Youth Baseball Advice: How To Walk To The Plate With Confidence

Jun 17, 2017 by Anonymous in  Uncategorized

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

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Youth Baseball Tips — How To Bargain Shop Gear

Jul 19, 2017

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:

Here is a direct link to shop Dick’s Clearance Bat Selection

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

                                                 

Link to this option                                                                               Link to this 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.

Link to these cleats

These recommendation were based on several hours of research and years of experience at the D1 level.

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American Baseball Camps — Five Ways to Build Your Young Slugger Up

May 04, 2017

“Do you realize your son is playing the biggest self esteem destroying sport in the world” – Steve Springer

This couldn’t be more true, this game will knock your child down enough. Baseball parents! You have to find a way to build your kids up, trust us we’re active D1 players at big time programs and we STILL need encouragement from our parents! You love your son more than anything, here are 5 ways we think will really give him that confidence he needs to be successful in Baseball.

#5 Snap his slump by shaking things up.

We know from experience that the best way to get out of a slump is by shaking things up. Whether it’s getting him a new bat, his favorite seeds, or batting gloves, or even a new bat grip. Shaking things up always helped us feel fresh on the field. Mix up the way he prepares and practices. Maybe jam to his favorite songs on the way to the game. This also includes shaking up the way you talk to your kid during/after the game, which we cover in (#4).

#4 Adopt a “so what, next pitch” mentality

Never yell at him or show him up on the field. If he makes an error or strikes out in a big situation, the game is already beating him up enough. He doesn’t need you adding to the pressure. Teaching your child to have a short memory and turn the page after a mistake on the field will help him to not carry things over in life. You’re simply saying “so what” and moving on to the next pitch. There is no reason he should take a mistake into the next at bat or make an error in the field because he is thinking about his last strikeout. Teach him to say “so what.” He’s a kid and baseball is just a game. Keep it fun while he is young so you don’t run him out of the game. 

#3 Try focused drills and make them fun

“Be where your feet are” – Nick Saban

Inability to focus can hurt players and give away at bats. So try running drills that teach him to lock in and be in the moment. One of our favorite drills for this growing up was the “errors drill.” If you make an error your out and have to wait for the next game. This teaches focus and helped me lock in for every ground ball. Try fun incentives. If you can hit 3 balls in a row into the back net off of the tee we’ll get ice cream. Keep it fun and light and help him to play focused, and in the moment.

#2 Reward quality at-bats NOT hits

Steve Springer (mental game of baseball coach) is really the guy on this. If you are not following him yet on twitter as a baseball parent you should! We were required to listen to his audiobook at my division 1 program and it was huge for us! The idea of it is your child can’t control if he gets a hit or not, there are simply too many variables. So instead of rewarding hits (which are out of his control), try rewarding quality at-bats. So what does a quality at-bat consist of? Our D1 program considers the following a QUAB (Quality At-Bat).

Single 

Double

Triple

Home Run

Hit by Pitch

Catchers Interference

Walk

8 pitch at-bat 

Hard hit ball

Get him over

Sac Fly

Sac Bunt

RBI

So in a game where you have to stay positive, you can see that by rewarding quality at bats your slugger will be proud of himself MUCH more often! This will pay dividends for his play, trust us! 

#1 Keep the Game fun 

This game can beat you up and make you want to quit. But that didn’t exist in the sandlot/wiffle ball days when kids were just playing because they wanted to have fun and loved the game! Encourage your kid to play wiffle ball with his friends or try having a home run derby at the field he played at 2 years ago with a little shorter fence. Baseball parents have to make baseball fun again if they want their kid to be the best player he can possibly be!

     – Authors: Anonynous 1 & 2 (For NCAA reasons)

American Baseball Camps was created to make baseball fun again! It is ran by Division 1 players who know that having fun will heighten self- esteem and make kids play better on the field. Our camps feature slip n’ slide wiffle ball, pitching dunk tank, and campers’ choice baseball drills! Camp cities are: Wilmington NC, Phoenix, Wichita, KC, OKC, Tahlequah, & Tulsa.

Youth Baseball Advice — How To Run A Great Practice

Jul 15, 2017

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.

The Warmup

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).

Play Catch

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.

*Water break*

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.

*Water break*

Drill Circuit

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)
  • Pickoffs
  • 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.

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