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Inside the Mind of UT- San Antonio Softball Hitting Coach Carlton Salters

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Carlton Salters is one of the brightest hitting minds in college softball today and has helped transform the offense at University of Texas- San Antonio. With the help of the biomechanics lab on campus and  Dr. Oyama, Salters has taken a hands-on approach to learning the intricacies of the body and the science of the swing.

We recently sat down with Carlton to discuss his background, the new wave hitting approach that he has implemented to improve the Roadrunners offense, and how technology can help hitters better understand what their bodies are doing.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background in the sport?
I played baseball basically my whole life, until I got to Arkansas. I went to Arkansas on a football scholarship. I played baseball my first year and then the other three years I focused on football. I kind of got to the end of my football career and had grown a little weary of the sport. I made the decision to try and go back to play baseball and ended up signing with the Giants. I played about seven years, with some independent ball.

Do you mind talking about your approach as a hitter when you played and now as a coach?
As a player, I had plenty of physical tools. But I really didn’t understand what I was doing. I was always told to hit a ground ball to second base. Whenever I was off, I’d try to hit a ground ball to second base. Sometimes I’d get it lined up right. Knowing what I know now, my bat entered the zone too steeply. Now that I’m on the coaching side and studied more, I understand hitting a bit better now.

What differences do you see in a baseball swing vs. a softball swing?
The biggest thing that people misinterpret is the arc of the barrel. In baseball, they’re standing on top of the hill—they’re mostly trying to throw downhill. You’re going to see the nice long arc, the nice kind of upward path through the finish.

The only time you’re going to see that in softball is if you got somebody who’s working down.The shoulders are always going to slope. The barrel works up; the barrel is pivoted. Up doesn’t mean straight up in the air. Rather, up might be six degrees. To the naked eye, six degrees isn’t a ton, but six degrees is up

When you are looking to bring in a new approach to a team, where you do you start?
You need understand how to control timing. If you can understand how to control timing everything’s going to work off of that. This can become tough because a lot of people aren’t coached this way.

What are you looking for when you are trying to help the athlete figure out what swing works best for their body?
Movement profile. When you get on force plates in 3D motion capture, you can see a lot of stuff easily. I suggest talking with the strength coach and seeing who has an issue.

One thing I was really happy about this year is that our mindset in the weight room changed. People thought they lifted to get strong. So, we were strong but not super athletic.

Now the weight room makes sense when we do movements like Turkish get ups, or banded clam shells, or banded one-legged RDLs. If I say, “Leave the knee behind,” they think, “Oh, I did this with the RDLs with the band.” This translates and fits right.

How would you advise other coaches to start to implement this approach with their hitters?
1. Leave behind what you’ve been told. 2. You can Google a lot of stuff, but you must be willing to search. 3. Learn about the kinetic chain and the anterior and posterior sling. If you start to understand these three things, you can start putting everything together.

Can you tell us more about the anterior and posterior change and its relation to hitting?
In your skeletal frame, anterior is the front, posterior is the back. The change starts in your heel, wraps around the back of your calf, up through the back of your hamstrings, up through the top of your hips and then up to your back. The change stops right underneath your armpits. Your shoulders and arms aren’t part of it. Most people bypass that part and pull the arms really hard.

How much of your coaching approach is physical and how much of it is mental?
I believe in getting players to move correctly, but  once we start moving better, then it’s about understanding what the pitcher can and cannot do and how she is trying to get me out. We’ve got to understand and believe in what we’ve been doing. That’s kind of the biggest thing with the kids—when you start making a lot of changes. If they start to have some success, then they’ll start to believe it a little bit.

There’s a lot of data out there now that is result oriented. How helpful is it that Blast provides you with the process data?
I think it helps a ton. I don’t think enough people ask why, what or how. That’s something that doesn’t sit very well with me. I want the kid to understand why they’re doing something, why they’re being asked to do this. How’s this going to help you? Where’s this going to translate into the game?

I see a lot people do drills just to do drills. Do you know why you’re doing that drill? I think once you start coaching like that, drills become busy work.

How do you take this approach and individualize it based on a player’s strengths and weaknesses?
Number 1 is finding out what that hitter is comfortable with and what that hitter wants to do. That’s probably the biggest thing because they’ve never been given that freedom. They’ve been told, “Stand this way. Put your hands here. You load like this. You finish like this.” So when I say, “You know what? Don’t worry about any of that stuff. We’re going to build you a swing pattern. These are the things that you have to do: put your weight in the heel, load around the hip, get the barrel to work around the forearms.”

When you start to guide your players like this, they start to understand and feel comfortable. Then they start to do some constraints and drills that fit that profile. Once they lay it all out there, they will gravitate toward the things they need to do.

To see more of Carlton Salters and drills he recommends for his players, visit our Youtube page.