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.
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
“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).
Hit by Pitch
8 pitch at-bat
Hard hit ball
Get him over
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.
“You don’t need a ticket to see some of the best baseball in the world, you just need to drive one of the players to the game.”
The quote is true, youth baseball is an extraordinary part of the year for tens of millions of families across the US. So much excitement and fun and togetherness. Youth baseball is an excuse for families to rally behind each other: picking each other up in the lows and celebrating in the highs.
It’s all fun and grand right? Kids are active and they have fun and play with their friends and spent tons of quality time with their family right? Not really.
We could go on for days on how things have changed, but to highlight a few:
- Kids are looking at their screens 7+ hours a day according to a study (causing anxiety rates in children to reach an all-time high according to this study)
- Childhood obesity has risen to 18.5% according to this study
- Families spend an average of 37 minutes of quality time together each day according to this article.
So the athletic environment as a whole is unattractive, yet youth baseball attendance is growing. Why? Could parents be onto something? Maybe its the perfect medicine for a kid growing up in today’s tech-obsessed, unhealthy, and family-distant America.
In this article, we dig into this subject a little deeper.
Youth Baseball As A Cure: Less Screen Time More Quality Time
According to Pew Research in their study, less than 20% of American homes contain a stay at home parent. This means that 90% of US Parents are only getting to see their children after work (don’t all sigh in relief at once). That’s not to say that working parents are the problem, it just makes the time parents are getting with their children a bit more important. As quantity goes down, quality should go up right? It’s not.
“When you’re with your kids you really need to be good about putting your phone down or your tablet down and talking to them and being engaged because they pick up on exactly what you’re doing,”
An article by the NY Post takes it a step further as it analyzes true quality time American families spend each day and concludes that its fallen to 37 minutes per day. Yikes!
Where’s the quality time going? How do we fix it?
I want to pitch a solution that worked for my family, is working for hundreds of baseball parents we currently work with at American Baseball Camps, and that is Youth Baseball
Whether you are driving to tournaments and staying at hotels, or taking your kid to practice and hanging out, baseball provides a bunch of great quality moments together (unwedged by tech)!
This week Baseball Parents all across the US are hitting Starbucks drive-throughs at 7 AM and running yellow lights all the way to the ballfield to make a Round Robbin Tournament Game and there is nothing wrong with that.
You are making memories. You are all (parents too) putting your amazingly entertaining phones away and making memories as a family.
So, your quality time is improving, and the fact that you are actually getting up and doing something is limiting screentime as well.
This is backed by the data as Research Gate’s new study concludes at physical activity makes it easier for kids to follow screen limitations.
“What we discovered: Children’s odds of exceeding screen-time limits decreased as the number of physical activity sessions increased.”
So we know youth baseball limits screentime, it provides equal or better entertainment, and increases quality time, what else?
Youth Baseball As A Cure: Mental Development
As we all know from the workforce, it’s tough to do anything without a great team. Forming a team, finding the right teammates, and contributing to the group, are all important factors.
As ballplayers begin to develop in youth baseball they start to develop traits that will make them successful in life. Here are our favorite two:
1. Youth Baseball helps you function well with a team
Every baseball player has the choice to elevate his teammates or not. It really doesn’t have a negative side effect, encouraging your teammates and helping them to become better always has a place in baseball.
Good teammates are the ones that learn to not throw their stuff because it’s not all about them. They choose to focus on the success of the team rather than their own success. They are coachable, friendly, easy to be around, and hardworking.
Any coach worth his weight will be teaching his youth ballplayers these traits, and its pretty cool when kids are encouraged by someone that’s not their parent.
2. Youth Baseball helps with handling adversity.
It’s such a broken record but I guess I’ll say it, baseball is a game of failure. Hitters that hit safely 3 or 4 times out of 10 in youth baseball are considered successful. So what about the other 6-7 times? Disappointment!
Baseball is really good about teaching kids to deal with it and good coaches are good about teaching kids to stay even keel throughout a ballgame. Don’t believe in the even keel thing as a parent or coach? Just watch every single baseball manager and how he treats his ballplayers during the game.
Youth Baseball As A Cure: Physical Development
Youth baseball, like many youth sports, is better played when your body feels better.
Don’t believe us? Just watch any MLB player when he’s giving advice to younger kids, its always one of the first things they say to focus on.
Here are a few quick things kids can learn about physical health if they are playing the game the right way.
- Getting good sleep before a game helps you play better.
- Eating healthy meals & drinking lots of water makes you feel better when you play.
At the family level, baseball can also be used as a way to teach healthy food & hydration habits. Being aware of your body and what kinds of foods make you feel better and play better in a baseball game is a great introductory way to understand nutrition as you tackle (a hopefully health conscious) life as an adult.
Hey, it sure beats “if you eat all your food I’ll let you stay up late, or watch more YouTube!
Youth Baseball As A Cure: Longer Attention Span Reduced Anxiety
We touched on it earlier but here are the hard numbers regarding anxiety levels among children 6-17:
2003 – 5.4%
*iPhone is Invented*
2007 – 8%
*Tablet is Invented*
(Source: Center for Disease Control & Prevention)
So how does baseball solve this problem anyway? It doesn’t fully, but it moves kids in the right direction.
If you’ve ever heard the negative connotation “baseball is boring” you may understand where we are going with this.
To be successful in the game of baseball, you have to be “in the moment” (as leading mental conditioning coach Brian Cain states). You have to be present, focused, and attentive to what you are doing every time you play.
Leading attention span experts like George Orwos have stated that when you are forced to practice focusing for long periods of time you will get better at focusing for long periods of time.
In short, being able to stand in the field for 15-minute innings is equivalent from an attention span standpoint to reading for 15 minutes. Pretty cool right!?
When we do something like read a book for 15 minutes or stand in the outfield for 15 minutes, or brain is in something called a “latent state.” If you don’t know about the importance of the latent state for our brains I’d recommend Netflix’s documentary entitled Tech Addict by Buzzfeed.
To sum up the latent state, it’s like giving your brain some time to breathe. Its good for our brain and it helps us to deal with things when our brain gets time to charge. If you want to test it, tell your kid something frustrating after 2 hours of watching YouTube Videos vs. right after an hour and a half baseball practice. I bet he deals with it better after a mostly “rested brain” and more physical activity releasing positive endorphins into his/her bloodstream.
In conclusion, is baseball a cure to many of the things attacking today’s youth? We believe so.
Blog written by Nick Rotola. Nick holds a Masters in Business Administration and is a Minor League Ballplayer with the Cleburne Railroaders. Nick owns and operates American Baseball Camps, a baseball camps company with baseball camps around the US.
Click the map to see if we have a youth baseball camp near you