When I began my teacher training back in college we were taught about the three distinct learning styles: kinesthetic, visual, and auditory learning. As a hitting coach, this training has
proved invaluable as all three learning styles have to be routinely used to coach hitters optimally.
For this post, I wanted to focus specifically on visual learning and some of the different ways we have attempted to implement this type of learning into our hitting program.
Within the last 15 years, high definition video has significantly evolved and over that time, slow motion video has changed hitting. I remember reading an article about Tony Gwynn and his video usage and I also saw this feature on Tony from “This week in Baseball” 1989. This video really opened my eyes to the value of videoing at bats: Tony Gwynn: Baseball Aficionado Tony not only discusses how his mechanics seemed to look during his at bats, but he also discussed his mindset against particular pitchers and his approach and thought process through his at bats. One of the things Tony said really that stuck out to me is that (paraphrasing here) video helps him remember what he was feeling during at bats.
After seeing this, our program instituted a film library similar to Tony’s where we try to film at least one live at bat during the game for each player. Our team managers are in charge of filming the at bat and then storing and organizing the film clips into our computer or shared drives. The idea here is similar to what Tony is doing and building a database or video library where we can track at bats over time with the purpose being 3 fold:
Visually inspect mechanics of a player and track changes
Help hitters remember how they were “feeling in the moment” and what their thought process and approach were
Help hitters learn how they are being pitched.
In game film is far more valuable that practice film because it is tough to replicate game conditions in practice. One of the things I have learned is that some hitters utilize different mechanics in a live situation than they may be using in practice.
Our videos are always taken from a sideview because we are able to glean the most information from this type of shot. Since we are charting each pitch in the dugout, we can compare the pitches in the at bat to the chart to remember the exact pitches the hitter saw in the sequence. In utilizing the sideview we are able to view information about hand movement, leg lift, foot placement, head movement, stride length, load, and hip movement.
Typically we will take our first video of the year during four on one workouts in the fall. If a player seems to be struggling during the season, we can compare four on one videos to in game video and notate what the changes over that time span were. We can also undergo the process of figuring out at which point in the season the change was made and what the change was or how the change started. This process sometimes helps a hitter “unlearn” an unwanted movement that he inadvertently picked up.
Instead of simply telling a player what adjustment they need to make the player can see it for themselves and then mimic the feel or movements they would need to correct the swing. By showing, explaining, and having the player demonstrate the movement, all three learning styles are included in the adjustment process.
It is also imperative that coaches try to get the video clips into the hands of the players whether through a film service like Hudl or something as simple as a google drive or Microsoft One drive / sharepoint. In utilizing sharepoint in the past, it has been helpful because players are able to view their own swings and ask questions about particular concepts in which the coach can then view the video with the player and talk them through questions a player may have about their swing. Getting swings into the hands of players is also helpful for simple reasons like supplying them with content to create highlight videos for college coaches.
It is important to note that watching the video during the game is NOT done for two reasons.
1st: At the NFHS level it is against the rules to utilize video for in game coaching purposes
2nd: I am a firm believer that hitters should not be burdened with swing mechanics tweaks during the game as this sometimes becomes information overload. Gameday is a time to perform whereas practice is a time to make changes and adjustments. On gameday, the best thing a player can do is take their mechanical swing on that particular day and be on time with the swing!
Creating a swing library is helpful because a player can revisit different time periods in their career. It is such a simple thing to do but yet an incredibly powerful teaching tool that can really help the visual learner. Now – a- days with I-pads, flip cameras and cell phones creating a swing library has never been easier!