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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The “X FACTOR” In Youth Baseball

Apr 17, 2019

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

Apr 18, 2019

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

Shop Upcoming Youth Baseball Camps (Ages 6-12)

American Baseball Camps Home Page

 

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

Youth Baseball Advice — How To Run A Great Practice

Apr 15, 2019

How To Run A Great Practice

On our trek across the country with American Baseball Camps we have learned that many kids aren’t getting any better at their practices. Smart baseball parents are seeking out teams that run legitimate practices where their kid can actually get better, and I don’t blame them.

One of the worst practice stories we heard was in Tahlequah Oklahoma. A dad told me that at his kid’s practices the coach would put everyone in a group in the outfield and hit fly-balls and whoever catches it, catches it. This is similar to a game we used to play as kids called “500” but it certainly isn’t an entire practice!

This how-to guide on running a great practice is based on 20 years of good baseball experience, extensive research, and being a veteran player at one of the top D1 Baseball Programs in the country.

The Warmup

About ten years ago sports scientists realized that there is a more efficient way to warm-up than to just static stretch and count to ten. It is recommended to run kids through a “dynamic warmup” before practice and that “static stretch,” that you may be familiar with, after practice.



Here’s a quick example of a good dynamic warmup, it works best in two lines starting on the outfield foul line:

  • jog 45 feet, jog back
  • shuffle 45 feet, shuffle back
  • karaoke 45 feet, karaoke back
  • high knees 45 feet, high knees back
  • butt kicks 45 feet, butt kicks back
  • walking quad stretch 45 feet, walking quad stretch back
  • leg swings 45 feet, leg swings back
  • skipping leg swings 45 feet, skipping leg swings back
  • lunges, side lunges 45 feet, jog back
  • sprint 45 feet, sprint back

Upper Body Stretch:

  • small arm circles forward, big arm circles forward
  • small arm circles backwards, big arm circles backwards
  • shoulder stretch across
  • tricep stretch
  • arm swings high to behind you (bicep stretch)
  • rotator cuff stretch on the ground (lay on your throwing arm side put arm at 90 degree angle and push hand down towards the ground).

Play Catch

When they play catch remind them to take it seriously. You cannot win in baseball if you can’t play catch. Teach them the catch game to keep them locked in. If you hit them in the chest 3 points, hit them in the face 2 points, hit them in the arms or legs 1 point. Front elbow should be up and pointing towards where you want to throw it when you are playing catch.

*Water break*

On Field BP with the Rest of The Teams Taking Live Reps

BP on the field is a great way to see the results of your batting practice. It also gives the fielders a chance to take live reps off the bat if you do it right. Split your team into 4 groups of 3 (lets say you have 12 for the example). When 1 group hits, the other 9 players are in the field taking live reps off their teammates hitting, or fungos from a coach. Coaches stand adjacent to home plate. The coach on the 3rd base side hits fungos to the first baseman and the shortstop. The coach on the 1st base side hits fungos to the 3rd baseman and 2nd baseman. You need to wait and hit them in between pitches so that kids don’t have to field the fungo and the live grounder at the same time. Mix in some fly balls for the outfielders if they aren’t getting much action live off the bat.



*Water break*

Drill Circuit

Don’t have the whole team running one drill at one time, try to have coaches running simultaneous drills and just have the players rotate. It’s important to be efficient with your practice time. Below we have listed some drills to choose from that we like that we think could make young players a lot better:

  • Rundown drill with a baserunner
  • Pitcher fielding practice
  • Double plays
  • Short hops drill for infielders
  • Quarterback drill (over the shoulder catches)
  • 4 corners drill
  • Around the bucket drill (for infielders to take the right path to the ball)
  • Blocking drill
  • Bare handed ground balls
  • Bare handed receiving practice (catchers)
  • Pickoffs
  • Up the middle drill
  • Soft toss
  • Bunt defense
  • Throwing to second (catcher and middle infielders)
  • ESPN top ten drill
  • Double cuts drill
  • Robbing home runs drill

A good practice is all about getting the player a lot of good reps in a short amount of time. Players will get burnt out if they are out there all day so try to keep a practice around an hour and a half to two hours.

Make everything a game – I was doing a hitting lesson with a kid and was telling him to try to hit the back net of the cage and drive the ball up the middle. He kept pulling everything, he didn’t hit the back net once. Then when I created a game where hitting the L-Screen was 1 point and the back net was 2 points – he took off. Next thing I knew he was saying “I’m gonna get to 20”. Kids respond well to games and challenges, so try to use those to your advantage. If anything they just promote focus and induce competition.

Treat them like studs and they’ll start acting like it – My career took off when I found a coach that treated me like I was better than I really was. You’d be surprised, treat a player like he’s better than he’s playing and he’ll rise to the occasion

Encourage & support – This generation can’t be coached the same way that you were coached growing up. The drill sergeant makes them run till they puke stuff just isn’t needed. These kids are smart and if you treat them with respect, they’ll treat you with it in return. Every player isn’t created equal — you have to coach to your team. Know your players and coach them accordingly.

– Blog was written by a group of older D1 Baseball Players that have chosen to remain anonymous for NCAA reasons.