So, should you teach a player to use a coil prior to the stride or not?The answer is not as black and white as some of these hitting experts would have you believe. For me the use or non-use of going back before going forward depends on what the hitter prefers. Below are my feelings on the issue and some things to think about when helping a player work on a coil or having a player not coil.
If you're not familiar with what a coil is, you can learn more on the following page: Backyard Hitting Lessons - Coil
Basic Explanation of the CoilThe coil is a movement that allows a player to get into a good position to stride. So once a pitcher starts his wind-up, or is at a certain point in the delivery of the pitch, the hitter will move his weight to the inside of the back foot to put himself in a good athletic position to stride. He will also close his front side slightly and get his bat in a good launch position.
What can a coil do for you?
- Timing is critical for a hitter and for some hitters movement during the coil will help with timing. Rather than standing rather still waiting for the pitch, the coil can be synced with the pitchers wind-up to put the hitter in the correct position at the correct time.
- Often it is easier for a hitter to stay relaxed if he is moving rather than staying still. Relaxed muscles are quicker and many hitters will be more relaxed using a coil.
- Having your weight distributed correctly when you start the stride is important for balance and quickness. The coil, if executed correctly, can put a player's weight in the correct position for the stride. Without a coil the player must hold that position for longer and may not be as quick when reacting to the pitch.
What are the benefits to not having a coil?
- Less movement prior to the pitch can help players be ready to stride without having to sync the stride to the pitcher's delivery.
- A player's view of the pitcher will stay the same throughout the wind-up and delivery of the pitch. Some players coil and turn their head which can have a negative impact on seeing the pitch.
- While some players will find they are more relaxed with a coil, others will feel the opposite and are able to stay relaxed and ready by not using a coil.
ConclusionI think it's true of a lot of aspects of hitting, each player is slightly different and you can't mold every player into a certain way of hitting. How many of you would take a 8 year old Ichiro and say he's doing it all wrong? What about Jeff Bagwell with his wide stance? or Kevin Youkilis with his narrow stance and big leg kick? The point is that each player has certain strengths and weaknesses and that is only part of the equation. They also have a comfort zone for what feels right. If they are struggling then look at where they are before the ball is released and where they are when they complete their stride and then work back from there. Don't assume that a coil or non-coil is the issue. Again this is true with many parts of the swing. Work with each player on developing a hitting style that works for them rather than trying to mold them into what you think every player should look like.
With that said, as a general rule of thumb, I try to have young players reduce the amount of movement if I feel it's causing them problems. But, if a kid is hitting great, don't change him for the purpose of changing him into what you think a hitter should look like. I had a coach one time that told our team, "If you can hit .300 standing on your head, I won't change you." He helped when it was needed, not before, and it gave all his players confidence that they could try things out, experiment and improve without being forced to hit in a certain way.
Final note: Whether a player is back in their stance or move back during the coil, make sure they don't go too far and end up with their weight on the outside of their right foot. You can check this by looking at the position of their right knee in relation to their right foot. The image below shows when the knee is in the red the hitter has his weight too far back. Keeping the weight on the inside of the back foot is one of biggest keys to being quick. In this image my weight is too far back and would cause problems with my ability to have a quick swing.