Just about every lesson we’ve ever coached or completed as an athlete has had some component of tee work and front toss work. Both of these exercises are common in pre-game warm-up routines from the little league level all the way up to the pros. So, what is the difference between each exercise?
Before we answer this, let’s keep one thing in mind: Our goal is to not become great at drills but to become a great hitter in the game. There is a big difference between someone who can just swing vs. someone who can thoughtfully execute as a hitter. Being able to translate practice work to the game is imperative. Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent. Thus, if we practice the incorrect modality each day, we will reinforce imperfect movement patterns.
So, the difference between each?
- During front toss, the front leg will vary in flexion at contact depending on the height and velocity of the pitch. This is not a bad thing, just a positive indication that the body is working to adjust to each pitch. If the athlete is having front side consistency issues, it may be best to work on tee work before diving into front toss.
- During tee work, the athlete has a tendency to increase lateral trunk flexion toward their backside. This is a natural move that every single one of us has done. Admit it, we sometimes like to hit cage bombs. Also, it becomes very easy to over swing off of the tee because the incoming pitch velocity is not there to provide the rebound effect. It takes quite a bit of discipline to ensure that we work strong mechanics when hitting a stationary ball off of the tee. If you have an athlete that experiences difficulty adjusting their tilt/lean angle, perhaps front toss work would be best to start with prior to tee work. Or, alternate tee work and front toss throughout the entire length of the session.
- Lastly, when an athlete is completing tee work, they do not need to allocate any mental focus to pitch velocity or pitch location. Therefore, as a coach, we can afford to cue body awareness issues to the hitter during tee work as they will be able to utilize their mental resources to focus on their body. Conversely, when hitting off front toss, velocity and pitch location become a part of the hitter’s decision-making process and thus allocating any focus to the body will deter focus from the incoming ball. Coaches should work to cue simpler and more focused on the ball to bat quality of contact opposed to what the hitter’s body is actually doing during the swing.
Keep in mind, just because you know everything that is going wrong in the swing does NOT make you a great hitting coach. Give the athlete positive information that they can directly apply to their improvement.
Washington, J., & Oliver, G. (2018). Kinematic differences between hitting off a tee versus front toss in collegiate softball players. International Biomechanics, 5(1), 30-35.
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