The “X FACTOR” In Youth Baseball

May 26, 2017 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps 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

 

–  Blog written by an American Baseball Camps Coach

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

Apr 27, 2017

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 Mom’s 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 Mom’s 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

– Author Anonymous (for NCAA reasons)

 

Baseball Moms everywhere are loving American Baseball Camps for their kids! D1 instruction from the D1 Players with an emphasis on encouragement!

Coed ages 4-12 in select cities: Wilmington NC | Phoenix AZ | Wichita KS | KC MO| Tahlequah OK | Tulsa OK

American Baseball Camps — 5 Healthy Habits For Young Ballplayers

May 15, 2017

#1 Eat Healthy

According to a Children’s Lifestyle study at the University of Chicago, children perform better mentally when they get the appropriate nutrition. Young players and parents of young ballplayers don’t realize how important mental performance is in baseball. Food can be fuel for a young ballplayer. I didn’t start eating healthy until my Junior year of college at the D1 level and I will tell you that it was my best year. You don’t get tired as easily, and your brain is sharp when you are putting the right things in your body. Baseball is more mental than you think, eating healthy could give your kid an edge over the competition.

“Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical” – Yogi Berra

#2 Learn From Mistakes

I know that the new thing is participation trophies and everyone is a winner, but I think that kind of mindset can hurt a young ballplayer. Mistakes and failure can be very productive if a kid can learn from them! The kids that were able to learn from their mistakes were the ones that were the most successful growing up. Even at the D1 level this can set a player apart. Why make the same mistake twice? Why keep swinging at curveballs in the dirt when it is the only place the pitcher is throwing his curveball. Mental adjustments and being able to learn from mistakes can set a young player apart.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

#3 Get Enough Sleep

According to The Sleep Foundation kids aged 5-12 need 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Sleep has many implications in athletics. Players that get the appropriate amount of sleep are more sharp, they have quicker reflexes, and they have greater stamina. This could set your young ballplayer apart in that final inning when the rest of the team is yawning up a storm.

 

#4 Exercise Daily — The Fun Kind

Exercise doesn’t have to be lifting weights! Young ballplayers that exercise daily can set themselves apart. Remember, the average kid aged 5-12 spends 6.5 hours a day looking at their phone, this cuts into the natural athletic development that occurs when a kid exercises. Want your kid to be the most athletic one on his little league team? Here are some fun things that build muscle & athleticism — Racquetball, tennis, basketball, jump rope, wall-ball, relay races with friends, swimming, boxing, sit-ups, push-ups, grippers, ladders, box jumps.

 

#5 Baseball Isn’t Everything

One of the most healthy habits to develop as a young baseball player is to realize that baseball isn’t everything. 70% of ballplayers are out of the sport by 13 because of the pressure. Something my D1 coach always used to say is: “pressure is something that you put on yourself.” Your young ballplayer has a choice whether he cries or not everytime he strikes out. One of the best ways to avoid that kind of feeling when you fail in baseball is just to consciously realize that baseball isn’t everything. The popular marketing term of “no days off” can be a toxic mindset. There is way too much failure in this game to rely on it and spend everyday thinking about it.

“Baseball is beautiful and perfect in every way — but it’s not everything.” – American Baseball Camps

 

The best baseball summer camps in the country are American Baseball Camps: Wilmington NC | Phoenix AZ | Wichita KS | KC MO| Tahlequah OK | Tulsa OK

American Baseball Camps — Two Quick Tips For Baseball Parents

Apr 30, 2017

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?

#2 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.

#1 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!

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