From weighted balls to exit velocity, everyone has their gimmick that will get your son to the next level. But they are missing something, an “X-Factor” that current MLB players are recommending as the difference maker in a young ballplayer’s journey to Big League Fame.
A quick backstory. My name is Nick Rotola, I founded American Baseball Camps at age 22 and had to proxy business ownership to my brother because running a baseball camp company while playing Division 1 Baseball is “deemed illegal by the NCAA.” –> Trust me those guys are a little much but that’s a conversation for another day.
While at Oral Roberts University I got my Masters in Business Administration. After that I played my first season of professional baseball as a part of the Wichita Wingnuts, and like many ballplayers I love the game and will play until they tell me I can’t play anymore. Anyways, that’s enough of that, let’s get to what you came for…
Precursor #1: Make The Data Sing
The Sports & Fitness Industry Association releases a report every year showing the rise or decline of participation in each youth sport. Here’s the link to their report but you should know that it costs $600 to purchase so #buyerbeware.
What they found is that Baseball & Softball participation is on a rapid rise due to its popularity within the parents that are as conscious about their children’s health and well-being as any generation of parents to date.
Many parents have their kid in baseball because they feel their use of technology needs to be mitigated, while others are in baseball because its a non-contact sport and concussions are really starting to scare people. (Not to say you can’t get concussions in Baseball).
With that being said, there are more youth ballplayers than ever before. This, as with any rise in competition in business or in baseball, brings an inherent need to stand out. Ballplayers’ parents are shelling out thousands of dollars a year for showcase teams which are shouting: “We’ll help you get your kid to the next level.”
But, as someone that’s recently been to the next level – and as a ballplayer that has “actually read a book once” as Bull Durham depicts – I feel that I may have some insights that could save a lot of Ballplayer Parents a lot of time and money over the duration of their kid’s career.
Precursor #2: Let Him Play As Much As He Wants
Every parent should understand this one because it is the case in every single profession in the world, it takes repetition to become an expert. In fact, it takes a person 30,000 hours of doing something to be considered an “expert” in their field. This lines up nicely with the 27-30-year-old “prime” that they tag on ballplayers.
With this in mind, we learn two things for your young ballplayer.
The first is that the more he plays the better he will become. It’s not saying that he’ll get better from a benchmarking perspective so don’t go comparing your son to the coaches’ son Shortstop just yet. It means that every time he puts on his cleats, in theory, he’ll be a better ballplayer than the time before.
The second thing we learn from the expert analogy is that your son won’t be in his prime for a long time. Stop fussing if he went 1 for 4 and he should have went 2 for 4, its baseball, you have to be process oriented not results oriented.
Precursor #3: Don’t Be That Parent
Limit Screentime. Kids are on their screens an average of 6.5 hours per day, time that does almost nothing for them in their baseball career, and probably pumps enough endorphins in their bodies that they have a tough time appreciating and loving the game of baseball like they could.
Set Goals. It wasn’t until I saw a Division 1 Baseball game that I decided in my head as an 8th grader that I could do it. This is what it took me to reach “success,” and you can inspire the same goals in your kid. Whether it’s going to the High School he’d go to, or the College you’d love him to go to, get him to see with his eyes and imagine himself there.
Don’t Bring The Game Up On The Car Ride Home. No one likes that pushy salesman in life, and your kid doesn’t want it in his baseball career.
No Instant Gratification. Parents of top athletes exhibit positive emotions with their kid(s). In baseball, that means you highlight things other than instant results because in baseball they don’t come that often, and if they do, they probably haven’t started throwing your kid sliders yet.
The X Factor: Confidence
You don’t have to pay for it, it’s not a gimmick or an Instagram Ad promising improvement, it’s just confidence. When you ask an MLB player what he would recommend to a young player he says “play with confidence.” When you talk to a sports psychologist like Brian Cain about how to perform better at the plate they’ll say “walk to the plate with confidence.”
Confidence is the key, and there are many things that you can implement as a parent to achieve tremendous confidence in your ballplayer over time.
To illustrate to parents how you can get your kid to make a big jump in his young career by improving his confidence, I’m going to yield to a staple in Management Theory’s “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.”
How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs works, is that you have to solve the first layer before you can move on to the next, then the second before the third, and so on. So if you want your kid to increase in confidence let’s map out a plan to solve those bottom three layers.
1st Layer: Physiological Needs
We already talked about playing as much baseball as possible this contributes to his physical and psychological needs as well. Now let’s look a litter deeper at getting your kid prepared from a physiological perspective.
Brian Cain one of the worlds’ leading baseball psychologists recommends 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep every night – not just the nights of competition. Studies show that increased sleep relates to better reaction times, more accurate reactions, and better able to handle stress.
Studies also show that its not only the length of sleep but the quality of sleep that leads to better athletic performance. Did you know that the blue light emitted from that screen that your kid is staring at for 6.5 hours per day watching YouTube videos could be ruining his quality of sleep and in turn his baseball performance? It does, and it is, and it needs to be reduced if you want this layer of the period to be met.
With regards to nutrition: studies say that an ounce of water for every pound of weight for people and then about 1.5 for every pound for athletes. Remove sugary drinks and add more water and you are off to a great start in helping him gain confidence. His mood will be better, skin, sleep, everything.
2nd Layer: Safety
The game has changed, you can’t coach kids like you as a parent were coached. Negative reinforcement has officially been trumped by positive reinforcement. If you want more on this from a big-time coach -> Listen to Head Coach Chad Holbrook of the University of South Carolina talk about safety and positive talk while playing.
How would you feel if your kid came into your workplace and was shouting at you telling you what to do as you were trying to do your job? Would you produce? Probably not.
This is an exaggerated simily, but I believe it accurately describes how difficult it is to hit a baseball when you can hear your dad or mom shouting instructions from the stands. Cut it out, and allow your kid to play.
3rd Layer: Love/Belongingness
As noted earlier, don’t talk about the game on the drive home. Your kid needs to feel that he is loved and that he belongs in your family apart from his baseball success. It’s hard to believe that this is a big confidence factor but it absolutely is.
One of my best friends had a dad that only loved his son when he was playing baseball and playing well and I’m telling you from first-hand experience that it is a confidence destroyer.
Love on your ballplayer, regardless of the results. You are doing your part already by getting him to the 100 games a year, making sure he sleeps and eats right, and that your talk is positive. Now make him feel like you love him and that he belongs despite his success on the field. It’s hard to believe but many parents send this message of “we love you, but we love and praise you if you win.” It’s awful, get rid of it.
In conclusion… Kids are flooding into baseball like never before. If you want your kid’s next season to be his best season we’ve laid out tons of good tips on how you can do that. Here is our summary:
- Take care of his physiological needs first. Research says that parents of elite athletes limit screen time. We know that excess screentime can limit sleep and quality of sleep, we know that limiting screentime is easier said than done but trust us – it’s a great start. On top of that, replace water with tons of sugary drinks and you should be good to go for this one.
- Safety through positive talk. Be steadfast as a baseball parent! Kids will perform better if you can act as a positive safety net in a very tough game.
- Let him know that his success, and the way you treat and love him, are not related. Many parents have a tough time separating their kid’s success on the field from how they treat him, don’t do it, it’s only going to make the problem worse!
Thanks for reading! If you need any youth baseball advice we are always available to help at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll do our best to respond quickly.
If your kid wants more baseball – we’ve got great low-cost camp options in many US cities. For Winter 2018 we have camps in Wichita KS & West Covina CA. Next summer we will have camps in many US Cities –> All camp registration is done online, you can find out more about our camps on our camps page.
This blog was written by Nick Rotola of the American Baseball Camps team. Nick owns and operates Harvest Marketing Company, a digital marketing company offering Website, SEO, Google & Facebook Ad services.
On our trek across the country with American Baseball Camps we have learned that many kids aren’t getting any better at their practices. Smart baseball parents are seeking out teams that run legitimate practices where their kid can actually get better, and I don’t blame them.
One of the worst practice stories we heard was in Tahlequah Oklahoma. A dad told me that at his kid’s practices the coach would put everyone in a group in the outfield and hit fly-balls and whoever catches it, catches it. This is similar to a game we used to play as kids called “500” but it certainly isn’t an entire practice!
This how-to guide on running a great practice is based on 20 years of good baseball experience, extensive research, and being a veteran player at one of the top D1 Baseball Programs in the country.
About ten years ago sports scientists realized that there is a more efficient way to warm-up than to just static stretch and count to ten. It is recommended to run kids through a “dynamic warmup” before practice and that “static stretch,” that you may be familiar with, after practice.
Here’s a quick example of a good dynamic warmup, it works best in two lines starting on the outfield foul line:
- jog 45 feet, jog back
- shuffle 45 feet, shuffle back
- karaoke 45 feet, karaoke back
- high knees 45 feet, high knees back
- butt kicks 45 feet, butt kicks back
- walking quad stretch 45 feet, walking quad stretch back
- leg swings 45 feet, leg swings back
- skipping leg swings 45 feet, skipping leg swings back
- lunges, side lunges 45 feet, jog back
- sprint 45 feet, sprint back
Upper Body Stretch:
- small arm circles forward, big arm circles forward
- small arm circles backwards, big arm circles backwards
- shoulder stretch across
- tricep stretch
- arm swings high to behind you (bicep stretch)
- rotator cuff stretch on the ground (lay on your throwing arm side put arm at 90 degree angle and push hand down towards the ground).
When they play catch remind them to take it seriously. You cannot win in baseball if you can’t play catch. Teach them the catch game to keep them locked in. If you hit them in the chest 3 points, hit them in the face 2 points, hit them in the arms or legs 1 point. Front elbow should be up and pointing towards where you want to throw it when you are playing catch.
On Field BP with the Rest of The Teams Taking Live Reps
BP on the field is a great way to see the results of your batting practice. It also gives the fielders a chance to take live reps off the bat if you do it right. Split your team into 4 groups of 3 (lets say you have 12 for the example). When 1 group hits, the other 9 players are in the field taking live reps off their teammates hitting, or fungos from a coach. Coaches stand adjacent to home plate. The coach on the 3rd base side hits fungos to the first baseman and the shortstop. The coach on the 1st base side hits fungos to the 3rd baseman and 2nd baseman. You need to wait and hit them in between pitches so that kids don’t have to field the fungo and the live grounder at the same time. Mix in some fly balls for the outfielders if they aren’t getting much action live off the bat.
Don’t have the whole team running one drill at one time, try to have coaches running simultaneous drills and just have the players rotate. It’s important to be efficient with your practice time. Below we have listed some drills to choose from that we like that we think could make young players a lot better:
- Rundown drill with a baserunner
- Pitcher fielding practice
- Double plays
- Short hops drill for infielders
- Quarterback drill (over the shoulder catches)
- 4 corners drill
- Around the bucket drill (for infielders to take the right path to the ball)
- Blocking drill
- Bare handed ground balls
- Bare handed receiving practice (catchers)
- Up the middle drill
- Soft toss
- Bunt defense
- Throwing to second (catcher and middle infielders)
- ESPN top ten drill
- Double cuts drill
- Robbing home runs drill
A good practice is all about getting the player a lot of good reps in a short amount of time. Players will get burnt out if they are out there all day so try to keep a practice around an hour and a half to two hours.
Make everything a game – I was doing a hitting lesson with a kid and was telling him to try to hit the back net of the cage and drive the ball up the middle. He kept pulling everything, he didn’t hit the back net once. Then when I created a game where hitting the L-Screen was 1 point and the back net was 2 points – he took off. Next thing I knew he was saying “I’m gonna get to 20”. Kids respond well to games and challenges, so try to use those to your advantage. If anything they just promote focus and induce competition.
Treat them like studs and they’ll start acting like it – My career took off when I found a coach that treated me like I was better than I really was. You’d be surprised, treat a player like he’s better than he’s playing and he’ll rise to the occasion
Encourage & support – This generation can’t be coached the same way that you were coached growing up. The drill sergeant makes them run till they puke stuff just isn’t needed. These kids are smart and if you treat them with respect, they’ll treat you with it in return. Every player isn’t created equal — you have to coach to your team. Know your players and coach them accordingly.
– Blog was written by a group of older D1 Baseball Players that have chosen to remain anonymous for NCAA reasons.
We offer Team Rates at our camps if 4 or more players from the same team attend.
Baseball is expensive, put more of your money into tournaments and camps that will make your kid better and less into gear with these savvy baseball shopping tips.
#1 Dick’s Sporting Goods — Online Clearance Opportunities
In 2016 Dick’s Sporting Goods announced its plan to build additional distribution centers across the US. They’re doing this because sporting goods like baseball equipment only sell in season. When they’re not selling particularly well (like right now for baseball) they are just burning holes in their distrubution center shelves as they are hoping to fill them with more in-season gear (like football right now). They need to get this baseball stuff out, that is why their clearance selection is so large right now during “baseball limbo.”
Here is a screen shot of some of their top bats on clearance:
The first one, the Easton Mako Torq for $199, that bat was $399 at one point. I’m telling you buy them clearance.
*Here’s another tip* – The college guys, we get to test these new bats, we velocity test them, bat speed, the whole nine yards. What do we learn? THERE IS NOTHING BETTER ABOUT THE BRAND NEW MODEL. In fact, many of the 3 year old bats have more pop because they’re broken in. If you watch the CWS (which is the best players in the world still swinging medal bats), many of them are using models from 2 and 3 years ago. They aren’t improving year to year, just new branding. So buy one that’s a couple years older, and let him use it for a couple of years so it fully breaks in.
#2 Baseball Savings — A Great Option For Gloves
First of all, don’t get your kid a new glove if he’s comfortable with the one he’s got right now. There’s a famous story about Dustin Pedroia (2nd Baseman for the Red Sox) when he was at Arizona State. Glove company Wilson came in and gave everyone on the team a brand new glove with their name on it and everything with only one stipulation, you had to wear it in games. Dustin wouldn’t do it. He was ASU’s starting SS and he had been using the same glove since he was 11 years old. ASU’s glove contract with Wilson survived, but it tells us something interesting about gloves. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY ONE EVERY YEAR. In fact, if you look at the best fielders on your kids’ team, they’re probably all using gloves they feel really comfortable with. Comfort is everything with gloves. Most of the time that means finding one that you like, and sticking with it for a long time.
Below we have selected a cheap an expensive glove option from Baseball Savings. I think they’ll both work great and hopefully your kid sticks with them for 4 or 5 years. After the 2 year mark is when you really fall in love with a glove. If you notice, both of these gloves are Rawlings. We think its the best leather, and if you look at the big league infielders, most of them use Rawlings. The big difference between these two great gloves is the leather. The cheap option here is a nice “I-Web” glove that is going to be good for a long time. The expensive option here is the “Pro Preferred” model and its a “Trapeze-Web”. This is one of the most famous shortstop gloves of all time. A lot of pros like this glove. Both of these gloves are 11.5 inch which is for a shortstop or second baseman. Third baseman traditionally use an 11.75 inch glove, and outfielders a 12.75 inch glove.
Cheap Option Expensive Option
#3 Get New Balance Cleats — Most Comfortable & Last The Longest
Many of the College teams are switching over to New Balance cleats because the players are asking for them. These things are crazy comfortable and they last a long time. Cleats may be something you have to buy every year depending on your kids’ playing style, but these have the best chance to last you 2 or 3 years. Here is a screenshot of a good, low, molded cleat.
These recommendation were based on several hours of research and years of experience at the D1 level.
In honor of saving money, enjoy 20% off all of our camps for the rest of the summer. Just use coupon code: JULYDISCOUNT at checkout for 20% off any of our camps. Cities with camps left are:
Tulsa | Tahlequah | KC | Wichita | Phoenix
Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Many talk about how important it is in youth baseball, but few youth baseball players have it! We lay out in this brief blog a few simple things to instill in your kid to give him tremendous confidence at the plate. Sometimes the smallest mental adjustments can make the biggest difference in youth baseball.
“The expert in everything was once a beginner.”
Step #1: Remember The Good, Forget The Bad
When a kid is hitting well he usually continues to build confidence as he does so. This is why you should reminisce about great at-bats. Remembering yourself being successful can be a great tool as you are on the on deck circle. This is one of the best ways to quickly build a kid’s confidence, just remind him of his last great at-bat. On the contrary, bad at-bats can do the same for a kid negatively. Those are the at-bats you’ll have to encourage him to forget about. That is such an important thing to teach your kid about his at-bats; remember the good ones, and forget the bad ones.
“You have to have a short memory. Learn from your failures, but don’t sit around worrying about them.” – Derek Jeter
Step #2: Walk To The Plate With Your Chest Out
Confidence is something that a kid can control if he really wanted to. One of the best ways to get him to feel that feeling of confidence is to teach him to walk with it. Have him grab the barrel of the bat and walk to the plate like he’s got the biggest chest on the field. It is scientifically proven that good posture can boost confidence, and that being confident can boost confidence. Have him do both everytime he walks to the plate and we guarantee you he’ll hit better!
Step #3: Be Fearless
No matter how small or skinny your youth baseball player is, you can teach him to be fearless at the plate. There is no reason you should ever give the opposing pitcher any credit when talking to your son. If your kid is 8, let him know that he can hit any 8 year old in the country. Look at the worst kids in youth sports, they probably all have one thing in common, fear. Fear can kill a young ballplayers mind set and it should be avoided at all costs. Speak positive things to your young ballplayer, and never give an opposing pitcher too much credit, your kid can hit him if he’s fearless I promise!
Step #4: Have A Routine At The Plate
You’ve seen all the big league guys, they do the same things and they have the same rituals every time they step into the batters-box. There is a reason they do this, it builds confidence and adds a level of consistency and comfort. Baseball players play the best and hit the best when things feel routine. Nothing is more routine than doing the same thing every time you step into the box. So whether your kids’ thing is to spit on his batting gloves or dig into the back corner of the box, encourage him to do the same thing every time. When things become routine, they become easier.
Step #5: Visualize Success
This last one is the best because it can be done anytime of day, even outside of baseball. Teach your kid to visualize positive outcomes in his spare time. Your brain can’t distinguish the “imagined home-runs” for example from the “real home-runs.” What that means is that eventually it can feel like your kid has done it before and the brain tricks the muscles into feeling like they can do it easily. I remember sitting on the bench before an at-bat, visualizing myself hitting a double in the gap, and then going out there and doing it first pitch. I’ll tell you what, visualizing success in baseball works! I wish I would have known about it when I was 10 or so like many of your kids!
– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Center Fielder (MBA Student) Oral Roberts University
Visualize Yourself Being Successful
According to one of our favorite pieces of research the mind cannot distinguish between real and imaginary in sports. Another study we have found links how you perceive the ball when you hit to success. Those more familiar with success viewed the ball as bigger, and therefore hit better.
We are seeing that perception and reality are often treated the same by the mind. In other words, trick your mind by imagining yourself having success at the plate, then see the ball as bigger because you are familiar with that success, and hit better! You also will become more comfortable in situations that you have “already been in.” Why are older guys so much more comfortable when they play? They’ve played more. You want your kid to be more comfortable at the plate right? Have him hit 3 times more often by imagining himself in the box, and being successful.
I don’t know why more people don’t try this it is easier than it looks. Just have your youth baseball player when he’s laying in bed at night, or right before an at-bat, close his eyes & visualize driving the ball into the gap, or driving the ball the other way, or bunting for a hit. Wherever he needs to improve, teach him to visualize it, and he’ll be able to do it.
Play Up & Play A Lot
For this one we are going to use a well known example and a personal example. The well known is Bryce Harper. Bryce, like many big leaguers, played up growing up. His parents started him in t-ball at age 3 on his older brother Bryan’s team. Bryce continued to develop up to the age he was playing even into HS when he skipped his Junior year of HS, took the GED, and played up with his brother again at the College of Southern Nevada. In a rare interview with ESPN, while in HS, Bryce Harper and his parents attribute much of his success to playing up and to playing hundreds of games a year.
My personal example is Tampa Bay Rays Cather Derek Norris. This guy was coached by my dad in Wichita and played up his entire life. He played two years up with his older brother Nathan. Derek was always a really good player but never really stood out from the bunch, until he got to HS and played with kids his own age. Derek went on to become a HS phenom whom got drafted in the fourth round.
Have More Fun
Many of the guys I’ve played with at the Division 1 level have said that “baseball isn’t fun anymore with their head coach” and almost in the breath they say “we had the talent but had a terrible year.” Compare that to a team like Oral Roberts where I play, with a players coach that encourages fun at the field (as long as you’re still focused) and you see that we have a very successful program. I am telling you players play better when they have fun.
The moment that baseball becomes more about pleasing parents, or pleasing coaches, a kid loses interest. Make his practices fun, make his games fun, and make his tournament experiences fun. We’ve noticed with American Baseball Camps that kids don’t even notice they are getting really quality reps in and getting better when we make the games and drills as fun as possible. Make baseball fun again, and your kid is going to perform a lot better. This is confirmed by research from changing the game project.
– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Center Fielder (MBA Student) Oral Roberts University
Kids don’t get better unless they play a lot of baseball. A great source of baseball during the summertime are youth baseball camps. They break up the monotony of baseball games and practices and they are usually designed to quickly and effectively make your kid a better baseball player. But what makes a great youth baseball camp? What should you look for when signing your kid up for one? We list our top three things to look for in a youth baseball camp.
The things learned at a baseball camp have to be relevant to a kid’s baseball life. Camp coaches need to be clear with your kid in how the things learned at camp can actually be applied in a game. If camp coaches are just discussion theories with your kids and tweaking mechanics your kids aren’t going to take anything away from the camp. A good camp gives a kid tangible adjustments and teaches the kid how to apply them. Find an instructional youth baseball camp that is delivering relevant information!
Youth Baseball Camps should be mostly about having fun. Why? Baseball players perform best when they are having fun. This doesn’t mean picking daisies and playing with bubbles. What we are talking about here is finding a camp that the kid’s not going to hate. So many of the youth baseball camps we have researched have the kids bouncing around from drill to drill going through the motions and grinding it out. This can hurt a kid’s motivation and drive for the game of baseball. Instead, put him in a camp where he is having the time of his life & getting a lot better. Why are MLB guys always joking around and having fun in the dugout? The game is supposed to be fun, and players perform the best when they are having fun.
Youth baseball camps are huge in the development of young ballplayers, but that doesn’t mean you should have to refinance your house to pay for them. Find a quality youth baseball camp that costs around $50-$75 a day. Anything higher than that and you’re looking at greedy camp coaches/owners. There is no reason to be paying $400 for a 3 day camp just because it’s led by an ex-Major Leaguer. Quality instruction can be found for much less. Youth baseball camps are about giving back to the next generation of young baseball players, not about profits. So, find a camp that meets all of your baseball camp needs, and is affordable too.
– Blog written by an American Baseball Camps Coach | ABC is offering 2 day youth baseball camps for ages 4-12 in the following cities:
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.
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
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
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
#1 Build Self-Esteem
In D1 Baseball we learn about the importance of self-talk and how it can translate into better success on the field. This is something I wish I would have known when I was growing up in youth sports. Self talk is so important — Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake.
It is important in self-esteem building to not compare yourself to others in baseball! So many of the complaints we hear from baseball parents have something to do with some other player on their team and “special treatment.” Jealousy and comparisons with teammates are not healthy thought to be going through a youth baseball players’ head. Parents don’t compare your kid to others on the team.
#2 The Power of the Bribe
A great way to encourage in youth baseball is with the good old-fashioned bribe. Coaches and parents, pick up a pack of helmet stickers at a local sporting goods store for around $5-10. With these stickers you can interchange hits or home runs with numbers on the back of his helmet. This way you can encourage his success while incentivizing him to be successful.
#3 Positive Reinforcement > Negative Reinforcement
In an already negative game (especially when you get older) extra negativity should be avoided. We already talked about negative thoughts and comparisons with teammates. But there are other areas where positivism and encouragement can overcome negativity. Smiles are better than stern looks when a child looks at you during a game. Smiles are so powerful. They always tend to make others smile. Rather than getting on to your kid when he messes up in baseball try phrases like: “so what” or “get em next time.”
After all, it is just a game. A game that is much more fun when you are encouraged along the way!
#4 Seek Encouraging Instruction
There are two types of coaches out there, the one that encourages, and the one that screams at kids because he’s stuck in 1997 when he played. Seek out those coaches that are knowledgeable enough to know that kids play the best when they have high self-esteem and believe in themselves. Find coaches that cultivate that kind of mindset at the baseball field.
#5 Sign up for a Fun Baseball Camp
The best and most encouraging baseball summer camps in the country are American Baseball Camps. D1 instruction from the D1 Players with an emphasis on encouragement: Wilmington NC | Phoenix AZ | Wichita KS | KC MO| Tahlequah OK | Tulsa OK
#1 Eat Healthy
According to a Children’s Lifestyle study at the University of Chicago, children perform better mentally when they get the appropriate nutrition. Young players and parents of young ballplayers don’t realize how important mental performance is in baseball. Food can be fuel for a young ballplayer. I didn’t start eating healthy until my Junior year of college at the D1 level and I will tell you that it was my best year. You don’t get tired as easily, and your brain is sharp when you are putting the right things in your body. Baseball is more mental than you think, eating healthy could give your kid an edge over the competition.
“Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical” – Yogi Berra
#2 Learn From Mistakes
I know that the new thing is participation trophies and everyone is a winner, but I think that kind of mindset can hurt a young ballplayer. Mistakes and failure can be very productive if a kid can learn from them! The kids that were able to learn from their mistakes were the ones that were the most successful growing up. Even at the D1 level this can set a player apart. Why make the same mistake twice? Why keep swinging at curveballs in the dirt when it is the only place the pitcher is throwing his curveball. Mental adjustments and being able to learn from mistakes can set a young player apart.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”
#3 Get Enough Sleep
According to The Sleep Foundation kids aged 5-12 need 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Sleep has many implications in athletics. Players that get the appropriate amount of sleep are more sharp, they have quicker reflexes, and they have greater stamina. This could set your young ballplayer apart in that final inning when the rest of the team is yawning up a storm.
#4 Exercise Daily — The Fun Kind
Exercise doesn’t have to be lifting weights! Young ballplayers that exercise daily can set themselves apart. Remember, the average kid aged 5-12 spends 6.5 hours a day looking at their phone, this cuts into the natural athletic development that occurs when a kid exercises. Want your kid to be the most athletic one on his little league team? Here are some fun things that build muscle & athleticism — Racquetball, tennis, basketball, jump rope, wall-ball, relay races with friends, swimming, boxing, sit-ups, push-ups, grippers, ladders, box jumps.
#5 Baseball Isn’t Everything
One of the most healthy habits to develop as a young baseball player is to realize that baseball isn’t everything. 70% of ballplayers are out of the sport by 13 because of the pressure. Something my D1 coach always used to say is: “pressure is something that you put on yourself.” Your young ballplayer has a choice whether he cries or not everytime he strikes out. One of the best ways to avoid that kind of feeling when you fail in baseball is just to consciously realize that baseball isn’t everything. The popular marketing term of “no days off” can be a toxic mindset. There is way too much failure in this game to rely on it and spend everyday thinking about it.
“Baseball is beautiful and perfect in every way — but it’s not everything.” – American Baseball Camps
The best baseball summer camps in the country are American Baseball Camps: Wilmington NC | Phoenix AZ | Wichita KS | KC MO| Tahlequah OK | Tulsa OK