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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A tip to improve footwork

Notice anything the players in these photos have in common?

Albert Pujols
Miguel Tejada

Chase Utley
Chipper Jones
Jose Reyes

None of the players are wearing spikes.  All are wearing sneakers or turf shoes.  
Why would that matter?  On the surface, it wouldn't matter much at all.  Players in spring training take lots of ground balls and batting practice wearing sneakers or turf shoes.  They do it during the season as well.  Spikes are definitely less comfortable than sneakers/turfs and a 162 game season can be very tough on the legs and feet.  No big deal, right?  But have you ever seen high school players do drill work without spikes?  It's not very pretty.  Usually players are tripping all over themselves because they can't get any traction in the dirt.  They slip and slide and many end up on the ground at some point.  How come the big leaguers don't slip around and fall?  Because they have better footwork.  Their steps are efficient and precise, their weight is always balanced, their feet are always underneath them, and their bodies are always under control.  That's a big reason why they are where they are.  
Every once in awhile (if a coach gives you permission) take the spikes off and practice in sneakers or turf shoes.  If you are a coach, make sneaker/turf wearing part of a drill or practice to mix things up.  If a player is slipping around and falling, it's a quick indication that his footwork isn't where it needs to be.
Everything starts from the ground up.  If you want to be a great player, start putting more focus on your feet.

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