The “X FACTOR” In Youth Baseball

May 26, 2017 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps Youth Baseball Coach

The Prepared vs. The Unprepared

I was working on hitting with a 6 year old kid the other day. Just as a favor, one of our family friends asked me to work with her boy. This kid plays t-ball in Oklahoma and is a pretty good little player.

But as I was tossing the ball to him he kept swinging and missing. He said with the utmost confidence “I can’t do it”, even though he ended up foul tipping it, and then connecting with one a few tosses later.

It occurred to me that this particular kid, who is a pretty good player, had never attempted to hit a baseball that wasn’t on a tee! In fact, I’m not so sure he had ever practiced outside of baseball practice. This is what we are going to call the under-prepared player, and he is placed in a severe disadvantage.

On my circuit around the state talking with Youth Baseball Coaches about American Baseball Camps, I overheard a certain coach talking to his 7U team. He was cancelling practice for the next day because he didn’t want the kids to get sick with the cold-front (the forecast was 60 degrees).

This encounter helped me realize that the X FACTOR in youth baseball is getting better outside of organized baseball. You cannot rely on your 9 year old kid’s coach to develop him fully as a player. My friends’ kid practices maybe once or twice before the season, and then plays one game a week. I’m telling you, if your kid is only playing baseball when he has his uniform on, and mom is taking pictures, he is going to have a tough time being great.

When I was 3 years old, and this can be proven with video, I asked for & hit in a batting cage throwing 36 miles per hour. What kind of a 3 year old asks to do that on his birthday? This is because I grew up around baseball, I watched my brothers play, I watched my dad coach, and I was hungry to play! I played all the time, I threw the ball up to myself, and threw into a net when I didn’t have anyone to play catch with. I was always playing wiffle ball, and watching my brothers’ games. Do you think by the time I was 6 I didn’t believe in myself that I could hit a ball tossed to me? No I was the kid saying “I’m going to smoke this ball.”

The difference in baseball environments between myself and the aforementioned 6 year old is what I believe to be the X FACTOR in Youth Baseball. It is what can set your kid apart from the pack.

To demonstrate this further lets take two kids and you decide which one will be the dominant player on his team.

Player #1

Signs up for t-ball and is excited for his first practice.

Practices a couple times before his first game and spends approximately 1.5 hours a week playing.

Mom leaves his glove and bat in the car until the next game

Player #2

Signs up for t-ball with a comprehensive understanding of the game and how it works. Including an understanding of the force out rule.

Practices almost if-not everyday with friends or family in the backyard with a bat and a ball, or a broomstick and a tennis ball, anything they can get their hands on.

Sleeps with his glove on his nightstand, loves to play catch and have dad hit him ground balls and fly-balls in the backyard

The Highest Probability of Success

What I am saying is not that player #1 will never be successful, or that parents need to drill their kid to be like player #2. My point is that baseball is a sport that requires “reps.” Why do division 1 shortstops take 100 ground balls a day? Because it makes it so easy by the time they get one in the game that it becomes routine. It takes practice to become a great baseball player, you can’t just show up and rely on athleticism.

Baseball is a beautiful sport because it is proven that a kid that gets more reps outside of baseball will be better than a more athletic kid that doesn’t understand or practice the game.

You can’t make a kid love a sport, and you don’t want to be that baseball parent that is resented for trying to force work-ethic. But you can certainly help cultivate a baseball environment at home. Your kid will never be great if he is only doing baseball things at the field twice a week, with a practice every other.

The kids that have a passion for the game have been and always will be the best.

That is the X FACTOR in youth baseball, getting extra baseball reps outside of baseball practice/games.

“Those that fail to prepare are preparing to fail” – Ben Frankin

 

–  Blog written by an American Baseball Camps Coach

A TRIBUTE TO BASEBALL MOMS — 5 Things I Was Most Thankful For

Apr 27, 2017

In my 19 years of baseball, I can’t believe I didn’t stop to appreciate my Mom. This tribute is to her, and every Baseball Mom that probably isn’t getting the recognition they deserve.

Really quick back story about myself — Currently a senior at a historic division 1 baseball program. I cannot reveal my name or program for NCAA reasons. I recently got hurt, and started to reflect back on my career. — And so the post begins.

She’s not in any of the pictures, she was always the one taking them… But (Pictured) is me before my first T-Ball game in 1997.

Guys, I really didn’t know what a roller coaster baseball was about to take me on!

#5 A Constant in an Inconsistent Game

One of the things I most appreciated about my baseball Mom over the years was her consistency. This game can beat you down sometimes and my Mom was always there to pick me up. My dad was so up and down with all the highs and lows in baseball, as was I. But that can be hard on a baseball player in an emotional game like baseball. Through the ups and downs of baseball my Mom was happy, thankful, and content to just be with me after the game. You see where dad’s may be upset after an injury or a bad game, Mom’s are just happy to be with you, and happy that you called her to talk about the game. Which leads me to the next thing I was so thankful for, the support.

#4 Mom’s are Supportive, Dad’s are Expectant

Dad’s expect a lot out of their sons, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in a game of failure those expectations are going to be let down an awful lot. I never got that feeling with my Mom though. My Mom was at the same amount of games as he was, she was repping our team colors just as much too. Yet, I never get the feeling like she’d be wavered in anyway by an 0 for 20 stretch.

#3 Mom’s relieve pressure

When a little kid messes up in the game of baseball, think about all the things that are going through his head. He’s mad at himself that he “messed up”, his self talk is probably harsh. His teammates are let down, his coach shakes his head. The other team is saying something to him as he runs back to the dugout.

This is hard on a kid, trust me when I say this, its hard. And what happens from this is an unnecessary pressure that baseball players start to put on themselves. The fear of negative outcomes makes a kid think and expect things of himself he shouldn’t.

That is where my Baseball Mom was huge for me. She was screaming just as loud saying “its okay” after a bad strike out as she was when I hit a home run. (Okay, maybe not quite as loud as a home run cheer but you get the point).

She just took the pressure away. That was so huge for me, I can’t believe I didn’t realize it all that time.

#2 She was Positive in a Negative Game

That overly positive, thinks their kid is the greatest, thing that Mom’s do — that’s actually extremely helpful. Confidence is so big in baseball. This is one thing that makes a naturally good baseball player great, and Mom’s are often times the reason kid’s have confidence in themselves. Baseball is a self-esteem destroying sport, so that boost that my Mom always gave me helped me to find a balance. Sure, the game humbled me, and it was hard to be “proud.” But I always believed in myself, and that was because of you, Mom.

#1 She hugged me when I was sad, and stuck with me when I was mad

Even though I’m a “tough tough hard-nosed college baseball player”, I can admit that I got really sad sometimes playing this game. That hug after the game is what I’m referencing here, man was that huge. Mom’s are nurturing, and mine had the tendency to melt away sadness in those discouraging moments.

I got mad a lot with baseball, I probably was a huge jerk there for a while and took a lot of frustration out on my Mom. Which just sounds horrible to me now, but it happened. I don’t know how my Mom stuck with me and didn’t slap me across the face but she did it! She stuck with me. Rude, thought he knew everything, me.

 

Mom, I love you and I couldn’t have went this far in the game of baseball without you! Even though you had to know that I did, sorry I didn’t tell you how much I appreciated you until I was 23. You were there for me when the game got me down when I was 4. Just as you were when the game knocked me down when I was 23. And I thank you for all the things you did in-between.

Mom — This tribute is for you

– Author Anonymous (for NCAA reasons)

 

Baseball Moms everywhere are loving American Baseball Camps for their kids! D1 instruction from the D1 Players with an emphasis on encouragement!

Coed ages 4-12 in select cities: Wilmington NC | Phoenix AZ | Wichita KS | KC MO| Tahlequah OK | Tulsa OK

Best Baseball Camps for Kids in Wichita Kansas

Apr 28, 2017

Outdoor recreation is on the rise once again! With all that’s going on these days, and all the technological stimuli association with being a kid, there is nothing better than letting him/her get outside and play America’s most fun game! So if he does want to put down the phone for a few days this summer, and you are looking for a great baseball camp to put him in, we have identified our 3 favorite in Wichita Kansas this summer!

Enjoy! And keep helping your kid have fun playing the game of baseball!

#3 Wichita Wingnuts Baseball Camp

Website: http://wichitawingnuts.com/about/fan-fun/camp/

Ran by: Wichita Wingnut Players & Coaches

Camp Dates: N/A

Duration Each Day: Day Camp

Facilities: Lawrence Dumont Stadium

Price: N/A

Ages: N/A

Coed: Yes

Email: scott@wichitawingnuts.com

From the Website: If you have a son or daughter interested in learning the game of baseball from some of the best local coaches around, get them signed up as soon as you can before all the spots are taken. Email scott@wichitawingnuts.com for details or go to our website and click here under the picture of the camp flyer to fill out the registration form and waiver. We are looking forward to having another great group of kids like the last couple of years. GO NUTS!!

There is very little information about their camp coming in summer 2017, and their camps can be very unorganized. This may not be the most fun camp your kid will go to all summer, but you can be sure he/she will receive some great baseball instruction.

#2 Todd Butler Baseball Camp

Website: http://www.wichitastatebaseballcamps.com/camps.

Ran by: Todd Butler (Head Coach WSU)

Camp Dates: N/A

Camp Duration: Day Camp

Facilities: Bombardier indoor practice facility

Price: N/A (estimated price $150)

Ages: *In concordance with NCAA rules (whatever that means)

Coed: *In concordance with NCAA rules (whatever that means)

From the Website: “Thank you for your interest in the Todd Butler’s Shocker Baseball Camps. We are proud to offer top baseball instruction. With several camps offered, you are sure to find a camp that fits every player’s baseball needs. Each player will receive instruction from the coaches of Wichita State as well as current and alumni players. We will demonstrate skills and provide instruction that will allow the player to continue to improve even after their camp experience is over.”

We list the Todd Butler Baseball Camp as the #3 best camp in Wichita because there really is a lot of value in getting D1 instruction. Todd Butler is the head coach of WSU, one of the best D1 baseball programs in the state. There are tons of benefits to getting your kid top instruction as he grows into (hopefully) a great baseball player.

#1 American Baseball Camps

Website: americanbaseballcamps.com

Ran by: Division 1 & Pro Baseball Players

Camp Dates: August 6th-9th

Duration: 8:30-3:00 (Early & Late Care Inlcuded)

Facilities: Robertson Field

Address: 4121 N. Seneca St, Wichita, KS 67204

Price: $199.99 (use coupon HOMERUN for $20 off)

Ages: (5-12)

Coed: Yes

Email: americanbaseballcamps@gmail.com

From the Website:

American Baseball Camps is exploding as the #1 fastest growing baseball camp in America! We saw the overwhelming need for a camp like this in youth baseball to give kids the highest level training with constant encouragement & confidence building from coaches. Our high-level training features video swing & pitching analysis, analyzed from HQ by our team of highly trained Professional Baseball Players. Our confidence-builders include slip n’ slide baseball, home run derby, and more.

The mission of American Baseball Camps is to give kids the tools they need to be successful, and the confidence to turn those mechanics into more success on the field. We also reward being a good teammate at the end of every camp day, because we know that is how kids are going to stay in the game longer, make more friends, be liked by coaches, and have a lot more fun playing the game.

American Baseball Camps — 10 Tips for Little League Coaches

May 23, 2017

In our journey in baseball we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly with coaches. The one that breaks everything, the one that’s all about himself, we’ve seem them all! Together we have collaborated with 10 helpful tips for Little League Coaches. Most of these are things that we’ve seen coaches do in our life that all the players really loved and responded well to!

#1 Be Consistent

Ever wonder why managers in the MLB never ever show emotion in the dugout. It is because they realize the power of staying even keel in baseball. Your players will play better if they can learn to be consistent. So you, as their little league coach, have to set the standard of consistency.

#2 Be Fun

The best coaches I’ve ever had were just as fun to be around as my friends on the team. Good coaches are friendly, and they make being at the ballfield more fun than it already is. Don’t be afraid to joke with players and make fun a bit. Boys and young men like that kind of stuff. Run fun practices, with fun games and drills. Keep the dugout lively, and show your kids by example how to have fun at the yard.

#3 Teach How to Handle Pressure

This Forbes Article on Success and Pressure reveals that top athletes are the ones that are the most comfortable under pressure! Put pressure on your players in practice and challenge them. The same old sissy BP and stand around isn’t making anyone better. Try running high intensity drills while teaching your players how to stay calm and focused in those situations. This one pays dividends for your players in baseball and in life, according to Forbes.

#4 Teach How to Handle Adversity

“Baseball is a game of failure” – Baseball Cliche of the Century

You’ve heard the quote a thousand times but don’t forget its implications for your players. Good coaches teach players how to handle adversity when it comes. Take terrible moments in baseball as coaching moments that your players can learn from. Be approachable, and offer advice in the right moments. Teach a kid how to handle striking out 4 times in a row, and he’ll be able to handle anything else life throws his way.

#5 Be Approachable

My D1 Baseball Coach is the best coach I have ever had, and it is because he is easy to talk to. The days of screaming and yelling and demoralizing young players are over. The best coaches are smart, consistent, strong, and approachable. Let your kids know that they can talk to you directly if they have any concerns at all (especially about playing time). This will remove all of the doubt that mom and dad are putting on a kid about his playing time, because before a problem even surfaces the player resolves it with the coach directly.

#6 Know the Game

Both D1 programs I have been at have preached this loud and clear to their players, be a student of the game. This applies to coaches as well. Being the most knowledgeable baseball mind on the field will not only give you an edge against other teams, it will develop a pattern of trust and respect among your players. Don’t be that coach that brags about his high school days and hasn’t learned a single baseball thing since. Be a student of the game, as you continue to become a better teacher of it!

#7 Teach your Players to Compete

One of the best drills for this is the errors game. Put the whole team at SS in a single file line. If you make an error you are out, and keep playing until one is standing. This will teach players to compete and it will develop their will to win. Two very important factors in the game of baseball.

#8 Teach Them who they’re really Playing Against

“In baseball there are really only two thing you are competing against every day — yourself and the game!” – Brian Cain

When you just compete against yourself and the game you take lots of factors out of the equation that can only hurt the ballclub.

For example, at the D1 level we have extensive scouting reports given to us on every pitcher we face the entire season. We have his pitches, pitch speeds, hold times, pick off tenancies, pitch tenancies, arm slot, and anything else you could possibly need to prepare for a guy. Here’s the kicker – we throw it out the window at game-time. Why? players play the best when they play against themselves and the game.

#9 Teach Them to Control what they can Control

“Be where your feet are” – Nick Saban

There are things in baseball that your players don’t need to worry about. The weather, the umpires, the kid on the other team that’s supposed to be 12 but looks 32; all of these things are out of a players control. So they aren’t worth thinking about in a game where focus on what you are doing is so crucial. Things that a player can control are: approach, plan, focus, work-ethic, dedication. These are the things that an athlete should be judged on. Physical errors are often out of a players control, mental errors are usually controllable. Teach a kid to just focus on the things that are within his control and he is much more likely to “be where his feet are” as Nick Saban is suggesting.

#10 Teach Them to Think about One Thing at the Plate

“The closest thing to thinking about nothing at the plate is thinking about one thing at the plate” – The Mental Game of Baseball by Harvey Dorfman

Eliminate distractions in your players’ minds as they are up to the plate. Figure out what their plan/approach should be at the plate and come up with a short phrase or word that they can focus on while in the batters box. “Weight back” for example, or “throw the hands.” While this tip seems trivial, it can make a world of difference for a hitter at the plate. Don’t believe us? Just ask Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn — This guy is huge on only one thought in the batters box!

–  Blog written by an American Baseball Camps Coach

 

 

 

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