Are Baseball Drills Good or Bad
I have heard baseball coaches say, “I never use baseball drills, they create robots of players and get players thinking too much.” My first thought is how can coaches not use baseball drills and my second thought follows, coaching must be very boring without them. However, I cannot disagree completely with their statement, because they have a point. I have seen many kids become mechanical and think too much, especially initially. Additionally, I often do not see the full positive effects of baseball drills for quite a while. However, my 24 years of coaching experience has shown me that the value of baseball drills far outweighs the initial, negative aspects that may occur.
First and understandably, most kids lack an understanding of the ins and outs of skill fundamentals. Secondly, many youth are not auditory learners so a coach can tell a kid a million times what to do but their muscle memory rarely changes by just telling them how to do it. Thirdly and along the same lines, showing players the correct way rarely guarantees a big change in muscle memory either as the “picture says a thousand words” that kids don’t understand. Finally, what an athlete is doing and what they think they are doing, are usually two different things. Numerous times I have told ballplayers that they are doing something wrong or not doing it the way I told them with the reply of, “I am doing it that (correct) way.” I then have to bring out the video camera to convince them that what they are actually doing is not what they think and the incorrect way. The video does not lie, they realize.
Of course, the above methods are not wrong and help, but it takes much more than those methods to develop the necessary muscle memory to have baseball success. Performing baseball drills creates effective change and so much quicker, despite any initial negative effects of the drills.
Good Baseball drills:
* Give players a better understanding of the correct fundamentals. Once again, the telling and demonstration of something rarely changes muscle memory, especially for players, who have been playing for multiple years and who have very ingrained habits.
* Force the correct way of doing baseball skills; they bring about the correct and desired action and not just suggest it.
* Allow for continual, correct repetition, which is the beginning of new and quicker habit formation because drills force the correct actions, as mentioned.
* Can usually be repeated much more often than doing the complete baseball actions. This increased repetition leads to quicker muscle memory change in a shorter period.
* Can be used to create the opposite of players current actions so they can “meet in the middle,” so to speak with the correct fundamentals; muscle memory can change even more quickly with opposite drills.
Upside to Baseball Drills
Getting back to the original thought, yes, performing drills may cause players to be “too mechanical” and “too cerebral” for a period, but it is worth it so players develop the correct fundamentals and in a quicker way than without baseball drills. As good coaches and players know, there is nothing more important than having the correct fundamentals. Sustained success does not occur without the correct mechanics, so for the few players, who may become a little mechanical and cerebral, it is worth it in the end, as those negative situations usually go away with time. Once players’ thought processing has had time to clear up and their actions have smoothed out, they become less cerebral and less mechanical. In the end, the eventual “baseball upside” is so much greater because of the performance of good baseball drills.
Unfortunately and as mentioned, the full effects of drills may not show until a much later time, even until the beginning of the following year. However, when players start the season so much further ahead than the previous season, coaches and players recognize the value of baseball drills. It is always a personal joy to see students return after a break and have much more advanced fundamentals, as well as increased bat and arm speed, due to precious baseball drill work.
Finally, a necessary first step when introducing a drill to players is an explanation of “what” entails the correct baseball skill along with why certain drills are necessary and beneficial for achieving that skill. The why is most important for convincing players to change and to perform the drills, especially players that are having success with the way they are doing it, but whose long-term success probability is not good.