When all players are young they learn one very important truth.
A strikeout is a total failure!
If you strike out, you’re doing nothing that helps your team, period! And then we reinforce it, over and over and over again! We keep telling them, that if we don’t put the ball in play, we don’t even give our team a chance for success.
Of course a strikeout is not the desired outcome. But the damage done by telling kids that a strike out is a total failure is going to stick to a player forever, unless we set them straight.
Why is it wrong, you ask? We teach kids that a bad swing that makes contact is better than a great swing that misses! We teach kids that as long as they make contact, we are going to be happier with them that if they take an aggressive swing that misses. They learn that all that matters is contact.
And then they grow up. They start to play against teams that can field the ball and that poor contact that we used to praise we now condemn because it no longer leads to the success that we are looking for. And now all of a sudden we are asking these same players to do a lot more than make contact, we are asking them to hit the ball hard, all the time.
I spend a great deal of my time now in lessons getting kids to understand that it is OK to miss as long as they miss aggressively. It isn’t the end of the world to strikeout as long as they are getting good aggressive swings consistently. If they are missing with a powerful and potent swing then we are OK with it.
I know you are thinking I must be a pretty bad hitting coach if I tell kids a strikeout is OK.
If a player learns to be aggressive, to swing with great effort, with an attitude that they are going to hit the ball into the trees every time they swing and creates great bat speed, they will learn to handle all that aggressiveness and turn it into a great deal of success.
It has been my pleasure to coach three different players, at two different schools (one DII, one DI), with three different bats, lead the nation in home runs.
Did these players strike out occasionally? Of course they did. Babe Ruth had a couple strikeouts too! They also changed the game often by swinging to make a difference.
What is a strikeout? It’s an out! No more, no less! Just as much as a weak ground ball or pop up.