When Kylie of Orange High School, located in Hillsborough, NC, came in for an evaluation, Kylie and her parents had no idea what they were getting into. She’d played softball in Orange County for a few years and had just moved up to the Challengers team. Because of this increase in competition, she and her parents wanted to make sure she received quality instruction. Her evaluation took place on March 21, 2019. Within her first two lessons, Kylie's max exit velocity increased by 11 miles per hour and her max distance improved by an additional 40 feet.
As always, no changes are made during an evaluation. I highlighted her swing against another high school player that was about her age and size. What Kylie and her parents noticed was a clear difference in aggression. Because of this, the demo swinger’s hits were going over 15-mph faster and up to 90-feet further. Kylie and her parents decided to enroll in the program and off they went.
Kylie came back on March 27th and had her bag, bat, and gloves with her. I smiled and told her she wouldn’t need those, and got her mother a chair so she could watch. Then, we headed over to the Movement Wall, where all of our initial movement and Rebel's Rack work takes place.
After Fitting Kylie with her Rebel’s Rack, we began to learn to stride.
Kylie was unsure of exactly what we were doing. Obviously, she was confused that we were not in a cage and using a bat. Because of this, I reassured her we were ‘learning to turn’ not ‘learning to hit’. She used the ‘LINE” and started to stride heel to heel. After a while, we introduced a hesitated turn.
When Kylie started to try to turn, she was very slow when she turned. The ‘slowness’ of the turn caused her head to go forward and her turn to be incomplete. Eventually, she realized that when she went faster, she actually did the turn better! Much like trying to ride a bike slowly, the body struggles to pull the back foot forward when turning slowly. The speed of the turn is what allows the back foot to move forward while the head stays still. No speed means no chance for correct movements.
As you can see below, the turn on the left is one of Kylie's first initial rack turns. She shoots her head forward, moves very slow and drags her back foot on the ground. The turn on the right is only a few minutes later after a few verbal internal cues. She turns much more aggressively, keeps her head still and fires her back foot up and over the line.
Finally, Kylie started to trust herself and me enough to go fast in her turn. When the back foot moves forward it pulls up and off the ground. Because of this, most athletes feel like they are ‘falling’ back when they initially learn the BR turn. The only way to complete the Rebel’s Rack Progression correctly is to go fast in the turn. Once she went fast, she was surprised at how balanced she felt. Because of that feeling of speed and balance combined, she went even faster.
At the end of the lesson, Kyle got her medium Rebel’s Rack and I told her to do 1000 turns before next week. Her mother said that it would be 2 weeks before I saw her again as they were going on a cruise (tough life!). Because of this, I upped her homework to 2000 turns. Kylie asked, “what if I can’t take the Rack on the boat?”. I told her to “find a way you CAN get better instead of a reason you CAN’T”.
Kylie entered the training area with her dad while I was in a lesson. I told her to head over to the Movement Wall and start her Rack Progression. Upon finishing my lesson, I greeted her dad and headed over to talk with Kylie. Korey Reed, a BR Certified instructor from West Virginia, was shadowing me. I told Kylie to ‘show me her homework”. She did 2 turns, they were great, and we went over to the cage to hit.
I had Kylie do eight Rebel’s Rack Timing Turns and then I asked her if she was ready to turn. She said yes, so I told her to get her bat and prepare herself to turn as fast as she could. Her very first swing she hit the ball 57-mph. That’s 7-mph harder than her hardest hit at her evaluation. As you can see from the video, we changed nothing about her stance or hand position. So how did her velocity jump so much in literally one swing?
The Rebel’s Rack Progression is based on how people actually learn new tasks that are not hard-wired into healthy humans. Chunking up movements, combining them when ready, and then speeding them up. Constant reinforcement happens here, both with visual cues (given by a mirror) and verbal cues (given by a coach). Instead of the athlete guiding themselves, at the formative stages, the athlete must BE GUIDED. Remember coaches, there is a paying customer expecting that guidance, and we always respect that fact.