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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5 Things You Must Do To Play Division 1 Baseball

American Baseball Camps — 5 Things You Must Do To Play Division 1 Baseball

Apr 19, 2019

Everyone wants to play D1 baseball; only 1% of high school players will go on to play at D1 programs. Want to be part of that 1%? Below are five things that we have indicated as current D1 baseball players that can set you apart from the pack.



 

1. Staying Even Keel

 

Everybody knows that kid growing up who slams his helmet when he gets out and no matter how the team is doing he is upset if he isn’t playing well. This type of selfishness doesn’t work at the Division 1 level.

Besides your parents and some of your close friends, no one is concerned with the type of game you have, scouts and D1 coaches want winners that stay even keel no matter the situation.

I’ve seen guys who were drafted lower then they were projected or not get drafted at all because they can’t keep their composure when it hits the fan. In D1 baseball you will fail and coaches and recruiters will know that.

So if you want to play at that level, you have to figure out how to be that guy that doesn’t let things spiral out of control after an 0-4 game. Be a gamer and try to be the same guy day in and day out. To learn much more about this topic check out our At Home Baseball Program.

 

2. Physicality/ Looking the Part

 

In Junior College, I was putting up ridiculous numbers. When I would ask the scouts what I was doing wrong and why I hadn’t been drafted, they all said that I needed to put on 20-25 pounds.

Size not only tells D1 and pro scouts that you are strong, but it also tells them that you will be durable down the stretch. Don’t let size be the reason you don’t go D1. Don’t say “I can’t put on weight,” I don’t know how many guys (including myself) that said that over their career but are now 200 pounds. Watch the D1 players on TV, if they are 20-30 pounds heavier than you then you need to step up physically and it can be done.

Obviously, this will vary depending on your height, but this is a general weight and body fat percentage that D1 players play at for each position.

Corner INF 200lb-2351b  12-15%

MIF 180lb-195lb  8-11%

Speed OF 180lb-195lb  7-10%

Power OF 200lb-225lb  12-15%

Catcher 205lb-230lb  12-15%

Pitchers Finesse Arm 180lb-205lb 10-13%

Pitchers Power Arm 200lb-230lb  13-17%

 

3. Play to Your Strengths

 

If you are reading this article, then you have expectations of playing D1 baseball. If you think that you can get to that level, then you are doing something right.

You are probably playing well and are one of the best guys on your high school or club team. To play at the D1 level you will have to play to your strengths. Be realistic about the type of player you are and don’t deviate from your strengths.

Think about what your strengths and your weaknesses are; play to your strengths and hide your weaknesses. If your a guy who can really run then work at-bats, get on base and steal bags. Also, teach yourself to bunt.

D1 coaches love a fast guy that can drag; it will boost your average. If you are a power guy, look to strike out less and get your pitch. When you get it, let it eat. If you are good with the glove, don’t big league your ground balls between innings.

D1 coaches are always watching and that could be your one chance to show how good you are with the glove.

 

4. Be a Student of the Game

 

This is one of the best ways to develop what we call in D1 baseball “feel.” You can learn a lot from watching baseball.

Find your guy on YouTube that is at your position or is a similar hitter as your and model your game after them. A lot of guys like reading books on baseball. We compiled the best of the books we’ve read and put it in this guide: At Home Baseball Program.

It’s important to watch your teammates at-bats and learn what the pitcher is doing; pick up patterns. Guys think they have four at-bats per game, but they actually 30+ at-bats if they are watching while their buddies are hitting.

You can learn a lot from watching the guys in front of you and finding tendencies. If you can pick up on pitchers tendencies you will steal more bags, you’ll put up better numbers at the plate, and you will stay locked in while other guys are losing focus and giving away at-bats.



 

5. Surround Yourself with The Right People

 

The best way to make good friends in baseball is being a good teammate. Surrounding yourself with good friends that share the same passion for the game will help you through the ups and downs of baseball.

Have a good lifting partner that will encourage you to get better and stronger in the weight room. Have a buddy you can go and hit with if you want to work on your swing.

Have a good throwing partner that takes a simple thing such as playing catch seriously. If you are reading this article you are likely a in the top of your lineup.

Surround yourself with the guys hitting around; this will keep you comfortable during games. Develop accountability partners that will keep you from spiraling out of control.

Surrounding yourself with good people is the best way to better yourself while still having fun at the yard. It won’t be the hits or the home runs that you remember, it will be the people and the relationships you made along the way.

 

Authors: Anonymous 1 and 2 (for NCAA reasons)

 

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Why do we do what we do? With 72% of youth baseball players quitting by age 13 – American Baseball Camps came on to the scene in 2015 to help young players fall in love with the game and to “get better & gain confidence.” We do this with baseball camps all over the US including but not limited to: baseball camps in Benbrook Texas, baseball camps in Oklahoma City/Choctaw Oklahoma, baseball camps in Citrus Heights California, baseball camps in Hackensack New Jersey, baseball camps in Kansas City Missouri, baseball camps in Kissimmee Florida, baseball camps in Norton Massachusetts, baseball camps in Peachtree City Georgia, baseball camps in St Louis Missouri, baseball camps in Topeka Kansas, baseball camps in Tulsa Oklahoma, baseball camps in West Covina California, baseball camps in Wichita Kansas, baseball camps in Phoenix Arizona, baseball camps in Milwaukee Wisconsin, baseball camps in Columbia South Carolina.




A College Players’ View Of The Mental Game Of Baseball

Nov 07, 2019

 

“BASEBALL IS 90% MENTAL AND THE REST IS PHYSICAL!” – Yogi Berra

 

These wise words from the great Yogi Berra are trying to explain that the game we all know and love is mainly mental. Yes, you play the game with your body as in swinging the bat and throwing the ball. Meanwhile, the mental aspect is that you have to make the right decisions each and every play.

Baseball is a game of unconsciousness, this is the reason so much effort is accounted for within the little things. If you focus on the little things, you will find that making the unconscious decision is much easier.

In Baseball, being confident is very important. Confidence stretches further than being competitive, you have to believe that you are the best player on the field day in and day out.

As a pitcher or hitter, you must have self-confidence in order to fail less, and succeed more.

Another key part to the mental game of baseball is Imagery.

This usually means visualization, but if you use Sensory Imagery, your visualization skills will become more
powerful.



A good simple equation for this is

I x V = R (Imagery times Visualization equals reality).

This equation is basically saying that if you take a memory or vivid image and relive it, you will get real results.

For example hitting your first home run or throwing a no hitter, if you relive these memories and apply that feeling to what you are doing, you will become more successful.

Another good mental note to take and use in baseball is being aggressive.

Coaches may sometimes say “close the door”, “bury them”, this means go out there and don’t actually bury them 6 feet underground, but end the game pitch and hit with aggression so there is no chance of them coming back and winning the game.