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.
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.
– Blog written by ABC Founder Nick Rotola. American Baseball Camps offers baseball camps all across the US. View their Baseball Camps Page, or visit their American Baseball Camps Home Page.
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.
– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player
A 3 Step Guide To A Great Car Ride Home
Parents, do you ever feel as if you are stuck on what to say to your child after a long day on the field? Now, normally on the good days, where your child has a few hits and played well the conversation might seem easy.
A quick, “Good Game”, or “Wow, way to play today!” In hopes that your son or daughter will take over the conversation with how they felt, or the play-by-play from their perspective of being on the field.
Well with all good things, comes the bad, and in those times, do you feel as if you freeze up?
Or do you feel as if the awkward silence has weight within the room, and you are finding any way to make it less stressful?
Being a college athlete, I have endured countless car rides home, some of them being my parents and I interrupting each other in excitement over the unbelievable plays made in the game and some of them being dead silent.
Though there were the bad days where no one knew what to say, not even me, those were the days that helped shaped me into the player and man I am today.
Parents, here are some helpful hints and insight into the ways to effectively communicate through the good and bad days your child will go through when playing this game.
Hint #1: BE SUPPORTIVE
No matter what kind of day your child is having, be there. Tell them how the game personally made you feel like a supporting figure, but then after, LISTEN.
For several years in my life, I believe I felt like I held my true opinions internally on the game until I was alone and could express myself. This was not healthy, as I was bottling up my emotions, rather than expressing them.
Parents, please, let your children who are passionate about their sport(s) express themselves, they need to get the emotions out and in the open in order to best cope and move forward.
Just like us adults, when we hold things in, rather than expressing them it negatively impacts our emotional aura.
Children experience this as well when playing sports, so rather than sitting in the car in silence, even if it was a tough day at the field, make sure you show support and engage in getting your children to express how they are feeling after each game, proving your true support, as well as helping them move forward.
When children see you care for their feelings, and you give them the opportunity to express themselves, it shows them how much you truly care, and are there for them as a true support system in their life both as an athlete, and an individual in this world.
Hint #2: Communicate WITH your Child, Rather than TO Him
Being an athlete you put a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself to succeed. In the game of baseball, you see as each player goes through an emotional rollercoaster throughout each game based on the different outcomes and circumstances that come within a baseball game.
Being that athletes apply so much pressure to themselves when we are faced with failure, on numerous accounts our first reaction is to be upset with ourselves for not being successful.
What this does over time is break us down, and then what we need most after is for the people we love most to adapt with us and feel as we do base on the outcomes of the current game.
Take this, for example, your son/daughter has the game of his life, goes 4-4 with a walk-off home run, the success and emotions he will feel this day will normally be much different than the day he happens to go 0-4 with 2 strike-outs.
What we tend not to realize is the significance of what they were truly feeling in those moments. Rather than saying “Today was just a tough day”, or “You tried your best”, try encouraging them by asking what they were feeling that specific day. Or, ask them what they felt did not work one day, compared to the day they were successful.
Questions that make the athlete reflect on their current states within the game will positively lead to them reflecting, and working towards better execution in the future.
Allowing your children to learn from their mistakes is a normal want for most parents, so applying the same core values to the sport they love, will show them you are there for them, rather than just there to watch.
Work with your child on coming to resolve or a solution to work for come the next time he/she touches the diamond.
Referring to the emotional side of baseball, rather than just the physical demand that comes with playing this sport will give your child insight into the larger aspect of this game.
That being, that the majority of true-life lessons you learn can be easily implemented to the game of baseball, thus making them realize in the end that we truly are still just ‘playing a game’.
Paying attention to how your child is feeling within, and effectively getting he/her to communicate it with you will lead to healthier coping remedies come the next time they feel this way, either after another game or after a life event.
Communication is key, and doing so with your child, rather than directing comments at him will better lead to fluent and healthy conversation in the car ride home from both good and bad performances.
Adjust your topics, to the things your athlete has been feeling or is expressing with you, in order to give off the most effective and efficient communication to your child.
Being an athlete is not easy, but having a support system, and someone to turn to effectively communicate when you need too is detrimental in the overall success of any athlete and person in this world.
Hint #3: Explain the Bigger Picture
Being an athlete myself, it took me a long time to see the relevance, and the overall outcomes you learn from playing the game of baseball.
There are countless life lessons I am going to take away from this game, that I never truly realized at a young age.
These lessons are something I believe children need to learn to not only see but also act upon starting at a much younger age.
Learning when to be effectively aggressive, as well as learning to control your breathing in order to better control yourself in each situation is something I wish I would have understood earlier, and it is something I believe parents can show and explain to their kids based on what each child felt and expresses to you after a game.
These moments that we as baseball players express as, “Oh I just missed that, next time I have to be ready just a little sooner” or, “Man, I didn’t expect that base-runner to do that, next time I will learn and expect them to attempt to score on the same opportunity”.
These sayings, the little things that lead to us making adjustments are things adults do every day. Whether that be, planning to leave for work a few minutes earlier on a Monday, due to traffic being a little worse than normal, or you have to accommodate to an unexpected meeting within the workplace.
These adjustments on our toes, and learning to work with them rather than making excuses to be defeated by them are things your children will one day face.
So, simply explain that to them, use their examples to better them for the world outside the white-lines, as well as within them, this way come other challenges they face, or competition that arises within their life, they will be better prepared to work to become successful.
As much as we who endure in this game love it, there is more to life and we ALL know that. But, as a child I remember thinking there was nothing more important than finding a way to win a game, the thing is that mentality should go hand-in-hand with the mentality we as athletes have outside the field as well.
As parents, make sure you express the fact that there is more to life and that these things your athlete is experiencing are things that will come up over and over again within their life, and it takes the ability of continuously making adjustments in order to best accommodate to each situation we face.
This game comes with so many highs, and lows. So many emotions and feelings that are hard to explain in words at times.
But athletes need a support system, one that is there to communicate with you and help you understand the emotions you are feeling. The life lessons and experiences that come with the game are ones that need to be remembered, and if effectively communicated and reviewed, can be detrimental in further success in life.
The car ride home from games has never been an easy task, yet I hope these hints make it a bit more impactful and beneficial for the family as a whole.