The art of hitting has advanced far beyond the time when a player could simply teach or will himself to
become an elite player on his own. Now a days, spending hours upon hours on tee ball drills. or throwing extra bullpens without the proper guidance of a baseball instructor may do more harm than good. If as a baseball player or parent of a baseball player has ambitious dreams and goals , needing a competent teacher comes with the territory.
Even if your goals are modest ones such as making your little league travel ball team or high school team, you can reach these goals much faster and with far less frustration with the guidance and support of a knowledgable hitting/fielding/pitching coach. A lot of information that is required to learn about hitting, pitching and fielding a baseball is available in many different forms. In the age of information, such very good information is readily available, whether it be from a book, instructional dvd, and the internet. Unfortunately, there is a lot of information that is incorrect, mis-intruppeted, incomplete,, or simply of no use. This is mainly true for the internet.( But not here:)
As you start to establish your baseball goals, you will most definitely need guidance of a good teacher to help you fully understand and utilize the the correct information. Specifically as a baseball parent, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by studying and learning from a good teacher. I think it is also important to realize that baseball books and videos, as well as the information on the internet cannot answer your specific question face to face. They cannot answer your questions without the added element of your precense. Granted, their are great baseball forums that provide ways for you to upload videos of your swing, and have supposedly “experts” analyze your swing, but the truth is, a lot of these people have very little invested in you as a player, and simply want to give you advice to hear themselves talk(or type) while pushing their own services and promoting their own agenda.
But with that being said, these forums do provide some aid and valuable content. But nothing compared to a coach who is willing to get to know you on a personal level.
Great teachers manage and schedule new drills and techniques, and effectively explains it’s importance and meaning. A teacher should encourage you when you are doing well and correct you when you need to make an adjustment or exhibiting a flaw. A good hitting coach for example will show you how to better organize your individual practices, while helping you build confidence as a player, and teaching you to take what techniques that have been learned and developed in practice into the game, which is the most important and most difficult for most players.
Also, a good hitting/pitching/fielding coach should be great at communicating the expectations for the parents. The relationship of the parent to the player is just as important as the baseball player has with himself.
A good hitting/fielding coach will help a player become secure with his technical skills so that he can eventually execute difficult principles comfortably in game speed. These teachers emphasis having an approach, developing good habits that are consistent, and applying all of this at the level of instincts. They should teach you these principles with detailed instructions by making sure you understand them fully and encouraging questions when a concept is not understood fully. A good teacher genuinely cares about your personal growth and development.
A great hitting/fielding/pitching coach will and can take you far beyond what you learn on your own.
Unfortunately, great teachers are not licensed and there is no organization that oversees them. Basically anyone can claim to be a baseball guru with the knowledge to make you become a great hitter, and there are plenty of “wannabe” instructors who make this claim.
The number of great teachers, on the other hand, is limited. Which brings us to a very difficult and important question to answer.
“How can a baseball player or parent find, choose and accurately evaluate a competent baseball instructor?”
Here are some basic questions that you SHOULD ask any teacher you are considering to study with.
1. Could you please tell me about your teaching experience?
Ex: How long have you been teaching hitting/pitching/fielding mechanics, and around how many student/players have you taught around that time. At least 3-5 years of coaching experience would be preferred. Certainly no less than 1 year of experience. It is good if the coach has taught a moderate to large number of players. It takes time for a hitting instructor to really learn how to teach well and the main way that an instructor learns to teach is by putting in the time and gaining the experience.This means that they will have to make their own mistakes and adjustment and the expense of the player’s development.
So a young coach’s first students are like experiments. The coach learns how to teach on-the-job by trial and error. The coach then learns how to teach over time and will make some mistakes in the beginning of his or her career. You don’t want to be one of those first 30-50 players. Let that teacher gain his or her experience by making mistakes on another player;)
2.What is the cost of lessons?
Excellent hitting/fielding instructors are in demand and usually already have a lot of students. These hitting instructors often are not cheap. I can tell you that the going rates for good teachers in the midwestern United States (where I live) is between $20-$54 per 1/2 hour private lesson (rates may be different in your state or country). There are a handful of teachers that offer correspondence lessons for baseball students who do not live in the same state or country as the teacher. Usually these lessons are less expensive in the long run (more about correspondence lesson programs later.) In general, don’t look for the teacher with the lowest rates, you usually get what you pay for. If you can’t afford to pay the higher rates for a really good teacher, ask the teacher if you can take lessons on a bi-monthly basis instead of taking weekly lessons.
3.Can you tell me how you go about teaching the lessons? This is probably the most important question that you can ask an instructor. How the coach answers this question can really help you to determine if he is the real deal because this is ultimatly a trick question. Anyone can tell you that they have been teaching for 50 plus years and that they have had 10,000 students and the cost is $1,000 per lesson because they are the greatest teacher of all time, but an inexperienced teacher cannot trick you with his answer to this question. If a prospective teacher who does not know you, your current athletic abilities, your hitting technique, mental approach, and your present goals ,tries to explain how he will teach you, then this is not a competent teacher.
Not even the best teacher on Earth could answer this question if that teacher knows nothing about you, your goals, your playing level, your knowledge of the science of hitting, etc. So what would an experienced and competent teacher say to you when you ask the question?
From what I have been able to gather from talking to hitting and pitching coaches who are ,in my opinion, highly effective instructors is that they explain to the parents/player that they can’t formulate a lesson plan for anyone until they learn a lot more about that student’s playing, goals, ability, knowledge, commitment etc. For their students, before any teaching is actually started, they send them a long list of questions about everything that they need to know about their sports background in order for them to know what is the best way to begin. They also encourage the players to send video footage of his playing in a controlled environment as well as “in game” situations so as to get a clearer picture of what areas need improvement.
I’m not saying that all good baseball instructors should do this, but it’s sure as hell a good sign.
In addition to asking the questions above, here are some other things to watch out for:
Just because a hitting/pitching instructor may have some talented players who have found some success while under his tutelage, does not mean that the instructor is any good. This might seem like a good criteria for evaluating a teacher, but the fact is that sometimes advanced baseball players were already good players before taking lessons from this new teacher to begin with. The only time that judging a teacher’s teaching skills, based on his or her student’s playing skills, is really a reliable evidence is when those advanced players started taking lessons from the same teacher since they were beginners playing little league.
Do not assume that someone is a good teacher just because he was an excellent player with great numbers in professional and division 1 baseball. Success and the ability to articulate that success in a way that other “young” people can understand and implement into their own approach do not in any way shape or form go hand in hand!!!!
I know dozens of player’s who have incredible athletic ability, and have accomplished great things in their careers, but I don’t feel that they would be great teachers simply because they can’t begin to tell you the leading cause of all their success. They simply don’t know. For a lot of players, finding this out takes a whole career. Even retired veterans claim to still be learning things that they were never aware of in the game of baseball. I was fortunate to have only a few great teachers, but I had a lot of incompetent ones too, along the way.
Stay tuned for Hitting/Pitching/Fielding Coach- How to find the good ones-Part 2