The “X FACTOR” In Youth Baseball

Apr 17, 2019 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps Youth Baseball Advice Youth Baseball Coach

The Prepared vs. The Unprepared

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.

Player #1

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

Player #2

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

Shop Upcoming Youth Baseball Camps (Ages 6-12)

American Baseball Camps Home Page

YOUTH BASEBALL: A Cure For Tech Addiction, Family Disconnect, And Childhood Obesity

May 01, 2019

“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.

Youth Baseball: Less Screen Time More Family TimeA CBS News Medical Contributor Dr. Tara Narula put it perfectly when she said:

“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!

Does that sound too low? Don’t trust the source? Then check this article, or this article, or this article.

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.

Jim Collins said it best in his book Good to Great when he said: “You can’t get where you want to go without the right people on the bus.” This is true in business and it’s true in baseball.Youth Baseball As A Cure: Mental Development

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

Physical Development: Youth Baseball As A Cure

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*

Youth Baseball As A Cure For Anxiety2012 – 8.4%

(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

[wp_blog_designer]

Nick Rotola
Camp Instructor

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

Shop Upcoming Youth Baseball Camps (Ages 6-12)

American Baseball Camps Home Page

5 Things You Must Do To Play Division 1 Baseball

American Baseball Camps — 5 Things You Must Do To Play Division 1 Baseball

Apr 19, 2019

Everyone wants to play D1 baseball; only 1% of high school players will go on to play at D1 programs. Want to be part of that 1%? Below are five things that we have indicated as current D1 baseball players that can set you apart from the pack.

 

1. Staying Even Keel

 

Everybody knows that kid growing up who slams his helmet when he gets out and no matter how the team is doing he is upset if he isn’t playing well. This type of selfishness doesn’t work at the Division 1 level.

Besides your parents and some of your close friends, no one is concerned with the type of game you have, scouts and D1 coaches want winners that stay even keel no matter the situation.

I’ve seen guys who were drafted lower then they were projected or not get drafted at all because they can’t keep their composure when it hits the fan. In D1 baseball you will fail and coaches and recruiters will know that.

So if you want to play at that level, you have to figure out how to be that guy that doesn’t let things spiral out of control after an 0-4 game. Be a gamer and try to be the same guy day in and day out.

 

2. Physicality/ Looking the Part

 

In Junior College, I was putting up ridiculous numbers. When I would ask the scouts what I was doing wrong and why I hadn’t been drafted, they all said that I needed to put on 20-25 pounds.

Size not only tells D1 and pro scouts that you are strong, but it also tells them that you will be durable down the stretch. Don’t let size be the reason you don’t go D1. Don’t say “I can’t put on weight,” I don’t know how many guys (including myself) that said that over their career but are now 200 pounds. Watch the D1 players on TV, if they are 20-30 pounds heavier than you then you need to step up physically and it can be done.

Obviously, this will vary depending on your height, but this is a general weight and body fat percentage that D1 players play at for each position.

Corner INF 200lb-2351b  12-15%

MIF 180lb-195lb  8-11%

Speed OF 180lb-195lb  7-10%

Power OF 200lb-225lb  12-15%

Catcher 205lb-230lb  12-15%

Pitchers Finesse Arm 180lb-205lb 10-13%

Pitchers Power Arm 200lb-230lb  13-17%

 

3. Play to Your Strengths

 

If you are reading this article, then you have expectations of playing D1 baseball. If you think that you can get to that level, then you are doing something right.

You are probably playing well and are one of the best guys on your high school or club team. To play at the D1 level you will have to play to your strengths. Be realistic about the type of player you are and don’t deviate from your strengths.

Think about what your strengths and your weaknesses are; play to your strengths and hide your weaknesses. If your a guy who can really run then work at-bats, get on base and steal bags. Also, teach yourself to bunt.

D1 coaches love a fast guy that can drag; it will boost your average. If you are a power guy, look to strike out less and get your pitch. When you get it, let it eat. If you are good with the glove, don’t big league your ground balls between innings.

D1 coaches are always watching and that could be your one chance to show how good you are with the glove.

 

4. Be a Student of the Game

 

This is one of the best ways to develop what we call in D1 baseball “feel.” You can learn a lot from watching baseball.

Find your guy on YouTube that is at your position or is a similar hitter as your and model your game after them. Watch your teammates at-bats and learn what the pitcher is doing; pick up patterns. Guys think they have four at-bats per game, but they actually 30+ at-bats if they are watching while their buddies are hitting.

You can learn a lot from watching the guys in front of you and finding tendencies. If you can pick up on pitchers tendencies you will steal more bags, you’ll put up better numbers at the plate, and you will stay locked in while other guys are losing focus and giving away at-bats.

 

5. Surround Yourself with The Right People

 

The best way to make good friends in baseball is being a good teammate. Surrounding yourself with good friends that share the same passion for the game will help you through the ups and downs of baseball.

Have a good lifting partner that will encourage you to get better and stronger in the weight room. Have a buddy you can go and hit with if you want to work on your swing.

Have a good throwing partner that takes a simple thing such as playing catch seriously. If you are reading this article you are likely a in the top of your lineup.

Surround yourself with the guys hitting around; this will keep you comfortable during games. Develop accountability partners that will keep you from spiraling out of control.

Surrounding yourself with good people is the best way to better yourself while still having fun at the yard. It won’t be the hits or the home runs that you remember, it will be the people and the relationships you made along the way.

 

Authors: Anonymous 1 and 2 (for NCAA reasons)

 

Though this blog was beneficial? please share on FB and like us on FB & Instagram! Have a younger brother or son ages 6-12? Check out our Youth Baseball Camps!

 

Why do we do what we do? With 72% of youth baseball players quitting by age 13 – American Baseball Camps came on to the scene in 2015 to help young players fall in love with the game and to “get better & gain confidence.” We do this with baseball camps all over the US including but not limited to: baseball camps in Benbrook Texas, baseball camps in Oklahoma City/Choctaw Oklahoma, baseball camps in Citrus Heights California, baseball camps in Hackensack New Jersey, baseball camps in Kansas City Missouri, baseball camps in Kissimmee Florida, baseball camps in Norton Massachusetts, baseball camps in Peachtree City Georgia, baseball camps in St Louis Missouri, baseball camps in Topeka Kansas, baseball camps in Tulsa Oklahoma, baseball camps in West Covina California, baseball camps in Wichita Kansas, baseball camps in Phoenix Arizona, baseball camps in Milwaukee Wisconsin, baseball camps in Columbia South Carolina.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *