Tee work. Some people hate it, and I absolutely love it.
When a pitch is thrown in one of the nine hitting zones, an elite hitter’s body knows how to get there. How the heck does it just know?! Because the hitter repeatedly put their body in that position THOUSANDS of times before. Because they’ve taken thousands and thousands of reps, they have created a subconscious swing, so that when their brain decides to swing at a specific pitch, their body already knows what to do.
Think about yourself walking, or even breathing. You don’t have to think about doing it, it just happens. That’s a type of muscle memory. Your muscles remember what they need to do because they have done that specific movement over, and over, and over. Your legs know which muscles have to move when your brain decides to walk. We want our bodies to know what to do when we want to swing at a high and inside pitch, for example. The more times I put my body in that position to not only hit the high and inside, but hit it well, the more successful I’m going to be as a hitter on that specific pitch.
That’s why I absolutely love working with a tee, and I have every single one of my lessons start with it. You can put a ball exactly where you want it so you can create a solid swing to attack any specific pitch you want. Obviously, only working on a tee isn’t going to help you hit a 70+ mph pitcher, but it does help you create muscle memory so you can move from a ball on a tee, to front toss, from front toss to live, etc…see where I’m going with this? It’s a ladder you have to move up, but it’s the reps on the tee that I kept consistent in order for my body to remember how to get to a certain pitch being thrown at me.
Getting your reps in is the hard part, but that’s where the work outside of team practice and private lessons has to come from if you want to compete at an elite level. Your team’s practice and those lessons are meant to expose you to the fundamentals, new drills and new aspects of the game. They’re not meant to keep repeating the same drills and fundamentals over and over. It’s your job to put in the work and to make those fundamentals become a habit. No one else is going to do it for you.
We all love that feeling when something magically “clicks” in your swing, but if you go another 7 days without picking up a bat after that feeling, do you think you’re going to be able to recreate it consistently? Absolutely not! Every time I left a lesson, my dad and I would spend hours at home that week trying to become as good as I possibly could be at that drill. That way, if I’m asked to repeat that drill again, I show my coach I’ve mastered it, then we can learn something new. That’s where you see growth. You don’t grow by doing something once. You grow by doing it over and over and over until it becomes a habit. My job as a coach is to add tools to your toolbox. My athlete’s job is to master those tools on their own. No athlete, no matter how good you are, can just start where they left off after not training for a week. Our bodies don’t quite work that way.
One of the things my Applied Exercise and Health major taught me in college was that it only takes a week to lose muscle mass if you don’t work out consistently. This, most definitely, goes for all levels of training. If you only hit once a week, your body won’t be able to just recreate what it worked on the week before, because it forgets the strength and power it built 7 days prior. The way we make things become a habit requires a lot of self-discipline, hard work, and persistence (they say it takes 10,000 reps to create a habit, so there you go!). So, those hours you spend hitting in the garage, the barn, the backyard, wherever and whenever you make time to work on your craft, they’re totally worth it. Any day you spend working on developing your craft, you’re getting closer to your goal. That’s why, when things get hard, you should never, ever quit. You may stop and only be one step away from that crazy goal you set out for yourself. KEEP GOING! This doesn’t just go for hitting, this goes for any aspect of life. That decision to practice is 100% better than sitting at home on the couch, watching TV, and eating some potato chips because you don’t think you have anything better to do…because you do.
Make it your goal to be so good at something, that you can start making that skill a habit. The more skills you can turn into habits, the better athlete you will become. I love this article about Steph Curry and how he lives a life consistently forming good habits. This is my favorite quote from the article by Cathryn Lavery:
“Success is not an accident, success is actually a choice. Stephen Curry is one of the best shooters on the planet today because he has made the choice to create great habits.”
Learn how your body moves. Learn what it feels like to make an adjustment. Then, learn how to make that adjustment consistent. Learn this, because success finds the people that are eager to keep learning about themselves and their game.
Great players form great habits, plain and simple. One of my favorites was quality time on the tee. What are YOU willing to do when no one is watching?