The swing gets rusty. No, it doesn't get reddish in color. What I mean by a rusty swing has two components. One is that the swing was once pretty good (subjectively speaking) and then it now is not very good (subjectively speaking).
Let me clarify a little more. As a hitting instructor I have noticed that when a hitter misses a few weeks in coming to some lessons, they just don't seem to make the quality of contact as they did before. You ask, what is the quality of contact? I am glad you asked. To me, it has the following:
- The ball has backspin. Yes, I am a nut about backspin.
- The ball is middle-middle. This means, to me, that the ball is hit toward the middle of the field and in a line drive so the barrel is making contact in the middle (horizontal)-middle (vertical) of the ball. (I often break this down to two components as a hitter)
- The ball is hit with some authority. Now, this is relative to the hitter but did she hit is hard.
- Sound. The sound is actually the result of all of the above but I base a lot on how well the ball sounds off the bat.
So, when a hitter misses a few weeks of lessons and then seems to struggle a little with these components of quality of contact, I determine they are rusty. When they are rusty my approach converts to more of a "starting over" lesson to help get them back to where they once were.
What causes rust in the swing. Okay, to get a little deeper into this. What I think happens is the hitter just get long when she is rusty. Think about it. It seems 90% of all the drills that have been invented are to create and maintain a short swing. I also have the theory that it is natural to have a long swing. So, when a hitter stops working on their swing, they get long...er. longer.
So, we start over and work on getting the swing back to a shorter approach and then eventually she gets back to a higher percentage of quality of contact. Usually. I say usually because if she is really rusty and she doesn't take the "starting over" approach, she won't.
Okay. So, the cause of rust is the lack of quality work on the short swing. Do they have to take lessons to avoid rust? Of course not. What they must to, to avoid rust, is to continue the smart intelligent consistent work on the short swing. If they can't do this without lessons then they need to get back to lessons. It is just my observation that hitters that take off a few weeks of lessons almost always come back rusty.
Tips to Avoid Rust:
- Home Work: Most instructors use drills during the lesson and/or give "homework" through drills to the hitters. These drills are intended, probably, to teach the short swing. Work on these drills at home and do them correctly. If you do not know how, contact your instructor.
- Team Practice: Okay, most youth teams do not have the ability to focus on every hitter and their weaknesses and will typically just have some form of "batting practice". This may not have any structure to it at all with the focus on the swing path. It is up to the hitter to work on the things their lesson instructor teaches during the batting practice. If you "just hit" and not FOCUS on a short swing, you will revert back to a long swing.
- Don't take off. As a college coach, I had a rule that a hitter could not take off more than one day of drills during the season. Of course, the college level requires a higher level of precision so a younger hitter can take off a little longer time but I would recommend AT LEAST one lesson a week if you are not doing well with numbers 1 or 2 above.
Hard work includes sweat, yes but it also includes persistence, consistency, and frequency. (Quality AND Quantity)
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