From a (now annual) game of departmental rounders at work, it was quite clear that more enjoyment was had and more involvement was felt by those (very) few who could actually hit the ball. Some discussions revealed that ‘how to hit a ball’ is one of those semi-mystical things that never gets taught; either you work it out for yourself though luck or perseverance, or you have to put up with a lifetime of being useless at hitting-a-ball games. The sad (or happy) aspect of this is that it is in fact quite easy to learn a basic technique that works, and means you can, fairly reliably, hit the damn ball. This is one such technique (there are many others).
For those who are confident in their ball hitting skillz, and/or don’t need some jumped up oick to teach them how to suck eggs, turn away now.
For the others, read on.
It all comes down to
- minimising the variance
- maximising the overlap
Minimising the variance
Get yourself a repeatable, simple, robust swing, where you are only varying one thing, i.e. your arm swinging around. Your wrist stays locked, the grip stays the same, your elbow stays locked and arm stays straight, the bat stays at the same angle to your arm. You sweep out a simple flat arc with your arm, with your swing arm starting out behind you in the same position each time. Point your other arm/hand at where you think the ball will be coming from, and it will help you twist your torso around as you swing your hitting arm. Both arms should pretty much swish about in the same plane.
Maximising the overlap
If you can get the flat arc of your swing nice and repeatable, you can start taking the ball into account. If the ball is thrown properly it should go up and then come down at a gentle angle to you at roughly chest height. You need to ‘aim’ your flat swing arc so that it overlaps with the expected path of the ball as much as possible. You aim the arc by setting your swing arm in the relevant start position, and point your other arm at where you expect the ball to be coming in from, so keeping the idea of all your swing happening in a flat plane, but adjusting the plane to match the ball. To have the flat swing arc going gently up as it passes your chest, you start with your swing arm below the horizontal and your other arm pointing above the horizontal towards the incoming ball.
This is easy to practice in slow motion so you get a sense of how big the arc is and how heavy the bat is. Then watch the bowler(s) and note how they are tossing the ball. Is it coming low and hard and arriving more or less horizontally, or is it being lobbed up high and coming down at a steep angle? As you wait to bat, work out the most likely throw you will be receiving, and mentally prepare your swing arc for it. Don’t worry about adjusting the swing in mid swing. It is way too late by then. The most effective use of your time is to mentally prepare your best swing arc before the ball is thrown.