How important is it in practice to see “live pitching”

I wanted to share with all of you an email that I received this week.

Hello Coach Lisle,

I am a high school softball coach way up here in Montana and I purchased the hitting vault in early January. Our program begins our “open gyms” in early December each year and we begin our official season next week.

After purchasing your program we immediately began focusing on the body movement drills. In fact, these have become our Every Day Drills for hitting. We’ve worked really hard on the first three phases of the swing. And our goal before our first game is to have every girl in the program getting to a consistent “launch” point in their swing.

We have the girls go through a series of drills (step back, K Posture, Flamingo, and Crossover have been the primary drills we’ve utilized) to get them to focus on their lower half and then we give them some front toss cuts in the cage. Which gets me to the purpose of this email.

When working with hitters in practice how important is it to have them see “live” pitching? Can we get enough out of front toss by utilizing drills like the “three plate drill?” Or do we need to bring our pitchers in more consistently and have them throw to our hitters? I’ve battled with this for a couple years and don’t know that I’ve found a comfortable or consistent answer.

I understand that you guys probably are inundated with questions all the time but I have been so pleased with our results since implementing the drills, especially the body movements into our routine, and I felt like it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Our girls who are consistently working on doing the little things are showing consistent contact and power. Really appreciate your time.

Ryan Schulte
Social Studies Teacher
Head Softball and Assistant Football Coach
Helena High School

First of all, thank you to Ryan for the email.

It is great to hear of the improvement his team has made and those are great questions. I’ve been asked them several times over the last few years.

So I want to address his issues with everyone.

Live Pitching is extremely important. It should be the most used IF its available and IF you’ve already spent a great deal of time mastering the swing movements.

Here are the 4 steps of progression with Hitting Training…

1. Body Movements

2. Tee

3. Front Toss

4. Live Pitching

(3a. Would be “Pitching Machine”, although feel free to skip this one).

Now having said that, as coaches (sometimes we tend to be perfectionists) we get caught up on spending too much time at each level and never getting to the Live Pitching.

This would be a big mistake.

For Example:

My MLB guys don’t play a game (that counts) until April 1 and don’t see competitive live pitching until almost March 1. When they come in in October or November, we can spend a few months on Steps 1-3 and trust me when I say we spend a lot of time on Step 1 (Body Movements).

One of the issues that youth teams have (especially in California) is that there really isn’t much of an off-season to spend a lot of time on Steps 1-3 before moving onto Step 4.

The most common mistake I see made by coaches is that they breeze thru Body Movements & Tee work, and spend too much time on Front Toss.

Every one of your hitters will progress at different speeds but Step #1 and Step #4 should be where we see the most improvement.

All that to say, the best growth can happen vs. Live Pitching. That’s where we’re able to find out if the hitter can take what they’ve learned and apply it.

So depending on where you are in your season or off-season, you need to find the right balance of Steps 1-4. And many times its combinations of them in different orders and not sequentially.

Now is a great time to join The Hitting Vault and get your team working through those drill stages like Ryan’s team.