Coaches, I want you to take a minute and think back to your time as a player. What do you remember?
Do you remember what happened on your 310th career at-bat? Or your fourth high school at-bat result?
The answer to most of these questions is ‘no’. We tend to remember the teams that made us smile, the teammates that played the game the right way, the big pressure moments, and lastly, we share stories about those that dominated our league or those who made it to the next level.
None of our memories are combative, or are regretted opportunities, but rather the times this game was fun.
That’s what teams today miss. As coaches, one of the most dynamic pieces to a successful team is understanding that more than anything, we are playing a game.
Teaching kids to accept failure is extremely difficult, but by creating an atmosphere where your team works hard to be as efficient as possible, with the understanding of
‘MISTAKES ARE GOING TO HAPPEN’ it will better help the players control their emotions, and lead to more success as a group.
A team dynamic is important in the foundation of every team, so effectively distinguishing the main objectives of the team
(I.E. team goals, team objectives, etc.)
WHILE ALSO teaching the mental and emotional aspects that come with this game, can lead to a team bonding in more ways than just baseball.
Relate all lessons learned while playing this game to the bigger picture. Teach the kids that these lessons carry more weight than they may know now, as they will face these same feelings and emotions in the real world.
Those are going to resonate with the players, making them see the bigger picture and understand that the dynamics of the team is bigger than j
ust a “baseball only” mindset.
This will lead to players bonding together, and with the coaches on a deeper level leading to more success as a team moving forward.
Here is our list of 3 ways for young players to drive more baseballs and hit more Home Runs.
#1 Relax your hands
It’s the 2011 home run derby and Robinson Cano hits 12 home runs in his final round! The reporter asks: “what was going through your head in that final round?” As he was effortlessly hitting balls into the upper deck, the reporter wanted to know what his thought process was. He didn’t say I tried my hardest, or I tried to pull the ball to left field. No, what he said is shocking because it goes against natural hitting/human instincts. He said: “I really just tried to relax my hands and throw the hands.” Wow! here is a guy with some of the greatest power in the game and all he is thinking at the plate is “relax your hands.” That’s why if youre a parent with a young slugger, this is our number one piece of advice for you to give him before an at bat, or when you are working in the cage.
#2 Gain Muscle
Power = Mass x Acceleration
Building muscle does both of these things, it gives you more muscle “mass” and adds bat speed “acceleration.”
I’m a D1 baseball player at an Anonymous program (for NCAA reasons) and I can’t tell you how many guys I knew growing up that got so much better at baseball when they started building muscle. This doesn’t mean lifting weights, but for those younger kids it is so big that they are doing things to help give them bat-speed. One of the best ways for a young player to gain bat speed is to swing a heavy bat. That means maybe 50 or 100 times a day go out in the back yard with the heaviest bat you can find and swing as hard as you can. Gene Stevens at Wichita State (a great baseball program) used to tell young players to take 100 dry hacks every single day! It seems like a lot but only takes 5 minutes and could set your kid apart from the pack!
Other recommended ways for young baseball players to gain muscle are: adjustable hand grippers, push ups, wall sits, and planks.
#3 Play More Ball
“Practice makes perfect” – Vince Lombardi
Listen to Bryce Harper when he is in High School talk about how many games he played when he was growing up, the number will shock you. This is one of the greatest guys in the game right now, maybe a future Hall of Famer! And he is saying that he got good because of how often he played! WOW.
As a current D1 baseball player I can tell you that you get better every single time you lace up those cleats. Parents, think about how easy it is to brush your teeth in the morning. That is because you have done it so many times that it starts to become “routine.” This concept is huge in baseball! Get him 100 live ground balls in a game and watch how routine he starts to make it look.
This is why we practice for so long in division 1, and why we play so many games during the offseason!
In football, practice makes perfect. But in baseball practice makes routine. And being able to make things routine is how you become a great baseball player. trust me I play with them every single day!
Routine it, play more baseball.
– Authors: Anonynous 1 & 2 (For NCAA reasons)
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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
– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player
3 Quick Tips For Baseball Parents
#3 Help Build Good Nutrition Habits
One of the things that can set a great baseball player apart from the good ones is nutrition! Good eating habits can make a young ballplayer feel better and play better! (study) The best season I ever had in baseball was the one where I started eating right. They talk about it so much in Division 1 baseball, I really wish I would have known about it when I was a young player. That’s why we’re calling it “building” good nutrition habits. If you can teach your young ballplayer to eat right now, he won’t depart from it when he’s old.
#2 Watch Quality Baseball with your Kid
This is that “being a student of the game” thing that we’re always talking about. Every great baseball program in the country insists on its players that they watch MLB games. Why? It makes you a better ballplayer. Imagine your kid being the smartest baseball player with the highest baseball IQ on the field. Imagine how much better that will make him if he’s mentally one step ahead of the competition. How do you do that? You watch the best players play on the biggest stages. Go to a major league game if you can, or if you don’t want to spend big bucks, seek out college games in your area.
#1 Understand That During The Game is Not The Right Time
I was watching a my 13 year old cousin play the other day and he popped up to center field. Sitting by his mom she asked me if I thought his elbow was raised and that’s why he popped it up. BASEBALL PARENTS, I’ll tell you the same thing my division 1 coach tells us players, 99% of the time its not mechanical. Baseball lessons and an excessively growing industry of “hitting coaches” has got kids and parents thinking way too much about mechanics.
Even if it is mechanical, during the game is the last time he should be thinking about something like his elbow placement at contact. Save that stuff for when he is working off a tee in practice or in the off season. Trust me on this one, those are the times for mechanical adjustments. The only in-game adjustments he should be making are timing and confidence adjustments. What those might look like are as follows:
Timing adjustments – This should be the primary purpose of the on-deck circle. If you were out front your last at bat (like my cousin was when he popped up), you should try to start your load later. Differences in velocity on the mound should dictate when you start your load. If your kid is consistently out in front or late on fast balls, just encourage him to start earlier or start later. Timing adjustments are the most effective, and easiest ways to not make the same mistake twice in baseball.
Confidence adjustments – If your young slugger is lacking confidence, consider something different. At my D1 program they teach us the “octagon walk.” This is where you walk up to the plate with the biggest chest in the room and you hold the bat by the barrel as you walk. It is all about walking up to the plate with as much confidence as possible. Also look at helping him with his self-talk. Bad self-talk can be one of the biggest self-esteem destroyers for a young player. Build him up, and teach him to build himself up.
Just remember, good nutrition will make your little leaguer feel better and play better. Watching high-level baseball will teach him Baseball IQ that will take away many of the mental mistakes that plague young players. And finally, encourage the right kind of adjustments during the game. Mechanical overload will kill a young hitter and it will fill his mind with the wrong thoughts. Instead, encourage him to walk to the plate with confidence, and focus on timing up the pitcher, rather than the mechanics of his young/unrefined swing.
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– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player