Saturday April 8 2017
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Breaking a Slump

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The “Dog Days of Summer” can take a toll on a lot of things: the lawn, the air conditioning bill, the Pirates’ chances at a .500 season. And often times, your child’s success on the baseball or softball diamond.

As summer rolls on and the Little League seasons turns into a Rec-League season, it’s not uncommon for kids’ to experience slumps, sometimes prolonged ones.

Sometimes the best way to break out of a batting slump is to back off a little bit. Although time at the local batting cages is definitely a good way to stay sharp, especially in the off-season, it can begin to be counter-productive if the hitter is not seeing improvement. Success can breed more success, but often disappointment breeds frustration, and nothing is more disheartening for a kid than a long ride home after another unsuccessful round of balls at the cages.

So how can you help your son or daughter break out of their slump? Start by backing off the game conditions and get back to the basics. Rather than spending time (and quarters) at the cages, head to the backyard. Work on hand-eye coordination and stress keeping your youngster’s eyes on the ball.

Grab a tee and bag of wiffle balls. Have the child hit the ball off the tee into a tarp or a wall of some sort. Have them hit until their swing begins to look and feel comfortable again, simply to get used to swinging through the ball. Make sure the hitter’s front foot is on the ground well before contact is made. A common fault of tee hitting is to have the front foot in the air as contact is made.

After a hitting a bucket or so off the tee, sit in a folding chair about 5 feet to the side of the plate and about 2 feet in front of it. Have your child take his or her normal stance and softly toss the wiffle balls over the plate. Have them again hit the balls into the tarp. This is called soft-toss. It’s a great way to get back to the fundamentals of hitting: keeping the eyes on the ball, and getting the batter’s stride and swing corrected.

Before you go out and spend hundreds of dollars to help your kids learn a level swing, look around your house and see what you can create, cheaply, that will help your kids improve their skills—and still have fun. Hitting off a tee and playing some soft-toss are great ways to break a slump, or to simply stay sharp.