timeless. It’s an important piece for both the young and the old. We need to strive to be the best we can be. We need to strive for greatness instead of limiting achievement with the ceiling of cynicism and status quo.

There is no glory in being the best by trouncing on heads of others.

TR may have said it best, “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer.”

Stand out by standing up. Be a positive force. Dare to be great and then go be great!

Hard work is the magic.

1 Comment

Filed under Rants, Reads, Training