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. 

 

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Nick Rotola

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

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American Baseball Camps — 5 Ways to Encourage in a Game of Failure

Apr 18, 2019

5 Ways To Encourage In A Game Of Failure

 

#1 Build Self-Esteem

In D1 Baseball we learn about the importance of self-talk and how it can translate into better success on the field. This is something I wish I would have known when I was growing up in youth sports. Self talk is so important — Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake.

It is important in self-esteem building to not compare yourself to others in baseball! So many of the complaints we hear from baseball parents have something to do with some other player on their team and “special treatment.” Jealousy and comparisons with teammates are not healthy thought to be going through a youth baseball players’ head. Parents don’t compare your kid to others on the team.

 #2 The Power of the Bribe

A great way to encourage in youth baseball is with the good old-fashioned bribe. Coaches and parents, pick up a pack of helmet stickers at a local sporting goods store for around $5-10. With these stickers you can interchange hits or home runs with numbers on the back of his helmet. This way you can encourage his success while incentivizing him to be successful.

#3 Positive Reinforcement > Negative Reinforcement

In an already negative game (especially when you get older) extra negativity should be avoided. We already talked about negative thoughts and comparisons with teammates. But there are other areas where positivism and encouragement can overcome negativity. Smiles are better than stern looks when a child looks at you during a game. Smiles are so powerful. They always tend to make others smile. Rather than getting on to your kid when he messes up in baseball try phrases like: “so what” or “get em next time.”

After all, it is just a game. A game that is much more fun when you are encouraged along the way!

#4 Seek Encouraging Instruction

There are two types of coaches out there, the one that encourages, and the one that screams at kids because he’s stuck in 1997 when he played. Seek out those coaches that are knowledgeable enough to know that kids play the best when they have high self-esteem and believe in themselves. Find coaches that cultivate that kind of mindset at the baseball field.

#5 Sign up for a Fun Baseball Camp

The best and most encouraging baseball summer camps in the country are American Baseball Camps. D1 instruction from the D1 Players with an emphasis on encouragement: Phoenix AZ | Wichita KS | Kansas City MO| Tulsa OK

 

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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American Baseball Camps — 3 Quick Tips For Baseball Parents

Apr 11, 2019

3 Quick Tips For Baseball Parents

#3 Help Build Good Nutrition Habits

One of the things that can set a great baseball player apart from the good ones is nutrition! Good eating habits can make a young ballplayer feel better and play better! (study) The best season I ever had in baseball was the one where I started eating right. They talk about it so much in Division 1 baseball, I really wish I would have known about it when I was a young player. That’s why we’re calling it “building” good nutrition habits. If you can teach your young ballplayer to eat right now, he won’t depart from it when he’s old.

#2 Watch Quality Baseball with your Kid

 

This is that “being a student of the game” thing that we’re always talking about. Every great baseball program in the country insists on its players that they watch MLB games. Why? It makes you a better ballplayer. Imagine your kid being the smartest baseball player with the highest baseball IQ on the field. Imagine how much better that will make him if he’s mentally one step ahead of the competition. How do you do that? You watch the best players play on the biggest stages. Go to a major league game if you can, or if you don’t want to spend big bucks, seek out college games in your area.

#1 Understand That During The Game is Not The Right Time

I was watching a my 13 year old cousin play the other day and he popped up to center field. Sitting by his mom she asked me if I thought his elbow was raised and that’s why he popped it up. BASEBALL PARENTS, I’ll tell you the same thing my division 1 coach tells us players, 99% of the time its not mechanical. Baseball lessons and an excessively growing industry of “hitting coaches” has got kids and parents thinking way too much about mechanics.

Even if it is mechanical, during the game is the last time he should be thinking about something like his elbow placement at contact. Save that stuff for when he is working off a tee in practice or in the off season. Trust me on this one, those are the times for mechanical adjustments. The only in-game adjustments he should be making are timing and confidence adjustments. What those might look like are as follows:

Timing adjustments – This should be the primary purpose of the on-deck circle. If you were out front your last at bat (like my cousin was when he popped up), you should try to start your load later. Differences in velocity on the mound should dictate when you start your load. If your kid is consistently out in front or late on fast balls, just encourage him to start earlier or start later. Timing adjustments are the most effective, and easiest ways to not make the same mistake twice in baseball.

Confidence adjustments – If your young slugger is lacking confidence, consider something different. At my D1 program they teach us the “octagon walk.” This is where you walk up to the plate with the biggest chest in the room and you hold the bat by the barrel as you walk. It is all about walking up to the plate with as much confidence as possible. Also look at helping him with his self-talk. Bad self-talk can be one of the biggest self-esteem destroyers for a young player. Build him up, and teach him to build himself up.

Just remember, good nutrition will make your little leaguer feel better and play better. Watching high-level baseball will teach him Baseball IQ that will take away many of the mental mistakes that plague young players. And finally, encourage the right kind of adjustments during the game. Mechanical overload will kill a young hitter and it will fill his mind with the wrong thoughts. Instead, encourage him to walk to the plate with confidence, and focus on timing up the pitcher, rather than the mechanics of his young/unrefined swing.

 

Blog provided by American Baseball Camps — ABC’s mission is to make baseball fun again so they provide great summer fun camps for kids ages 12 and under. If you will share this blog post and use coupon code: “blog” at checkout, you can receive 20% off your order!

– 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

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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