Do you feel like you’re swinging hard but the ball is going nowhere? Is ‘warning-track-power’ your nickname? Do you feel like if you ever do get a hold of a ball it gets pulled foul? Then you may be suffering from lack of backside power…
In hitting, there are three main components to developing power within a hitter: Separation, front side tilt, and backside drive. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the most effective ways to train backside drive in an athlete, in particular, a female softball hitter.
This article will cover the various ways to coach an athlete through improvement. Some hitters operate best with a simple cue while others need a more focused skill development. Sometimes, neither of these work and the hitter is instead limited physically by their structure and muscular functions. For this article series, we will dive into each of these categories so that you as a parent, coach, or athlete can feel fully equipped to develop backside drive.
Part 1: Skill Specific Focus for Backside Drive
What exactly is backside drive?
Backside drive is referring to the ability for a hitter to apply force into their front side of their body during the swing. In the picture below, the swing is indicating where the focus of ‘drive’ is coming from. Keep in mind, spinning the backside is exactly what we are looking to avoid (pictures E & F). There are three main things to look for on backside drive:
1. Back hip & knee positioning
Whenever evaluating for backside drive it is important to observe an active drive phase. Typically, observing the back hip position would be best. Ideally, the back hip at contact should be pointing toward the intended location of the ball. Fortunately, most shorts have small logos on this part of the leg/hip and a great cue would be to get the logo on the shorts to face the location of where you as a hitter want to hit the ball. However, for some, the movement and positioning of the hip is difficult to see. Therefore, there are times when evaluating the trailside knee is best. The backside knee should appear to be closing the gap between the two legs. Failure to do so will be observed as a straightened knee with very little muscle activation. This is a simple evaluation tool and a great place to start when evaluating backside drive. However, the back knee only tells a partial part of the story of what is actually going on in the swing.
2. Back foot positioning
A simple way to see if an athlete has initiated their backside for power vs. sitting back and spinning it to draw a line by their back foot while they are in their stance. This way, you can evaluate just how much drive the hitter was able to get because you simply have a point of reference.
Pictures E &F below show an athlete who has under-utilized their power from their backside. Also, note that the knee position in picture F is deceiving. Although it appears that there is adequate drive, when drawing a line behind their back foot, it is obvious that there was too much sit and spin happening in the swing.
Seeing a movement deficiency is key to becoming an effective hitting coach. However, being able to quickly translate to the hitter what they need to do in order to correct this deficiency is where your impact on the swing can be effective.
1. Walk up
1a. Walk up variation
2. Walk through
4. Back elbow / Back knee
5. Back knee emphasis
Keep an eye out for part 2 and 3 explaining mental cues and movement corrections to develop backside power.
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