Legendary University of Arizona softball coach talks hitting
By Greg Bach
Helping young softball players get the most out of their plate appearances requires teaching proper techniques, infusing confidence and helping them establish a sound hitting routine.
After all, if your players are stepping into the batter’s box without a plan their chances for a successful at-bat are compromised.
And your team’s chances of scoring runs plummets.
SK Live checked in with legendary softball coach Mike Candrea – he’s led the University of Arizona to eight national championships and coached Team USA to a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics – to get his keys for teaching the mega-important skill of hitting to youngsters.
“The first thing I look at is the history of the hitter and could there be a mechanical flaw that could be causing any issues,” says Candrea, whose 1,387 career wins ranks first all-time among active NCAA softball coaches. “If mechanics are not the issue, then look at building a routine that develops confidence.”
Here’s what else Candrea, in his 30th year at the helm of the Wildcats, had to say about teaching hitting to youngsters:
KNOWLEDGE EQUALS POWER
Players can learn a lot about what to expect when they get to the plate if they watch how the pitcher delivers pitches to their teammates. If she’s primarily delivering pitches to either the right or left side of home plate, for example, or her go-to pitch with two strikes is usually something up high, players can dial in on those tendencies and head to the plate looking for a pitch in a specific location to hit.
“If the pitcher is up and down or side to side hitters can split the plate in half and look for a pitch in a specific location of the plate,” Candrea says.
“The big thing is keeping it simple by judging their at bats on how well they are seeing the ball,” Candrea says when coaches are evaluating hitters. “Are they swinging at good pitches or are they walking up without a plan? Many times players get away from their routines and this can cause poor at bats.”
DISSECTING THE PROBLEM
“The first thing I look at is to identify where the athlete is struggling – is it mental or physical?” Candrea says. “Sometimes kids are having struggles with trying to be perfect while playing a game that is not!”
“The most important factor is arriving at the hitting position on time,” Candrea says. “Players have control over routine, timing, pitch selection and committing to putting a good swing on a good pitch and taking the results.”
PLAN FOR FAILURE
“Hitting is not an easy skill and remember the best hitters only get a hit three out of 10 times,” Candrea says. “So having a recovery plan to handle failure is crucial.”
“We do a lot of long tee work for mechanics, front toss for vision and timing, and live batting practice to establish a plan and executing the plan,” Candrea explains of how his teams work on their hitting during practice.
A top mental skills coach and former college athlete – who has worked with the Browns, Bengals, Jets and Giants – on how you can help build teams that care, appreciate and support each other
Bowling Green football coach Mike Jinks on helping young athletes embrace roles, recognize responsibilities and be all in for the team
Dr. Jesse Michel, mental skills coordinator for the World Series Champion Houston Astros, on helping young athletes improve focus and concentration to perform at their best
University of Tulsa football coach Philip Montgomery on the importance of sending players home in a positive frame of mind