How A Young Ballplayer Can Make A Big Jump In His Career

Apr 18, 2019 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps Youth Baseball Advice

How to Improve in Baseball

Introduction

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 highlighting the positive and forgetting the negative. In baseball those great days 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 example, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 americanbaseballcamps@gmail.com, 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 from Wichita KS to 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.

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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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. 

 

Nick Rotola

Camp Instructor

Nick is a Professional Baseball Player with the Cleburne Railroaders and American Baseball Camps Coach.

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American Baseball Camps — 10 Tips for Little League Coaches

Apr 15, 2019

10 Tips For Little League Coaches

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!

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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American Baseball Camps — Two Quick Tips For Baseball Parents

Apr 13, 2019

Two Quick Tips For Baseball Parents

So you want your kid to be a great baseball player?

Here are 2 quick tips that can help you become a better baseball parent while nudging him in the right direction! Why trust us? We’re division 1 baseball players that have been playing the game for close to 20 years and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, when it comes to baseball parents. And trust us when we say this, we’ve seen some brutal baseball parents.

So what do the best baseball parents do?

#1 Try to remain composed during the game

Dad’s – You are not Joe Maddon sitting on the steps of the dugout with your color coated lineup card and tendency chart but you can certainly remain composed like him. There is a reason the higher up you go in baseball the more composed the coaches/managers are. It’s simply because the data is there to prove that a more relaxed baseball player is a better baseball player study.

Mom’s – Try to keep calm (even though its baseball season). I don’t know what it is about mom’s but they get more fired up about bad calls and bad coaching than anyone on the whole field. Don’t be that mom that’s loud an obnoxious, instead, try to be knowledgeable, laid back, and supportive. My mom helped me out of some of the worst slumps in my life and its because she always let me come to her first. I think if you smother/bombard him, he wont be vulnerable with you. That’s why being laid back if your a baseball mom is the way to go.

#2 Have a little feel

A couple of definitions before we start:

  • *Sav – short for “savvy” and means that you’re aware of your surroundings, and that you know a lot about the game.
  • *Feel – almost exactly like sav. someone that has no feel is someone that isn’t aware of their surroundings, doesn’t realize the situation they are in, or hasn’t been around the game long enough to in any way know what’s going on.
    • An example of someone with no sav and no feel would be like Smalls from The Sandlot when he doesn’t know who Babe Ruth is.
  • Salty Vet – An older person who has a lot of feel and/or sav.

Every baseball player will get to that age where he starts to develop some feel for how baseball functions should go on. If you are still going to want to encourage and help your kid when he gets to that age, you are going to have to know your stuff as well! Baseball is a game of endless situations, and the more you watch intently the more you can learn about the game. D1 coaches tell their players to watch baseball on tv because it makes you a better baseball player, and it teaches you feel and sav. For a parent, the goal is to become a salty vet that knows the game and is respected, rather than the laughing stock of the bleachers.

Below we’ve mapped out a few guidelines:

Parents with no feel:

  • Yell at the umpire at every close strike call
  • Second guess the head coach, and try to talk to him about playing time
  • Scream and yell at their kids like a crazy old ice cream truck salesman
  • Make everything about them and not about their kid

Parents with feel:

  • Under-promise and over-deliver with stuff like gear and dinner/ice cream after (depending on age).
  • Dress athletic and are up to date on what they wear.
  • Never ever ever talk to the head coach about playing time, it can only hurt.
  • Make things look effortless like social media, baseball gear knowledge, or overall knowledge of the game.

 

In baseball parenting you can either be the windshield or the bug. Don’t be the embarrassing, loud, overbearing, no feel bug. Be the windshield.

 

– Authors Anonymous 1 and 2 (for NCAA reasons we are not able to disclose the D1 Programs we play for)

*Both authors are pro prospects

 

Camps can be the highlight of your child’s summer! Great camps create memories that stick with a child for a lifetime! Enough with all the media. Encourage your kid to put the phone down, and get outside and make memories that he’ll never forget!

 

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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A TRIBUTE TO BASEBALL MOMS — 5 Things I Was Most Thankful For

Apr 12, 2019

In my 19 years of baseball, I can’t believe I didn’t stop to appreciate my Mom. This tribute is to her, and every Baseball Mom that probably isn’t getting the recognition they deserve.

Really quick back story about myself — Currently a senior at a historic division 1 baseball program. I cannot reveal my name or program for NCAA reasons. I recently got hurt, and started to reflect back on my career. — And so the post begins.

She’s not in any of the pictures, she was always the one taking them… But (Pictured) is me before my first T-Ball game in 1997.

Guys, I really didn’t know what a roller coaster baseball was about to take me on!

#5 A Constant in an Inconsistent Game

One of the things I most appreciated about my baseball Mom over the years was her consistency. This game can beat you down sometimes and my Mom was always there to pick me up. My dad was so up and down with all the highs and lows in baseball, as was I. But that can be hard on a baseball player in an emotional game like baseball. Through the ups and downs of baseball my Mom was happy, thankful, and content to just be with me after the game. You see where dad’s may be upset after an injury or a bad game, Mom’s are just happy to be with you, and happy that you called her to talk about the game. Which leads me to the next thing I was so thankful for, the support.

#4 Moms are Supportive, Dad’s are Expectant

Dad’s expect a lot out of their sons, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in a game of failure those expectations are going to be let down an awful lot. I never got that feeling with my Mom though. My Mom was at the same amount of games as he was, she was repping our team colors just as much too. Yet, I never get the feeling like she’d be wavered in anyway by an 0 for 20 stretch.

#3 Moms relieve pressure

When a little kid messes up in the game of baseball, think about all the things that are going through his head. He’s mad at himself that he “messed up”, his self talk is probably harsh. His teammates are let down, his coach shakes his head. The other team is saying something to him as he runs back to the dugout.

This is hard on a kid, trust me when I say this, its hard. And what happens from this is an unnecessary pressure that baseball players start to put on themselves. The fear of negative outcomes makes a kid think and expect things of himself he shouldn’t.

That is where my Baseball Mom was huge for me. She was screaming just as loud saying “its okay” after a bad strike out as she was when I hit a home run. (Okay, maybe not quite as loud as a home run cheer but you get the point).

She just took the pressure away. That was so huge for me, I can’t believe I didn’t realize it all that time.

#2 She was Positive in a Negative Game

That overly positive, thinks their kid is the greatest, thing that Mom’s do — that’s actually extremely helpful. Confidence is so big in baseball. This is one thing that makes a naturally good baseball player great, and Mom’s are often times the reason kid’s have confidence in themselves. Baseball is a self-esteem destroying sport, so that boost that my Mom always gave me helped me to find a balance. Sure, the game humbled me, and it was hard to be “proud.” But I always believed in myself, and that was because of you, Mom.

#1 She hugged me when I was sad, and stuck with me when I was mad

Even though I’m a “tough tough hard-nosed college baseball player”, I can admit that I got really sad sometimes playing this game. That hug after the game is what I’m referencing here, man was that huge. Mom’s are nurturing, and mine had the tendency to melt away sadness in those discouraging moments.

I got mad a lot with baseball, I probably was a huge jerk there for a while and took a lot of frustration out on my Mom. Which just sounds horrible to me now, but it happened. I don’t know how my Mom stuck with me and didn’t slap me across the face but she did it! She stuck with me. Rude, thought he knew everything, me.

 

Mom, I love you and I couldn’t have went this far in the game of baseball without you! Even though you had to know that I did, sorry I didn’t tell you how much I appreciated you until I was 23. You were there for me when the game got me down when I was 4. Just as you were when the game knocked me down when I was 23. And I thank you for all the things you did in-between.

Mom — This tribute is for you

 

– Written by Nick Rotola Founder of American Baseball Camps offering Youth Baseball Camps for ballplayers ages 6-12 across the US! Check out the camps page to see if ABC has a camp near you!

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