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

May 01, 2019 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps Youth Baseball Advice

“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

 




Nick Rotola

Camp Instructor

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

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How To Walk To The Plate With Confidence

Youth Baseball Advice: How To Walk To The Plate With Confidence

Apr 17, 2019

 

Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Many talk about how important it is in youth baseball, but few youth baseball players have it! We lay out in this brief blog a few simple things to instill in your kid to give him tremendous confidence at the plate. Sometimes the smallest mental adjustments can make the biggest difference in youth baseball.

 

“The expert in everything was once a beginner.”

 

Step #1: Remember The Good, Forget The Bad

When a kid is hitting well he usually continues to build confidence as he does so. This is why you should reminisce about great at-bats. Remembering yourself being successful can be a great tool as you are on the on-deck circle.

This is one of the best ways to quickly build a kid’s confidence, just remind him of his last great at-bat. On the contrary, bad at-bats can do the same for a kid negatively.

Those are the at-bats you’ll have to encourage him to forget about. That is such an important thing to teach your kid about his at-bats; remember the good ones, and forget the bad ones.

“You have to have a short memory. Learn from your failures, but don’t sit around worrying about them.”  – Derek Jeter



 

Step #2: Walk To The Plate With Your Chest Out

Confidence is something that a kid can control if he really wanted to. One of the best ways to get him to feel that feeling of confidence is to teach him to walk with it. Have him grab the barrel of the bat and walk to the plate like he’s got the biggest chest on the field.

It is scientifically proven that good posture can boost confidence and that being confident can boost confidence. Have him do both every time he walks to the plate and we guarantee you he’ll hit better!

 

Step #3: Be Fearless

No matter how small or skinny your youth baseball player is, you can teach him to be fearless at the plate. There is no reason you should ever give the opposing pitcher any credit when talking to your son.

If your kid is 8, let him know that he can hit any 8-year old in the country. Look at the worst kids in youth sports, they probably all have one thing in common, fear. Fear can kill a young ballplayers mindset and it should be avoided at all costs.

Speak positive things to your young ballplayer, and never give an opposing pitcher too much credit, your kid can hit him if he’s fearless I promise!

 

Step #4: Have A Routine At The Plate

You’ve seen all the big league guys, they do the same things and they have the same rituals every time they step into the batters box. There is a reason they do this, it builds confidence and adds a level of consistency and comfort.

Baseball players play the best and hit the best when things feel routine. Nothing is more routine than doing the same thing every time you step into the box.

So whether your kids’ thing is to spit on his batting gloves or dig into the back corner of the box, encourage him to do the same thing every time. When things become routine, they become easier.



 

Step #5: Visualize Success

This last one is the best because it can be done at any time of day, even outside of baseball. Teach your kid to visualize positive outcomes in his spare time. Your brain can’t distinguish the “imagined home-runs” for example from the “real home-runs.”

What that means is that eventually it can feel like your kid has done it before and the brain tricks the muscles into feeling like they can do it easily. I remember sitting on the bench before an at-bat, visualizing myself hitting a double in the gap, and then going out there and doing it first pitch.

I’ll tell you what, visualizing success in baseball works! I wish I would have known about it when I was 10 or so like many of your kids!

 

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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Building A Strong Team Dynamic

Feb 20, 2020

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.

Pregame Routine Of A Professional Pitcher

Oct 12, 2020

-Assuming a 6pm start time, arrive at the field at 4:45. At 5:00 head out to the outfield to stretch

 

Lower body Routine: 10 mins

 

  1. Jog from foul pole to foul pole
  2. 15 yard sets of the following: high knees, butt kicks, side shuffles, karaoke, skips for height, Frankenstein kicks, forward lunges, and side lunges
  3. 5, 90 feet sprints. Build up intensity with each sprint.

 

Upper body: 10 mins

 

  1. Jaeger band stretching
  2. Spine twists and lower back stretches (Cobra Stretch)
  3. Flat back arm swings (Bend over so back is parallel with ground and swing arms up and down so fingertips touch the turf)
  4.  Huggers (Stand up straight and swing arms around your body in a hugging motion)

 

Throwing: 15 mins

 

  1. 10 throws from 30 feet nice and loose. See the ball spin out of the hand. Looking for perfect back spin. No cut spin.
  2. 10 throws from 60 feet in the rock-forward-rock-back stance (Spread legs father than shoulder width, rock into front leg, rock into back leg, then push off loaded back leg and throw to your target)
  3. 10 throws from 90 with the step behind stance. Good Rhythm. Be athletic. Bouncing around.
  4. 10 throws from 120. Long toss throws with crow-hop. Start with an arc on the throws and with each throw we get the angle lower and lower with the last throw being a straight line.
  5. Bring it into 60 feet again for the final 10 throws. 3 FBs, 3 change ups, 3 curveballs, 1 FB. (Throw all your pitches before you enter the bullpen, feel what is working and what is not)
  6. Final step is practice 2 throws to each base. So your throwing partner is going to be your base. Angle your body so that you pretend to field a ground ball and then throw to your partner as if he is the first baseman, second baseman, third baseman and catcher. If you plan on picking off also practice two pickoff throws to each relevant base. We do not want our first throws to a base to be in the game.

 

Pregame Routine Of A Professional Pitcher

Bullpen: 25 pitches. To be thrown 15-20 mins before the game starts

 

  1. (For ages 14 and up) Start by throwing a weighted baseball (7-10 ounces) to your catcher from 30 feet. 5-10 times. Work on hitting catcher in the chest and making the arm move quickly

 

  1. Windup: 10-15 Pitches

 

  1. Stretch: 10-15 Pitches

 

-Note: Sequence for both windup and stretch is 3 Fastballs, 2 Changeups, 2 Curveballs, 3 Fastballs.

 

-Note: Execute each pitch. If you don’t like it, throw the pitch again until you feel comfortable with it.

 

  1. Final 5 pitches are designated for a simulated batter. Have the catcher call pitches and you execute pitches. (Practice like this is the first batter of the game)

 

  1. Last throw: Always end on a Fastball. Simulate the first pitch of the game.

 

-Leave yourself 5 mins between bullpen and game to rest and lock in mentally.

 

-Velocity comes from the legs not the arm. A strong front side and a powerful back leg will keep the ball down in the zone. Never think about your throwing arm. Keep it loose and relaxed.

 

This blog was written by current Professional Pitcher Mike Castellani. Mike excelled in the classroom and on the field at Bucknell University where he was their Ace. The left-hander then went on to pitch in the Frontier League where he is the Ace of his staff. Mike has written for American Baseball Camps in the past and is the author of our Pitching Video Evaluations. He also is a contributing author in our book: At Home Baseball Development Program