Purpose: To determine the degree of head movement in the baseball swing.
We all know how difficult it is to hit a baseball. Every hitting instructor worth his salt acknowledges the importance of a steady head during the swing. The reason is simple: The eyes are the source of information for the body. The information we see (the approaching pitch) must be as accurate as possible in order for us to put an accurate swing on the pitch. If we have excessive head movement then the information we receive will be distorted and therefore an accurate barrel to the incoming pitch will be nearly impossible to achieve.
A good analogy for head movement is this; Pretend that your head is a camera, your body is the tripod and your eyes are the lens! Ideally, we want to ‘take pictures’ of the pitch as it approaches the plate. If the camera (head) is moving all over the place, the lens (eyes) will take a blurry picture. Keep a steady head and rotate the body under the head during the swing.
Of course, a key point here is that if the player is constantly over-swinging (swinging with all of his/her might) at every pitch, more than likely he/she will have excessive head movement. It is extremely difficult to control head movement during a baseball swing if the player is exerting 100% effort on every swing. What I like to emphasize is for the player to put a smooth swing (perhaps 85% effort) on the ball, concentrating on rotating the body under a steady head. This smooth swing should result in a much more accurate barrel and decidedly less head movement.
So how do you achieve the necessary muscle memory for you to produce this type of swing on a regular basis? Your shadow knows!
Step out into your backyard and stand so that the sun is directly at your back. Look on the ground and your shadow should be down there looking back at you. Place an XLR8 Practice Baseball (or a golf ball) on the ground. Grab your bat and get in your stance. Position yourself so that the ball is centered in the shadow of your head . Now take a few swings and determine how far your head is moving by watching where the shadow ends up. Ideally, if you were executing a step-by-step swing (see the six steps to a sweet swing drill), the ball should remain in the center of your head’s shadow (or very close to it) through the first five steps. As you finish the sixth step (the follow through) the shadow should move in front of the ball slightly. Progress from slow, methodical, step by step swings to a swing resembling a slow motion film. Continue to increase the speed of the swing until you reach about an 85% effort. These should be powerful, controlled, accurate barrel swings that emphasize the body rotating under the head.
If you are having difficulty in monitoring the position of your shadow during the swing, then enlist the assistance of your father, mother, brother, sister or friend to help keep track of the head movement.
For added difficulty have your assistant soft toss XLR8 Practice Balls to you! Now, it becomes extremely important to have an accurate barrel because the target is smaller than an actual baseball. Keeping the head steady will increase the accuracy of the barrel to the ball. Incidentally, you will find that you will have to exert some effort to get the barrel to the ball before it leaves the ‘hitting zone’. Concentrate on that ‘sweet swing’. The ‘sweet swing’ that has some power but is also controlled and accurate. This is the swing you want to groove. The swing you want to take to the batter’s box with you in every game. You won’t get it by wishing for it. You have to work at it.
Consistent use of this drill will transform you into a better hitter. Remember, if you aren’t doing your work, your shadow knows!
Thanks to Anthony and Andrew Pluta who assisted. Anthony pitched for the Michigan Battlecats of the Houston Astros Minor League system.