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

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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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Tricks of The Trade: Standing Out During the Recruiting Process

Feb 10, 2020

Parents, as your athletes get older and begin separating themselves from their competition, are you aware of the opportunities that they truly have at the next level?

There are roughly 2,000 collegiate teams in the United States looking to fill rosters with the players that best fit and buy into their program’s traditions and beliefs on the baseball field.

Now, do not get overwhelmed, I understand that a lot of coaches talk about the percentage of players that make it to that level, (roughly 6.4% of senior athletes in High School make it to the collegiate level, according to the NCAA ), but do not let that discourage your athlete from giving it their all to play beyond their High School years.

With the new technological advancements in the game of baseball and the use of recruitment based camps and tournaments, there are new and much more accessible ways of getting a head start in the recruiting process.

New social media accounts, and online websites such as FieldLevel, Hudl, Prep Links, and so on, give coaches the ability to watch your player from the convenience and comfort of their current surroundings making recruitment far more elaborate and extensive than ever before.

By creating an online profile describing your athlete; height, weight, class of graduation, and current statistics, it gives coaches a better opportunity to find you earlier, as well as keep tabs on you throughout your high school and summer seasons.

Giving coaches video on performance, or fundamental-based video analysis, along with updated statistics allows coaches to track tendencies as well as get a better wholesome picture of a player as an athlete. With so many technological advances, I believe there is a better opportunity for a true evaluation of a player, for a longer and overall better understanding of a person’s full potential on the field.

Keeping your online profiles updated, as well as accurate, gives you that much more of a head start in the recruiting process.

Along with the advancements in technology, there has been an increase in recruitment based camps and tournaments that have become extremely detrimental in getting the appropriate exposure to recruits.

Through area-based scouting camps, there has been a tremendous increase in collegiate coaching turn-outs, and in turn the number of players that successfully get an opportunity to play college baseball has significantly gone up.

Getting involved in camps, or teams that partake in recruitment based activities gives your athlete an extreme edge over the majority of their competition.

Teaching your child to play with coaches watching, teaches them to slow the game down as well as teaches them the appropriate way to react and play the game of baseball.

Normalizing the pressure leads to both a confidence boost for the athlete, as well as experience at the most competitive level that most children do not get. What you are looking for is an edge, something that makes you stand out from the rest, and in a sport full of failures, the experience is the best thing for understanding and crafting your overall skills.

Outside of the diamond is where the impact is tremendous, teaching athletes at a young age how to correctly communicate and effectively converse with scouts, impact recruitment as much, if not more than the skills you attribute to the field.

The most asked question by coaches at the next level is, “What is he like as a person? What are his grades like? Is he coachable?”.

Thus, learning how to properly communicate with coaches is extremely important, so getting them used to these types of conversations at a younger age, gives them a head start come their junior and senior year when they start talking with coaches more frequently.

The best thing you can do is get exposure for your athlete, actually, in my opinion, there is no such thing as too much exposure, thus I would suggest going above and beyond if this truly is what your child wants to do.

Alongside recruitment camps, come competitive Select baseball. These are normally summer and winter teams that are separate from the high-school team. These teams can be extremely beneficial in getting recruited and playing at the highest level.

Find your athlete a team that partakes in recruitment based activities. Whether that being camps, or playing in tournaments that are sponsored by, or represented by college teams. These events give players direct contact and exposure to Collegiate coaches, as well as gives them a more personable experience when meeting and talking with these coaches.

By normalizing the conversations between your athlete and collegiate coaches, as well as exposing coaches to your athletes in person, it creates more opportunity for your athlete as a whole.

Remember, college baseball is a passion, but finding a home away from home is also important in finding the perfect fit for each athlete.

Using the new technological resources, as well as exposing your kids to the highest caliber of competition and pressure from playing in front of recruiters, it will best set them up for success to get seen and talked to.

Putting yourself in front of those that you are trying to impress is the best way of getting picked up and brought aboard a collegiate team, and if you successfully use the newly available resources it will increase the likelihood of being talked too, as well as finding your athletes dream school to settle down and pursue the rest of their lives.

 

 

American Baseball Camps — Five Ways to Build Your Young Slugger Up

Mar 04, 2019

“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).



Single 

Double

Triple

Home Run

Hit by Pitch

Catchers Interference

Walk

8 pitch at-bat 

Hard hit ball

Get him over

Sac Fly

Sac Bunt

RBI

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.




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