This week I want to focus on an issue that I see all too often: kids starting private instruction way too early!
I'm a professional hitting instructor. My job is to teach ball players of all ages how to hit a baseball. And I get a ton of parents bringing their kids to me asking me to teach hem how to hit. For the most part, I'm all for it!
But there has to be a limit. Over the course of my career, I've come up with 7 as about the earliest kids should start working on their swing. For 90% of kids, 9 is where you should start. I get requests to work with kids as young as 5. I respectfully turn them down.
Simple. Kids that young have not developed mentally, or physically, enough to benefit from my training. I would actually be hurting their potential.
A big myth out there is there is an absolute right way to swing a baseball bat. The truth? There isn't. There are guidelines, best practices, strategies, theories, but no absolute right way. Instead, there is the right way for a given developing hitter. Their swing can be perfected, but they should not try to emulate a mythical "perfect swing."
When I developed the 3S, I wanted to make something that would help hitters fine tune their own swing, not whitewash it and replace it. Should swings be as compact as possible? Of course. But within the context of how a hitter's athleticism dictates they should hit. I call this "staying between the white lines."
When you drive, you have a lane you need to stay in. But you aren't on rails. A swing is similar. You have to remain within the right framework, but the route really is unique to you. A swing is a car, not a train.
If you start a kid too young, they don’t understand what they are learning. They emulate. They’re sponges. If the parent or coach has an agenda, that can imprint on a young hitter and steer them down a path they shouldn't go down. Not to mention, I've seen the fun sucked out of the game for these kids too many times. Even if they make it to the Majors, it's still a game!
Instead of imprinting, we should strive as parents and coaches to guide kids. This means letting them figure out for themselves how their bodies work athletically, while offering advice and resources during the process. As they grow and mature, we'll start to see where they're headed. But leave the wheel in their hands.
This is the biggest reason why I decided to leave the "Swing Blaster" bat attachment out of the Youth Kit for the 3S Hitting System. For older hitters, who need minor corrections to an established swing, the "Swing Blaster" works like magic. With hitters under the age of 13 down to 7, the more crucial part of the swing is hip rotation and learning to maintain their balance.
So, what can we do to ensure that our kids learn to swing properly?
LET THEM CHOOSE! Never force them into a sport. Support them if they show an interest, and don't let them give in to frustration, but do not force it on them.
You need to focus just as much on the athletics of a swing as the mechanics. Let's kids be athletes first, hitters second. As they mature, introduce the mechanics and guide them.
Work in stages. As I mentioned with the Youth Kit, help them understand the importance of proper hip rotation and core muscle action.
Make sure they UNDERSTAND what you teach them. Have them explain it. Judge from there if they get it.
I hear all the time, "how can I get my kid to hit for power?" Or, in other words "teach him to hit home runs." Bad move. You won't know if your kid should be a home run hitter until they get to high school, and even then its not a certainty.
At the end of the day, each kid is different. Let them be.
They're only 7!
Bill Dailey is a NCAA Nation Championship Winning 3rd Base Coach. Currently, he owns and operates Pitch by Pitch Hitting Academy in Baton Rouge, La. He created the 3S to help hitters of all ages and skill level reach their hitting potential so they can love the game like he does.